Wednesday, May 8, 2019

Body of Christ


        So often we think of a missionary as a lone ranger, going to far-off places, blazing trails where no one has ever been before. Perhaps some pioneer missionaries fit this description, but most of the missionaries I know today are part of a team. That team includes co-workers on the field as well as family and friends providing support from home. I can’t think of any better example of the body of Christ working together for a common goal. In order to make Christ-like disciples of all nations, it requires feet—people who are willing to go to all nations. It requires hands –hands of service and outreach. It requires eyes and ears to observe the felt needs in each community. It requires a mouth to proclaim the good news. But none of these parts could do its work without the backbone –the support that holds every part together and allows the different parts to work in synchrony. The body only functions if we are all connected to the head, Christ, and work together according to his purpose. 
Pharmacy team
          Even within the ministry of the hospital, I see the different parts of the body at work. 
“There are different kinds of gifts, but the same Spirit distributes them. There are different kinds of service, but the same Lord. There are different kinds of working, but in all of them and in everyone it is the same God at work.” (1Cor 12:4-6). The work of doctors and nurses is crucial to the medical care that takes place at the hospital, but even the best doctor or nurse won’t have as much of an impact without all the support roles: chaplains, pharmacy, laboratory services, X-ray staff, cleaners, and the maintenance team. Every week another piece of equipment seems to break- whether the x-ray machine, the autoclave used to sterilize instruments and dressings, or the ultrasound machines. 
X-ray team
Thanks be to God, we have a team who can help address all these needs.  “The eye cannot say to the hand, ‘I don’t need you!’ And the head cannot say to the feet, ‘I don’t need you!’ On the contrary, those parts of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable” (1 Cor 12: 21-22). At Kudjip, every role is indispensable, because each part of the team is necessary to accomplish the work. Each part of the body—the hands, the feet, and the mouth—has a unique part to play. 
          In different seasons, it seems my role in the body changes. Sometimes I am the hands, but at the present I am the feet (crisscrossing the USA) and the mouth—proclaiming the marvelous works of God that I have witnessed abroad and encouraging each person to do their part. It has been such a joy to share how God is working and to meet new people who are a part of this work. Thank you to all of you who are the backbone that keeps this body functioning. Additionally, thank you for all your prayers, which move to empower each part to do its work according to the will of Christ the head. 

Friday, April 5, 2019

Home

              For much of my adult life I have lived far from my parents and the place where I grew up, so I have become accustomed to the terms  “home” = where I currently live and “home home” = my parent’s house where I grew up. For the past two years, the concept of home has stretched further as I now have a “home” on the missions field in Papua New Guinea as well as a “home” country. Thus, going “home” has become complicated. It seems that I have become a wanderer, with many different mooring points around the world. In some ways the mobility brings freedom as I accumulate less clutter and find that places or possessions aren’t as important as relationships. On the other hand, the long distances and separation from friends makes maintaining relationships harder and more painful as I always seem to be saying hello and goodbye in the same breathe.  Constant transition. That is the missionary life, always hovering between here and there. 
           Four weeks ago, I returned to my “home base”, my parent’s house in California. Shortly thereafter, I felt the familiarity of being “home” when I visited my old roommate in Syracuse, NY, the last place I lived before moving abroad. As I travelled from Wisconsin to Florida and everywhere in between, I reconnected with many old friends and met many more new ones. During that time I realized that even though “home” has become a transient entity, my “family” continues to grow and expand, stretching around the world. Just as Jesus said, “Truly I tell you, no one who has left home or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or fields for me and the gospelwill fail to receive a hundred times as much in this present age: homes, brothers, sisters, mothers, children and fields...” (Mark 10:29-30). He never promised that it would be easy, but by leaving my home and my family I have found so many more homes and brothers, sisters, mothers, fathers, nieces and nephews than I ever could have imagined. And as long as I’m with family, I am home. 



Tuesday, February 26, 2019

A Matter of the Heart



Photo credit: spokanevbc.org
          I have never prayed so hard for a patient before, during, and after a procedure as I did last Tuesday. But then again, I haven’t met too many patients like Michael. The first things I noticed were his big, frightened eyes just above a nose that flared as he struggled for each breath. Laying on his side, in the only position that made breathing slightly easier, I could see his belly heaving in and out with each gasp for air. Behind his pained grimace, I noticed the gap where he was missing his two front baby teeth, indicating he might be 5 or 6 years old. Even before I met him, I knew about Michael. He was the boy who had arrested on the pediatric ward the previous week sending the nurses and doctors into a flurry of activity as they performed CPR and puffed breaths into his small body. He was the boy on whom my surgery partner had attempted, unsuccessfully, to place a needle to drain fluid from around his heart. He was the boy who was receiving every therapy the pediatricians could think of, because we didn’t know what was making him so sick. 
          Now the pediatrician was calling me because the fluid around Michael’s heart was increasing in size, compressing his heart until it was barely able to beat. Michael’s difficulty breathing was becoming worse and she worried he would not make it through the night. “Lord help me”, I silently, but earnestly prayed as I discussed the surgery with Michael’s parents. The prior needle aspiration didn’t work, so we would need to make a surgical opening (a “pericardial window”) into the sac around Michael’s heart in order to drain the fluid. Obviously this procedure is not without risks, especially in a patient as sick as Michael. Before taking Michael into the operating theatre, I prayed with his parents, releasing Michael into God’s hands. He had already died and been brought back to life once, and I knew there was a strong chance their son might not survive our attempts to save him a second time. Even though I have successfully performed this procedure several times, there are always risks. 
The last time our team performed this procedure on a man in a similar situation as Michael, the man’s heart went into a dysrhythmia, then stopped on the operating table. We were not able to resuscitate him. I know memories of that patient were strong in Auntie Margaret’s mind when she pulled me aside for another prayer as Michael went into the operating room. 
          Anesthesia and positioning can be tricky in this type of case because the patient can’t tolerate lying flat in the optimal position for control of the airway and for performing surgery. In addition, the patient’s body is in overdrive to keep the heart going despite all the strain. General anesthesia can take away that compensatory drive leading to cardiovascular collapse and death. Instead, we elected to perform the procedure under moderate sedation. Once the anesthesia team was ready—with all the emergency equipment and medications close at hand in case the worst should happen—we prayed again asking for God’s hand upon us all as Michael went to sleep. God’s peace calmed my spirit while we successfully performed the procedure: making a hole into the pericardial sac, suctioning out a large amount of thick clot and fibrous debris, irrigating with warm water (cold water can stop the heart!), and securing a drain tube in place. We all breathed a sigh of relief and praised God in yet another prayer before Michael left the operating theatre. 
          A few days later, Michael was a completely different boy from the one I had first met. He was sitting up in bed, breathing easily without oxygen, munching on some pineapple, and flashing a huge smile with two missing teeth. He also clutched the little toy bear I had given him moments before he went into the operating room. This bear was a special gift that one of my dear friends entrusted to me before I came to PNG with explicit instructions to give it to a child who particularly needed it. On the chest of the bear is an embroidered heart that lights up when the bear’s belly is squeezed. Michael happily squeezed the bear over and over, delighted every time the light came on in the bear’s heart. 
         “Michael,” I said, “do you see the heart on your bear? Your heart was very sick, but now God is making it better. Do you think your heart shines like this bear’s heart?” He nodded. “Does your heart shine the light of Jesus so that others can see it?” Somehow his huge grin became even bigger as he excitedly nodded again. 
         The day after we removed the tube from his chest, he started running up and down the ward like a kid who had never been sick. He exuded so much unbridled energy that a passerby would have never known that he had been inches away from death just a week prior. As I admired Michael’s joy and passion for life, I silently praised God for this miracle, knowing that his heart and mine will never be the same. 

Tuesday, January 22, 2019

Babies, Babies Everywhere


Delivery ward

Kudjip Nazarene Hospital is always busy, but lately the delivery ward has been crazier then ever. Last year (2018) set a new record with 3,019 deliveries (including 376 c-sections), up 500 deliveries from the year prior. This year promises to be another baby boom as labor and delivery is averaging 7-9 deliveries a day. This past weekend, the 30-bed ward was overflowing with at least 10 patients sleeping on the floor. Thankfully the current hospital expansion project is slated to double the delivery ward capacity. The new building has been erected, but the connection between the two and all the internal fixtures are still being constructed. Please pray for God to provide beds for the new delivery ward once construction is finished. 
New wing of delivery ward
under construction

The Nursery is also busy with several recent sets of twins and a set of triplets that I helped Dr. Susan deliver this past week. The three girls are doing well, but number two is having a little trouble breast feeding and number three had a very low birth weight, so they are still in the nursery. Please pray for them and their mother, Cathy (who has three other children at home). Babies in PNG typically aren’t named until 1-2 months of age, but for now I’m calling them Faith, Hope and Love because I pray these three will remain strong for years to come. 

Triplets!

Tuesday, December 4, 2018

A Special Sunday



Susanna starting the church service
Susanna with Pastor Robert and his wife











This past Sunday, I had the honor of attending my friend Susanna’s church. Susanna has worked in my house once a week for the past year and a half. She is also a lay-pastor and has been leading this church for the past year. This Sunday, she was turning over the church to a new pastor and his wife. The church was all decorated and special music items were presented. Dr. Mark, one of my co-workers from Kudjip, gave the message. 

Ribbon-cutting for new pastor house
New pastor house











Then we dedicated the newly built pastor’s house. As Susanna so aptly quoted: “one plants, another waters, and another reaps the harvest.” What a joy to co-labor with these PNG brothers and sisters to build God’s Kingdom. 

Congregation at Endu


All the sheep wandered off during the
shepherd scene
The star was waving and dancing
quite enthusiastically to make sure the
wisemen and camels found Bethlehem
              













Afterwards, we raced back to Kudjp for the MK Christmas program. Once a month, ex-pat missionaries from several organizations join together for an English church service or potluck. In December, the kids present their Christmas drama. This year they put on a lovely production with a “behind the scenes” look at all the characters of the Christmas story including the inn-keeper and his wife, the shepherds, the wisemen, and the angels that proclaimed the good news. All the kids did a great job, but I think the sheep and the star of Bethlehem stole the show. It was a great start to the Christmas season and a good reminder that everyone has an important role to play in proclaiming the good news of Christmas. 

Saturday, November 17, 2018

Field Day



Outside of medicine, we stay busy with many activities on the mission station. My surgical partner, Dr. Ben, and I take turns teaching PE to the MK (Missionary Kid) Elementary School students once a week. 

Hurdles
Long Jump

Our track and field unit culminated with a Field Day where our students (K-5thgrade) competed in the long jump, hurdles, shotput, sprint, javelin throw (Ben’s idea), and 4-person relay. 

Sprint
Shotput










The kids all did a great job and had a blast. I was very happy to see all their good sportsmanship as they cheered each other on. Gold, Silver and Bronze medals (in the form of stickers) were awarded in each division based on the cumulative scores for all six events. 

Javelin Throw
Relay
 



Amazingly, the Boys 8-and-Under Division was a three-way tie! All the kids were thrilled and celebrated with a big group hug. What a great reminder to celebrate all life’s victories with the joy of a child. 




Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith.” Hebrews 12:1-3 




(Photo Credits: Katherine Radcliffe and Esther Crouch)

Friday, October 26, 2018

Happy Children’s Day




Recently, PNG celebrated World Children’s Day: a day to promote health, safety and education for all children worldwide. While we are doing our part to promote health, it still hurts my heart to see so many children in the hospital for pneumonia, malnutrition, gastrointestinal illnesses, meningitis, and cancer. Here are some of the children currently on surgical ward and how you can pray for them: 

Veselyn, age 13, has been in the hospital for over a month fighting an infection of the liver and many of the complications that have accompanied it. She has been to surgery several times and is gradually improving but continues to fight setbacks. Please pray for her as she transitions home. 

Pa, age 2, presented with a huge mass growing from his right eye requiring complete removal of the eye. It is likely retinoblastoma, a cancer of the eye seen in children. With limited access to chemotherapy and no available radiation therapy, his prognosis is not good. Please pray for him as he heals from the physical pain of surgery. Pray for his family as they process his diagnosis and what that means for his future. 

Macklyn, age 8, is a vivacious girl with a bad infection of the foot which has extended to the bones of the ankle joint. Please pray for her as she faces weeks of wound care followed by months of antibiotics to treat this severe infection. Pray that her long-term mobility will not be adversely affected. 

Thank you for partnering with us to pray for these precious children and all children around the world. Happy World Children’s Day.