Happy New Year from Gabon!
We are grateful for your coming alongside us in prayer these past 4 months.
The new Nursing School building opened as hoped for – right before the start of the Fall Trimester.
The students, our Team and the Hospital staff have celebrated God’s provision in moving the school one step closer to government accreditation through this building requirement.
From decades in a 2-room, no bathroom, 1 office school house, to this – is quite a new chapter.
We are humbled by the opportunities it represents, not just for the nursing program, but for other Bongolo training programs needing academic space, and are grateful for the ESL class that has already begun using this space in the evenings.
Shortly after the new building opened, Bongolo received an unplanned visit of 8 government ministers.
We are grateful for this interest from the government and discussions are underway regarding partnerships with neighboring government nursing programs.
We welcome you to pray alongside us for the Lord’s timing and provision in possible accreditation.
Thank you for praying for us as we adapt to being in the role of Team Leader for our Team. The first day on-site as Team Lead I sat at my desk and began reviewing the financial reports for that month that had been submitted. I curiously paused when I came across a hand written report from the peds ward – it was a photo of a hand written notebook page in French, entitled – “Report of money given for children who are admitted with nothing to eat”
I scrolled down the list of of about 8 children’s names who had a received a meal or two to get them through,
and then stopped as I read
the name of one 18 month old baby girl, who had nothing to eat
during her several month long stay being treated for TB.
I sat and wept over a financial report that day.
Grateful the Father had prompted hearts of supporters to give – so that He could be present with this sweet baby girl through the hands and feet of the Gabonese nurses treating her, and through making sure her little belly was full each day.
In a recent spiritual retreat with the nursing students,
we studied the Father’s love.
How His love is unlike
the common human characteristics of love
or man’s metrics of what love is.
In our class, many students do not have a father who was present,
or they were part of a polygamous household
or raised by their’s father’s second wife.
The Genesis stories we studied recently of favoritism and maltreatment compared to their favorited siblings,
are relatable for them in vivid, ways.
Receiving less food, less attention, less opportunities.
I love how the Father comes to sit with us in those vivid, painful, places.
We saw Him come and sit with our nursing students and continue to gently reshape and grow their understanding of His love, of His desire to be present with them. Of His desire to sit with them, give them His attention, to speak with them.
Our Team has been growing in this too. Growing in our awareness of His presence with us.
Growing in our ability to hear the Father’s voice.
Thank you for praying for our self-led Team retreat. The Father was present with us.
We are learning to better hear His voice as individuals – and as a Team.
Thank you for praying for our Strategic Review which takes place every 5 years.
The Father was present in that week of long interviews, meetings and discussions.
He continues to be present with us as we conclude the report coming out of those meetings and take these next 6 months to establish next steps for our Team.
Thank you for continuing to pray as we press into the details of what He has for our Team.
And thank you for praying for the Hospital oversight committee meetings which take place twice annually.
Again, the Father was present and we look forward to gathering again in March to hear from Him as we sift these decisions.
On our return to Gabon from the US this past fall, we were boarding one of our last flights.
We had been awake for who knows how many hours on a scant amount of sleep the previous 3 days.
Our layover was in an African location in a hot, overflowing waiting area, trying to keep our 2 and 4 year old sufficiently active in the standing room only space we had before boarding another long flight.
We finally made it to our airplane seats where I was seated with Cora, and the flight attendant brings this young woman over who was getting a special escort to her seat.
The attendant told Cora and I that we would need to change seats so this young woman could sit there. I showed her our tickets and that we were in our assigned seats.
The attendant told the young woman that she would “fix this”
It’s pretty common in African cultures for someone who knows someone or who is the relative of some VIP to receive special treatment.
I was exhausted.
My two year old was falling asleep – carefully timed just in time for take off.
To be transparent, my honest thought was I have zero desire to cater to the entitled wants of some business princess who’s daddy makes mucho dollars.
The attendant came back and had her sit next to us, which she made visible was second best to her to getting to claim our seats.
The flight announcements started and I wrapped up a few last communications and photos on my phone.
The young woman starts leaning over my shoulder to conspicuously watch every motion I do on my phone.
She starts studying me intently.
Copying every thing I do.
Staring at me outright.
She reaches in and puts items in and out of the seat back pocket in front of my seat and uses them as if they were hers.
Who does this princess think she is??
Confused and exhausted, and Cora asleep on my lap, I was too tired to engage in some cross-cultural discussion about this. I secured my personal items and twisted in my seat as much as possible away from this odd stranger and completely konked out before take-off.
I had some deep _ like really deep _ refueling sleep.
I didn’t wake up again until after we were touching down for our non-disembark refuel stop.
As soon as my eyes were open, it was as if Jesus spoke to me gently and said,
“ok, now that you’ve had some rest – actually look at the young woman next to you.”
I shifted in my seat and turned to look at the young woman – who was intently pouring over every inch of the airplane’s safety card.
She looked younger than I remembered.
She seemed very glad to see I was awake.
Gradually her adult stature and adult attire, seemed more like a front as I observed her behavior.
The airplane re-took off.
A meal came.
She mimicked every gesture I made on my plate, for her plate.
“How old are you?” I finally asked her after exchanging names.
Despite her appearance, this was no 20-something daddy’s business princess – she was a child on her first flight in memory.
Her parents had left Gabon when she was one – they were now returning her – on her own – to go live with relatives in Gabon to be raised into a woman in her home country.
She was alone. And she was scared.
She didn’t know these people she had been sent to live with.
She told me she didn’t want to go.
She asked what the packet of powdered creamer was on her tray.
I told her and she poured it into her hand and licked it off her hand to explore it and understand it.
She asked lots of questions and we chatted for a long time.
She watched longingly as I snuggled and played with Cora.
I felt her reach up and play with my hair when I wasn’t looking.
In her eyes I saw her desire to be mothered.
It would be common culturally for a woman to step into that role for her if her mother wasn’t present with her – so I did. For the rest of the flight I had an eleven year old daughter to my left, and a two year old daughter to my right.
I helped her set up her meals and know how to open all of the things, explained what was happening during the flight and held her drink for her while she lifted her tray to pick up the random piece of paper she was fidgeting with that she dropped on the floor 18 times : )
And we talked about Jesus.
I shared my story, the honest times when I was a girl and was alone. And scared.
How Jesus had shown up every time,
to allow the Father to be present with me in those moments.
How he’s always been there for me as a Father.
And how He wanted to be present with her
– whenever she felt scared or alone –
that He would be present with her as a Father
– even when her father couldn’t be.
The plane landed.
We all got off.
We waved goodbye to each other through immigration, as she was escorted through by airport officials.
In John 14, Jesus says he
“will ask the Father, and he will give you another Helper,
to be with you forever,
even the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive,
because it neither sees him nor knows him.
You know him,
for he dwells with you
and will be in you.
I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you”
The Hope of the Father to the Fatherless.
I’m not sure how “Fatherless” lands for you today.
Perhaps you’re mourning a current loss – or a past loss – of your dad.
Perhaps your father is alive – but wasn’t present physically or wasn’t present emotionally.
Perhaps you know that God says He is a Father to us – but if you’re honest that hasn’t been your experience with God.
Perhaps your dad is a wonderful reflection of who our Heavenly Father is – and yet there is an unfulfilled longing to know your Heavenly Father in the depths of who you are.
However “Fatherless” lands for you today, know that God’s desire is “to dwell with you” “to be in you”, “to not leave you” but “to come to you”.
To be a Father to the Fatherless.
As we head into the “Ordinary Days” on the church calendar between Advent and Lent,
may they be days that are made extraordinary by His presence,
days where you encounter afresh the love of the Father,
days that you look back on and are able to say,
“the Father came and dwelt with me there”.
With Love from the Jungle,
Christopher, Amanda, Matthias & Cora Lisette