Monday, June 11, 2012

Hope Flight

We slipped the surly bonds and took flight last Thursday morning with a couple of kids from Hope House, the home for at risk and orphaned kids here in Libreville.  Henrica is a beautiful 15 year old girl who many years ago was hit by a car which knocked out one front tooth and seriously tattered the other front tooth.  Since then she has covered her smile.  Our good friend and dentist, Paul Kruth, from York Alliance Church came out in February and said it would be an easy fix but would need to be done at Bongolo.  Famou was with us as well.  A year or so ago Famou was in a serious bus accident killing 10 of his fellow passengers.  Famou broke his tibia and it was set wrong by medical personel here.  He needs surgery to re-break his tibia and have pins put in to allow the bone to heal correctly.  He is 18 and we had a guardian, Flavienne, come along with him as he needs to stay at the hospital for a couple of weeks before he can head back to Libreville.  His surgery has most likely already happened.

Henrica is a smart and hard working young woman who has a dream to someday become a pilot.  Just imagine her joy and wonder when we took off and flew over the city and out over the estuary, our plane's shadow dancing on the water below.  She looked out of her window and shook her head with wonder, repeatedly saying "wow" in whispered reverence.  Famou was in the back of the plane taking pictures and shaking his head in amazement as well.  This was their first time to fly in any plane much less a small Cessna single engine droning out a whimsical poem in the sky.  We punched through a cloud deck with blue skies above and billowing clouds below.  We could no longer see the ground as thick clouds floated and peaked and dimpled like a delicious fluffy meringue.  The blue skies we flew through were clear and clean with cool crisp air streaming into the plane through the adjustable vents.

Henrica sat next to Steve in the co-pilot seat with a headset on and wearing sunglasses with the American flag printed on the lenses.  She listened to everything Steve explained about the various dials and petals with rapt attention.  She even held the yoke "steering" for a few moments, slightly dipping and turning the plane with a shy smile lighting up her face.  Right now there aren't any flight training schools in Gabon.  The odds of this young girl learning to fly are seriously stacked against her.  But, nothing is impossible with God!  Perhaps someday Henrica will be flying a Cessna droning out her own poem in the Gabonese skies.

Within an hour and a half of landing Henrica already had her preliminary dental work done.  Some disappointed tears were shed when she realized that her new smile would have to wait until the end of summer allowing some healing to take place in preparation for the dental prosthetics.  However, we will fly her back to Bongolo to get that new smile before the next school year begins.  There are mean girls, even in Henrica's school, who make fun of her broken teeth and call her ugly.  I can't wait till Henrica beams with a brilliant unbroken smile.  It's often the small things that make all the difference.  What a blessing to get to play a part of Operation Henrica Smile! The Gabonese dentist, Dr. Neni, is married to one of the PAACS (Pan African Academy of Christian Surgeons) residents, she is very pregnant and came into the clinic just to see Henrica.  She and her husband, Dr. Tchoba, met and fell in love at medical school in, of all places, Russia.  True story!

We spent a lovely weekend in the jungle and were able to attend the Thompson's farewell party with our team.  They have been fearlessly serving the poorest of the poor in Gabon at the Bongolo hospital for 35 years.  It has been amazing to get to know and love the Thompson's during our four years here.  They are flying away from Bongolo today on their journey to transition to moving to Egypt to start a PAACS program there.  While many of the Thompson's contemporaries think of retirement, Dr. Dave and Becki are starting over with a new adventure which will require a move to a new country and learning a new language.  Heroes!  The night sky was lit by the twinkling lights of a thousand stars as Steve and I walked back to the guest house after the party.

Tomorrow Steve and I fly to Cameroon to pick up our kids for the summer.  I can hardly wait to embrace my babies!  We will spend 4 days there to attend awards ceremonies and allow our kids to say goodbyes to their friends and teachers, some of whom will not be returning next year.  We are looking forward to a great summer, the best part will be setting 5 places at the dinner table, we will all be under one roof!!


Olivia Joy said...

wow, I am so happy for Henrica! And I know her smile will be more beautiful than any girls' :)

Steve said...

I know they said in Conspiracy School never to sleep with your fellow conspirator. However, I think it's been working out for us these last 19 years of conspiring together for the sake of the Gospel. I'm looking forward to the years to come and thumbing my nose at those professors! Love, Steve