Every month, usually ten girls come to Mount Zion Clinic to request an abortion. "We do all in our power to lead them to Christ, pray for them and with them and dissuade them from having an abortion," Dr. Atem says. "We have had several remarkable successes over the years." When the young girls make a decision not to have an abortion, they are given free prenatal care, and the babies are delivered free of charge as well.
Dr. Atem tells a particularly touching story. "Recently we had the case of a young pregnant girl who came to our clinic requesting an abortion. We led her to Christ while explaining the medical and spiritual implications of her desire. She made a decision to accept Jesus as the Lord and Savior of her life. On December 14, 2004, she delivered a set of twins, two bouncing baby boys whom she named "John Boateng" (after Luke Society Africa Regional Coordinator) and "Wrede Vogel" (after Luke Society Executive Director)." Because the babies were born under a stressful situation, the mother and babies continue to be provided for by the Luke Society.
Orphans and widows also hold a special place in the Mount Zion clinic. They are treated at little or no cost. "Through this ministry, we alleviate suffering and bring joy to widows and orphans who would otherwise be living without hope," says Dr. Atem. The guiding verse in this aspect of the ministry is James 1:27, which says, "Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world."
"In 2002, I felt the need to go to Tingoh to affect the lives of the people there with medicine and the gospel," says Dr. Atem. Since the independence of Cameroon 40 years ago, the Tingoh area has been vacant of any form of health care. "The people in this area have been medically neglected for generations," says Dr. Paul Atem. "None of the eight villages that we now affect ever had a health post. Our ministry to these villages has been their only hope of health care in the past three years."
There is now a Community Health Care Center in Tingoh with a team of two nurses and one evangelist. There they treat malaria, typhoid, diarrhea and HIV/AIDS. "The population of Tingoh has had excellent health care at its doorsteps for the last five years thanks to the Luke Society," Dr. Atem says. "Many of the communicable diseases have been well-controlled. Our work there is highly appreciated."
From the base clinic in Tingoh, Dr. Atem, the nurses and the evangelist venture to eight neighboring villages to provide health care. They visit each village once a week. "Only the road to Tingoh is motorable," Dr. Atem explains. "We get to the other villages through isolated bush paths, crossing fast-moving streams and rivers on wooden canoes."
Four of the villages are across the Tingoh River, which can only be crossed during the dry season because the rushing river is too dangerous during the rainy season. The village of Okwala lies at the banks of the Tingoh River and has been targeted as the building place for the new Luke Society Health Center. "This will make our work of covering the eight villages more effective and will greatly reduce the moving of patients." Two nurses will be hired to run the new clinic, which should be completed in 2009.
In addition to providing the health care this region has lacked, Dr. Atem and his staff are also providing God’s Word to people who have not heard. Louis Kumais is the evangelist that travels with the Luke Society team. He is from the Tingoh area and speaks the local language of the people. "He has been a tremendous blessing to our ministry," says Dr. Atem. "He is doing a great job in helping to bring villagers to a saving knowledge of Jesus Christ." He works mainly with evangelizing non-Christians, but also organizes weekly classes to teach the Word of God to young converts in the villages.
In response to their witnessing for Jesus, there have been challenges from traditional juju fetish priests. "They have kept the people in satanic bondage for several years, but the light of Christ now radiates in Tingoh through the Community Health Center," Dr. Atem says. "Turning people away from traditional religious and fetish practices to life and light in Jesus has been our greatest satisfaction. We count it all joy - this great privilege of touching lives in Jesus’ name with the word of God and medicine through this ministry in the Tingoh area."
Since partnering with the Luke Society, Tingoh’s Community Health Center is broadening its mission. In 2005, the staff constructed a pit latrine for the primary school in Tingoh and one for the Tingoh Health Center. Recently, two more latrines were built for the primary schools in Okwala and Nchoho. Each of these latrines serve at least 200 children from those villages. "We hope to continue with this action of environmental sanitation by extending it to other villages in the years ahead," Dr. Atem said.
The work being done in these remote villages has been a blessing to Dr. Atem and his staff. "Our ministry in this area has greatly touched several lives in healing and wholeness," says Dr. Atem. "There is great joy in serving the Lord in this remote inaccessible area of Cameroon."