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Dr. Spronk and family return after successful mission

On an average of three times weekly Wayne had the duty of breaking the news to a patient that they had AIDS. He always encouraged them to seek anti-retroviral (ARV) drugs in Liberville, as they were not yet available at the Bongolo Hospital. Wayne was pleased to witness much progress in the negotiations with the government toward opening a clinic at the Bongolo Hospital that would administer the desperately needed ARVs.

Being able to work alongside the hospital staff and being part of their team was very rewarding, Wayne said. He also found it especially rewarding when seriously ill patients were able to realize that they were not beyond God's love. Africa is a lot like America in that people sometimes interpret sickness as a curse, Wayne explained. People might be abandoned by family and friends particularly if they have AIDS, and consequently feel abandoned by God as well. Part of the hospital ministry was to tell these patients that God loves them despite their medical illness. It encouraged me to see people putting their hope in God and finding encouragement and drawing strength from that relationship. It was inspiring and humbling to see how well they coped in these very difficult situations.

While Wayne was involved in full-time service, Suzanne and the children focused on their homeschooling, but made sure to schedule time to reach out to the Gabonese as well. Suzanne taught a weekly English class to the hospital staff. She and her children would visit the pediatric ward on a weekly basis as well.

I would start out by reading the children a Bible story in French, Suzanne said, and then we would give them pictures about the story to color and sometimes do a related craft. They also played soccer with the children.

In addition, the Spronks reached out to the visiting volunteer surgeons and medical students. They would invite them for dinner and an evening of fellowship. Suzanne never neglected to ask the guests if there was anything they could teach her children, and thus began many interesting and adventurous lessons and field trips. A favorite lesson was given by a British Orthopedic Dr. who was also an expert on butterflies. He took the children into the jungle and got them started on their own butterfly collections.

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