Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Food and the Market

We have been very fortunate in Cameroon so far as there is a cook assigned to us who has been cooking most of our meals. I found that one of the most unexpected gifts for me during our months home in the States this past summer was that I wasn’t obsessed with thinking about food. Even though the food was plentiful in Guatemala and there was a lot of variety, there were no grocery stores in Santiago, some items were only available on certain days of the week or only if one got to the market early, and some items were scarce and/or expensive, for example, cheese and peanut butter. I did careful meal planning and a little rationing (my family would call it hoarding) of special foods. It ended up that I spent a good part of my days thinking about, buying, and preparing food in Guatemala.

So, here in Cameroon, even though I will be able to ease into 

the meal preparation, I did want to see what the market had to offer. There are tomatoes, onions, carrots, okra, garden eggs (a small form of eggplant), and bananas available daily. At times, I have seen green peppers, celery, green beans, potatoes, yams, avocados, and pineapple. There is bread, rice, pasta, black beans, pinto beans, soy beans, and dried fish, plus eggs, flour, oil, vinegar, and salt. Dried corn which is ground into corn flour and made into corn fufu is plentiful as corn fufu is the food that everyone eats daily. The market day is every 8th day and on those days the market also sells fabric and new and used clothing and shoes. I saw tomato paste in sachets and canned sardines. There is groundnut paste (passable for peanut butter), Ovaltine, milk powder, and something similar to Nutella, which has been a sweet treat. Only live chickens are available. We’ve received homemade cheese as a gift from one of the sisters at the convent and that has been a treat.

Monday, August 26, 2013

First Few Weeks

We have been spending the first few weeks shadowing the doctors at St. Martin De Porres.

Dr. Tim and wife Sheila have been helping us to settle in and we have really enjoyed their camaraderie and wisdom from their years of mission work. 

We are seeing many of the common illnesses we saw in Ghana.
AIDS, Malaria, Typhoid, Meningitis and the various obstetrical complications.

One of the big differences is that the people with HIV are now being treated with medications.  This was not the case in 1990s. Now there is hope and acceptance (or at least more so than we experienced before)

Dr Tim and Sheila leave this week and the Obstetrician leaves for vacation (gone for a month)  in September.  The kids will begin school September 2nd so we are gearing up for a busy September!

Friday, August 23, 2013

You Are Welcome, You Are Very Welcome!

This is the greeting we have heard again and again since our arrival in Cameroon on August 12th.

We arrived without missing a connection or loosing any luggage. Sister Xaveria and Sister Gratzia met us at the airport along with one of the drivers, Emmanual. Our children did great with the air travel, but after about 24 hours of traveling they were asleep in the car before we even left the parking lot at the airport. We were taken to the Tertiary Sisters of Assisi hospital and residence in Douala for the night before driving on to Njinikom the following day.

Our reception in Njinikom was amazing as dancers, drummers and staff greeted us at the hospital entrance with hugs and many, “You are welcomes” and lead us to our new home. By the time we arrived it was dark and there was fog adding to the ambiance, but fortunately, no rain. We had a wonderful dinner with Dr. Tim Cavanagh and his wife, Sheila, who are seasoned missionaries with Mission Doctors and have been filling in until our arrival.

We’ve spent the last week adjusting to the 8 hour time difference, unpacking and organizing, and shadowing the other doctors at the hospital.

We, indeed, feel very welcome.

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

The Journey to Mission

When I reflect on my journey to mission work, it started when I was very young although I did not know it. It began with my parents as examples of love and service. As a youth and young adult, I was blessed with a very alive, interactive experience of the Catholic Church, a church that moved and inspired me to follow Christ‘s example. I was fortunate to attend schools that taught me my faith and again a spirit of service. After graduating from college, I joined a volunteer program and had the opportunity to do a year of service and to live in community. Finally, I went to medical school where Brent and I met and we found that we shared the same call. In my journey to mission work, I had many opportunities growing up, many chances to hear Christ’s call in my life.

However, there is also a part of this journey that I cannot explain, that is beyond the concrete
experiences that have influenced me. I do not like the unknown. I would not describe myself as adventurous. I am easily ruffled by little things. I would like to live closer to my family. I like things to be clean. I have many faults. I am not holy. My faith is not strong. Yet, for me, there is some undeniable, indescribable pull to be a missionary. Life would be easier in many ways if this was not the call I heard. However, with a measure of God‘s grace and the power of the Holy Spirit, I can journey through the unknown and into the mission field and answer my call.

Monday, August 12, 2013

Things we will miss about Guatemala

As we prepare to leave for Cameroon and are looking forward to our new home, there are many things we miss about Guatemala.
Here are a few of them:


The beautiful, elaborate embroidery the Mayan people have on their traditional dress.

Traditional thick corn tortillas hot off the fire.

Avocados, which we ate almost everyday, for 12 to 25 cents a piece.

Beans and rice, which we eat here, as well, but not with the frequency as in Guatemala.

Mangoes -- large and luscious.

Paca -- the enjoyable pastime where you can look through piles of used clothing form the States and buy almost anything for 40 to 60 cents.

Lake Atitlan -- volcanic in origin, filling an enormous caldera.

The beautiful temperate weather, but also the rainy season with cool, refreshing rain.

Majestic San Pedro volcano, which we could see from our window.

Saturday, August 3, 2013

Journey Together

We want to take this opportunity to thank you for your support during our past 3 years in Guatemala and to give you an update on our future plans. Mission work is the way we both personally feel called to follow Christ's example and with the help of Mission Doctors Association (MDA) and you, our family and friends, we are able to fulfill this vision for our lives.   

During our time in Guatemala, we were part of an incredible transition as Hospitalito moved from its temporary location to its new building. We saw Hospitalito grow in its medical staff from two Guatemalan physicians to six and  to begin to address sustainability for the future. We were blessed to have been a part of this history at Hospitalito.  We worked hard, were inspired by many people, tried to live simply, learned more Spanish, and were challenged in ways we did not expect (as life seems to do wherever one is). Our children went to school, made friends, grew, played, laughed, cried and adjusted amazingly well.

After prayer, reflection, and discussion with Mission Doctors, we have decided to continue with MDA for another three year commitment, this time in Cameroon, West Africa. We will be working at St. Martin De Porres Hospital located in Njinikom in the Northwest Province about an hour outside of Bamenda. The hospital celebrated 50 years of service earlier this year. We are looking forward to working along side the staff, especially the Tertiary Sisters of St. Francis of Assisi, who have been running the hospital since it opened. You can find out more about the hospital at

We ask you once again to join us on our mission as we try to bridge two cultures and serve those in need. We appreciate any support you are able to give: your prayers, your time, your talents. If you are able to support us financially as well, MDA will designate your tax deductible gift of any size to help cover our direct expenses. You can make your donation online right here (on the right with the big blue button under "Donate to our Mission") or by mail.
Mission Doctors Association
3435 Wilshire Blvd., Suite 1940
Los Angeles, CA 90010

Please indicate that your donation is in support of the Burket Thoene Family Mission.

We are hoping you will continue to follow us on our blog at or you can reach us by email at

Looking forward to our continued journey together!