It seems like a very long and drawn out process as we make preparations to go to Cameroon and begin surgical training of African physicians. It has been almost eight months since we made the decision to go. At that time we could not have foreseen all the necessary steps and preparation to leave our current jobs and home to live and work overseas.
In June Carolyn and I flew to Chicago for an interview with the Division of Global Missions of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA). We had asked the ELCA to consider sponsoring our work in Cameroon because of their long term association with the church and hospital in Ngaoundere. In July we returned to Chicago for three weeks of intense orientation and training. We spent 3 days at the Global Mission office learning about the ELCA's philosophy of mission and policies, including the support package for missionaries. We then participated in 12 days of ecumenical orientation with 5 other mission boards. About 60 missionaries going to at least 25 different countries all over the world went through this part of the orientation together. It was fascinating and exciting to be with this group of people and hear their stories. The speakers and the training were excellent. We heard about cross cultural issues, the history of missions (good and bad), globalization, racism, interfaith dialogue, security, self care, and how we can expect to be changed in the process of living and working overseas. We then spent 3 days at the ELCA's Summer Missionary Conference in Kenosha, Wisconsin, where, among other things, we had several long discussions with the surgeon and his wife, a pediatrician, who were most recently at Ngaoundere, but have now returned home at the end of their service. These discussions were tremendously helpful to us as we make preparations to leave. We also had our final interview with the ELCA and were formally accepted as missionaries under their oversight and with their support.
We are scheduled to leave in early January 08 for French language training at the Centre de Linguistique in Besancon, France. Originally we had been told we would do language training in Burkina Faso. We expect to be in France until the end of September, which means that we will not get to Cameroon until the fall of 2008. The first surgical residents will not start until January 09. We will have 2-3 months in Ngaoundere to work with the staff, to learn how the hospital functions, and to set in place the administrative policies necessary for the residents' training.
Meanwhile, we have much to do. Our home has been on the market since April but has not sold. We have to move by December whether it sells or not. We will ship a few things to Cameroon, but store most of our household goods for now. At some point after our house sells, we hope to buy a small townhouse or condominium in Charleston to reestablish a base for when we are home. Both Carolyn and I intend to work until we leave, but we both have more training scheduled for the fall. In October Carolyn will take a three week course at the Medical University of SC to become a certified wound management nurse. During this time I will attend the American College of Surgeons Clinical Congress in New Orleans, a missionary medicine course in Asheville, NC, and a 2 week course in language acquisition skills in Colorado.
There are literally hundreds of other details to take care of before we leave, and sometimes it feels overwhelming. Our children have been very supportive, but it is difficult to think of being separated from them. And it is painful to leave my patients, office staff, and colleagues. But we are also very excited and strengthened by a deep sense of having been called to a task for which we have been preparing all our lives. The surgical needs in Africa are desperate and we believe this is an opportunity to make a long term difference in the lives of many people for generations to come. It is work we truly love doing.
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