After four days in the jungle I got a little too used to not having to inhale pollution-filled air every time I was outside. I tried to sit out on our deck today (we’re back in Libreville) to have some Bible time but after five or so minutes my head was a little groggy. My lungs are definitely suffering here in the city.
So pretty much, I LOVE Bongolo. Not just the hospital itself, but the surrounding villages, jungles, river…just the atmosphere in general. In a small way it reminded me of Rainforest Cafe…that’s really all I know to compare it to. The forest is so dense that you cannot see within a foot into it, and I found myself regarding the green mass as a whole new world of adventure and danger. I asked several people if hiking through the forest had ever been attempted, and I discovered that Gabonese people do forest farming of some sort. However, if someone ventures into the forest they must take a machete (for snakes and things…obviously). Maybe on our next trip to Bonogolo I can take a bit of a jungle hike (more on that to come).
Before I get started on the account of our little trip to the country, I will give a disclaimer that there is so much I want to tell. In order to break up the story some I am trying to upload pics, so if you see them in the post then it worked! So now I’ll start from the beginning and we’ll see where this story takes us!
I don’t think that I fully realized that I am actually in Africa until we were driving down a bumpy dirt road that was lined with lush, green jungle. Living in an African city is quite a unique experience, to say the least, but the Africa I always dreamed of was, let’s face it, the jungles and country. And when we were in the “thick” of it was when I was filled with the wonder of my location.
We arrived at the Bongolo Envision center late Thursday afternoon. Maryann and her husband, Dennis, have been living and working at the center for six months and are taking off back to the states in about a week. Mid-April Dan and Alicia move into the center to host teams and visitors (they’ll be there for about a year). Anyways, Maryann is an amazing cook, as we discovered that evening at dinner time. It was so nice to have a few days of eating amazing food (especially the breakfasts with coffee!)…yes, I do love food enough to write several sentences about it.
Thursday morning I walked down the hill to the hospital to get a tour, which was given by Lisa. Lisa is one of the four American nurses at the hospital (the rest are Africans). The hospital is pretty much comprised of several buildings that are arranged in a circle-ish layout around a grassy area. There, for example, is a building with dentistry, a surgical building, maternity, eyes, pediatrics, and HIV/TB along with several other buildings with specific “roles”.
After the tour, Lisa let me follow her around and observe her complete some of her tasks. I got to meet some patients, watch the nursing students do some *unpleasant* tasks (almost passed out),pray for Roger (a man who had had an eye surgery) and just got a feel for how things work at Bongolo. Two things that struck me as amazing/different from other hospitals: God is literally being glorified all the time by the staff and many of the patients, and I could take pictures of all sorts of things! (click on the pictures in this post to go to the album).
At the end of the morning I observed one of Lisa’s classes with her 10 or so nursing students. As I walked into the classroom, pictoral comparisons between this room and classrooms I’ve been flooded into my mind. These students sit on wooden benches for their class, there is no air conditioning or fans, and the teacher has a single black board at her disposal. (FYI, the four American nurses split up the classes between themselves to teach). The session was for questions and answers, so it was only about half an hour long. At the end of the class Lisa introduced me to the students and they asked me some interesting questions. One was, “How do your parents feel about you going into this type of ministry?” Another asked how I could know at such a young age what I wanted to do with my life. I pointed upward and said “Dieu”. I asked the students why they all felt called to nursing…discovered that this was a class full of tender-hearted, caring people. I would definitely go to Bongolo in case of medical emergency!
Later that afternoon, JR and I walked to the high school in the area, which happened to be one of the few C&MA high schools in Gabon. We met the principal and he talked to us a bit about the needs at the school as well as his job and the expectations of him to re-do, re-establish, and re-instate. The buildings are very old and run-down, so he must try to repair them. He is also trying to re-instill C&MA values at the school. Oh, and there are over 200 students preparing to take the national test next year. And they have 3 computers on which to study. A very, very different learning environment. Yet Pastor Clement (the principal) was able to say, “I will do God’s work here.” What an encouragement to meet people who have such burdens on their shoulders and have such peace in their hearts!
On Saturday afternoon about 10 of us went tubing down the Luetse River (which is the main water source for Bongolo). The ride took about 3 hours, and amazingly I was only mildly burned at the end of it! What an experience to be floating down a river through the African jungles! We never did get a clear answer from anyone as to whether crocidiles or hippos could be present in the river, but I do know there were bugs and snakes (although I didn’t see a snake, whoo!).
We finished our stay by hosting a game night for the missionaries. A big group of us played Scum (so fun, remind me to teach you!). Before that little party, though, a group of guys from the high school came over. They taught us some French praise songs and we taught them some English ones. I admired these young men so much as I watched them sing about their love for God. How many high school boys do you know that would spend their Saturday night with complete strangers, singing praise songs and learning about someone else’s culture?
So until mid-April when the Lewans move I must say goodbye to the beautiful jungle and hello again to the city…but we have lots of exciting weeks ahead, with beach days, a visiting team from Minnesota, and probably many more adventures! Stay tuned!
Craving a latte,