Former missionary Jim Noss, recently returned from a visit to the Central African Republic, which is the international companion synod partner for the Western North Dakota Synod. Among his stops was the Emmanuel Health Center at Gallo, a ministry that has been strongly supported by congregations across our synod. Below is a brief report of his visit.
Brief Summary of My Quick 3-Day Trip into CAR – September, 2016
Submitted to LPGM by Jim Noss on October 17, 2016
- This trip was like the last one where the Ambassador/Consulate at the CAR Embassy in Garoua, Cameroon received me with literally open arms and a warm hand shake. He wanted to be sure I understood how grateful he and his government were to me and those who continue to come to CAR from LPGM for their ongoing support under very difficult and risky situations. He knows that in areas we have worked it is only possible by road and thus the risks are greater. Yet in the name of Jesus Christ, we continue to work and walk with them. He is pleased that this year things are getting better and that peace may finally return, but it has been so long. Once again after we prayed together, he expressed his profound gratitude and thanks for what LPGM is doing as well as the ELC-CAR, GHM and the ELCA by supporting and sending people there. It is a true model of accompaniment.
- The Emmanuel Health Center did have activity…but since our first visit was mid-afternoon on Saturday, the number of patients was limited. Monday, there were a few more patients. I did a complete assessment of the buildings, grounds, equipment and supplies. Given that the main maintenance person I had trained over the years, M Charlemagne, died in a tragic accident last November, the person he had working with him was young and without good supervision. There were a number of things that needed attention which he took note of, and by Monday when I returned, some had been done. Other things were more complicated but we worked out plans on how to deal with them. There are some major equipment items that have suffered much due to excess moisture and humidity, as well as general cleaning procedures. Other equipment was needing replacement due to age, use and also the disastrous effects of lightning strikes. Several issues where taken care of by basic ingenuity, workable, but in some cases, dangerous.
- The number of patients at Emmanuel Center has been greatly reduced, in part due to limited funding to buy needed medications, but also due to the departure in May of the Medical Doctor/Director, the need for additional staff training and updating, as well as the insecurity from terrible suffering and pain in a war that has lasted for years. I watched a nurse and lab tech work hard on a nine-month old little boy, unfortunately they either did not have the right size needle or due to a collapsed vein from malaria, they could not get a lifesaving blood transfusion in. Shortly after their efforts, he died. I continued to wonder as I heard the cries of the family how often this happens due to what most Central Africans have to take as normal, a part of life. No wonder a Grandma in both Cameroon and the Central African Republic respond to such events by telling their daughters, “DON’T CRY, IT IS ONLY A BABY.” When it happens so often, due to the lack of necessary medical care and awareness, what are the options?
- Two days later, as I traveled back to Cameroon and spent more time in the Emmanuel Health Center working to check things out and make repairs, I was delighted to see two twin boys – the mom had just arrived after a 20-mile motorcycle ride. The first one was a baby boy, then 4 minutes later, another baby boy. The delivery went well. Just minutes after, I was invited to take some pictures and we laughed as the largest of the two had both eyes wide open, seemingly to be taking us all in. The comment was made to the mother who had delivered minutes before, “Watch out! He will give you trouble as he grows. He is taking it all in.” We all laughed and thanked God for their safe arrival.
- I spent a day in Bouar, working with Pres. Samuel Ndanga Toue and his staff. While there, I stayed at the Marie Marthe Women’s Center which was built with LPGM funding. It was doing well providing a lot of support to the UN and African Security system sent to restore peace. The facilities are clean and well managed with work of various meetings for the women in the community and the Lutheran Church of the Central African Republic.
- On my way back to Cameroon I stopped in Baboua to visit with Mayor David, a member of the ELC-CAR who had been held captive by rebels, along with a top government official also from Baboua and a pastor from another church. They were taken hostage in July 2015 and were not released until late July this year. They had a Bible, read it often, prayed every hour and, despite threats as recently as early July that they would be killed in 48 hours if a huge sum of money was not paid (it was not paid), within ten days they obtained their freedom. They lived on beans, mice and birds, and slept under the stars or a small piece of plastic the whole time. Mayor David told me they were not afraid as God kept assuring them in dreams that they would be OK. In several visions, Mayor David learned a secret – exactly how they would be released. It was a miracle, and it happened just as God had promised and showed them.
- There are still rebels evident along the road as I traveled, but for now they seem to also keep hoping that appropriate solutions would be found to bring lasting peace. “Here today, gone tomorrow,” is never far away in the minds of the Central Africans, but there is hope. LPGM is still walking very closely with them. They do dare to dream!
- How often I was reminded that despite all, so many who seem to have no future or little to look forward to still believe as Luke reminds us, DO NOT BE AFRAID. What a blessing to walk together with peoples of such great faith!