As I once again gather my things, this time to go home, I am pondering only one question from my friends and colleagues here. “When are you coming back?” I’m grateful to be asked, but that’s a hard question to answer.
I am very ready to be done with the heat and the dust, my painfully swollen feet and my lack of ability to communicate as I wish. I’m weary of the bone-rattling, axle-breaking potholes that make driving nearly impossible in some areas of the country.
But I know I will dearly miss Sister Nadege’s bubbling laughter and the loving care with which Sister Pauline has prepared all my meals and listened to my stories of the day. I will miss morning Mass and evening prayers. I will miss the patients who approach me in the courtyard and say “Thank you for making me better”, or the ones who honor me by requesting that I be their doctor. I will miss the nurses who have begun asking me questions about patient care, with an obvious desire to expand their knowledge base. I will miss the enthusiastic “Doctor Carol!” greeting I receive so many times throughout the day.
I question whether I have really made much of a difference here. Perhaps in two very small ways; an important medicine that was being administered incorrectly is now being given as it should be, and a medical issue that was being overlooked is beginning to be managed more optimally. I am proud of these things, but I wish I could have done more.
I know I am the one who has benefited the most. I have been welcomed from the first moment and have felt unceasingly loved and cared for. Any missteps, inadequacies, or less than perfect outcomes have been viewed as only to be expected and not nearly as important as I think they are. I have been taught lessons in acceptance, love, humility and grace.
Am I coming back? I’m not sure. But as Sister Pauline so wisely told me, “The Lord will let you know.”
May God continue to bless the people of Cameroon and all of Africa.