Like creeks, streams and rivulets in distant mountain valleys that eventually flow together to form a mighty river, this story begins in different places and times but surely flows to God’s purposes still unfolding.
We begin in the Cameroon, French speaking West Africa. Jeanine and Gabriel Takoudjou are young Christian workers serving with Campus Crusade for Christ. Their area directors are Kamate and Kavira Basolene (photo). When Jeanine gives birth a son in 2004, she and Gabriel give him the name Kamate in honor of their friend. In time Kamate and Kavira are called to serve in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, but stay in close contact with Jeanine and Gabriel and young Kamate.
In 2001, John Cropsey was graduating from the University of Michigan with a BS in biology. He had married Jessica, his high school sweetheart, a year earlier and was headed to medical school, also at Michigan. Like John’s father, a general surgeon who had spent ten years as a medical missionary in Togo, West Africa, John and Jessica sensed God’s call to the mission field and hoped to serve in Africa once John completed medical school and his residency.
Following his graduation from medical school in 2005, John applied for a residency at the Wills Eyes Institute in Philadelphia. John did not know it at the time, but he had found an advocate on the Admission Committee in Professor Sadeer Hannush. Wills typically accepts residents who will be able to contribute to research and development in the field of ophthalmology, and the sense of call to a mission hospital in Africa did not fit that profile. But Sadeer thought that in John Cropsey they may have met the right exception to a good rule. Sadeer would become a mentor to John during his time at Wills. And they, too, stayed in touch after John completed the residency program and began a term serving at the Tenwek Mission Hospital in Kenya, East Africa. Tenwek’s guiding principal is in its motto, “We Treat, Jesus Heals.”
Life in the Congo became complicated and dangerous for Kamate and Kavira. The atrocities of neighboring Rwanda had not spared the Congo and the country had plunged into civil war and invasion by the armies of Rwanda and Uganda. And Kamate’s health was not good. In 2003 they were reassigned by Campus Crusade as directors of a Christian leadership project for French speaking Africa. Eventually they would settle in the United States, close to their oldest daughter in eastern Tennessee and able to continue their work through frequent travel and increasingly effective electronic communication.
LPC members Drs. Joe and Marilyn Franzi have had a heart for mission and evangelism for a long time. When their friends Dave and Sandel Livingstone invited them to a conference in Orlando in 2005 to learn more about the Jesus Film and its use in missions and evangelism, they were eager to go. One of the many joys of the time in Orlando was the opportunity to meet Campus Crusade staff from around the world. Among those they met, by chance it seemed at the time, were Kamate and Kavira Basolene, directors of a Christian leadership project for French speaking Africa. But Kamate wasn’t feeling well and Joe was concerned. In time, Joe would be a part of Kamate’s care which included a diagnosis of lymphoma (now in remission). Marilyn and Joe sensed that their friendship with Kamate and Kavira was more than chance. They stayed in contact.
In March, 2010, Dr. Sadeer Hannush and his daughter Monica answered a call from God to short term service on the mission field. Sadeer’s protégé, John Cropsey, had invited him spend a week at Tenwek Hospital in Kenya. Sadeer’s expertise in corneal transplant is widely known and recognized and was desperately needed at Tenwek. So Sadeer and Monica spent a week at Tenwek, Sadeer teaching the Tenwek staff and Monica assisting and working with the children at and around the hospital. Among those they met at Tenwek was another American mission doctor, Ben Roberts. They stayed in contact.
Jeanine and Gabriel Takoudjou. Kamate and Kavira Basoline. John and Jessica Cropsey. Sadeer Hannush and Monica. Joe and Marilyn Franzi. Ben Roberts. God was at work.
In May of this year, Kamate and Kavira came to Langhorne to visit their friends Joe and Marilyn Franzi and to share some about their work in Christian leadership with the LPC mission committee. During their visit they mentioned their concern for another Kamate, a namesake, the son of their friends Jeanine and Gabriel Takoudjou in the Cameroon. Something was wrong with his left eye, a scar on the cornea causing blindness, the doctors thought, but there was no place in the Cameroon to treat such a condition. Kamate and Kavira wondered what Joe and Marilyn thought might be done.
On May 29, Kamate had shared briefly with the LPC congregation in worship and he and Kavira worshiped with us again on Sunday, June 5. By then Joe and Marilyn were aware of their concern for young Kamate and they knew exactly who to talk to. After worship they introduced Kamate and Kavira to their friends and fellow LPC members Drs. Sadeer and Lorena Hannush, the parents of Monica and Eddie. Eddie had just been received into the membership of the church having confirmed his faith his Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior.
In quick order Sadeer gathered what information he could – photographs and the diagnosis of the doctor in the Cameroon. He concurred with the diagnosis and knew that a corneal transplant was the best option for Kamate. However, there is no hospital in the Cameroon that is able to offer corneal transplants. But, of course, Sadeer knew of a hospital in Kenya where the staff had recently been trained in corneal transplant. So Sadeer contacted John Cropsey and Ben Roberts, who immediately offered their services.
Jeanine and Gabriel were able to obtain visas for travel to Kenya, but the cost of getting there was prohibitive for a family living by faith and the mission donations of their African supporters. $3,000 to travel the distance roughly from Philadelphia to Chicago. Friends in Langhorne, Pennsylvania, who Jeanine and Gabriel had never met, responded to the need. Through individual gifts and the mission budget of LPC, the cost of travel was covered.
Last night we received an email from Gabriel and Jeanine, forwarded and translated from the French by Kamate and Kavira:
From: TAKOUGJOU Gabriel, Bomet, Kenya
Good evening Rev. Dr. Kamate and Mom Kavira
I’m with Kamate Jr. in Tenwek Hosptal, Bomet, about three hours of driving from Nairobi. He had surgery yesterday by Dr. Ben Roberts. It was a corneal transplant. Things went well by the grace of God. He is recovering gradually. What would be to fear is that his body can eventually reject this tissue. Tonight, Dr. Ben said that the development is satisfactory. His case will require careful medical follow up for at least a year. In theory, he should come back see the doctor every week; but since we are far he is making contact with some specialists in Cameroon to organize the medical follow up . But we will bring him back again later for checking. I take this opportunity to renew our gratitude for all your blessings in our lives. If Kamate Jr. can have such high-level of health care here in Kenya today is because of you. THANKS THANKS THANKS THANKS
We love you
Jeanine and Gabriel Takoudjou and their seven-year old son Kamate. Kamate and Kavira Basoline. John and Jessica Cropsey. Sadeer Hannush and Monica. Joe and Marilyn Franzi. Ben Roberts. The people of Langhorne Presbyterian Church. There are no coincidences in the Kingdom.
Our God is still at work opening the eyes of the blind.