The Words of the Kaneko Family

Medical Work Boosts Gabon Mission - Interviews with David Schweitzer and Tetsuto Kaneko

November 1980

A would-be missionary, Dr. David Schweitzer was disappointed not to be among the missionaries sent to 80 countries in 1975. His problem: he is Austrian, and only Americans, Germans and Japanese were chosen at that time.

His desire to be a missionary dated from 1957, and after joining the Unification Church in Austria in 1970, he asked permission from Peter Koch, his national leader, to go as a missionary. But his early efforts in 1971 to obtain a visa were frustrated. In subsequent years, he traveled to various countries, participating in family activities and furthering his studies. He holds three doctorate degrees, in oriental medicine and philosophy, earned in the United States, Australia and Hong Kong. In addition, he has studied oriental medicine in Korea and is a visiting professor at universities in Greece and Korea.

Lambarene, famed site of Dr. Albert Schweitzer's medical mission, is located in Gabon, West Africa. David Schweitzer longed to do medical mission work as well. Through much preparation and perseverance, he obtained Father's permission on February 24, 1979, to go to Gabon.

Gabon is a small country on the west coast, bisected by the equator. Its population is sparse, about one million people, supplemented by Africans from other countries who come to Gabon to find work. Christianity is rather widespread in Gabon, but its roots are not strong. In effect, the Gabonese people are not very religious and do not have a high moral standard.

Tetsuto Kaneko, the original Japanese missionary to Gabon, has faith that even though the people are not religious, God has prepared some of them. 'All the missionaries have tried their best, but we have had difficulty in witnessing to Gabonese people," he observed. "Recently, good people have come to our family. Also, three Togolese people working in Gabon have joined us."

"Sometimes I think that people may not be able to come to the church because of the missionaries," he continued, "so I try very hard to qualify myself as a good missionary, through prayer and fasting. I think that now the mission work in Gabon is at a true beginning point. People are starting to come, and therefore, we have much hope."

David Schweitzer arrived in Gabon in September of last year, the third missionary to be sent from the United States. He said that as an American missionary he had to pay much indemnity; therefore, he began a 40-day fast for the restoration of Gabon and Africa. During this fast he completed a doctoral dissertation.

"God did a great job of keeping me alive," he wrote later. He initiated medical work in October of 1979, seeing patients in a small room at the center.

David tried to get a teaching job at the local university or a medical job at some hospital, but without success. He attributed it to being over-qualified and also because Gabon, being a former French colony, is still run by mainly French people, and therefore the French are given preference in employment. In addition, his medical training is in oriental medicine, not western medicine. In Gabon, there are many Chinese doctors who also practice acupuncture. He is over-qualified as an oriental doctor, and his French is not yet fluent enough to obtain a teaching position. He has also investigated the possibility of opening his own clinic, but he would need about $15,000 to do so.

At present he sees patients in a small room at the center in Libreville, the capital city of Gabon. He described a typical day: the morning he devotes to medical work, the afternoon to French study and work on a dissertation on naturopathy, and the evening to medical work and Divine Principle teaching, in conjunction with the German missionary, Rolf Nikolay. His medical treatments combine acupuncture, homeopathy and diet. Malaria and various tropical diseases challenge his skills. In addition to seeing patients in his small office in Libreville, he also visits villages, treating poor people gratis.

Among his patients are some very good people, according to the Japanese missionary. They have the capability to understand the Divine Principle. However, since they cannot understand English and since David's French is not fluent, they do not have a deep understanding of the Divine Principle yet. David sees good possibilities for home church type of witnessing through his patients.

In a January letter, David reported three robberies in 30 days with people stealing even their clothing.

"The crime rate in Gabon is even higher than in South Bronx!" he wrote. "First, I thought that if someone can make it in New York, he can make it anywhere. But now this saying applies to Gabon rather than New York. That is my personal feeling.

"I live in an African house where I have running water -- off the roof, when it is raining. The house has three rooms, just enough for us to exist."

In Gabon, tribal life still prevails. A member of one tribe will not help someone from another tribe, even in a medical emergency. Polygamy is practiced in all tribes. Wives are bought, sometimes on a trial basis, and the marriage may not be agreed upon until the man and woman live together for some time.

The educated class studied in France, and retains most of the high positions. France being the former colonial power. French is the official language, but Fang, the language of the dominant tribe, is more commonly spoken.

David notes some common challenges they face in teaching the Principle. Men are often tempted by pretty girls and fall away. Another obstacle is jealousy. For instance, if a new person comes to study, a previous student may leave, out of jealousy. In the cities or in schools. People can learn to overcome this problem to some extent, but in tribal life jealousy leads to hatred and may result in killings.

In addition to cultural barriers, obtaining a long-term visa is a problem faced by all missionaries. David, for instance, has had to cross the border every 30 days and return to the country. If he can get a job at the university, his visa difficulties will be removed.

Tetsuto Kaneko faced a seemingly insurmountable visa problem in 1975, when he arrived with permission to stay in the country for only ten days. He could not speak English or French, so he asked the other missionaries to help him prolong his visa. They said no. "I realized then that I had to try by myself and be responsible for my own affairs," he explained. "Next I went to see a Japanese businessman for help, and he also refused. Finally, I went to the Japanese embassy, and the consul told the Japanese businessman to help me. With his aid, I obtained a three month extension of my visa, and after that, I could take care of it myself. Through these experiences, I had to become a stronger person."

He reflected on what he learned through the five years of missionary experience: "We realize that the most important thing we need to accomplish is unity among the three missionaries. Our German brother recently returned to Germany, and his absence is a big loss for us.

"After my visa experience, I decided that I would do things myself, and I eventually came to think that I did not need True Parents or even God, to get a visa, a job, members, etc. Then my wife came. She told me that I should give Divine Principle lectures. At first, my lectures were terrible. My French was not so good. But after six month..., the members said my lectures were good. But even in those days I did not think I needed faith.

Then my wife became pregnant. I discovered that I could not do anything for the baby except to pray, to True Parents and to God. So I finally realized that I needed God. I discovered the same truth in teaching the Divine Principle; it is just like giving rebirth to members. So I needed to pray.

I feel that True Parents expect much from the missionaries. Therefore, I should respond. Many missionaries become discouraged, but if they are patient they can receive many blessings." 

Table of Contents

Tparents Home

Moon Family Page

Unification Library