I am so grateful for the ways God brings encouragement to us. This morning I woke up not ready to start the day let alone start a new week. Nathan was on call Saturday and while we expect Saturday calls to be long, this last call was one of the hardest since being here. Add that in the middle of an extended q3 call schedule and both of us are feeling worn down.
Nathan called mid-morning to say he had someone that wanted to come down and visit. It was Baby M and her mother. Baby M was born with Down syndrome and a heart condition. They weren’t sure she would survive, but she’s now about 18 months old and doing well. She lives in the Jimi Valley, which is a remote area about 3-4 hours (depending on road conditions and availability of transportation) from Kudjip and has a small health station as it’s only medical care available. Nathan has been seeing Baby M regularly as he keeps track of her heart condition. A couple months ago he brought her mother to meet our little two with Down syndrome and has been able to talk with her not only as a doctor, but also as a parent of a child with Down syndrome. We were blessed to have a doctor in the States who had a son with Down syndrome. It was a huge encouragement to have a doctor that could relate on a personal level to both the blessings and challenges of living life with disability.
Baby M’s mother wanted to come down to visit me and the kids today. She had a bag full of produce for us and she had made both Nathan and me bilums (woven bags) to say thank you for all the work Nathan is doing. When I first held Baby M she started crying, but she soon settled into my arms and I got to snuggle with her as I talked with her mama. As they left, Baby M, waved and gave us a big beautiful smile to help bring a little sunshine to a hard Monday morning.
Please be praying for Baby M and her family as they raise her here with so few resources. Pray for wisdom for Nathan as he treats her heart condition and for us to continue to encourage her mother as she has encouraged us. And pray for strength during this time that is extra busy.
Jim and Kathy Radcliffe have been serving in Kudjip for nearly 33 years. They’ve raised their six children here and have touched countless lives both in Papua New Guinea and the United States. When I travel into town and someone hears that I am from Kudjip they often share a story of how Dr. Jim saved their life or the life of a loved one. Kathy has been involved in ministry in countless ways around the hospital. Her calm spirit is a blessing to patients, staff and missionaries alike. Many people have decided to follow Jesus through their ministry.
Their time at Kudjip is quickly coming to a close as they prepare to move back to the United States just before Christmas. There have been many goodbyes and last weekend was a chance for the missionary family to say goodbye. While I am disappointed to have to say goodbye so quickly in our time here, I know God will continue to use them as they return Stateside. Would you pray for them as they leave a place that has been home for 33 years. Pray for their transition back into life in America and for their ministry there.
In this game we were given quotes and had to guess if Kathy or Jim said them.
Over the summer our friend, Pastor A, asked us if we would visit his church and have Nathan preach. In September, Nathan had a free weekend, so he prepared a sermon in English and began translating it into Tok Pisin. The local tribal languages can be complex, but as a trade language, Tok Pisin is a fairly simple language that uses a lot of description rather than specific words. For example, a toe is pinga bilong lek (finger belong leg). With all the descriptions needed in translating, Nathan realized that even though his sermon was a reasonably length in English, it was going to be incredibly long in Pisin. He shortened it down in time for Sunday morning and we hopped in the Land Cruiser to drive the 15 minutes to pick up Pastor A along the side of the road. He directed us up a dirt road just off the main road and we tried to make it up the hill. It had rained some the night before and we didn’t make it up the muddy road the first time, so we rolled back down, put the vehicle in four wheel drive and made it up the second time without a problem.
Most off the congregation was waiting at the church when we arrived and greeted us as we climbed out of the Land Cruiser. Pastor A’s wife was there with their four children. We had met his wife and oldest son before when they came for lunch, but were able to meet their other son as well as the their two little girls they adopted.
About a year ago they built the foundation, frame and roof of the church building and for now the open walls let in a nice breeze during the service. Everyone entered and took off their shoes and our family was ushered to the front of the church. Pastor A introduced our family and then led the singing and three people accompanied with guitars. After knowing his story of once being a rascal who was always looking for trouble, I loved sitting there watching him lead singing and seeing his passion as he encouraged his congregation. His life has seen an amazing transformation through his relationship with Christ and it is evident in all he does.
At one point during the singing I noticed more eyes on us than usual and turned to look behind me. Our youngest son was perched on the concrete foundation with his eyes closed and head swaying and he sang along with the congregation. The lack of walls proved to be a little distracting to my bug catchers as they saw crickets and beetles crawling through the grass. They were itching to jump to the other side to catch the little critters. They stayed through most of the service, but hopped out to join the other kids towards the end.
After the service we chatted with many of the people and then they presented us with fruits and vegetables to take home. We are so humbled by the generosity of the people when we visit a bush church. And it is a blessing to be able to worship along side fellow believers.
On Friday morning Nathan was examining a child in the club foot clinic. He looked over to the ER just adjacent to the room where he was casting and saw Dr. Bill McCoy treating a patient who had been accused of sorcery.
In PNG and other countries around the world, death is not seen as an accident or natural part of life. It is believed that death comes because someone else brought it about. A woman is usually accused of causing the death and she is tortured for her supposed sorcery.
Just a few months ago a toddler chocked on some food and died. Two women were accused of causing the child’s death and were tortured for 36 hours before the police rescued them. One died shortly after and the other woman was brought to the hospital, but she, too, died from her injuries.
In an effort to stop the torture, the woman will sometimes accuse another of sorcery and the cycle continues as the blame is shifted to someone else.
Several years ago a woman was accused of sorcery and was burned alive. Her young daughter was taken to a place of supposed safety, but on Friday this little girl was brought to Nazarene Hospital because she became one of the youngest victims of torture after being accused. Six years old. Six.
We are here to help bring medical care for people who would not otherwise have it, but more than that we are here to bring the hope of Christ. He will bring freedom from the chains of evil. He will mold a society that is uniquely Papua New Guinean. A society that is not bound by superstition but instead values each member as a child created in His imagine. In the midst of horrible situations like this, there is hope that is found only in Christ. Will you pray with us that God will break the bonds of this practice. Pray for this child as she walks the long path to physical and psychological healing.
This morning we joined some of the hospital staff and other missionaries for hospital evangelism. It is a time we come together and visit each ward in the hospital to sing songs with the patients, listen to a devotional and pray with each patient.
This morning Rachel Thompson gave the devotional and shared about the stories of Jesus calming the storm and Peter walking on water to Jesus before being distracted by the storm around him. She shared that no matter where a person lives, whether in PNG, Australia, China or America, we all face storms in our lives. Just as Jesus was there with Peter, holding his hand in the midst of the storm, Jesus is there for us as we face trials and sickness. Jesus is faithful.
The group started in A ward, which is where the children are cared for. Next came B ward for the adult medical patient and by the time we got to C ward, for the surgery patients, our kids were ready to go home and eat. We told them we’d visit the last ward, D ward, and then head home. Once we got in they were glad they didn’t miss out. This is the labor and delivery ward and they enjoyed getting see the tiny babies beside their mamas and see the even tinier babies in the nursery that serves as the NICU.
The kids and I don’t often get to see what goes on in the hospital, so this is a special time for us to spend time with the patients and the patients are eager to talk. Those that Nathan has been following are excited to meet his family. We are grateful for the opportunity to minister together as a family.
As we enter the middle of October we would like to say thank you to some special families we know. Nathan and I both grew up as pastor’s kids. We’ve seen the high and lows that come with being in the ministry. We’ve seen the sacrifices our parents have made and the faithfulness of God through it all. We’ve seen the difference church members make who are not only their pastor’s cheerleaders, but also their partners in ministry. We’ve seen the wounds that run deep when critics go a step too far. We’ve witnessed the joys when churches come together to support each other and see lives changed.
Besides being PKs, we have many friends who have pastored. I hesitate to list them, because my tired mommy brain is sure to forget someone, but I think it’s important for the Vavold family, Martin family, Brown family and Torgerson family to know how much we appreciate them. We pray for you all often and whether you are experiencing the mountain top of ministry or the valleys that come as well, know that your faithfulness has not gone unnoticed. Thank you for the work you are doing no matter where you are right now.
We’d also like to say a big thank you to the Johnson family who pastor our home church. It’s not an easy decision to move from the big city to a small town. It’s not easy having the full time job as pastors as well as another job to help pay the bills, but it has been exciting to see the spiritual growth. We are grateful for your willingness to follow God’s call.
We’d also like to thank my parents who are pastoring in Medford. I am grateful for the extra time we had to spend with you before moving here. I got to see your ministry through the eyes of an adult and appreciate the spiritual depth you both bring to teaching and worship. Thank you for your faithful example to following God’s leading in your lives.
During this month of October, and throughout the year, take the time to let your pastor know that you appreciate their dedication. Be their cheerleader and partner in ministry.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
It was quite a steep trek down the hill and going back up was even trickier.
It was a great morning together and an encouraging time at church.
On my return to the office a young female came in with pelvic pain that was worse with sitting. After a brief history she laid down on the exam table. “Are you pregnant” I asked in Pidgin. “No,” was her response. She looked pregnant and had something firm in her abdomen. Off to ultrasound we went. Hmmm . . . that’s a head . . . and there’s a heart beat. “Yep, you’re pregnant and about 36 weeks.” “I know” was her smiling response. Well, I guess I botched my Pidgin on that visit. I will keep working.
No time to wallow in language doubts I headed back to my exam room. A middle aged female came in with years of pelvic pain and vaginal discharge. It did not take long to figure out she had PID (Pelvic Inflammatory Disease) from prior STD exposure. This is far too common in PNG with promiscuity, domestic violence, and rape. I gave her antibiotics to treat her symptoms. Hopefully not too much scarring has occurred and the pain will resolve.
Then the watchman (a friend or family member who comes to the hospital with the patient) of a patient I saw last week came in asking my advice on his esophageal cancer as the patient was too weak to get to the hospital. “Could your surgeons remove the cancer?” he asked. Dr. Jim Radcliffe and I explained that the surgery would either kill him or prolong his suffering. The best we could do was remind him of his hope in Jesus.
Next came a child vomiting water with occasional blood. He also has watery diarrhea. Off to the lab. Mom and Dad return later with the blood test which looks alright. Medications given for dysentery. His parents are happy with his care. His dad, it turns out, is the pastor of a Nazarene church a few miles up the road. I cheerfully turn to my translator and say “Hey, one of my brothers in Christ. Can you see the family resemblance?” The dad and I laugh. They head home with their fears released.
A new mother with Chronic Migraines, a young man for a school physical, then an elderly woman, deaf and blind from cataracts. The afternoon was flying by.
I poked my head out the door for the next patient. “One pela kam” I called. A 30 year old female stood up and slowly walked down the hall. She had temporal wasting (loss of muscle and fat), was pale, and moved slowly. “Man, she looks sick,” I thought. TB? She sat down in my room. “I’m here with a cough, short of breath, my belly is swollen, and there’s something on my back where I was stabbed one year ago,” she says. She had fluid in her abdomen on exam and a hard mass on her right posterior chest wall. Cancer. We made our way to the ultrasound room. I scanned her back and abdomen. Liver cancer with ascites (fluid in the abdomen). I sat facing her and her young husband. “I am truly sorry,” I said and explained, “You have cancer of the liver.” I paused as she and her husband sat in shock. I slowly went on, “There is no cure.” Tears began to stream down her face and the husband’s face tensed. I was fighting to hold back the tears as I talked. “Have you given your life to God and trusted Him?”
“Yes,” she replied, “my spirit is in His hands.” I asked if I could pray with them. They nodded yes. I slowly began to pray in Pidgin. They headed home to see their pastor and will come back if they need us. She probably has 3 months or less to live.
No time to morn I moved onto the next patient. A young man with seizures. Then an ultrasound of a pregnant patient that is 28 weeks. “Congratulations. You have twins!” I said with a smile. One of the labor and delivery (L&D) nurses poked her head in the ultrasound room. “Dr. Nathan we need you in L&D. We have a laceration that needs suturing.” No time to celebrate with this patient for now, off to L&D. And so my day ended.
It’s not always easy but I am thankful for the chance to show the people of PNG the love of Christ. Sometime that means sharing in their brokenness and pain and other times celebrating life with them. Sometimes that means using my skills to help ease their suffering or being able to heal them. Each one of you who is partnering with us through prayer and finances is also helping to treat every person that walks through the hospital doors. Thanks for all you are doing.
It can be hard to find balance in what we share on here. Truthfully, practicing medicine in a developing country is hard. Little kids die because of dehydration due to diarrhea and vomiting. If they make it to the hospital soon enough, we can give them fluids and save their lives. Others times, it’s too late and despite all our attempts, the child still passes away.
Just a couple weeks ago Nathan did all he could far a man in the ER, but the man still suffocated as Nathan worked on him. Nathan did some research to see what he missed. Was there something more he could have done? The answer was that with the resources available here, there was nothing more to be done. We are one of the best, if not the best, supplied hospitals around, but there are still many limits in resources.
So while, we want to share with you the challenges, so that you can be praying, we also want to share with you the miracles. The patients who seem to have little hope of surviving, but then we see the Great Physician step in and bring about healing.
Last week, Nathan was working in the outpatient department and saw a man standing with his family waiting to see Dr. Susan. He looked so familiar, but Nathan could not place where he knew the man from. After helping another patient and stepping back into the hall for another patient, this man smiled a broad grin that made him instantly recognizable. Mr J!
A while back we mentioned him on the blog. He had paralysis that was slowly creeping up his body. His arms and legs were no longer moving and the concern was the paralysis would reach his chest and cause his lungs not to work. We did not have the equipment that could breathe for him, so it would mean certain death if that happened.
Despite these challenges, Mr. J always had a bright smile when Nathan walked onto the ward. And then one day the paralysis stopped spreading. Dr. Bill explained to Mr. J that it was as if God drew a line on his body and said “Stop here.” Just before Nathan began working on a different ward, Mr. J was able to move his pinky, which seemed a miracle in itself. To see that God had healed him to the point of being able to walk into the hospital with his family was an incredible site.
You may remember the other Mr. J that we asked prayer for last week. Nathan came home and said it was worst way to die he’s seen yet. Mr. J had accidentally drank pesticide and while he was not yet dead, the effects of the pesticide would cause a slow and painful death. A few days later, Nathan went back to see the second Mr. J and could not find him on the ward. Perhaps he had gone home, but the more likely scenario was that he had passed away. On his run Friday morning with Dr. Bill, he found out that Mr. J had recovered enough to go home! It was such a unexpected outcome when we were almost certain he had died. Thankfully, Mr. J had quickly recognized his mistake and spit much of the pesticide out. While it did burn his mouth and throat, it did not cause severe damage to his internal organs.
We are so grateful to be working with the Great Physician. God can do what we can not and while we do not know why he chooses to heal some and not others, we trust that in both life and facing death, he brings comfort to the weak. We are grateful he is giving us the opportunity to walk with people here in their joys and their sorrows. And we so appreciate your prayers through it all.
If you would like to be able to help provide the equipment and medicines needed for the hopstial, please visit the Nazarene Hospital Foundation’s page. The government supplies available to us often run out and it because of organizations like NHF that we are able to continue treating patients with the medicines and equipment that they need.