Wednesday, June 15, 2005

Have Lab Coat, Will Travel

Over the last few days, a pastor in a white lab coat has been seen cruising the streets and dirt roads in and around Obala on a motorbike. Like a slightly-mad scientist, he is focused and intent on getting a job done – he steps on the gas and flies past palm trees and over running streams. Occasionally, he has to slow down to answer his cellphone. But then he’s off again!

Pastor Simeon Nomo is managing the cholera prevention efforts in Obala, in conjunction with UMCOR and the District Hospital. Midway through the campaign, he is juggling 80 people in eight work teams, and overseeing worksites in six different villages.

Rev. Bettye and I visited Obala yesterday to see Pastor Nomo at work, and we were impressed! Every morning begins with a meeting at the hospital, where Pastor Nomo checks attendance, and hands food and transport money to each team leader. Then he sits down and checks the statistics from the previous day’s work. Meanwhile, buckets of lime and salt are mixed in the hospital yard. When everyone has an assignment, the teams leave and head off in different directions.

Each team is sent to a different part of town, or to an outlying community. They go house-by-house, asking the residents if they have been sick and handing out sheets of paper with tips on preventing the spread of cholera.

Then they treat latrines with handfuls of lime and salt, and wells with small bags of sand and chlorine. After they treat each home, they mark on the front, in chalk, “E.M.U.C.” which stands for “Eglise Methodiste Unie au Cameroun,” (that’s French for “United Methodist Church in Cameroon”).

Pastor Nomo had been hoping that one of the side-effects of the project would be to raise the visibility of the church in Obala, and so far, that seems to be happening. He has already formed two prayer cell groups in neighboring villages; one meets on Sunday afternoons, and the other on Fridays.

I saw him in full evangelis mode yesterday, too. He saw a group of men sitting underneath a thatched roof, and made us stop the car. He got out and went over to the men, introducing himself to the chief. He asked if the village had received a cholera prevention team, and whether the work had been done. After the chief had responded that all wells and latrines had been treated, Pastor Nomo gave a short, concise and well-informed introduction to the United Methodist Church, and explained what we believed as Christians. Then he said he’d be back, if they were willing, to start a prayer group in their village.

In Obala, the spread of cholera has been checked, the number of cholera cases has plateaued, and something new is spreading … the gospel of Jesus Christ!