Cameroon in the Spotlight
by Elliott Wright
New York, NY, March 4, 2010--This year's World Day of Prayer (March 5) focus on Cameroon coincides with an expansion of United Methodist health ministries in the West African country.
World Day of Prayer (WDP) is an annual international, ecumenical celebration observed by Christian women. For 2010, WDP worship materials were prepared by women from Cameroon around the theme "Let Everything That Has Breath Praise God." The country is about 40 percent Christian and 20 percent Muslim.
In late February, Cameroon United Methodists--working with mission volunteers from the United States and with public health authorities--held an ecumenical, interfaith eye clinic that served more than 700 people. The demand was so great that an auxiliary clinic was set for March 4, according to the Rev. Patrick Friday, an executive with the General Board of Global Ministries.
The 2010 eye clinics significantly expand health ministries begun in 2006. The United Methodist presence in Cameroon got under way in 1999 as a mission initiative. An organized church--called a mission--was launched in 2005.
The eye clinic was held in Yaoundé, the Cameroon capital, at the new United Methodist Glory Congregation. The facility is only six months old, but the members were ready and able to host the large gathering of persons seeking eye examinations and, in many cases, eyeglasses. The event was featured on a Cameroon national radio broadcast.
Much of the organizing and medical expertise was provided through the Cameroon National Health Team. Christ United Methodist Church of Plano, Texas, is a major partner in this ministry, which continues to grow. Jennie Leclaire is coordinator for the Plano church participation, and Colins Etchi Ako is the Cameroonian health team leader.
David Begg, a member of Marshall United Methodist Church, Marshall, Michigan, brought several hundred pairs of glasses donated by the Marshall Lion's Club.
"This is a wonderful, growing mission partnership that is expanding on an international basis," said Rev. Friday, who was in Cameroon during the clinic as director of the In Mission Together Church Partnership Program of Global Ministries. All of the 13 mission initiatives make use of the mission partnership model.
The Cameroon Health Team was set up in 2006 with the goal of reducing the spread of HIV/AIDS and malaria infection in villages, towns, and cities where there are United Methodist churches--some 30 today, and growing.
The participation of ophthalmology groups from Texas in 2008 expanded the outreach to a mobile eye clinic. In April 2009, members of the Mission Health Team received training from Dr. Mindi Sudacki on how to organize an eye clinic. They were taught how to use an Auto Refractor and do simple prescriptions for corrective eyeglasses as well as reading glasses. The Christ UMC team envisioned the mobile eye clinic visiting other localities and organizing free eye consultations in the months ahead.
Collins Etchi Ako then had several meetings with different national health officials in Cameroon. These efforts culminated in a meeting with Dr. Aboutu, the president of the National Order of Ophthalmologists, who agreed to participate. Under Cameroonian law, a team can only organize eye consultations if there is a qualified ophthalmologist present.
The first clinic was organized on August 22, 2009, at Nkoteng and a second one at John Wesley United Methodist Church on August 29, 2009. Read an account of the John Wesley UMC mobile eye clinic (PDF, 2 pp., 142 KB).
Contribute to the Cameroon Mission Initiative, Advance #00344A.
Elliott Wright is an author and consultant to the General Board of Global Ministries.
Date posted: Mar 04, 2010