Thursday, December 20, 2018

"My Father's Gift" by Sixtus Z. Atabong - How One Man's Purpose Became a Journey of Hope and Healing

Sixtus Z. Atabong has made an arduous journey that took him from a rural village in Cameroon, West Africa to Lubbock, Texas, where he works as a neurosurgery physician's assistant. The fuel that powered that rocket journey was provided by his father, John N. Atabong. As an eleven year-old living in the tiny town of Fotem, John struck out to make a life for himself, learning to grow cash crops, and eventually buying his own humble farm where he and his wife raised their children. At great sacrifice, he amassed the money to send young Sixtus to private Catholic schools. At even greater sacrifice, John managed to raise money to send his son to the U.S. to college.

The culture shock was almost too much for the young African, but he persevered, walking when he needed to walk, balancing multiple part-time jobs and full-time studies, and eventually driving a beat-up used car that was held together with baling wire and scotch tape. As Sixtus overcame each challenge, he was often reminded of his father's sacrifice, and that reminder kept him going on the toughest days. That specter of his father's manifold sacrifices, along with a strong Christian faith, also inspired Sixtus to find ways to give back to his home country of Cameroon. He and a growing cadre of colleagues have founded Purpose Medical Mission.

In the process of trying to provide modern medical care to villages in rural Cameroon, Sixtus and his team bumped up against the harsh reality of corruption up and down the levels of government within Cameroon. They had to find ways to circumvent demands for bribes. Bureaucratic red tape slowed down the process of building a clinic and providing modern medical and surgical equipment. But they  have persevered, and the quality of care in Cameroon is light years beyond what it was when John Atabong was growing up there. John died a few years ago, succumbing to the ravages of diabetes and the workload of farming for his whole life. But his legacy - the inspiration he provided to Sixtus, and that Sixtus is passing on - continues to grow and light up his small corner of what used to be called The Dark Continent.

This book should inspire each reader to look deep within his or her own heart, and find ways to repay those that sacrificed for them, and give back. Not everyone can be like Sixtus and create a non-profit that touches several continents. But each one can make a determination to do what is in their power to make a difference in the life of someone in need. That, in the end, is the reach of John Atabong's gift.



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