If someone from the Northeast (New York for example) were to travel to New Mexico for the first time, they would have their eyes opened to a completely different climate, landscape, food choice, and people-group. They may feel as if they traveled to a different country altogether.
I was asked by a group from Loma Linda to help out with a Health Fair in Buea, Cameroon. All I knew about Buea was that we had a struggling hospital there, and that it was very far from Koza. To get to Buea from Koza, one must take a motorcycle to Mokolo (1 hour+), a bush taxi to Maroua (1 hr), a bus to Ngoundare (7 hours), a train to Yaounde (15-30 hours depending on derailments…this trip took 15hrs in seats), a share taxi to the bus station (20 min normally, but 2 hours when the Pope is visiting Yaounde…) and a bus to Buea (4 ½ hrs). With all the waiting and haggling, it takes longer to get from Koza to Buea than from Los Angeles to Buea. Anyhow, I agreed to help with the Health Fair, but dreaded the trip. Greg was asked to come to Buea also for a one-day AHI meeting with Dr Hart, so we were able to travel together.
We were told that the best bus company to take from Yaounde to Buea was Musango Voyage. It claims to be a Christian company, and had a bus non-stop to the center of Buea. Just as we were leaving Yaounde, a young man asked if anyone would like to pray for the trip, and a lady in the back agreed. (Even been on a “prayerful” bus?). Well, this started a discussion (more like a small riot) as to whether the Bible says it is acceptable for women to pray in public. The next thing that happened is that this same young man started promoting herbal remedies like ginseng and other “medicinal” remedies. It was kind of like an info-mercial; We were a captive audience. At the first toll booth, he got off to try to sell to another bus going back to Yaounde. When we arrived in Buea, I was amazed by so many things: Everyone had on “western” clothing. The people spoke English. There were huge plantations for bananas, palms, rubber trees, and coconuts. There were fruits and vegetables available everywhere. There were churches everywhere. The climate was perfect: slightly humid, but not very hot. When we started the Health Fair I noticed something else strikingly different from Koza: the people were not only literate, but highly educated. The diseases were distinctly “western” like diabetes, high blood pressure, and obesity. The questions were about mammograms, PAP smears, and weight loss. We were not asked once for money or gifts. For the students from Loma Linda who were putting on the health fair, it felt like they had just entered a developing country, with poverty, inconsistent electricity, water only every other day, and no supermarkets. For Greg and me it felt like we had just arrived in Canaan – a land flowing with milk and honey.
Greg’s meeting on Sunday afternoon went well. We were able to visit with Dr Hart and his wife, Judy for a brief time before they left to visit Nigeria. Greg decided to stay in Buea to help with the Health Fair. It was a good thing he did, because most of the other doctors they had planned on to help never showed up. Greg and I saw an average of 50 patients a day for free. The LLU students taught the community about oral hygiene, nutrition, HIV, and family planning. We were all exhausted by the time the sun went down each night. On Friday, the 27, Greg took me to the beach for my birthday. We found a hotel on the beach to stay at that night. It turned out that this hotel was like a resort, complete with a black volcanic beach, a fresh spring water swimming pond, tennis, basketball and volleyball courts, sea kayaks for rent, horses for hire to ride down the beach, or up the volcanic mountain, a restaurant on the beach, a night club, and a very professional staff, (not to mention hot running water and electricity 100% of the time). It was like paradise for us. We have been told that most of western Cameroon (especially the Anglophone part) is like this. It has been amazing to us to see the differences among the different provinces; from north to south, from east to west, and French to English.
I am writing this from a sleeper car. We were fortunate to be able to get a two spots in a 2-person sleeper car for the return trip. I slept almost the whole 17 hour trip and it has been very pleasant. To get back to Koza, we still have to take a bus (mini-van, 5 people in 4 seats) for 7 hours to Maroua, pick up medications in Maroua, and head back to Koza and its 105-110 degree temperatures. Our mini-vacation is over, but we are both recharged for the work that awaits us. This trip has opened our eyes to the differences among people groups in this country, and the potential difference that we can make in the North with education and the love of God. Please pray for the hospital that is just starting in Buea (it is currently just a clinic), and for the American missionary doctor that will be heading out there this summer to stay. Please pray for the people of Koza, that they will desire further education, and will feel the love of God and turn from their previous ways. Thank you for your support, love and prayers.
In His Grip, Audrey