Cameroon: Lutherans Reach Out to Victims of Leprosy
Roulnoudji David is 42 years old and comes from Chad. For a long time, before entering the leprosarium in Foubarka, he tried to rely on traditional remedies and endured the mockery of friends and relatives. He is cured, now, but he is unable to find a wife. “I spent much time and money trying to find a wife, but the families lie to me and deny me their daughters.”
He has received no news from his family since he arrived in the village of Foubarka, located in northwestern Cameroon, but he has no desire to return home: “God has given me a new family. Here, I have found brothers and sisters who have experiences similar to mine.”
Foubarka, 80 km from the city of Ngaoundéré, is not an ordinary village. It is a leprosarium operated by the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Cameroon (ELCC). It can accommodate up to 40 leper victims from Cameroon, Central African Republic and Chad.
The quest for daily bread
Foubarka means “village blessed,” a name given to it by lepers to underscore the benevolent action of the church. Djimbradiyom Emmanuel explains: “Before, in my village, I was treated like a dog. I hid in the bush during the day and came back after dark to look for food in dustbins.”
By caring for lepers, the ELCC is combating social injustice; it would like all God’s children to have enough to eat. It provides free lodging and food to 20 Christians and two Moslems.
Garbon Jeanne, who has been living here for 29 years and has five children, was cast out by her husband. For her, what the ELCC is doing is “gospel in action. It is Jesus Christ come to dry our tears and give us renewed hope.” But she is concerned about declining donations. “We no longer have enough to eat. I pray to God to give us our daily bread.”
To combat poverty is to combat leprosy
It is steadily more difficult for the ELCC to help lepers, for it no longer receives subsidies from its partners. A situation which has deadly consequences for those who are ill. Djobdi Samuel, head of the leprosarium, confirms: "Since 2007 I have buried ten of my friends. We lack medicine and food."
The church is helping the leprosarium to become self-sufficient, in particular by purchasing agricultural land to enable lepers to feed themselves and sell surplus produce.
By frequently assisting the nurse, Roulnoudji David eventually acquired a certain medical knowledge. He helps care for patients and takes part in agricultural tasks.
Many lepers are too ill to work in the fields and remain poor. Roulnoudji David sums it up thus: “To combat poverty is to combat leprosy.”
The diaconal work of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Cameroon
In some form or other, the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Cameroon has always practiced diakonia. In 1925, it came to the aid of slaves during the tribal wars. Today, it comes to the aid of the sick, orphans and widows. Its Community Development Service helps farmers to achieve food self-sufficiency. It provides education for street children in reintegration centers where they receive literacy training and sewing and cooking lessons.