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Send-off (noun) – an occasion to show appreciation and give good wishes to someone setting off on a new career or journey. Doesn’t a send-off sound a lot nicer and more fun than a retirement or good-bye party? We think so; send-off is the term used in Cameroon.
The last day of January, the staff at Mbingo Baptist Hospital gave a send-off for us and for Richard and Confidence Nji. They have been at Mbingo for the past fifteen years, she as a pharmacy technician and he as assistant administrator, then senior hospital administrator. They are being transferred to Banso Baptist Hospital (nearer their original home and where we lived for seven years in the 1980s).
For us, it was a send-off into retirement! We will be leaving here on March 7 to return to Kansas City. We’ll complete our remaining home assignment church visits to report on what God is doing here in Cameroon. Then we anticipate retirement beginning the first of July.
Anticipating retirement is a great time to think about the past. This reflection has brought many memories to my mind; however, in the end, the things which now seem most important are the relationships with the people here in Cameroon. And since it is nearly forty-four years since we first arrived at Mbingo, there are also now many inter-relationships.
One of our first two Internal Medicine graduates was the son of one of my best friends my first year in Cameroon. He and his brother joined our oldest son, Ted, in weekly science classes in our backyard. A graduate three years ago was the son of friends at Banso several years later. His mother was the clerk who helped Dennis set up the first central pharmacy to purchase drugs for the Baptist hospitals and health centers, and his father was an eye technician. As a young man, our incoming hospital administrator was a patient at Mbingo. Although raised a Muslim, he became a follower of Christ through Bible studies with former missionary Rodney Zimmerman. I could go on and on. It is a blessing to look back and see so many ways God has been at work. What a privilege to have been a small part in the Kingdom work here.
Another blessing we’ve been thinking a lot about recently is the growth of the Christian Internal Medicine Specialization (CIMS) residency. Certainly, when Dennis was teaching medical students and residents in Kansas City for those thirteen years between our Cameroon service, neither of us imagined that he would help begin an Internal Medicine residency program in Cameroon! God sure brings surprises, but look how he prepares us for things that aren’t even in our radar.
The Internal Medicine program has grown to nineteen residents, and NAB missionary Dr. Julie Stone is now the Program Director. Six graduates of the program and Dr. Richard Bardin make up the faculty, plus two more graduates are away getting subspecialty training (cardiology and radiation / medical oncology). Last week we had the faculty over for dinner around the fire pit (table!) on our side veranda. It was a great time remembering, as well as also hearing what these faculty members thought they might be doing five years from now.
We want to thank all of you who have faithfully prayed for us and provided the financial support that allowed us to pursue the ministry that God gave us here in Cameroon.