The Gutowskis in Mambilla

From 1967 to 1976, my father and mother, Dr. Willi and Anita Gutowski, lived and worked among the Fulani and Mambilla people on the Mambilla plateau, the Nigerian, western wing of Adamoua Plateau in West Africa. They were sent out from Winnipeg, Manitoba by the North American Baptist Conference to train and work as medical missionaries with a team which included nurse/midwife Minnie Kuhn, nurse Barb Kieper, and later, builder Kurt Radke along with his new wife, Marva. This team provided basic medical care for several thousand inhabitants of Mambilla, as well as building roads and the hospital, and contributing to the agricultural and material knowledge of the area.

After training in Banso, Cameroon, for 3 months, they were ready to take up their positions at Warwar Hospital. They packed up their belongings and their 18 month old little girl (me), and, accompanied by African carriers, rode to Warwar on horseback. Dad had packed a medical kit prepared for anything, particularly because Anita was nine months pregnant and due at any time! Fortunately Melodie delayed her arrival until the Gutowski's had had a few days to settle in at their new house in Warwar, Mambilla. She arrived in due course assisted by Dad and auntie Minnie, who set up the dining room table as a delivery table. Thirteen months later, in 1970, Lisa arrived in much the same fashion. Fortunately both births were problem-free and much rejoicing was heard in the land!

Mom and Dad came from a pioneering, farming backgound, and used their know-how on the mission field to full advantage. There was no such thing as a supermarket, repair shop, carpenter, etc. Everything had to be done from scratch.

Dad, in addition to his tasks of tending to the hospital, seeing out-patients after supper, driving out two days a week to vaccinate the thousands of children, and training staff for the hospital, built a small dam and plumbed the water supply and sewage system of the mission compound, kept a generator running in good order and wired up the mission for electricity, was the mission mechanic, built roads, cared for three horses, and, just for fun, bred superior pineapples which he gave away everywhere. Oh yes, he also learned to speak fluent Fulani in his first three months in Mambilla!

Mom, in addition to raising and teaching three children (a full time job in and of itself), designed and managed the building of additional hospital buildings, assisted Dad in surgery and dentistry, kept a huge vegetable and flower garden including a large cornfield and a chicken coop, grew and processed her own coffee, dairy products and peanut butter, made her own bread from scratch, sewed the family clothes, and taught sewing, knitting and crochetting to various interested mambilla women. She and Dad also ran a Bible Study Wednesday evenings, where everyone enjoyed singing and worshipping God together as well as having lots of fun.

In 1976, Mom and Dad decided to return to Manitoba, Canada. They were replaced by Dr. Ron and Marion Hiller, who arrived with their growing family shortly before we departed.

Mom and Dad always considered their time in Mambilla the highlight of their lives, and looked back fondly on the good times had there. The whole family went back to Mambilla for a six-week visit in 1984. One of my vivid memories of that time was of being presented to an old friend, an honoured Mbororo matron. To my surprise, she grabbed my breast, fingered it thoughtfully, then told Dad in Fulani that I wasn't quite ready for marriage yet, but would be pretty soon.

They once again returned to Mambilla late in 1995, to help set up the new mission hospital in Gembu. They stayed for a couple of months. Since then, they have said that they will be returning to Mambilla again in the near future. Mambilla is like a second home for our family, and even though we live in Canada most of the time now, we continue to write and visit frequently. The people of Mambilla will always be in our prayers.

Sandy Van Eysinga

With the help of Sandy Van Eysinga some of Willi Gutowski's photos are now available on WWW from the following pages .

The photographs are copyright Willi Gutowski.
They may be used in education provided acknowledgement is made.
No commercial use may be made without prior permission in writing.

Sandy now has her own WWW page