Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Not Always What You Expect

The government tourism agency here in PNG used to use the slogan "The Land of the Unexpected." Really, the Christian life is full of surprises, and not just in lush tropical island paradises. Just when you fall into a pattern, a habit, God has a way of gently turning you in new directions.

Just today, for instance, I had to tell a lady named Agnes that she had inoperable cancer. Sadly, that's nothing new in my work here. In fact, it was the second time today. I went through my usual explanations about pain control, help with whatever symptoms she developed, making sure that she understood that I wasn't writing her off as someone that I couldn't help, even if that help did not include cure. And then, as I usually do, I tried to turn the conversation to spiritual matters. Once it is clear that the body will not last much longer, I always want to make sure that my patients are prepared for eternity.

Her husband, John, was with her, and although in our conversation it appeared that she understood my Pidgin, she would only speak in their local language, and he would translate for her. When I asked if they were Christians, he nodded toward his wife and said, "Mama's a Christian." I looked at him and asked, "but Papa's not?" He silently nodded his confirmation.

After asking some clarifying questions to make sure that they both understood what I was talking about, I asked if he'd like to become a Christian. Again he silently, but definitely nodded. I didn't want to assume anything about what he thought I was asking him, so I briefly explained God's plan of salvation. His wife then started speaking to him in their local language, but stopped and turned to me, and said in perfectly clear Pidgin, "I'll translate what you say for him."

Now suddenly we were in an area that she knew about. She was no longer shy. She could speak with confidence. At times her translation turned into a conversation between wife and husband, usually ending with him nodding, and then they would both wait for me to continue. Obviously, she was explaining in more detail than I was, and making sure he understood and agreed.

As I finished my explanation, I again asked if what I had talked about is what he really wanted to do. Again that nod.

I laid my hands on each of their shoulders, but as I started to pray each of them reached up and took my hand as they took each other's. As we sat there in our little circle, God joined us. I prayed for Agnes, and then for John. Then I offered to lead John in prayer. He softly copied my words in a prayer of confession and repentance, asking Jesus to come into his life, and to forgive his sins.

As we finished praying it seemed that none of us wanted the time together to end. We continued to hold hands for several minutes. Finally Agnes looked up and as our eyes met, she gave me a big smile. I can't remember ever seeing a patient smile within minutes of being told that they have a terminal disease.

So I expected to be ministering to the patient, the one with the bad disease. But God had different plans for today. He wanted to minister to us all.

Yours and His,
Photos (Not directly related to the story):
#1 Judy at Suicide Rock

#2 Andy at Suicide Rock

Sunday, June 8, 2008

A New Experience

The other day I had a new experience for me--maybe in this day and age not necessarily unique to PNG.

One of my good national friends had just discovered that her husband had been unfaithful to her. He had actually taken a second wife, turning his back on my friend, his 3 children and on the Lord.

The amount of HIV and AIDS is rapidly accelerating in PNG. Statistics show that this country is at the place Africa was 10 years ago. The government, our church and other Christian churches are working hard and fast to teach people what AIDS is and how not to get it.

The woman that he had taken up with had been with many other men. My friend, a strong Christian, needed to go to our hospital lab to have an HIV test. I didn't want her to go alone. I went with her and held her hand.

Its hard to do things like that privately in this culture. So here's this holy living woman having a test that brings into question her own morality. It was hard but through it all the Lord gave her peace.

It brought to my mind Matthew 11:28,29 "Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light."

As we got ready to leave, we looked over to the chapel doors. There was a tired, maybe sick woman resting on the ground. Under the cross. What a reminder that's where we need to be no matter what circumstances we face in life!