Fontem, John N. Atabong embarked into the unknown in search of
hope. He was eleven, but he triumphed against all odds to give his children
the best care and education available. Eventually, he sacrificed his
most valuable possession, his son Sixtus, sending him to study in the
United States with nothing more than lessons learned from his days
working the farms and his father’s basic biblical teachings. Sixtus
Atabong’s journey of temptations and challenges in the US gives rise
to a mission: to give back. He uses his gift to extend God’s
healing hands and unfailing love to the far corners of the earth
through sustainable health care infrastructures. Fulfilling his
father’s dream, Sixtus hopes that he too can leave the world a
better place than he found it.
Secondly, more children also meant more farm hands, increased productivity and profit for the whole family. Lastly, as parents grew old, the role of caretaker went to the children. More children meant that role could be distributed among many instead of a few. However, the popular expectation at that time was that girls would marry into a different family, so only the boys would inherit and foster their family name and legacy. Even with all his success, Dad still felt all his hard work would be in vain if
he did not have a son to carry on his legacy. The superstition in rural villages was that a prosperous farmer without a son must have made a deal with the dark powers—his sons in exchange for wealth. My father did not want that taint.
Though Dad knew there was a God, he didn’t know much about Christianity. He had been introduced to the faith by Catholic and Protestant evangelists, but always brushed them off and would advise them to get a real farm job and stop extorting people. He had been to the Catholic Church several times, usually during celebrations, but he still had doubts about the existence of the one God. He admitted that sometimes he would contemplate the beauty of his surroundings, and its relation to his existence. The one thing he was certain of was that hard work led to success.
It was a cloudy day in July 1974 when he had his first communion with God. It was the season for insect control. At the break of dawn, he made it out to his cocoa farm with his insecticide supplies. The crew worked for hours on end and stopped for a break only if it rained, because the rain would wash
away the chemicals immediately. They strapped on their back a ten-gallon tank of water mixed with insecticides, with the pump on the left hand and sprayer on the right. Rainwater in barrels
throughout the farm was used to remix and refill whenever the workers ran out of chemicals. They would repeat the drill several times throughout the day for up to three months, and would only stop for harvesting season.
On this fateful day, the rain poured. Dad couldn’t make it back to the farmhouse, so he found shelter beneath a tree. He took a short nap and dreamed that Mom was pregnant with a boy. He awoke and envisioned life with a son he could go to the farm with. He thought, If this God does exist, he should know my heart’s desires and give me a son. He went down on his knees, raised his arms up to the sky and made a deal with God—since I have no enemies and I’ve taken care of many, and I’ve worked hard all my life, you should bless me with a son. He went home and told my mother of his promise to God, asking her to help him keep this covenant should they be blessed with a son.
Good news came three months later. Mom was carrying another baby. But would this be the long-awaited boy my father had asked for? There were no ultrasounds or laboratory tests to tell, so everyone had to wait nine months to find out…
On the day of delivery, my father sat outside the delivery room and waited. After delivery, a nurse came out to notify him of the birth. He gave thanks to God. Mom asked her if she had told him the sex of the child, and the nurse responded that she hadn’t. “My pikin, e get five girl pikin dem and e don di wait for boy pikin. Abeg go tell yi say na boy pikin,” Mother explained to her that her husband has five girls and is very anxious to find out the sex. She asked the nurse to go back outside and tell him that it’s a boy. The nurse went back outside and asked my dad why he didn’t inquire about the sex of the baby. Dad responded that he was too anxious to find out. The nurse then announced to him that he was the father of a baby boy.
Dad took off in a state of elation…
(PMM) is a neurosurgery Physician Assistant. PMM is a nonprofit
organization focusing on developing sustainable healthcare
infrastructure and services in developing countries. It has helped
build clinics and hospitals in Cameroon, The Democratic Republic of
Congo, Nicaragua, and Guatemala. Sixtus believes in empowering
communities with the knowledge and tools to address the global threat
of health disparity and lack of basic education.
leadership and humanitarian work, including the Texas Tech University
Health Sciences Center Hall of Fame Award and the American Red Cross
Humanitarian of Year Award. In 2013, he was awarded the PA Service to
the Underserved Award by the American Academy of Physician Assistants.
Sub-division, Cameroon, West Africa. He migrated to the United States
in 1995 where he faced many challenges, but eventually obtained a
Bachelor of Science degree in Clinical Laboratory Sciences and a
Master of Science in Physician Assistant Studies. He uses his life
experiences and voice to motivate individuals on attaining their
God-given purpose. He speaks on issues such as, living a purposeful
life, realizing your American dream, financial independence, and
self-determination. He enjoys traveling the world with his family and
learning about different cultures. He lives in Lubbock, Texas, with
his wife, Kyu Mee, and their two sons.
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