Friday, February 27, 2009

The Baby With the Big Smile

Imagine that you were a little person who was sick enough that you had to go sleep in the hospital. Then imagine that you had to sleep on the floor, because all the beds were full of other sick kids and their moms. Then imagine that a very large person whose skin color was quite different from that of all the familiar people in your life came, got down on the floor and poked and prodded you with various objects. Do you think you would smile as big as this? And do you think you could hold the smile long enough for the big oddly-colored man to take a close-up of you?

I don't think so.

Most babies older than about 6 months are afraid of all strangers, and many of the kids here are particularly frightened by white-skinned people, particularly men. In fact, with reference to the kids, we refer to ourselves as the BUWGs (big ugly white guys). It's not a happy thing for someone like me, who loves little kids, to have then scream in terror when I approach. So this little tyke made me very happy.

Fortunately, he wasn't very sick.


Wednesday, February 25, 2009


Ruth, unlike most of the names I use in my blog, is this lady's real name. I use it with her enthusiastic permission. Today Judy and I went to visit, interview and photograph her in preparation for using her story as part of our deputation presentation when we are in churches during our upcoming home assignment.

Ruth has AIDS. She is an active member of one of the near-by churches, and is a vibrant testimony of God's grace and provision. She is leading an active, happy life.

To hear the "rest of the story" you'll have to come hear us speak sometime during our home assignment!


Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Judy's Fan Club

Judy manages the medical storeroom. Her work involves receiving, sorting, storing and/or distributing donated medical supplies. She has several storage areas in which to keep the supplies.

When a container of supplies arrives, she has to do a preliminary sort of the boxes, sending the highest priority items directly to where they are needed, and storing the others in various areas. Her storeroom gets filled up with a jumble of boxes. Over the next few weeks she opens the boxes, and sorts the contents. Once she gets the boxes cleared, she hauls a bunch more boxes from anther storage area and starts the process all over again. In the process she gets the storage areas cleaned out and ready for the next container.

One of the big needs here is for a new storeroom. The present one is way too small. With a new, bigger hospital we will need a bigger storeroom. You'll hear more about this from us over the next few weeks.

Judy has a loyal fan club here at Kudjip. Among it's most ardent members are on the maintenance staff. They are the ones whom she calls on to haul the boxes. They got a big bunch of boxes moved this morning. That's the picture.


Monday, February 23, 2009

The Girl in the Box

One of the benefits of going to "help" Aunt Judy in the Medical Storeroom is that sometimes there are very large boxes there that you can use to make a house or a spaceship or a boat. This is Olivia Dooley. See more of the Dooleys here.


The Sign With Two Heads

This afternoon Jill Riggins took a bunch of photos of Judy and me. We hope one of them will be a good one to use on a new prayer card. Of course we had to goof off a little in the process.


Sunday, February 22, 2009

The Two Boys With Two Hats

I got to spend a few quality minutes with my friend Wiley Riggins this morning. He's been feeling a bit shy of me lately. His family has just been back from home assignment in the US for a few weeks. Before that we hadn't seen each other since he was a little baby. We decided to try on each other's hats. I think we both looked pretty good. Wiley and his brother Aden have a nice blog that you should check out.


Friday, February 20, 2009

Poison Beans

The first time I heard about "poison beans" I thought it was a myth. This was the first time I'd actually seen the beans. Happily, this time none of the family died, unlike the first time, when 3 of the 6 victims did. The beans look pretty much just like many domestic garden beans.

Don't eat beans you find growing in the jungle.


Progress Continues

Since the dedication of the new hospital a couple of weeks ago, work has gone on there. I walked through the new outpatient building this evening, and was pleased by the progress. This photo is of one of the exam rooms--maybe it will be mine!


Thursday, February 19, 2009


Blogger's WYSIWYG editor is messed up, and won't show the posts correctly, making it very difficult to get the pictures and text looking right. So I'll just leave the last post the way it is.

Also, we have been without internet much of the last 2 days, which is why Judy's birthday story is late.

Growing Old in Paradise--Together

Yesterday (February 17) was Judy's birthday. To celebrate, I got up and turned the coffee maker on before she got up! Yeah, we really know how to live it up!
In the eventing we were invited to the Dooley's house for supper and b-day cake.

Judy wore a funny birthday cake hat, and blew out her candles. For unclear reasons, there were 4 candles. On her first attempt, she only managed to blow one out, leaving 3 "boyfriends" who, I assume, are Drew, Sam and me. On the second attempt, she blew out 2 more, so I assume that I'm the one, the true boyfriend! The number on the cake makes the bitter truth clear without counting anything!

Happy birthday, Jude! You are still the love of my life, my soul-mate and my best friend, even though you have entered your late 50s!
I threw in the photo of Judy with Olivia, since Emma and Allison are in the cake pictures.


Monday, February 16, 2009

The Lady With Three Diseases

And this year's prize for the best attitude in the worst circumstances goes to Elis.

I met her just a few weeks ago. She had been a patient on the maternity ward. When she was admitted there it was discovered that she was HIV positive. She gave birth to an apparently healthy baby, but she developed a severe cough, caused either by tuberculosis or by an AIDS-related infection called PCP. Then she developed right-sided weakness, probably caused by a stroke. She was transferred to the medical ward, where I took care of her. Despite this awful turn of events, she remained cheerful and pleasant. She is 20 years old.

We have a visiting physical therapist, Patty Batdorf, and she began working with Elis. Through it all, Elis was cooperative, and gave a strong effort at getting up and walking.

Elis was discharged 2 weeks ago on TB treatment as well as anti-retroviral therapy, and returned today for follow-up. She was happy and cheerful as always. She has gained strength, and her cough has resolved. Her chest x-ray was completely normal.

Patty joined us in the exam room to assess her progress walking and regaining use of her right hand.

In the exam room it's easier to discuss personal details than it is on the ward. I asked Elis about her marriage. She and her husband are still married, although her husband is the one who gave her HIV. Also, it would not be unusual for a man here to reject a wife with debilitating medical problems, just because she cannot fulfill the practical duties of a wife, gardening, cooking, laundry, etc. She doesn't know what the future holds in this regard, but for the moment she and the baby are living with her parents.

Then I asked a question that I have often wanted to ask, but haven't usually been brave enough to ask. After first determining that her husband makes no profession of being a Christian, and that her parents are Christians, I asked why her father would have allowed (I assumed that he'd probably arranged) a marriage to a non-Christian man. Elis immediately jumped to her father's defense; "Oh, it's not Papa's fault! It's my own fault. I did what I wanted, and ran away with this man. Papa didn't make me marry him."

I felt a little embarrassed for making what may have seemed like an accusation, but Elis and her mother both put me at ease with a laugh and a smile. I couldn't help adding, "I guess this is why it's good for us to obey our parents." Again, that soft laugh and, "yes."

We prayed together, Elis, her mama, Patty and I; prayed for her healing, for strength and wisdom, for her husband, that he'd come to Christ, and that he'd step up and be a good husband. Please join us in praying.

Preaching at a Bush Church

We've been to the Pugamil church many times, but not for a year or two, probably not since we've been blogging.

Judy had generously agreed that I would preach there today. She even remembered to tell me--yesterday! I had a sermon that I'm pretty sure I haven't preached there, so I managed to pull it off.

Part of the original plan was that a group of our friends from the station would go along. At the last minute I invited the Schmelzenbachs to go along. I also invited Harmon to preach. They agreed to go along, but I didn't get out of preaching.

Pugamil is a true bush church; kunai (grass) thatch, woven mats for walls, seating is on the floor. The Pugamil people have had some tough times. Since I was with them last, their community was torn apart by tribal fighting that included 2 murders, and the destruction of the houses and gardens of every member of the church. They had lost a pastor under difficult circumstances.

What I found today was an alive, growing, dynamic church. It was a joy to share with them from the Word, and to see one young lady re-commit her life to Jesus in the service. Today was also a sending time for a young man from the congregation who is leaving to attend Bible College.

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Across the Valley

It's Saturday, and this morning Judy and I took a drive across the Wahgi Valley to CLTC, the Christian Leaders Training College, an interdenominational Bible college. Several of the faculty there are our friends, and we'd been invited to lunch at the home of Jeff and Suzanne Graf. We had a walk around the campus, including to the top of "Vision Hill" which affords a sweeping view of the valley. We were sure that we'd be able to see Kudjip, if we knew just where to look. My camera has a built-in panorama feature, so I took the above.

But just to keep the human element, I proped the camera on a fence post and used the timer to take this one:

Then home to a quiet afternoon and a Valentine's Day supper. Roast chicken, baked potatoes and peanut salad. All with my favorite valentine.



For reasons that I don't understand, some of my posts are dated the day after I wrote them, despite the fact that I published them before midnight. I'm not sure if the date and time you see is my time when I published them, or your time. Either way, if sometimes it looks like I published two posts on the same day, it's usually really one from the day before that bot uploaded a little late, plus one for the current day.

The Boy With Two Good Feet

Do you see anything wrong with these feet?


Neither do I. But a few months ago, they looked like this:

The condition is called Congenital Talipes Equinovarus, but is commonly called "clubfoot." Treatment, when you can treat it in the first few months of life is low-tech. It involves stretching the ligaments and tendons once a week, then placing casts on the feet to hold them in position. It requires several weeks of casts, followed by a procedure to release the tight tendon in the back of the ankle. The babies must then wear a special splint at all times, "24/7" for 3 months, followed by a period of 3 years of wearing the splint while asleep. That requires a lot of commitment on the part of the parents.

I'm learning to treat clubfoot. Learning from books, the web, anyone who has some knowledge and experience. So far I have treated about 14 babies. The problem is, when the feet get to looking pretty good (about the end of the casting) parents stop bringing the babies in. I have several splints that I made for babies who never came back to get them. That's why I was so happy to see Isaiah on Thursday. He's been wearing his splints full-time for 3 months, and gets to "graduate" to wearing them at night and for naps. He looks really good, as you can see for yourself.

While we're on the topic of talipes, another of my kids got his new splint on Thursday, and since he's a cute baby and all, I thought I'd show him as well.

The splints are home-made. Commercially-made splints exist, but out of our price range, not to mention all the logistic problems of getting the splints shipped here, getting new ones as the kids grow, etc. So home-made is working out for now. I need baby shoes, though, if anyone is interested in sending some.


Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Six Years in Paradise

Today is the sixth anniversary of our arrival in PNG. On February 11, 2003 we landed in Port Moresby and flew to Mount Hagen, where we were met by Verne and Natalie Ward and Nikolai Yunge. Verne was then our Field Director, and is now our Regional Director. Nikolai was from our home church in Marysville, Washington, and was serving as the teacher of our elementary school at Kudjip. She is now Nikolai Balin, having met her MAF-missionary husband Brad in PNG, and married him in our front yard. The first photo shows Natalie Ward and Nikolai when they met us at the airport.

The second one shows obviously jet-lagged Judy, Amy and Sam, with an alert and cheerful Nilolai, crammed, along with all of our luggage, into the back of a land cruiser for the ride from the airport to Kudjip Station, which has been our home ever since.

The other photos are of the sign on the front gate of the station when we arrived, and the four of us on the porch of the house where we stayed for our first few weeks, while our house was being readied for us.

It's been an eventful 6 years here. We completed our job of raising Amy and Sam here, and they are both building their own lives. PNG had a huge impact on both of them, as well as on Judy and me. We have made hundreds of new friends, learned a new language, seen both tragedy and triumph, and received love in ways that we never could have imagined before coming here. PNG has really become our second home. We continue to love PNG, and to feel privileged to serve God and the church here.


Tuesday, February 10, 2009

The Boy With a New Bone in His Leg

Moses had an infection in his leg a year or so ago. The infection got into the tibia, the bigger of the two bones of the lower leg. Before the infection could be cleared with antibiotics, it destroyed a large section of the bone completely. The fibula, the smaller bone, couldn't suppor the weight of this active child and gradually bowed under the load.

In November, Dr. Carl Birchard, an orthopedic surgeon from Centralia, Washington and long-time supporter of KNH was in Kudjip. He did an operation to try to restore the use of Moses' leg. He "borrowed" the fibula from Moses' left leg, and grafted it into the right leg where the section of tibia was missing. Moses has been in a long-leg cast ever since. He's come faithfully for checks and x-rays. He's been on antibiotics most of this time. Last week I emailed his latest x-rays to Dr. Carl, and got the go-ahead to take him out of his cast. The expression on his face tells you what Moses thinks of that.

His right leg is still shorter than the left, but I've given him an elevated shoe to wear on that foot. I'm hoping that as he grows, the leg-length discrepancy will become less pronounced. He'll be back in a couple of weeks for a re-check.

Thanks, Dr. Carl!


Monday, February 9, 2009

The Girl With 4 Fingers On Her Hand

Last week young Lilly (who is about 3) was playing in the garden with some of her cousins. As kids anywhere will do, they were imitating the actions of adults, which in the garden involves chopping things with a bush knife. Little Lilly's little finger happened to get in the way of a chop. It was cut nearly all the way through. We could have sewn it back together, but it would not have been a functional finger, since we couldn't have reattached all those little tendons and tiny nerves that make a finger work. A hand surgeon and a neurosurgeon working together with microsurgical techniques could have done a pretty fair job, but it still wouldn't have been perfect. If we had sewn it together it would have just been in her way, more of a hindrance than a help.

So we had to (as we say) "complete the amputation." I helped Michelle the medical student with the part where you have to remove the remnant of bone, and control the bleeding. She took over and closed the soft tissues and the skin.

Lilly saw me today for a wound check. I removed her stitches, replaced them with a strip of sterile tape and placed a new bandage. For a little girl who had recently had a relatively traumatic experience with doctors, she was amazingly cooperative and cheerful. She didn't cry at all, and even smiled for the photo when I asked her to.


The Girl With Two Parrots On Her Head

Reuben, our maintenance director, has been wanting a photo of his family. They came by today while I was at the hospital, and Judy took the photos. I was just looking at the photos that were on the camera, and they included this one of one of his daughters. She obviously has two parrots on her head. I don't know why. This reminds me of a lot of old jokes about the guy who walks into a bar with a chicken on his head, or someone goes into a psychiatrist's office with a duck on his head.

So a girl walks into the missionary's yard with two parrots on her head. Maybe someone can supply the rest of the joke.


Sunday, February 8, 2009

This and That

Saturday. I'm on call, but we have a medical student, a very capable one. She's actually on call, and I'm on back-up for her. Which means that I don't have to handle a lot of the trivial stuff and part of the not-so-trivial stuff that I ordinarily would. I went in for rounds in the morning, and then did a cesarean section in the afternoon. I haven't gotten so lazy that I let med students do c-sections alone! Dr. Steph Doenges, our newest missionary doctor came in to assist, as she needs to get acclimated to sections here.

I learned a little more about the story of the people trapped in the house by the tree last Thursday. It was the top that broke on the tree, and was carried some distance (I don't know how far) by the wind before striking the house. There were 2 more people in the house at the time. The "teen-age girl" that I've been talking about is actually a young married woman with a baby, who was with her, as well as her baby brother, about 18 or 20 months, I'd guess. And I found today that she has a broken leg. Grandma is doing well, with less pain today.

The photo above is of the Jimi Valley. I like the way that the white clouds set off the horizon of the mountains so well.


Friday, February 6, 2009

Growing Old in Paradise

It's been a long, hard day today. Covering the surgical ward in Dr. Jim's absence is new to me, and took me longer than it will later. And the afternoon just dragged on and on.

But when I finally got home, it was to a birthday supper of pizza (home-made, of course) with lemon meringue pie (my favorite) for desert. The number of candles represents the second digit of my age. Judy has 11 days to enjoy being younger than me.


Thursday, February 5, 2009

Mixed Emotions

It seems that so many days have their shares of both joy and sorrow.

First the sad story. Today, early in the afternoon we had a fairly violent rainstorm, with strong winds. In an nearby village an elderly woman was in a house with a teenage girl and three small girls. I believe that the small girls were grand daughters of the old lady. I don't know the relationship of the teenager. A large tree was blown down on the house trapping all five inside. Men worked with axes for almost 2 hours to get enough of the tree cut away to free the victims, 3 of whom were still alive, with only minor injuries. The two smallest girls were dead. The family brought them all to our ER. The three living victims were admitted for treatment of their injuries and observation. I promised the family that I would ask my friends back home (that's you) to pray for them.

Then the happier story. New life. In the evening I was called to help Dr. Becky Wallace with a cesarean section. A healthy baby girl was the "outcome" or our efforts. Here we are working away. The scrub nurse is Margaret Mugang.


Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Rainy Day in Paradise

It's been raining. Usually at this time of year it rains some in the afternoon and evening. The past few days it's started in the early afternoon, gone all night and into the next morning. We certainly aren't worried about having enough water in our tanks!

So what do you do if you're a kid who loves to play basketball, all you have is an outdoor court, and it's been raining heavily most of the time? You just play anyway, of course. These girls were laughing and squealing without inhibitions, despite the fact that they were soaked to the skin.


Monday, February 2, 2009

A Boy With a Swollen Leg

Joe first noticed the swelling in his leg about 6 months ago. Joe lives in the far, far end of the Jimi Valley. If he lived just a little farther away he'd be in Madang Province, not in Western Highlands Province, and he'd be out of our hospital district.

About 3 months ago his family took him to the near-by health center (a sort of miniature hospital in the village, operated by nurses). They gave him some antibiotics and pain medicine, but the swelling continued to increase. Finally they were able to arrange a flight out, and he arrived in Kudjip this morning.

When I first saw his leg it was one of those "I've got a bad feeling about this" moments. Ultrasound showed that it was all solid tissue, and not fluid-filled. X-ray showed that the mass had eroded into the bone of his lower leg. And a blood count showed that Joe is very anemic. My eyes showed me that he is thin and wasted.

This mass is obviously a cancer, probably an osteosarcoma. Although there is an enlarged lymph node in his groin, there are no masses in his liver or lungs that we can detect. He is too weak and depleted for surgery now, and Dr. Jim is leaving on Thursday for a trip of over 2 weeks. I've admitted Joe and will give him blood, and try to get him built up and ready for surgery by the time Jim gets back.


Sunday, February 1, 2009


Do you all understand the "chain of command" in Nazarene World Mission? It's like this. The world is divided into 7 regions, and the outreach of the church in 6 of them (excluding North America) is in the hands of Nazarene World Mission, under the leadership of the General Director, currently Dr. Louie Bustle. We work in one of those 6 regions, the Asia Pacific Region, under the leadership of Rev. Verne Ward. Many of you know that the Wards started their missionary career here in PNG. The region is divided into fields, and we are in the Melenasia Field. Fields are lead by Field Strategy Coordinators. The position used to be called Field Director.

Up until 3 1/2 years ago, Verne Ward was our Field Director. Then Rev. James Johnson was appointed. He and his wife Joy have been missionaries for 28 years, serving in Samoa and Fiji before coming to the field job. After the death of James' mom, his dad asked him to come home, and James felt clearly lead by the Lord to say "yes" to his dad's request. They will be living in Laurel, Montana, but the details haven't been settled yet. Read their "farewell blog" and see "before and after" photos here.

When we heard that James was resigning, I immediately wondered who might be appointed as his replacement. My first thought was Rev. Harmon Schmelzenbach, but since he has fairly unique qualifications for his work with the Fiji Boat Project, I assumed that they would find someone else. But no! The boat ministry is to the point where a change is tenable, and Harmon has been appointed as our new FSC. January was the designated transition period, and today is his first official day on the job. He has been in PNG for the past couple of weeks traveling with other leaders to conduct the district assemblies, and his family will be joining him tomorrow. They will spend a month with us, orienting and learning Pidgin. The final move will come sometime later. We're excited to have Harmon, Cindy, Danielle and Quinton join us here. Read Harmon's summary of the past 10 years, and of the transition that they are facing here. They also have a cute pair of "before and after" photos!

Please pray for James and Joy as they transition to life in Montana. I know them too well to think that they aren't going to be missionaries, regardless of what job titles they may have. And pray for the Schmelzenbachs as they face a big change, and particularly for Danielle, who faces rapid-fire changes with the move to PNG shortly followed by a move to college in the US. And pray for the ministry if the Melanesia and South Pacific fields during this time of change.

Photo: Harmon in the Jimi Valley