Monday, 18 February 2013

The heart of darkness

A recent event in PNG has made international news--a young woman was accused of witchcraft, tortured and killed.  This tragedy happened just down the road from us in Mt. Hagen.  (If you are interested in reading more, here is a very intense but well written article about this particular story and the overall problem in PNG.)

Unfortunately it was not an isolated event.  In fact, we sometimes care for such patients at our hospital.  Here is a recent story posted by Dr. Erin on her blog...

"If you could turn back the clock 24 hours, you would find a baby girl growing inside of her mom.  With a month before her scheduled entrance into the world, she was trying to develop as much as she could.  Without warning, this little girl's life was altered forever.  There was screaming and loud noises coming from the outside, it sounded like her mom's voice yelling out.  Then there was pain as a sharp hot object touched her neck, after that there was nothing.  This little girl, who hadn't even taken a breath in the world that we know, who was innocent of all wrong doing, had her life taken from her before she could even really start to live it.

"The call came at 0245 from the medical student that a woman was in labor and they needed our help.  We walked past the 3 empty labor and delivery bays and made our way to the last one where we found 4 nurses huddled around a woman who was wrapped almost head to toe in bandages.  She was tortured less than 24 hours previously by her husband's family for suspicion of witchcraft.  She suffered significant burns to most of her body, the bandages our attempt to keep her burns clean.  The torture and burnings she endured didn't just permanently scar her, but her unborn child as well.  On her arrival to our emergency department, the ultrasound showed her unborn baby did not have a heartbeat and had died during the torture, but she still had to delivery her, which was the reason for the phone call.

"Every movement she made shot pains through her body from her fresh burns.  Each contraction not only served as a reminder of the torture that she suffered, but also caused its own pain and torture as her daughter worked her way closer and closer into the outside world through her burned and damaged birth canal.  As I examined her and found out more of what had happened, I felt helpless.  How do I help this woman who has experienced more terror and grief in 24 hours than I have in my 34 years of life?

"Helping her deliver her baby was the obvious way to help, so we prayed and I gave her some meds as we helped to deliver her baby.  She never breathed and her heart never beat, but she was beautiful even with the burn on her neck.  Her life had ended before she even had a chance to experience the world outside of her mom, but was it better?  If being inside her mom couldn't protect her from the evil around us, I am not sure anything could have.  Rapes, tortures, suicides, machete chops, stabbings, and domestic violence make up a large part of the patient population that we serve here at Kudjip Nazarene Hospital.

"As I went home that night, I couldn't stop thinking and praying for this woman and her dead daughter.  What will make the violence in PNG stop?  How does she move on?  How does she find comfort and peace after what has happened to her?  She knows the Lord, but pray for her to find peace in Him and that He would comfort her in a way that my words cannot.  Obviously there is more work to be done here.  Pray that we would continue t have compassion on all who come, sharing Christ and allowng Him to change the culture that is so destructive around us."

"For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms."
~ Ephesians 6:12

Sunday, 17 February 2013

Christmas at the orphanage

Considering that it is now past Valentine's Day, this blog post is long overdue.  But it is a story worth telling even after the fact!

My roommate Becky is involved with the Church of the Nazarene's HIV ministry here in PNG.  Last year she became acquainted with the Nangbe Nazarene Care Center, located just up the road from Kudjip in a town called Minj.  Ruth and Steven are the couple who run the center.  They provide counseling services, HIV testing, and support for people living with HIV/AIDS.  The coolest thing is that the center also serves as a home for more than 45 orphans--children who have lost their parents to HIV/AIDS.  But the needs are far greater than what Ruth and Steven can provide.  Families in the local community have also become involved by caring for another 100+ orphans.

Just before Christmas, Becky was invited to lead a Sunday service at the Nangbe Church.  And she recruited her roommates and and friends to help out!  A whole cruiser load of missionaries and volunteers joined us.  My friend Andy shared the Christmas story with the young congregation and I translated into Pidgin.  We covered the windows of the bush church with sheets and blankets and cardboard, dimming the light so that we could show the children's version of the Jesus film.  Pastor Ruth concluded the servicewith a time of prayer.  More than 20 kids and several adults accepted Christ that day!  

The children of Nangbe captured our hearts.  With Christmas just around the corner, Andy had an idea to buy a gift for each of the kiddos.  Well, the idea grew from a gift for each child to blankets and balls and toothbrushes and hair things and coloring books and chickens and all the fixin's for Christmas dinner.  On Christmas Eve, our fellow missionaries and volunteers helped us pack the cruiser clear to the top with the goodies.  

There was a bit of a fiasco when the chickens escaped, but they were soon recaptured.  (Let's just say I learned my lesson and will never again deal in live chickens.  EVER.)  The gifts and food were delivered to Ruth who would give them to the children on Christmas morning.  The smile on her face radiated her joy to the world!

What a special Christmas!  Maybe one of the best I've had.  After all, I think that this is what Christmas is all about.

"Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this:  to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world."
~ James 1:27

Tuesday, 12 February 2013

My roommate is a celebrity

Well, maybe not exactly a celebrity as in the pop culture, rich and famous, notorious kind.  But she did just receive a VERY cool award.  So I wanted to use this opportunity to tell you about my awesome roomie :).

Dr. Becky Morsch and I have been rooming together ever since I moved to PNG four years ago.  We actually met each other more than 10 years before when we were both attending school at Loma Linda University--I was working on my M.P.H. and Beck was doing her residency in preventative medicine.  We became fast friends as soon as we figured out that we were both Nazarenes planning on careers in missions.  Little did we know that a decade later we would be sharing a house in PNG!

The FOBs--Aniwa, Vanuatu
Beck is a missionary doctor, but she doesn't work in the hospital or see patients.  Her specialty is Community Based Health Care.  Basically, she teaches entire villages how to be healthier and prevent illness so that people don't get sick in the first place.  The training includes topics such as hygiene, clean water, sanitation, nutrition, first aid and simple medical care, village birth attendant training, community development, and so on and so forth.  Her job has taken her to the most remote areas of PNG, the Solomon Islands, Vanuatu, and Fiji.  I have had the opportunity to travel with Beck on two of her CBHC trips.  The first was to Vanuatu in early 2010.  And this past summer we conducted a VBA training course for the Hewa people.  What a privilege it has been for me to be apart of this amazing ministry!
Hewa Tribe, PNG
On Monday of this week, Beck was recognized by the American Medical Association for her contribution to international health.  She received the Nathan Davis Award, named for the very founder of the AMA.  Allan Sawyer, one of our Kudjip volunteers, nominated Becky for the award.  He was able to attend the ceremony in Washington, D.C.  Here is what he said posted on Facebook:
"To all our friends at Kudjip Nazarene Hospital, Becky's presentation tonight was superb.  She humbly accepted the Dr. Nathan Davis International Award by thanking each of you, stating that each of you is more deserving of this award than she is, but that she was willing to accept it on your behalf."

Congrats, roomie!  We are all so very proud of you.

Here are a couple of other links with info about Becky and her award: