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. 

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. 

Friday, July 19, 2019

Showers of Blessings

         When it rains, it pours. And in the midst of dry season any rain is a blessing. That is why we were so excited to unpack not one, not two, but FOUR shipping containers of donated supplies and equipment in the past few weeks. I have never seen so containers arrive at one time! Our new storeroom is overflowing with all the much-needed and generously donated supplies. 
    It started with a container of donated goods from Project S.A.V.E., a non-profit group that “collects, then re-distributes, quality recycled medical and dental equipment and supplies both locally and around the world, free of charge, in an effort to help people receive needed care who otherwise might not.” We were so excited to receive desperately needed bandages, surgery and anesthesia supplies, and much more. 

       The next container to arrive, from Nazarene Hospital Foundation, contained tons of donated medical equipment and supplies from a hospital in California that closed down last year. We have been blessed with an operating table and scrub sinks for the new Operating Theatre expansion, plus lots of equipment to outfit the new clinic and office areas. 

      Yesterday, we unpacked two containers simultaneously! The first was from Rotary Australia with donated patient beds for the new delivery ward expansion. The second is a container from Samaritan’s Purse with a new autoclave (sterilization machine) and parts to fix our broken one. 
  Today, a biomedical team from Samaritan’s Purse arrived to assemble the new machine and work on fixing the old one, along with sundry other machines that need new life around the hospital. What a huge shower of blessings! Praise God who supplies everything that we need in his perfect timing. Thank you to everyone who has worked diligently, donated, and prayed for these containers. They are a huge blessing that will enable the hospital to continue to reach out and touch lives for Christ. 

Monday, July 1, 2019

In God’s Hands

        Do you believe that God is in control? Do you believe all things happen for a reason?
Sometimes in the midst of heartache, pain, or grief it is difficult to completely trust the One who holds all things in His hands.  Last Friday was one of those days. The morning clinic ended early, so I caught up on some office work that had piled up in my absence. One of our surgical trainees was completing his weekly reading assignment on trauma, so we made plans to review those chapters after lunch. But on our way back from lunch, we were waylaid by an actual trauma in the Emergency Room. 
Kudjip Emergency Room
(photo credit: Matt Woodley)
      Three victims from a car accident were brought in simultaneously. Dr. Matt and Dr. Imelda immediately started assessing their injuries and triaging. When I saw the patient whom Dr. Imelda was examining, my heart sank. No matter how long you work in healthcare, nothing prepares you for seeing someone you know lying in the vulnerable position of a trauma patient in the Emergency Room.  Emilyn, a nursing student and daughter of Mr. White, the principle of our College of Nursing at Kudjip, appeared to be the most injured of the three. Dr. Imelda was just finishing an ultrasound scan which showed no signs of internal bleeding. Emilyn’s main complaints were neck and back pain along with a laceration on her forehead. I automatically started testing for sensation in her feet. 
       “Do you feel me pinching your feet?” 
My heart sank when she replied, “No.”
      “Move your toes”
      “I am moving them,” she responded, but there was no perceptible movement. 
She could feel the IV being placed in her arm, but her hands were very weak. 
      “No Lord!” I internally screamed. “Please don’t let her be paralyzed. Her family has already been through so much,” I silently pleaded as I remembered her mother’s funeral less than 2 years ago. Hearing her call my name, I looked up and without pause, the words slipped out of my mouth, “You’re going to be okay, Emilyn” 
         Oh no! Did I just make a promise I couldn’t keep?  I busied myself with finding a cervical collar and reviewing her paperwork and orders, but I couldn’t escape the question, would she be okay? The more I pondered this, the more I realized that the answer was not physical, but rather spiritual. No matter the physical outcome, do I believe that God is sovereign? Do I believe he has a plan for each of our lives? Do I believe God is faithful? Do I believe God is worthy of praise and honor and glory? Yes. No matter the physical outcome, Emilyn would be okay, because she knows and trusts the one who is faithful. 
          Recently, our pastor spoke about Job, a man who was righteous and blameless before God, yet lost all his possessions and his ten children in a single day. He didn’t do anything wrong to deserve this; rather it was a test of his faith. Would he turn and curse God? No. Job’s response in the midst of his grief was to fall on the ground and worship God. “Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked I will depart. The Lord gave and the Lord has taken away; may the name of the Lord be praised.” (Job 1:21). Job trusted God so completely that he was able to release all his possessions and his family into God’s hands and simply worship God. What faith!
Dr. Imelda and I reviewing
an X-ray
         On a daily basis, I ask my patients to have the faith of Job, to release their cares, their sicknesses, their very lives into the hands of God and to worship Him whatever the outcome. My daily prayer over my patients is “Mipela lusim laip bilong em long han bilong yu, Bikpela, na yu ken kisim biknem long laip bilong em.” = We release their life into your hand, Lord, that you may receive glory through them. That was my prayer over Emilyn as well. No matter the outcome, may you be glorified in her, Lord. 
        I was slightly relieved when the x-rays showed no spinal fractures. I was even more encouraged when, a few hours later, Emilyn moved her big toe. We admitted her to the hospital with spinal precautions and lots of prayer. The next day, Emilyn was able to move her legs but not lift them against gravity. Then, she was able to sit up in a brace. The following day, she walked with assistance. Today, a week after her accident, she is back to full strength. Praise God for this miracle and answer to prayer!
Emelyn on her way to a full recovery.

       It is easy to praise God when we see his miraculous hand of healing and a good physical outcome. But recently one of my friends asked how I deal with the poor outcomes. My response: By remembering that God is sovereign. I treat with the best medical knowledge and skills that God has given me, placing the results in God’s hands. No matter the physical outcome, He is sovereign, He is faithful and He is worthy of praise. 

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


              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:
          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.