Hello from Gabon!
We have been launching into our new roles here at the Hospital and have completed our first month of orientation!
A highlight of our first module of orientation was getting to tour the hospital as a family and greet all of our Gabonese Co-workers at Bongolo Hospital.
It is such a joy to be back here as a family, serving alongside them and share in what God is doing here at Bongolo.
Many of the students Amanda taught previously are now seasoned nurses.
It has been such a joy to be reunited!
For Amanda, it’s almost a homecoming.
‘You know, the Gabonese are very generous with their greetings. Amidst all the joyous hellos, I began to wonder if maybe they were just being polite.
Then one morning on my way down to the hospital, one of the head maintenance workers who I hadn’t seen yet because he had been on vacation- drove past me in a maintenance truck. He saw me, shouted to me, stopped the truck, got out, and although he is an older gentleman, ran up the hill towards me. I ran down towards him to greet him and seeing him again filled me with such joy. And with tears in his eyes, he greeted me and said “you’ve come back”. When I was here as a single, he and the others on the maintenance crew had killed snakes for me, worked for months on the big old house I was living in to fix the electricity that was shocking me every time I used the water faucets and they had fixed the waterfall coming down from the attic in the middle of my kitchen. They had looked out for me maintenance wise, as a 24 year old single living alone here in the jungle.
Seeing the tears in his eyes – it hit me.
The hellos – they are real.’
Thank you so much for praying for us these past several weeks! We moved into our new home the week before Christmas!
The workmen in and out of our home everyday
finishing the new build, are starting to feel like a part of the family : )
One of Matthias’ favorite things is to hang out with the guys while they work. Several of them call him their ‘Buddy’.
We so very much appreciate your prayers this past month!
Every piece of furniture that we shipped to Gabon (including beds and closets!) was flat packed – all four of us are now allen wrench experts
All of our belongings got here before we did- which meant everything was moldy when we opened it. So if you imagine the last time you moved, and picture having to wash any kitchen item, tool, cord, book, towel, rug or pen you remove from a box before using it- then you know how we’ve been spending our spare time
Some of our clothes that we brought with us from France have already been moth eaten in the past month.
All of our water has to be filtered- drinking, cooking and brushing teeth. We set up our water filter by our sink. Unfortunately the first day it was set up, our house helper (understandably) mistook it for items that needed to be washed – and washed the three filter elements with soap. If you know anything about water filters- you know that they stopped working after that- and we had no more filtered water.
Fortunately Christopher researched a solution, and was able to scrub each filter element for a long time with a specific scrub sponge so that they were at least moderately effective. As providence would have it- there was a fourth filter element that we mysteriously couldn’t find when we initially set up the filter- and we found it after the others were washed- so we have one filter element that is working at full capacity (thank you for praying!)
We set up the kids room first so they would feel settled, but in the time it took us to move in the rest of the house, their entire room molded including beds, shelves, clothes and toys (including wood/plastic/cloth and metal).
It is hot and humid in the jungle!
We washed every puzzle piece, toy car, piece of car track and little animal in vinegar.
Within two days (still on a drying rack in front of a fan) the toys were molding again.
So we washed each toy again in bleach.
And then set them in the midday sun for two days to dry out.
Most of the toys survived – the ones that were molding YET AGAIN- we decided were not cut out for jungle life and we said bye bye to them.
The plumbing for hot water was installed in our home a few days ago- so we now have hot water in our house!
We have mastered our bucket shower skills!
Our washing machine broke after one load of laundry. If you think of it, please pray that we are able to get parts for it in country. We are so thankful to our Teammates who are neighbors who have been letting us borrow their washer! Although we are looking forward to having a working laundry set up in our own home- especially with all the cloth diapering.
Amanda has not missed the bug side of things.
From ants and termites in the kids beds, to a 3/4 inch beetle in Cora’s ear during the night (!), to Amanda having an intestinal parasite for over a month (thanks Giardia!)
Bites. Bites. Baby.
Noseeums get us- even inside with bug screens installed.
We cut an apple for dinner and found this when we came back to do the dishes.
But bugs are a part of life here. This guy was inside our bedroom for quite a while- we think he looks like a wise old grandpa beetle.
And let’s be honest – we’ll take bugs any day over the snakes.
A Black Mamba decided to drop by in front of our porch on Christmas Eve.
Christopher got to initiate himself and our brand new machete with his first snake kill!
As you feel led to pray:
Christopher would appreciate prayer as he transitions- there are a lot of adjustments these first few months.
Amanda would appreciate prayer as she learns how to be a mama in the jungle. Jungle life is a different thing with littles two-two-and-under.
Matthias & Cora- we would appreciate prayer for protection over them and for them to have fun and thrive here.
Despite all of these new daily life challenges to get used to, we are starting to see tangibly ‘the why’ of God leading us to live out our faith here in the jungle.
We are starting to see ‘the dawn of redeeming grace’ in the lives of those around us.
Amanda had built relationships when she lived here previously with women of the M* faith from other African countries who live in our town of LeBamba.
Amanda and the women had gotten together weekly to cook together and spend time together, but we weren’t sure what – if any – relationship would still be intact after 6 years of no longer meeting. Previously the relationships with the M* women in LeBamba tended to move slowly, it was only after meeting together weekly for 2 years that they had felt comfortable to invite Amanda to their home and comfortable enough to go to hers. So upon arriving here, we kept our expectations low, (we didn’t even know if they would remember Amanda) and we prayed that God would move in His timing.
God is responding to that prayer! To our astonishment, the women have not only remembered Amanda, but have jumped further into that relationship than where they left things 6 years ago.
The M* women have initiated getting together every week since we’ve arrived to spend time together, sometimes around a meal and sometimes sitting with them at their stall where they work as merchants for a living.
The women are here in Gabon alone with their children nine months out of the year – and then return to their husbands and extended families in their home countries for the other three months – bringing with them their year’s earnings.
A few weeks after we arrived, they invited Amanda into their home.
Christmas weekend, they came to our home for a small Christmas gathering- even though they don’t celebrate Christmas.
And then on New Year’s, the biggest Holiday in Gabon (bigger than Christmas for families) – the women invited us to their home again.
What we thought was going to be a simple gathering of friends for lunch before their big celebrations- turned out to be that they had invited us to THE celebration that they were having as a family for the Holiday- they invited us in as family, and had us celebrate with four different family units around town of their large extended family.
We spent all of New Year’s together.
At one point Amanda was driving one of the women, who we’ll call Grace, home from a meal. It got quiet and Grace stopped and looked at Amanda and said, “You go to church, right?”
“Yes” Amanda replied.
Grace continued, “Well I don’t know if you know or not, but I’m M*. So sometimes I’m going to have to stop and pray on the ground.”
“That’s ok” Amanda replied, “I like to pray also, when you have to stop to pray, I will kneel on the ground next to you and pray in the way that I pray to God as well.”
Grace lit up and started jumping up and down in her seat in the car and flashed a huge smile, “You would do that? You would pray next to me?”
“Of course, I would be happy to!”
The Dawn of Redeeming Grace.
We’re starting to see glimpses of it.
Christmas meant something a little different this year- as we awaited their arrival in our home Christmas weekend.
For Joy to light up earth.
For redeeming grace to dawn in these women’s lives.
May this New Year bring – not just the dawn – but an explosive, brilliant sunrise of Redeeming Grace – in our lives and yours – as we cling ever closer to Him.
With Love from Gabon,
Christopher, Amanda, Matthias & Cora