Thursday, March 12, 2015

Jungle churches

      Last Sunday I accompanied another nurse (Wendy) and a Gabonese couple (Papa Paul & Mama Mado) to visit 6 churches in the jungle southeast of Bongolo hospital. The nurse and the couple minister at one of these churches almost every Sunday, and often stop at the others to encourage the people as they can. Our mission on this particular Sunday was to share about an upcoming course that Wendy and I will be teaching starting the end of March: an 8 week nurse's aide course. Wendy also gave a short message at two of the churches, which Mama Mado interpreted into Yinzebi. This is the local language that is spoken in the home. Everyone learns French, and with the exception of some of the older Papa's and Mama's, can understand it well. But Yinzebi is their heart language, so it's wonderful that they can hear a message from God's word in both languages.
      These are some of my thoughts about our day. First; Gabon is just one big jungle! We drove almost two hours to get to the farthest village, and there is not much between here and there but jungle, a few small villages, a river, and a dirt road. The jungle is all encompassing, everywhere you look, nothing but a million different types of trees and plants, all fighting for space. I was transfixed by the scenery, and was in awe of God's wondrous variety! Second observation; the people are so hungry for God's word! When we arrived in the village, the people were already gathered in the church and the sounds of their voices and drums could be heard from a long way off. They sang with great abandonment and joy, clapping their hands, or holding them high. When we walked in, they clapped with great excitement, because they knew we would be sharing God's precious word. Many of these villages don't have bibles, or if they do, only a few of the people can read them. So to be able to sit and listen to a story or teaching from God's word is very exciting for them. It made me realize how often I take God's word for granted even though I have instant access to it whenever I want! Third observation; the people are very hospitable, even though they have little. After church, we were taken to the home of the "chef" of the church. This is the person who is in charge (not the pastor, because they don't preach). We received a full meal of Maniac root, maniac leaves, bananas, and some other kind of root (can't remember the name). None of the villagers ate, they just sat and watched us eat. It was rather strange, but I'm assuming it was a way to express respect and thanks. So we left, and went to the next church, and did the same thing all over again, including another meal. This one included antelope meat and porcupine, along with the usual fixings of maniac and bananas. Oh my, I was full, but it would be rude not to eat, so we ate. The antelope was really good, but I wasn't too crazy about the porcupine. I guess it's an acquired taste! And so went most of the rest of the day, except thankfully we didn't receive anymore meals, because Papa Paul explained that we still had many villages to visit, and we didn't have time. Thank goodness!
      Overall, this day was amazing, and opened my eyes to the spiritual need in the jungles here in Gabon. There are still "witchdoctors" in every village, and they hold an amazing hold over many of the people. Even the Christians will often go to them for advise. Demon possession is common, and we saw visual evidence of it that day (that's a story for another blog). But the Lord is hitting my heart hard with the truth of the spiritual darkness that is very real here in the jungles. I am praying about where he wants me to serve. The church that Wendy serves in has about 30 kids, but there is no sunday school teacher. So pray with me, as to whether this is where God wants me to serve on sundays. This week, I will visit another jungle church with one of the couples here. I want to visit as many churches as possible, pray, and let God direct my footsteps.
Prayer needs:
1) Language! I am beginning to be able to understand the Gabonese, but still have a long way to go. I am developing lectures in French for the upcoming nurse's aide course. It's very time consuming, and hard.
2) Wisdom for where I should serve on Sundays
3) Continued orientation to the hospital- I am starting to work with the nurses to see what their day consists of. Nurses here actually have a much greater responsibility that they do in the states. They are not many doctors to go around for all the patients. Each nurse can care for up to 30 patients every day. In the clinics, they act as nurse practitioners, and order labs, x-rays and medicines. The doctors often only see the really sick patients at the clinics, and then the patients in the hospital (but not every day). So, I am trying to get my way of thinking to wrap around some of this. Everything is very different.
4) Friendships with both the missionaries and the Gabonese. I am starting to form some friendships here with the missionaries, but not too many with the Gabonese yet (due to communication issues).
Thank you for your continued prayers and thoughts. Good-bye for now from the jungles (English), Au revoir (French), Me- yendi (Yinzebi).

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