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Greetings once again from Mbingo,
Time is racing along as usual and we need to send an update of what the Lord is doing here in Cameroon. First we want to thank all of those individuals and churches who felt led to increase our support commitments and to send some very generous one time gifts. God has provided once again for our needs as He has done for so many years, we rest in His provision daily.
I (Thom) have been staying busy the past several months on trying to keep Mbingo Hospital in water and keeping the lights on, literally in both cases. Africa has a way of intimidating technology and bringing equipment to its knees. SONEL, the national power company has been faithfully unfaithful which has kept our generator running a lot. Machines being machines means that problems are sure to follow and we’ve had plenty of them as well.
We have been able to keep it going and frequently this means removing the stop solenoid so the actuator arm can manually be pushed into the “on” position so it will start. This means down time where the hospital is without electricity. A few weeks ago as we tried to identify a couple of these problems and the solutions (some just band-aids for now) we had some extended times up to 6 hours without power, just a few years ago this was at worst case, an inconvenience. Today however the urgency has increased as the medical people have been increasing the technological aspects of medical care here in ways that have sent the abilities of diagnostics and life support to levels never seen before. People, who just a few years ago would have died, now have a chance for a longer life on this earth.
From a ministry point of view we don’t see this as saving lives but postponing the inevitable death we all face. We hope that during this time people who don’t know Jesus as their Lord will place their faith in Him. We also pray that people will see and feel God’s love for them no matter what the reason they are here for and be inspired to follow and serve Him because of the transformed lives they witness here.
Several times as we’ve been in darkness I have been over to the hospital working with our technicians on dealing with the issues and have seen patients waiting patiently for X-rays, or lab work while we struggle to get the power back on. The past few weeks as we are in dry season the hydro plant that supplies SONEL has not been able to meet the demand in the country and has implemented “load sharing” where sections of the grid are shut down for 6 hours during peak usage times, and here we are having major generator issues. I felt so bad one evening last week around 8pm with several people waiting outside of the X-ray department, 2 people on stretchers, and others sitting, waiting for power. Small children that have been put on CPAP machines to force air into their little lungs find themselves wearing instruments of suffocation when the power goes out and medical staff must act fast to remove the face masks so they can struggle to breathe on their own!
The big issue here is that people are traveling hundreds of miles as our hospital has become famous with the increased abilities in providing good health care. The 2 training programs in surgery and internal medicine draws thousands of people from all over the country. However with the fragile power system we live with we are constantly under the possibility of dropping back several years and people could die with the trip of a breaker or someone turning off a switch. I believe that if we are going to continue to develop in this direction, enticing people to make huge trips to come here, we have a moral responsibility to do our best to make sure they can get the care they hope to receive.
So, we are taking steps to fix these issues – finally. We ordered, just this past week a new generator that should be shipped this week from France, a 200kva, John Deere powered SDMO generator, I can’t wait until it get here! We are also buying the parts we need to fix the other generator so that we will have that one ready to go as well, a backup with a back-up. We also have a brand new auto start and changeover switch that our friend Doug Dykstra helped us obtain that we’ll be able to set up knowing (with reasonable confidence) that the generator will start. We have hesitated on setting it up now as there is a very good chance the generator will not start.
The second step we are taking is that a grant application is being made to USAID American Schools and Hospitals Abroad for a grant that would enable us to construct our own hydro electric plant that has already been studied and designed. We are praying for direction in all these things.
The other major project I’ve been working on for the past many months is a system to filter stream water for use in the hospital and all of our homes. I am happy to say it is working well and has been quite the learning process for me. We will continue to improve on it and increase its capacity but currently it delivers about 8,000 to 10,000 gallons of water per day into our system. Although a couple of weeks ago we had to ban people from watering their gardens, that has been the only restrictions we needed to impose this year and we have had all the water we need for living and operating the hospital, PTL for that!
I am writing a journal/report that documents the process which is still ongoing because I think this may be a solution for other people in developing countries. It combines several different yet simple technologies that is producing 100% pure water. The Ministry of Energy and Water here in Cameroon is very interested as well so it is also helping to develop some good relationships in the government. When I finish the document to the current stage the system is at I will post it online and let anyone know who might be interested. I am interested in suggestions and feedback as well.
Regarding the watering of gardens, I want to put out some feelers to anyone who might be interested in maybe visiting and working with our agricultural people in helping to develop and teach water conservation methods that people can use here. Agriculture is very much needed and helps people economically but the current methods of watering (The Sorcerer’s Apprentice on steroids) necessitated the watering ban. We also have a hospital farm that produces food for leprosy patients, hospital programs, and for sale is also in need of better farming techniques. I will be happy to discuss with any potentially interested parties. Stay tuned for chapter 2.
Love from Mbingo, Thom & Ellen