Saturday, April 25, 2020

Overwhelmed



         


Dr. Mark and Dr. Alex attend to patient with
near amputation of the hand.
Twenty-two. TWENTY-TWO. Twenty-two surgical procedures in the past FIVE days. To say that I am exhausted is a bit of an understatement. We are only scheduling 2-3 elective cases on each surgery day (Tuesdays and Thursdays), but the number of urgent and emergent cases seemed to explode this week, filling every day of my schedule and pouring over into next week. Appendicitis, ruptured ectopic pregnancies, small bowel obstructions, abscess in the chest, abscess in the abdomen, abscess in the leg, and so, so many traumas: Stab to the back, chop to the upper arm, chop to the lower arm, partial hand amputation, gunshot to the bladder, gunshot to the neck. Of all the cases I treat, trauma is by far the most physically and emotionally draining. Most people can’t control when an infection will occur, but violence is preventable.  Why do tribes perpetuate the age-old feuds? Why do husbands abuse their wives? Why all the fighting and violence? Some days, I feel like the biblical prophet, Habakkuk, crying out, “How long, O Lord, must I call for help....Why do you make me look at injustice? Why do you tolerate wrongdoing?” (Habbakuk 1:2-3). It is easy to become discouraged or angry as we labor to piece together broken bodies and broken lives. But when the huge tidal wave of traumas comes during an already busy week, it is simply overwhelming.

Thankfully, our prayers do not fall on deaf ears. On Thursday, when I had about hit the wall, one of our leaders at prayer meeting shared from 2 Kings 6. This is the story of Elisha, a man of God who is surrounded by enemy forces. Starting in verse 15:

 “When the servant of the man of God got up and went out early the next morning, an army with horses and chariots had surrounded the city. ‘Oh no, my lord! What shall we do?’ the servant asked. 
‘Don’t be afraid, ‘ the prophet answered. ‘Those who are with us are more than those who are with them.’ And Elisha prayed, ‘Open his eyes, Lord, so that he may see.’ Then the Lord opened the servant’s eyes, and he looked and saw the hills full of horses and chariots of fire all around Elisha.”

              

             Those who are with us are more than those who are with them. And in that moment, during prayer meeting, God opened my eyes to see that we are not struggling against flesh and blood. As much as I despise those who inflict physical injuries on others, they are not my enemies. This is a spiritual battle. The forces of evil, agents of darkness, pain, and destruction, are engaged in an epic war against God’s army of light.   But those who are with us are more than those who are with them.  As my fellow missionaries prayed over me, I felt a huge weight lift from my shoulders, and the presence of God enveloped me with his assurance and peace.  And once more I was overwhelmed... overwhelmed by the presence of God and his angels of light standing guard over us. 
             Please continue to pray for the hearts of the people here in Papua New Guinea and around the world who are gripped by fear and darkness. Pray for God’s light to break through. Pray that they may be overwhelmed by the presence and peace of God. 

Sunday, January 12, 2020

Life Changing Surgery

Anton, pre-op


        All surgeries are life-changing, some are even life-saving, but very rarely is the result so visibly obvious as it was in one of our recent patients. Anton had been admitted to the hospital many, many times in his 8 years of life. Every time he was treated for stomach pains, gastrointestinal infections, and malnutrition. He would improve enough to go home, but would return again within a few months to repeat the cycle.  On his most recent admission, he started to manifest symptoms of intestinal obstruction, so our surgery team was consulted to evaluate him. At a mere 16 pounds, he was so emaciated by his chronic illness, that Dr. Ben and I were doubtful he would survive surgery, let alone benefit from it. But without surgery he would surely die, so we took him to theater praying that we would find something that we could do to help him. 
        To our amazement, we discovered that he had malrotation with chronic volvulus, a congenital condition in which the intestines don’t form in the proper position or with the proper attachments inside the abdomen. This allows the intestines to twist around their blood supply leading to obstruction and ischemia. He had been intermittently obstructing for the past several years! Now the intestines were so twisted that a portion had become ischemic and died, leading to his current presentation. We were able to untwist his intestines, remove the dead portion and reconnect what remained, but we were still worried that he might not survive in his severely malnourished state. By God's grace, Anton recovered faster than we could have hoped. He was eating within a week of surgery and has steadily gained weight over the past month. When I saw him in clinic for follow-up, I didn’t even recognize him as the same kid we had operated on! His hair is growing, his face is fuller and he now has the strength to walk on his own! I praise God for saving and changing Anton’s life in such a dramatic way. I know God has big plans in store for this growing boy.  
1 Month post-op. Is that even the same kid?!

Sunday, December 8, 2019

Returning Home



Rachel (on right) and her faithful caretaker
         367 Days. That is the number of days that Rachel spent in the hospital. Looking back at her injuries at time of arrival, it is a miracle she survived. She was crushed by a falling tree and came to the hospital with a head injury, multiple broken ribs, punctured lungs on both sides, blood in her left chest, severe injury to her muscles (aka rhabdomyolysis), and a broken back with paralysis from the waist down. After the first week, her acute injuries stabilized, only to fight through a pneumonia, which threatened to claim her. Then she faced weeks of physical therapy.   
        She developed pressure sores, which did not respond to wound care alone, so she had surgery to try to cover the sores with better tissue. Those flaps broke down creating new wounds. Here in PNG we don’t have rehabilitation centers where patients can go to get intensive physical therapy. We don’t have an outside facility that can perform chronic wound care, or nurses that visit the home to do dressing changes. It was a painstakingly slow process over several months to finally see healing of her wounds. But through it all, Rachel always had a smile on her face and a prayer on her lips. Her faithful caretaker stayed by her side through it all, providing Rachel with meals and encouragement. 
       This past month, I kept telling Rachel that I hoped she would be home by Christmas. Imagine my delight when one year and two days after coming to the hospital, she announced she was ready to go home! I praise God for his faithfulness in caring for Rachel over the last year, and I pray that she will continue to proclaim his glory throughout all the challenges of returning home. 
        May we all celebrate God's faithfulness this Christmas as we remember everything he has brought us through in the past year. At Christmas, we celebrate that God entered into our broken world and made his home among us. He joined humanity in our suffering in order to conquer death and prepare for us an eternal home. No matter what trial you may be facing, may the hope of eternity encourage your heart this Christmas season. 

Sunday, November 24, 2019

Child Activity Packs


      Fostina suffered a burn as a baby and developed severe scaring on her foot and ankle, which caused her foot to be pulled into a deformed position as she grew. We were able to remove the scar, straighten her foot and place a skin graft over the exposed wound. The surgery went great, but how do you get a 4-year-old to sit still for 5 days without disrupting her bandage, so that the new patch of skin can adhere well? Why, you give her a Child Activity Pack! 
      These wonderful bags of toys and coloring books were put together by churches and schools in the US and sent through Nazarene Hospital Foundation for patients just like Fostina. Her eyes lit up when she saw the Bible story-coloring book and crayons. Each day, she would show me the new pictures she had colored and I would ask her if she knew the Bible stories that the pictures depicted. Some she knew from Sunday school, but others she couldn’t remember, so her mom would retell the story. 
     At the end of five days, she had completely colored the whole book, her skin graft was healing wonderfully, and she could recite several Bible stories. Win-Win-Win! Thank you to everyone who contributed toward these or other patient gift packs. They make a huge difference for our patients and the ministry of the hospital. 
     If you would like more information on how to send patient gift packs, follow the links below: 
           Child Activity Packs
           Operation Warm Baby Kits 

Friday, November 1, 2019

Elephants, Tigers and a Regional Conference... Oh, My!





       What a joy and privilege to join nearly 500 brothers and sisters in Christ from over 20 countries in the Asia-Pacific Region for a week of worship, fellowship, and workshops. The theme this year was Unleash the Power: the power of God, the power of the Church, the power of the Holy Spirit, the power of Discipleship, the power of Love, and the power of Unity. We were challenged and encouraged by many great speakers and seminars. It was also encouraging to hear stories of how God is working throughout the region. So often, I am so focused on the work before me in our small part of the world that I don’t praise God for what He is accomplishing around the world. 
         Some of the most potent take-aways for me were: “Don’t be a seedless watermelon”. I need to make sure I’m planting seeds and training up others to produce fruit as well. Also, “the person in front of you is more important than anything you have to do.” A great reminder for me, a very task-oriented person, to focus on the person, not just the task to be accomplished. This also means embracing interruptions, for they are often divine appointments. I still have much to learn, and much to unlearn in order to reflect more clearly the Lord I strive to serve. 
        Following the conference, we enjoyed a time of retreat and lots of free time to explore the wonders of Thailand. This included up-close encounters with tigers and a day caring for elephants. Speaking of unleashing power, the power and majesty displayed by these creatures was nothing short of incredible. I felt a mix of fear and wonder as I stroked the big cat’s hindquarters and felt her rippling muscles underneath her beautiful coat. I was amazed by the gentleness of the mother elephant and the strength of the baby, who at 5 months of age could knock me over like a feather as he tumbled and played. Surely the God who created such majestic creatures as the elephant and the tiger is worthy of even more fear and awe-struck wonder. His power far surpasses the power displayed in these amazing animals. 
 
“O Lord, my God, when I in awesome wonder
Consider all the worlds Thy Hands have made
I see the stars, I hear the rolling thunder
Thy power throughout the universe displayed
Then sings my soul, my Savior God, to Thee
How great Thou art, how great Thou art”


Lord, may you unleash your power in our lives and in the lives of all whom we encounter. May we display your power in gentleness and love. And may you receive all the honor and praise for all the wonders you perform every day. 
Amen.


Saturday, October 5, 2019

Celebrating 40 years




Forty years ago, a 15-year-old girl from the nearby town of Banz came to the hospital looking for work. She was trained to assist the doctors performing procedures and when a young surgeon from America arrived a few years later, she became his first scrub nurse. Now, Auntie Margaret is the matron of the Operating Theatre. She is the supervisor of over 15 surgical and sterilization staff. After 40 years, she knows every piece of surgical equipment and every procedure by heart. More than being an amazing surgical nurse and supervisor, Auntie is a strong spiritual mentor and prayer warrior. She has cared for and prayed over thousands of patients and hundreds of nurses and doctors during her 40 years of service at Kudjip. She has been a wonderful mentor for me during my time at Kudjip and I honestly couldn’t imagine OT without her. This week, we celebrated her 40 years of service to God and the people of Papua New Guinea through her work at the hospital. We had a lovely time of devotion, worship and a luncheon to celebrate this outstanding woman of faith. During the celebration she quoted from Joshua 14, the story of Caleb receiving his allotment in the Promised Land, more than 40 years after spying out the land. In verse 11, Caleb declares, “I am still as strong today as the day Moses sent me out.” We pray that God will continue to strengthen Auntie Margaret to minister for another 40 years.



Thursday, August 29, 2019

Hospital Evangelism



       
       

       Several times a year, the missionaries lead the weekly church service on the patient wards in the hospital. Since this Monday was Repentance Day, a public holiday devoted to national prayer, I selected Andrae Crouch’s “My Tribute: To God be the Glory” for a flute solo. 
        
        


      Afterwards, our newest missionary doctor, Dr. Dave Lean, a pediatrician from Australia, gave a short message. Jeremiah 17:7-8 holds special significance in his life and was a good reminder to all of us. Afterwards, we prayed with the patients and their families. 




“But blessed is the one who trusts in the Lord,

    whose confidence is in him.

 They will be like a tree planted by the water

    that sends out its roots by the stream.
It does not fear when heat comes;
    its leaves are always green.
It has no worries in a year of drought
    and never fails to bear fruit.”

Jeremiah 17:7-8

Lord, help us to stay close to your life-giving spirit and your Word of truth so that you may sustain us through all trials and bear fruit in our lives. Amen.