Sunday, April 27, 2008

The Landslide

The lead story in Friday's Post-Courier (one of PNG's three nationally-circulated newspapers) is about the landslide and subsequent problems that I alluded to in a previous blog. I thought some of you might be interested. Click here to link to the story on line.

Here is a photo taken by Mike Chapman. Mike is currently serving as construction supervisor for the new hospital, and Work and Witness coordinator here. The day of the landslide he drove to the site to check it out for himself and took this picture.

Note that the power poles once ran along the highway. Landowners were charging people to even walk across, but the police and the military have put a stop to that. Local people are still earning money by hiring out as porters to carry things across. As the PC article states, a large amount of government aid has arrived for the villagers at the landslide site.

It is interesting that there is now confusion as to whether a person's land is the original location, or if it is the portion of ground that has slid down the mountain. The truth is that it is probably unwise for anyone to live on any of this ground again, as it remains unstable.

One other bit of good news is that there is indeed a refinery in the Highlands on "our side" of the landslide. It is a small "mini-refinery" that the oil company has to make fuel for their own use at the oil wells in Southern Highlands. They have started sharing this with the rest of the Highlands, so more vehicles are running, and some stations have diesel to sell.

Keep praying that traffic will be restored soon. Please pray for the sick and injured who have not been able to come to the hospital

Yours and His

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Bad News/Good News

The bad news was that she hadn't felt her baby move for several days. She was febrile, and weak, and had joint aches and headaches, classic symptoms of malaria. For reasons that aren't clearly understood, malaria affects pregnant women more severely than it affects others, and often causes miscarriages. My heart sank, as I'd experienced this scenario more times than I like to think. As I ushered her into the ultrasound room I prepared myself for the long, careful, painful search for the baby's unbeating heart, and prepared the words that I'd say to try to offer comfort.

The good news was that shortly after putting the ultrasound transducer on her tummy, I saw the tell-tale jumping and kicking of an alive, active fetus, and shortly after that found the beating heart. She didn't seem to understand much Pidgin, and her relative translated what I said for her. However, she didn't need translation of my expression of joy at seeing that the baby is alive and presumably well. She answered with a big smile.

The bad news was that he has been smoking pot for 8 years, and his dad's heart was breaking. Two days ago he had a brief psychotic episode, probably associated with either marijuana use or withdrawal. The family has left their traditional home, and are living in Mount Hagen, where there are plenty of bad influences. Apparently in seeking friends in this place, he choose the wrong ones.

The good news is that he let his dad pray with him, and he's determined stop using drugs. We talked about the things that could influence him back into his old ways, and what would help keep him on a good path. We talked about the importance of letting God direct his life. Please pray for this young man and his dad.

The bad news is that one of the largest landslides in recent years has destroyed a mile-long piece of the Highlands Highway. This is the only non-air route between the coast and the highlands. The main impact that this will have on us is that tanker trucks with diesel and gasoline, and container trucks with stock for the grocery stores won't be getting through for several months. Apparently the slide started high up on the mountain. A huge portion of the mountain, including several houses just slid down, carrying the highway with it.

The good news is abundant on this one. First, there was no loss of life--people in the houses just rode down the mountain. Second, we can still travel around our area if we need to, and if we have fuel for the vehicles (there won't be any unnecessary travel, I assure you). Third, we had some extra income this month, and Judy was able to stock up on groceries in a big way today. The shelves in the pantry are groaning under the weight! There was no cheese in town, but then again, there hasn't been any cheese in town for months. We had the last of the cheese on our tacos this evening. See? We're not suffering! Besides, Judy will be flying down to the coase in a couple of weeks, and she will bring a huge stock of cheese back. Finally, we've heard a rumor that they can put a temporary pipeline across the landslide, and tanker trucks on the other side can pump diesel or gasoline to tankers on our side. Sounds like a great solution to the problem to me! Now, if they could just find a way to pump groceries across!

The bad news is that during a recent power fluctuation our TV stopped working. Judy has said that it "blew up" but that's pretty dramatic. It just stopped working. We use that TV for watching DVDs and videos, and for watching the one broadcast channel that's available here. The cites have cable systems that have channels from the US and Australia, but elsewhere if you get any TV at all it is "EM-TV," a play on the Pidgin phrase that means "that's TV." The main thing we care about on it is the news. They also carry some locally-produced programs, and a few US or Australian programs. They broadcast hours and hours of rugby and cricket. When EM-TV finishes their scheduled broadcast for the day, they feed "Australia Network," the Land Down Under's answer to PBS. It has pretty good documentaries, international news and a few other programs. We catch a bit of that late at night, and on Saturday mornings.

The good news is that the repair place in Mount Hagen was able to make it work again, and for a very small fee! Not the most important thing in life, by any means, but it's nice to have.

The last item is just good news. No bad here. Our friends and colleagues the Dooleys are back. They had a good home assignment, but are back here, serving in many ways. Get some details, and see pictures of three of the loveliest little girls you'll ever hope to see anywhere, on their blog.

#1 This isn't the Highlands Highway, but it's somewhere in the distance.
#2Andy on maternity ward
#3 Recent volunteer Dr. Kevin Raymer in Kundiawa, on the Highlands Highway and near the landslide
#4 I thought you'd all enjoy a spider picture

Monday, April 14, 2008

Monday In Paradise

The two concepts seem mutually exclusive to me--"Monday" and "paradise." I have never liked Mondays. In college I once wrote an essay proposing that Mondays be legally banned. I reasoned that if Congress could change the dates of dead presidents' birthdays, surely they could eliminate Monday. I suggested that the 24 hours thus left over each week could be used for other noble purposes, like last-minute study, or leisure time. I even suggested an account in which individuals would be allowed to save up a certain number of these hours for use later for vacation, or whatever they wanted.

In Kudjip, the Monday after being on call is the worst kind. Chances are that I've gotten even less sleep than usual, and what I got was probably of poor quality, knowing that the phone next to my head may ring at any moment. Sometimes, like today, I get called into the hospital early in the morning, which gets Monday off to a particularly bad start. This morning it was for a drunk guy who had been trying to tuck an illegal handgun into the waistband of his pants, and had managed to discharge it in the process. The bullet passed through a fold of skin, came back out and then re-entered his upper thigh, never to be seen again. It managed (apparently) to avoid any vital structures. I admitted him to the ward for observation and antibiotic treatment, but he left a few hours later, as soon as he'd sobered up.

Call hadn't been too busy, but in some ways it was a hard weekend. I'd made several trips in to try to help Godfrey, the little boy on bed A3. He'd come in for a simple-seeming gastroenteritis (you'd call it a "tummy bug") but quickly got sicker. He probably developed a condition called DIC (we don't have ways to prove it either way), which causes the body's clotting mechanisms to do all the wrong things--clot where no clots are needed, not clot where clots are needed. Two or three times he had gone into cardiopulmonary arrest, but had responded to the staff's CPR. His blood count was very low as he lost blood into his stomach and intestines. The transfusion I gave him Saturday did only brief, if any, good. Then Sunday evening I was called yet again. This time he rallied only briefly with CPR before his little heart gave up.

Usually you don't have to tell parents when their child has died--they can read it in your expression, in your sigh, in the way the frenetic activity which has been directed at the child suddenly stops. So Godfrey's mom and aunt had started to cry before the words were out of my mouth. I waited a few minutes, and then offered to pray with them. I prayed that confused, struggling prayer that I pray so often in this situation, affirming faith in a good God, and asking His comfort for this family. Apparently they had phoned his dad as well (we are now in the affordable cell phone era in PNG), because he was coming up the sidewalk when I left a few minutes later, crying as he came.

Then there was Titus, the man I'd prayed with Saturday morning on rounds. I had just forced myself to be honest with myself as well as with the patient, and admit that what he had I couldn't treat. I stopped the medicines that I knew were useless, and addressed spiritual issues with him, the issues that were now the only really important ones in his life.

I asked if he was ready to see God. He said that he was a pastor. I agreed that that is a good thing, but that hadn't been my question. I asked if he had repented of his sins and asked Jesus into his life. He assured me that he had. I asked him if he were actively following Jesus, and reminded him that he and I both knew plenty of pastors who are not. He, his wife and son all laughed nervously and agreed with me. He assured me that he was, indeed following Jesus.

I then prayed with him. I asked for relief from pain and suffering, I asked for peace for him and his family, for wisdom, for strength. Then I prayed that whatever happens to any of us, whether in life or in death, that we may bring some measure of glory to the God who made us, loves us and saves us. Titus, along with his wife and their son said a hearty "amen" to that prayer. Titus' body died that evening. Titus lives on.

Often I find that I think more about the ones who die than the ones who don't. I should maintain at least a little balance. While I was on call this weekend, I discharged about ten patients. They had all either recovered, or at least experienced adequate control of a chronic condition to allow ongoing care at home. They didn't die. They didn't even get worse! They got better, some completely well.

That's something that I should think about on Monday.

Yours and His,

#1 Paradise
#2 A busy morning on the peds ward
#3 A happy mom and baby in the hospital

Sunday, April 6, 2008

Judy in Dusin

A few weeks ago, fellow missionary Dr. Becky Morsch and I went to Dusin in the Middle Ramu District, a remote mountain region of PNG, to continue training pastors and laypeople in Community Based Health Care. We also took Jesus film equipment to be used throughout the district during the following year.

There are no roads in this rugged area. The only way to reach it is by walking 3 days or by taking an MAF (Mission Aviation Fellowshi
p) bush plane from Mt. Hagen. Many of the people who came to be trained had walked 2 or 3 days to reach the church where the meetings were held.

While there, Dr. Becky taught the Jesus film team how to operate the equipment. Can you imagine how challenging it was for these guys to learn to run equipment they didn't even know existed? They had never had a television set; few had even seen one. They had never held a remote control.

Sunday night the team started getting the equipment set up for the Jesus film showing. They actually started at 3 p.m. because they wanted everything to be ready for the service, but they ran into problems. First the generator wouldn't go. Then the DVD player stopped. Then the projector. Then everything. We realized this wasn't really just a problem with the equipment, so we stopped to pray. These Christians are mighty prayer warriors, and God touched the equipment! It all worked at the same time!

The people began coming. This is a church building that probably would hold 300 people in North America, but there were over 1400 men, women and children packed in! There was literally no ground showing! There were a few benches on the sides, but in the middle section and back people sat on the floor. The windows were full of faces!

We started the film. It was in Tok Pisin, the language most understood, so it was incredibly moving for the people here. A pastor stood on the side and translated into the local tribal language.

When we got to the crucifixion scene, so many were sobbing that District Superintendent Elijah asked the team to stop the film so people could come forward to pray. It was like a flood! Some of the little children had fallen asleep, and parents and brothers and sisters had to quickly drag them out of the way so people could get to the altar. Women began climbing over the benches behind Becky and me to get there. Soon the seekers at the altar were 15 people deep all the way across the church!

In Tok Pisin they would say "Papa God i bin kapsaitim Holi Spirit long mipela" -- God poured out his Spirit on us! What a wonderful time! We prayed for a long time and then when needs were met, they began the film again. Just in time for the Resurrection!

In Christ,

Saturday, April 5, 2008

The First Day of Another Day In Paradise

Blogging seems to be the thing to do. Many of our missionary colleagues are doing it. Since becoming missionaries, we've occasionally sent out an email newsletter. But we've not been very consistent. Sometimes it seems a bit daunting to get something written, though really, it's not that hard. In the bogs that I've followed, I have found that I like the ones that post brief stories frequently, so that's what we'll try to do with this.

Right now it's Saturday. I have a cold. I've been coughing, aching, eye-watering, nose-running and feeling sorry for myself. I'm especially annoyed because I just got over a cold last week. It doesn't seem fair. But really, how sorry should I feel? Just up the road from my house are a hundred people who have a lot more than colds. I ought to be feeling more sorry for them.

So what do missionaries do on Saturday? Sometimes they do exactly the same things that they do Monday through Friday. Working at a hospital that follows regular work hours, if I'm not on call, I don't have to work there. On Saturdays we often do things related to our work. I may work on documents for coming volunteers' medical registrations or or visas. Judy may do things related to housing for volunteers. This morning she drove a volunteer couple to the airport to return home to the US. At the moment, we're watching "Little People, Big World," one of Judy's favorite shows. My brother-in-law records this and other shows, and burns them to DVD. Every couple of weeks he mails a package of the DVDs and magazines.

I've enabled comments for this blog, so feel free so leave us a few words.

Yours and His,