Oklahoma/Cameroon Survivors
Share C.O.U.R.A.G.E.

INDIANAPOLIS -- C.O.U.R.A.G.E.! That's what survivors of tragedies half-a-world apart are sharing in a special 10-day cultural exchange project.

In this case C.O.U.R.A.G.E. also means "Cameroon/Oklahoma Uniting for Recovery and Growth Through Exchange." Ten survivors of the 1995 bombing of the Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City and four recovery specialists recently journeyed to the West African nation of Cameroon.

While there the group is to share its plight with survivors of another tragedy -- the Lake Nyos toxic gas explosion. More than 1,500 people were killed Aug. 26, 1986, by toxic gas released after an underwater volcanic explosion.

The determination suggested by the project acronym is particularly meaningful as both groups "have needed courage to face the future in response to terrible disasters," said the Rev. Robert L. Hill, Kansas City, Mo.

The senior minister of Community Christian Church, Kansas City, is the "spiritual director" of the U.S. delegation. The group left April 19 and will return May 6.

Hill also is chairperson of the Week of Compassion Committee for the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ). WOC, along with Heifer Project International and the Interfaith Disaster Recovery Center of Oklahoma City, co-sponsored the unique venture.

The Disciples' compassion ministry provided extensive assistance following the Oklahoma bombing, which occurred April 19, 1995. HPI likewise provided significant assistance to survivors of both the Oklahoma City bombing and the Lake Nyos disaster.

Several of Heifer Project International's projects in Cameroon were severely affected by the toxic gas explosion. HPI provided livestock to families of victims and survivors of the lake disaster.

C.O.U.R.A.G.E. participants are visiting several communities in Cameroon affected by the disaster to learn how relief efforts were coordinated. They also are sharing their "journeys" toward emotional, psychological and spiritual recovery after both catastrophic events.

To complete the exchange, a Cameroon delegation will visit their Oklahoma City counterparts in fall 1997 or in spring 1998.

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