The Lucky Few

Recently, I read a book entitled The Lucky Few by Heather Avis.  If you are interested in adoption or know someone going through the adoption process, it is a great book to read.  Or if you know someone who is living with disability and walking through medical needs, it also is a good book to give you a glimpse into their life.

Heather and her husband adopted three kids, two of whom have Down syndrome (Ds).  And while parts of their story is different than ours, parts of it were similar.  It was encouraging to hear from a mom who struggled with living life attached to a tube (an oxygen tube for her daughter and a feeding tube for our daughter).  She made some of the same mistakes I did and had similar emotions.

I got to read how another family navigates going out in public as a family with mixed abilities and mixed ethnicities.  There are both positive and negative aspects to how conspicuous a family becomes with those dynamics.

Heather spoke about the moments leading up surgery as she entrusted her daughter to the heart surgeon to repair the hole in her heart.  This part struck me in a way I didn’t expect, because I have recently met two mothers who will never experience the hopefully anxiety that comes with open heart surgery.  Two mothers of children with Down syndrome who will not watch their children grow much past infancy or toddlerhood.  Two little boys whose hearts are working over time to keep up with the demands of their little bodies.

Heart surgery takes special training and specialization equipment.  Our general surgeons perform surgeries far beyond the scope of a general surgeon in the USA, but heart surgery is simply not something our hospital can offer.  Had these two mothers been pregnant in the States . . .

. . . they would have had doctors who could refer their boys to a cardiologist and pulmonologist and whatever other -ologist they would have needed to fix their tiny bodies.  But had they been pregnant it the States, they likely would have had an OB/GYN who told them that a life with Down syndrome is not a life worth living.  That there were other options they could choose before these little boys were born.  Their little lives could be terminated when they were most vulnerable.  In a culture where it’s not okay to judge the life of another person, it is okay to judge that another life is not worth living.

How do I reconcile a world where the lack of resources in one country will bring about the death of children while in another country that is rich in resources, the lack of value brings about the death of other children?

At times I want to despair in these injustices, but I am reminded of the hope we have.  That God, through Jesus, is reconciling (restoring) all things to himself (Colossians 1:20).  That He has reconciled me “if [I] continue in [my] faith, established and firm, not moved from the hope held out in the gospel.”  (Col. 1:23)  As I become a servant of the good news of Christ’s restoration, He uses me in these very areas of injustice that weigh on my heart.  And He refines me, helping to strip away my selfishness and desire for ease and comfort.  And despite my fumblings, He can use my obedience to bring restoration and reconciliation in the lives of other.  He has called Nathan and I to be a part of His restoration by providing medical care where there is little available and to welcome children into our family who are so easily disposed of by cultures around the world.  It’s not always comfortable or easy, but there are blessings that come only through obedience.  Blessings we would have missed if we had chosen to walk in fear of the unknown.

“I believe that at some point in our lives each of us has the opportunity to leave our comfortable path and head into the wilderness [with God].  Each of us will at some point hold a ‘yes pebble’ in our hands.  My hope and prayer for all of us is that we will be willing to toss those pebbles into the murky waters and get our fancy shoes dirty in the mud.  My hope is that as we say yes, the ripples of our decisions will begin to form wonderful waves.  Waves, my friends, cannot be ignored.”  Heather Avis, The Lucky Few.

Pop!

One of the things I enjoy about Family Medicine is the variety.  There is always something new to see, do, or learn.  In PNG this is very true.  Most days I see something that I have rarely dealt with or is completely new.  I have learned to adopt a “can-do” attitude.

IMG_1268
The first x-ray

I was working in the outpatient department (OPD) when a middle aged male came in.  He had fallen two days before and had pain over his thumb.  His thumb was deformed and he could not flex it.  I sent him for an X-ray and he came back with a film showing dislocation of his distal phalangy.  Well, I’ve never fixed one of these before but thought it should be simple enough.  I injected lidocaine around the base of his  finger (digital block) making his thumb numb.  As I held his hand in place, I gave the tip of his thumb a firm, steady pull.  Pop!  Like magic his thumb popped back in place,  looked normal and was moving normally.  Post procedure film was normal as well.

IMG_1269
After popping it back in place

Nursery Reflections

One night in July:

I had come to the hospital to evaluate a young mother with appendicitis.  After finishing in the ER I walked into Labor & Delivery to check in before going home to bed.  I peeked in the nursery.  The Baby of M is having apnic spells.  The child is already on 2 IV antibiotics, IV fluids, and medications to stimulate breathing.  His mom is gently rubbing his jaundiced hand as the photo light casts a blue glow on his tiny body.  The bag and mask sits near the warmer ready for use.  My heart sinks.  What more can we do?  It’s an all to familiar story in PNG.  Respirations go  down and we slowly lose the child.  Of all the things I saw and did today this got to me the most.  Not the 2 C-sections with floppy kids that turned up all right or the multiple broken bones or lacerations.  Even the hand amputation I took in stride but looking at a little helpless child in a nursery warmer breaks my heart.  What more can I do?  Pray.  And so we did.  I left the nursery with a grateful mother who knows we are doing all we can and that we care.  A mother who knows we do our jobs because we love Christ.   As I walk home through the cool night air many questions race through my brain.

This morning as I rounded on Pediatrics, bed 9 was empty, the little 7 day old child had died in the night.  Bed 29 had an episode of respiratory arrest in the early hours of the morning. Her situation is guarded  Does our work matter?  We keep losing patients.  But as I looked down the Ward there were many more kids who were improving.  Some were going home today healed.  Its easy to get down with the losses but without Nazarene General Hospital and its staff many more would die.  And so one week ends and a new one begins. IMG_0540

Arrivals

There are a lot of comings and goings on a mission station.  Volunteers come for a few weeks to a few months.  Missionary kids visit for a few months and return for college (they get one trip paid for by the church during college).  Family comes to visit.  Long term missionaries leave for home assignment and new missionaries arrive.

This coming week we are expecting the return of Dr. Erin.  She has been serving here for over ten years and after arriving in the US for home assignment in the spring, she was diagnosed with a brain tumor.  It was uncertain if she’d be able return in August as originally planned.  Many people prayed for her, not knowing what God’s plan was, but trusting Him in the process.  Thankfully, the tumor responded well to treatment over the summer and she is able to return as planned.

The Miller family will be arriving along with Erin.  They are a new missionary family that will join us for the next couple of years.  Justin works in IT, Stephanie will be helping at the MK elementary school and their daughter will be entering first grade.  Our family has been eagerly anticipating their arrival for several months.  They are just days away from moving, so are in the middle of the last minute chaos and emotions that accompany this transition.  I know they’d appreciate your prayers during this time.

IMG_0886

Creepy Crawlies – Frogs

Frogs are the one critter our kids have wanted to find, but not been able to catch in the five months we’ve been in PNG.  In the evenings we often hear them when we’re out walking and despite making a few outings to catch one, they’ve always remained illusive.

This past week we had a stay-cation.  The week was spent sleeping in our own beds, making our own restaurant for an evening, eating off paper plates (doing dishes in the fire pit made for easy chore time) and doing many of the activities around station that there’s never enough time for.  High on the list of things to do was frog hunting and last night was the night for a good frog hunt.  It had drizzled off and on all day, so we hoped that would help bring the frogs out.

There’s a spot on station near the College of Nursing that we often hear frogs croaking.  It was decided that this activity needed hunters that could remain quiet and not scare the frogs away, so I stayed home with the little two.  Instead of hunting, they got to play in the bath water, which is high on their list of fun activities.  The hunting party arrived home sooner than expected with dejected expressions.  I thought they were handling their disappointment quite well and started to explain we could try again another time when the jumping and squealing began.  Turns out they were just putting on a show and actually HAD caught a frog.

They had seen several frogs and heard many more.  Nathan was trying to get up the nerve to catch this one when our big girl hopped right in and nabbed him.  It was the perfect ending to a great week of vacation.

IMG_1247

 

 

 

 

 

Political Tension

You may remember this blog about the elections here in PNG.  The voting has been over in our area for several weeks and the counting has been on-going.  As we get closer to announcing the winners, the tension is getting higher.

As foreigners, we can stay on station and keep away from the tension, but that is not the case for our PNG friends.  Pastor A has been helping us dig a new garden area.  He travels a little distance to come and as he ate lunch with us yesterday, it was easy to see the burden he has for the situation.

As a young man, he was one that was involved in causing problems and fighting.  He easily could have been one of these young men who is recruiting people for his side when the fighting starts.  But he found a new way of life when he decided to follow Jesus.  He is now a man of peace and instead of looking for a fight, he looks for ways to be a light.  He is quick to help those in need and to speak peace to those who are stirring up trouble.

Would you please pray for Pastor A and his family.  If fighting does break out in his area, they could easily be targets.  Pray for wisdom as he tries to calm the mounting tension of those around him.  Pray for safety for his family.  Pray for other men of peace during this time.  Pray that the obvious difference Jesus is making in their lives will draw people to Christ during this time of uncertainty.

A Message for the Ladies

Last week about 20 of us traveled to a bush church.  When I first heard about going to bush churches I imagined long car trips with plenty of hiking to follow.  As it turns out, since we’re already living out away from the main towns, going to a bush church doesn’t take long.  This particular church was a 20-30 minute drive.

I have two choices when driving off station.  Be brave and drive the roads or be a passenger and get car sick.  This time I opted to drive one of the two vehicles.  There are four P’s that a driver has to be aware of when driving here:

Pigs – There are pigs of all sizes (tiny and huge) along the side of the road.  Occasionally they run into the road.

People – The walkways are right along the side of the road and people often use the road itself to walk on (it’s easier than walking in the dirt and brush).  Little kids often play along the side of the road and will sometimes dart out.

Potholes – POTHOLES would probably be a better description.  There are many and they are big.  You can’t travel 80 kph (50mph) very long before having to slow down for the next pothole.

Police – The police have check points occasionally that need to be stopped for.

When I drive there is one more P that drivers need to watch for.

Pokey Little Beckey – I am getting  better, but tend to be one of the slower drivers on the road.  Thankfully, last Sunday there weren’t any vehicles that pulled up behind me and I wasn’t too far behind Scott, who was driving the other vehicle.

IMG_1174
One of the bridges we drove across and then walked across after the service to play in the river

We arrived at the church a little early and soon had a crowd of kids around to watch us.  Most of them enjoyed having their pictures taken and then being able to see themselves on the camera.  Some of the kids were curious, but shied away from the camera.

IMG_1126

On the way in, our big girl  was disappointed to miss seeing the pigs along the side of the road.  Once we got to the the church, though, she was able to go back behind the building and see a little pig there.

IMG_1133

A PNG couple that attends the Nazarene Bible college near the hospital were the special speakers for the morning.  We all were enjoying the special music they shared so much that I neglected to get a picture of them.  Their as ples (place of origin, hometown) is near the capital city of Port Moresby and the music reflected the area.  He made some fun popping sounds during the songs, which were met by roars of laughter from all the kids in the congregation.

IMG_1145

Recently, I was talking with Dr. Sheryl, who is a surgeon that arrived the same time we did, about how hard it is to see the violence against women here.  A lady will come in after being stabbed by her husband and we care for their wounds, but they often times do not come back for follow up visits.  There’s not a lot of resources for women in abusive situations.  I also recently read this article about PNG being one of the worst places in the world for violence against women.

The visiting pastor had a sermon all prepared, but when he saw how many women were in the church he decided to go a different direction.  I quickly stepped outside since our baby girl wanted to help him preach, but was able to hear much of what he said from just outside the door.  He spoke about the Samaritan woman at the well and told the ladies that they are important to God and He has a plan for each one of them through this church.  In the midst of a culture that looks down on them for being women, it is through Jesus Christ these ladies are given value and purpose.  Towards the end of the sermon I stepped closer to the door to peek inside and saw the front of the sanctuary filled with ladies praying.

IMG_1161

As foreigners we can tell women they have value, but the impact is even greater when it comes from one of their own people.  Please pray for the national church leaders (men and women) as they communicate the good news of Jesus.  Pray that Christian husbands will love their wives as Christ loves the church and their clans will see the difference that this love makes in their marriages.  Pray for the women of this church as they seek God’s direction in how He will continue to use their lives.  Pray for the women in abusive situations, that they can find safety and find hope in Jesus.  Pray for the doctors, nurses and chaplains as they treat the ladies whose bodies and spirits are beaten and battered.

After the service we drove down the hill for a picnic and a chance to play in the river.

IMG_1165

It was quite a steep trek down the hill and going back up was even trickier.

IMG_1178

It was a great morning together and an encouraging time at church.

IMG_1182

 

 

 

 

 

 

Meri Blaus

A couple of weeks ago I went to the backyard to rescue our little guy from the top of the monkey bars and something caught my eye through the fence.  On the other side of the road I saw this meri blaus and laplap.  I had been wanting one for when we go to bush church and special occasions so Nathan and I went out that afternoon and bought it.  Meri (pronounced Mary) is a woman, blaus is a blouse and a laplap is a piece of cloth.  In this case it is referring to the skirt that goes under the blouse.  We see many women wearing this combination and it is quite comfortable and cool in the warm weather.IMG_1172

Toothpaste

In preparing to move to PNG we gathered up school books and some toiletries to have shipped ahead in a container.  Nathan’s sister, Amy, is a dentist and we’ve been using Colgate Total by her recommendation for years.

IMG_1112

I knew that the brands of toiletries in PNG were limited and wanted to be sure to have what we needed to maintain good oral hygiene.   I ordered an extra supply of Colgate Total from Amazon, tucked it neatly away in the shipping box and sent it halfway around the world.

As it turns out, there isn’t a large selection of toothpaste here.  One main toothpaste available.  Colgate.  Colgate Total.

IMG_0930

Politics

After leaving the elections in the United States and arriving in time for election season in PNG, I can tell you that politics is a noisy business wherever you go.  Most of the noise in the States was via electronics and the occasional bumper sticker or yard sign that seemed to yell at anyone who was supporting another candidate.  The noise here came via loud speakers attached to the top of vehicles.

IMG_0929
A bad picture of the giant loud speakers attached to the vehicles

Around 6am these vehicles would start blaring music and shouting out their candidates need to be in office.  This would go on for most of the day and between 9-10pm they would drive by saying, “Gut nait, Kudjip.  Gut nait!”  (Good night).  Thankfully, someone decided the 2am political campaigning that was apart of the last election was no longer necessary this election.

A couple weeks ago, the noise came from helicopters.  One helicopter after another flew overhead.  It was quite the excitement as all the little missionary kids and PNG kids ran outside pointing, shouting and running with each new fly over.  The helicopters were taking ballot boxes to different villages in preparation for voting.  Not long after the helicopters flew by, the political vehicles became quiet.

IMG_0911
The main road near the hospital lined with candidates billboards

Each region takes turns voting.  In part, this gives security forces time to reach the next destination.  If there’s problems in voting (ballot boxes being stolen or fighting) the security forces are delayed and so voting is delayed at the next location.  Security forces can also be delayed by bad weather or road conditions.  The area around Kudjip was supposed to vote two weeks ago, but that was postponed until Monday, July 3rd.  At 6am on the 3rd, however, the police went through to let people know they would be voting on Tuesday instead.

IMG_1280
A few of the people in line to vote at the hospital

The hospital has a polling station so that employees can vote without having to return to their home areas, since traveling long distances can be difficult, especially during election season.  Everyone lines up to wait their turn.  Pictures of the candidates are posted with a number beside each face.  Each voter marks the number of the candidates they want to vote for.

IMG_1285
Voting at the hospital

On Wednesday after the voting, several of the roads were closed as were the markets.  This was somehow linked to politics although I don’t know what exactly the problem was.

IMG_1288

The votes in our area are now being tallied and the results are expected to be announced this week.  Would you join us in praying during this time?  While we are not in danger personally, this is not the case for many of our PNG friends.  There is often fighting when the results are announced and bush knives are the weapon of choice.  Bush knives (machetes) are long, very sharp and inflict a great deal of damage if not killing the victim.  Last Saturday Nathan treated a man whose hand was completely amputated with one swipe of a bush knife.  The doctors are planning to treat many more chop-chops (bush knife wounds) in the next few weeks as the result are announced.

Our family is praying for people of peace to be able to speak calm into potentially volatile  situations.  We are praying that God would give wisdom, courage and safety to His followers as they encounter these situations.  Would you please join us in praying for the people in our area this week?