Saturday, August 11, 2012

Did You Really Know What You Were Doing?

Daniel (by the way, I don't usually use real names) is a young man who came in yesterday with a broken arm and a small laceration under one eye. He had been beaten up by someone using a piece of pipe or metal rod. I didn't ask what the dispute had been about. There was a heavy odor of alcohol on his breath. I don't know if drinking had been involved at the time of the fight, or if he had been
drinking afterwards to try to ease the pain.

He needed a cast on his arm, and a few stitches under his eye. The fracture was a bit out of alignment, and I wanted to try to straighten it a bit before placing the cast, so I gave him a dose of a sedative, stopping to pray briefly for him before I gave the injection. People are often still able to talk while sedated, sometimes to the great amusement of all those who hear, but they seldom can remember the events. I wasn't surprised that Daniel carried on a conversation with his relative, and I explained to the family that he wouldn't remember it. I was surprised, however, when he turned his head toward me and said "I want you to pray for me, and I want to repent." Whoa! I've heard people say some pretty unexpected things while sedated, but never this. I assumed that he didn't really know what he was saying, and that he certainly wouldn't remember it afterwards.

But what could I do? I continued working on the cast, and I prayed for him, and then led him is a simple prayer of confession and repentance. He followed me word-for-word.

I finished the cast, put a couple of little stitches in the laceration under his eye, wrote for some meds and sent him on his way, telling him to come back in the morning for a follow-up x-ray. In the evening I shared with the missionaries at our weekly prayer meeting what had happened. This morning I was thinking about him, and worrying when it was late in the morning and I still hadn't seen him. Finally, just before noon, there he was at the door of my exam room with his x-ray in his hand.

I got him into the exam room, and settled on the table. The first thing I said was, "yesterday you asked me to pray with you and said that you wanted to repent."


"But you were drunk, and I'd given you the medicine to make you sleepy."


"Do you remember that?"


"Did you sincerely repent?"


Praise God!

Daniel had more to tell me, though.

"When I got home yesterday, all the brothers [that includes cousins, uncles, nephews and people who aren't sure exactly how they are related, but are part of the family and about the same age] were talking about going and beating up the guys that did this to me. I told them 'no', that I'm a Christian now, and I don't want to do things like that."

In this culture, that is a strong sign that a person is determined to follow Christ. He was saying in short, "I'm putting Christian values ahead of the demands of my culture and family. That's a big step for a highlander.

Please pray for "Daniel". There are other Christians in his family, and they are involved in a local evangelical church. Pray that the church and family will faithfully disciple him, and pray that he will grow in his faith. Pray for his unsaved relatives, that they will see his example and want to follow him in repentance.


Sunday, July 1, 2012

More on Samuel's Wheelchair

Here's a quick update on the story about Samuel's Wheelchair.  The folks at Project S.A.V.E. are trying to contact the family that donated the chair.  Sadly, the occasion for the donation was the death of their son, and not his outgrowing the chair, as I had hoped.  Here's what Project S.A.V.E. posted on their FB page.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Is It Safe?

Since I coordinate volunteers and students at Nazarene Hospital, I am often asked questions about safety in PNG.  Well, to be honest there are some security concerns, but we do our best to be careful and prudent.  In any country, including the US there are certain places you shouldn't go at certain times or in certain company.  It's no different here.  We try to follow some practices that we think will help avoid unnecessary risk.

But ultimately, our security isn't in policies, or procedures, or avoiding danger.  Our security is in God.  Here is a link to a blog by John McHoul, with HeartLine Ministries in Haiti.  It says it far better than I can.

Haiti Can Be A Dangerous Place

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Samuel's Wheelchair

Monday was busy in Outpatient.  Killer busy.  One of those days when the stack of charts of patients waiting to be seen seems to be growing taller as the day goes on, rather than smaller.  Each of the doctors here has ways of trying to cope with that kind of day, ways to make themselves go faster.  You think harder about whether you really need xrays, or tests.  You ask yourself if the results will really change anything about how you care for the patient.  Sometimes you postpone things until the next time the patients comes in.  It's all necessary.  The time you save increases the total number of people you can help.  I find that on those days I talk less with the patients, spend less time finding out who they really are, what they are about.

But when little Samuel came in, it really slowed me down.  His mom's immediate concern was his cough, but it was obvious that there was a lot more going on.  He obviously had less than normal muscle tone.  His arms were a little stiff.  He didn't make eye contact.  He didn't show the normal apprehension that a child his age (about 4) would usually show toward a big, ugly, white doctor.  He didn't speak.  As I asked questions and thumbed back through his record book, the story gradually emerged.

About a year and a half ago, Samuel had developed a fever and seizures.  Although the family lives near Nazarene Hospital, for reasons I don't understand, they took him to the government hospital in Mount Hagen.  He was admitted there for almost 4 months.  Although his mom concluded that he must not have been treated properly, I know that this isn't necessarily the case.  They had done a lumbar puncture and had documented that he had meningitis.  They had treated him with intravenous antibiotics.  I can tell you from frustrating experience that sometimes you do everything right, but meningitis takes a terrible toll on a child.  Whenever I make this diagnosis, I now routinely tell parents that sometimes children recover well, sometimes the die, and sometimes they are left with brain damage.

I asked Samuel's mom if she knew about the rehabilitation program at a nearby Catholic mission.  Although this program is not active at the moment because of lack of staff, it has provided valuable help to many people over the years.  "Yes," she replied.  "They taught me how to exercise his limbs, and how to take care of him!"  As I examined him, I noticed that he had pretty good flexibility, and that his skin was in good condition.  Apparently they had taught her how to secure him safely in a chair so that he could sit up and watch the world around him.

Just then we were interrupted by a knock on the exam room door.  I'm a believer in "divine appointments".  Sometimes God plans events that seem random to us, but accomplish His purposes.  This was one of those events!  It was Judy at the door.  I have completely forgotten what she came for--some relatively-trivial question, or to give me something.  But as soon as she saw Samuel, the original purpose of her visit was forgotten.  Judy loves kids, and has extensive experience working with cerebral palsy kids as a speech therapist.  She immediately focused on him.  She was delighted to know his name (you understand that Samuel is one of our favorite names).  After visiting for a few minutes, she said that she had a "CP chair" that she thought would be about the right size for Samuel.  We planned for Samuel and his mom to come back on Thursday, both to follow up on his cough, and to try the chair.

Later in the afternoon, she brought the chair to my exam room.  I put it in the corner for the time being, and a couple of days later had a chance to look at it more closely.  It looks to me that this wheel chair was a custom chair for a particular child, with attachments needed by him or her.  (Edit:  Judy just reminded me that the name "Ethan" is embroidered on the backrest!)  I'm guessing that he or she was a little bigger than Samuel.  It was obviously used, but well cared for, and in very good condition.  I noted the tools that I would need to adjust it.

We receive valuable equipment and supplies from many sources, but two organizations help us a lot.  Nazarene Hospital Foundation, in Medford, Oregon, under the leadership of Dr. Todd Winter has supported us for many years, shipping 2 to 4 containers per year.  I have blogged about the arrival of their containers several times.  You can see stories here, here, and here.  We also occasionally receive containers from Project S.A.V.E., out of Chick, California.  Both of these groups send us high-quality, useful equipment.  Judy isn't sure which group sent this chair.  It had been in the storeroom for some time.  A special item like this sometimes has to wait for a while to find just the right person to go to.

Yesterday, Samuel and his mom were back.  When she saw the chair, her eyes lit up!  I busied myself with my tools, moving the various fittings to accommodate Samuel.  There were a couple of items that I didn't think he needed that I removed.  I adjusted the straps and foot rests and headrest.  The chair is still a little bit too big for him, but close enough.  The addition of a thin cushion at his back made it fit pretty well.  I showed his mom how to use the different features, including adjusting it from fully upright to fully reclined.

Then it was time for another divine appointment.  Missionary Mike Chapman came to the door of my exam room.  Again, I can't remember why he came, but as he usually does, Mike had his Cannon D7 camera hanging around his neck  He took the pictures that help you all to enjoy the story.

Imagine the difference that this chair will make in the lives of Samuel and his mom.  Instead of tying him to a chair to allow him to sit up, she can just squeeze a lever, and move the chair to the upright position.  When he needs to rest, but it isn't time for bed, she can just tip him back into a recline.  When she wants to give him a different view, she can just wheel the chair.  And as he grows and gets heavier, she won't have to carry him, along with whatever else she needs to transport.

Please pray for Samuel and his mom as he grows and his needs change.  Pray that the whole family and village will be supportive and helpful.  Pray for Nazarene Hospital Foundation, and for Project S.A.V.E., and all the other groups that are blessing others in the name of Jesus.  Pray for us as we serve those around us day by day.

For more photos, see our Facebook page here.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Telling The Story

These days there are lost of ways that missionaries can share with people both in their own home countries, the country where they serve, and around the world.  This blog is one obvious example.  To see how far-reaching this medium is, just scroll down and look at the left-hand column.  You'll see a map of the world, with red dots representing places from which people have seen this blog.  Pretty amazing!

Then look at the upper left-hand corner of the page.  Do you see that box with the Facebook logo and a picture of Judy and me?  That's something new in just the last couple of days.  It's a link to our page on Facebook.  Please notice that a page is different than a personal profile.  Ever since Judy and I joined Facebook, we've used our profiles to tell about our mission work.  Lots and lots of people have become our friends on Facebook primarily to find out about our work.  We don't really know them in person.  They may or may not be interested in stories about our nephews and nieces, or pictures of our grandson (unlikely as that seems!)  Now we're trying to make the profiles truly personal, and to use the page to share about missions.

The page is almost purely about our work and the country and people of Papua New Guinea.  It would have caused less confusion if we had given the page a catchy name like "Andy and Judy the Missionaries" or "Our PNG Adventure" or something.  But alas, we gave it the name "Andy and Judy Bennett", and many people have trouble distinguishing it from "Andy Bennett" and "Judy Bennett", our personal profiles.  Sorry.  I'm planning on looking into changing the name, if that wouldn't cause even more confusion.

Facebook and blogs are very different.  I've worked to make the blog nice in appearance, and have added "extras" in the side bar, like links to other missionaries' blogs, church and mission web pages, a search bar, and of course now a link to our Facebook page.  I try to keep stories on the blog short, but I consistently fail.  Facebook is much more suitable to the quick info bite.

Here's my plan.  I'm going to do both, as long as it isn't too time consuming and difficult.  The longer, more detailed stories will be here, along with a few pictures to keep it a little more interesting.  Facebook will have the shorter, quicker stories, and albums of photos, links to interesting sites, etc.  I'd urge you all to look at both from time to time.

If you are not a fan of our Facebook page, please just click on that Facebook box in the upper left-hand corner of this blog.  After that, you will get little items in your news feed about posts on the page.  Of course, you can also just visit the page from time to time.

Thursday, June 7, 2012

The Rest of the Story

This week I had a reminder of an experience from the early weeks of our time in PNG. It seemed like a good story to make into a blog post. So I sat down to write it. The further I went in writing, the more I had the feeling that I had written it before, maybe shortly after it happened. In those days we used an email list to share information about our ministry. That was before blogs and Facebook, believe it or not!

Kamda and Yamul with Lori's little brother

So I stopped and looked back through some files that I haven't accessed for years, and there it was. Interestingly, I had included many of the same peripheral information then as I was including in the new version. There were a few facts that were told differently than I now remember them. The earlier version is more likely to be right. The "reminder" alluded to above was a conversation with Kamda and Yamul, the parents who adopted the baby in the story. My old version was closer to what they told me than were my later recollections.

As I read the old story, I realized that I probably couldn't tell it any better now than I did then. Let me just paste old version with just a little editing, and then I'll tell you the "rest of the story".

We called her Susie.  Her "real" name was Winda, but many PNG people have several names, and change them at different times and for different reasons.

On the maternity ward I don't often have a chance to get to know the patients well.  Even here with our high infant mortality rates, most women come in labor and leave a few days later with their healthy child, and do not require much attention from the doctor.  Not so with Susie.  She came to Nazarene Hospital initially from her home in the Jimi Valley because her abdomen was swollen to a much greater size than could be explained by her 7 months of pregnancy.  When I first saw her, I allowed myself a brief hope that maybe she was carrying twins or triplets.  But as soon as I examined her I knew it was something far worse.  Her huge abdomen was filled, not with a term-pregnant uterus, but with fluid.  There is a short list of possible reasons for this condition, and none of them are good. 

There is a medical superstition about things coming in threes, and this was following that tradition.  When she came in last November, she was the third similar case I'd seen within a few weeks.  The first had delivered successfully, had come back a few times after that, and then had been lost to follow-up, presumably because of death.  The second delivered, then was quickly taken home by her family to die.  In reality, she probably died shortly before or while being carried out by her relatives.  I don't know anything about either baby.

It was with a true heaviness of heart that I confirmed the diagnosis with ultrasound; normal-sized uterus with a vigorous-looking, thirty-week fetus, a huge sea of watery fluid and a small, shrunken liver.  Cirrhosis, probably caused by a hepatitis B infection.  What, I wondered, would be this child's future?  If we could delay delivery for a few weeks, she would have a fighting chance.  But then what?  Motherless children in PNG are usually cared for by relatives, or by their father's new wife.  Often they are loved and well cared for, but not always.  There are always problems with what to feed them.  Many have a relative who still has breast milk, and who is willing to nurse them, but not all.

So I admitted Susie to our maternity ward, and she was there long enough to get to know her well.  At first she was fearful of everything.  She was physically very small (as are many people from the Jimi), and came from a very remote place, the village of Kwipun.  She had had little or no contact with modern technology (even the paltry bit that we have) or with expatriates.  But it didn't take long for her to realize that she need only expect to be treated with kindness.  Then her natural sunny disposition became evident.  There are many Jimi people who work here at Kudjip station, and they quickly rallied around to make her feel welcome and safe.

At first she showed signs of premature labor, so we gave medicines to stop that, and medicines to try to prepare the infant should we fail in our efforts to delay delivery.  If we could just buy a few weeks' time, the baby would be mature enough to make it in the "outside" world.  After nearly a month in the hospital, Susie went into labor, and delivered a beautiful baby girl.

We didn't know whether to measure Susie's expected life-span in weeks or months or years, but we optimistically performed a tubal ligation on her, in case she recovered and lived long enough to get pregnant again.  We needn't have worried.  We discharged her at first to stay with relatives who live nearby, but after her follow-up visit, she went home to the Jimi.  I know the doctors who work at the small health center near her home, and I sent a note to them along with her, and instructed her to follow up with them as needed.  Then she was gone from my life.  I thought of her from time to time, and wondered what might have become of her and her baby.  I thought that maybe some day I would have a chance to ask the doctors from the health center if they had had any contact with her.  But that was all.

Until Lorrie arrived on A Ward.  Lorrie had pneumonia, but not a severe case, as far as severe pneumonias go here.  She is a chubby, bright, happy healthy baby girl of about 8 months.  She seemed secure and happy.  She has evidently had some contact with BUWGs (Big Ugly White Guys) as she didn't seem too afraid of me.  She would even smile for me when I saw her on rounds.  Her mother was attentive and competent, answering my questions clearly as she sat nursing her baby.

It was only after she had been in the hospital for a few days that one of our nurse's aids who is from the Jimi, slipped up beside me while I was seeing Lorrie.  "Do you remember the patient Susie who was on bed B-5 last November?  She had bad liver disease."  I had to think for a moment before the memories of Susie's hospitalization came flooding back.   Yes, of course I remember her.  "This is the baby that she carried here; she died just two or three weeks later.  This mother has adopted the baby.  She has never carried a child, but she has breast milk for the baby." 

"Yes," added one of our nurses, "she took some Metamide, and now she has plenty of milk for the baby."  "Plenty?" I asked incredulously.  "Plenty?"

"Yes, plenty," said the mom, as well as several others more or less at once. "Plenty!" 

Lorrie is clearly well-nourished.  She hasn't had formula.  Baby formula is very expensive here.  It would take more than most families' entire income to supply a baby with formula if they have to buy it at the drug store.  We give some away as we are able.  People feed babies the milk that is available here, sometimes watered down.  Sometimes they feed them Milo, which is a chocolate powder that you can add to milk to make a tasty beverage that is popular here.  More often people have to mix it with water to feed the baby.  Milo in water has little or no nutritional value.  But it is all some babies get.  Even worse, many families use unsafe water sources, either out of ignorance or necessity.  We give either or both of two medicines to adopting moms that can sometimes stimulate some milk production, but this is usually not very successful, especially if they have not had a baby recently.

But here was this miracle right before my eyes.  Lorrie's dad is Kamda, a cousin of Susie's.  He teaches at Melanesia Nazarene Bible College, and directs the Extension Bible College program for pastors who cannot attend school full-time.  He and his wife Yamul had not been able to birth children, but now they are the obviously-proud parents of Lorrie.  As an adoptive father, I could relate to their happiness.

Romans 8:28 reads, "And we know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose for them. (Holy Bible : New Living Translation. 1997 (Ro 8:28). Wheaton, Ill.: Tyndale House.)  I have to admit that I struggle with the application of that verse many times.  Did God allow Susie to die, just so that Kamda and Yamul could have a baby?  No, I don't think so.  But in a world where sin and evil still exist, God takes terrible circumstances and brings good out of them for His glory.

So, that's the story I told in February, 2005. Since then, Kamda has become the District Superintendent of the Bromley District of the Church of the Nazarene, which includes the Jimi Valley. To be honest, I had failed to make the connection between Kamda, the new DS of the Bromley District, and the couple of the story above. But this past Wednesday evening I had the chance to visit with him and his wife Yamul, and they reminded me. They mentioned that their daughter Lorie was a baby that I had helped to bring into the world. With a few reminders, the story came back to me.

Lorie is now a happy healthy 9 year old, and is in grade 3. Kamda and Yamul have now adopted 5 children. She has successfully breast-fed all of them. As I was visiting with them a 4 year old was sleeping contentedly on his dad's lap.

Most of the patients I take care of come into my life for a short time. For many, they come for a relatively-minor problem, and there really isn't much of a story. For those that I've been more deeply-involved with, they may come back, but many times see a different doctor. Or they come for a new problem, and don't realize that I don't remember the earlier events, or they assume that I wouldn't be interested in being reminded. So there often isn't any "rest of the story". But I love it when there is!

Friday, May 25, 2012


Many of you have heard about the death of my father this past Friday.  Some of you knew him, and knew what a wonderful godly man he was.  I wanted to share a bit about him.  If this gets long and rambling, please forgive me.  It's my blog, and I'll ramble long if I feel like it.  And I feel like it.

Allen Andrew Bennett was born on October 2, 1917 on a homestead near Colville, Washington.  He was the 4th of 8 children born to Vena Duvall and Grover Bennett.  Grandma and Grandpa staked 2 different homestead claims, but failed to "prove up" either one.  Grandpa's brother Hermann was living with them at that time.  They couldn't make enough income from the homesteads, so Grandpa and Uncle Hermann went away to work in the fruit orchards or in logging camps.

During those years, a third brother, Clyde attended a camp meeting revival in the Midwest, probably in Iowa.  In that service he made a decision to trust in Jesus for his salvation.  In the weeks that followed, he felt that God was leading him to go to Washington to witness to his brothers.  He saved up for the train fare, went to Spokane, then to Colville and found the homestead.  Grandma directed him to the logging camp, and he eventually fount Hermann and Grandpa.  He got a job working in the camp, and began sharing with his brothers about his new-found faith.  Within a short time they each also confessed Jesus as their Lord and Savior.

At the first opportunity they traveled back to the homestead.  As the story was told to me, Grandpa walked in the door of the cabin, and his first words to Grandma were, "Ma, I got religion, and you should get it, too."  Her immediate response was to say "alright", and together they knelt on the dirt floor of the cabin and Grandma prayed a sinner's prayer.  Although the story makes it sound like it was easy for her, I'm sure that it was no little thing; she had been raised in an avowedly atheist home.

That was the environment into which Dad was born.  Parents who were kind and gentle, and were brand-new Christians.  They didn't have the resources that Christian parents have today.  No one told them about how to raise and train their kids, how to lead them to salvation.  They took them to church (including a Nazarene church), and taught them the basics.  However, Dad was one of the kids who didn't accept Christ during his growing up years.  But still, that family, that faith was the foundation on which all that came after was built.

The family moved from Washington to Iowa, where Grandma's dad, Andy Duvall had secured 3 farms, one for himself and one for each of his 2 children.  The family lived there until they lost the farm in the depression and dust bowl of the early 1930s.  They moved back to Washington, where it was possible for a man to earn as much as a dollar a day working in the fruit orchards of the Yakima Valley.  Dad finished his high school education at Yakima High School (which, I understand, no longer exists).  After graduating, he left home and worked in a series of jobs, finally teaming up with his life-long friend, Carl Gehmann (for whom my brother Gaymon was phonetically named) in Camas, Washington.  There he worked in the Crown Zellerbach paper mill.

The foreman of his crew on the graveyard shift at the mill was a man named Clarence Beaver.  Clarence, a Christian, carried a burden for the single young men on his crew.  He gave a standing invitation for any of them to come home with him on Sunday morning for a home-cooked breakfast, and to go to church with his family.  I don't know if any of the others took him up on the offer, but my dad did.  He enjoyed the loving fellowship of this family, and of the local Nazarene church.

I don't know how many times Dad went to church before he accepted Christ, but at a Sunday morning service he went to the alter to confess his sins, and ask Jesus into his heart.  He immediately gave up some harmful habits he had picked up, and began to study the Bible under the guidance of his pastor, Richard Tailor.  Along with this guidance came regular invitations to the Tailor home.  Pastor Tailor and his wife, Amy were caring for their teenage niece, Adeline Gudmundsen.  There was, to hear Dad tell it, an instant attraction.  Dad eagerly accepted all invitations.  On December 18, 1938, sitting by the Christmas tree in Uncle Richard and Aunt Amy's living room, he declared his love for her, and kissed her for the first time.  His love for Adeline has been unwavering since that day.  December 18 has always been a "sacred" day in our family, a day for the kids to be elsewhere, and let Mom and Dad celebrate the day however it was that they wanted to celebrate it.

Mom and Dad were married on September 18, 1939.  A week after their wedding they enrolled as freshmen at Cascade College, an independent Christian college in Portland, Oregon.  Dad studied Theology, and Mom studied Music.  After about a year and a half they left full-time study, and Dad became the first pastor of the new Nazarene church in Stevenson, Washington.

One of the stories that Dad used to tell about the days concerned church finances.  The system there was that on Sunday, the church treasurer would count the money in the collection, take out enough to cover the bills for the week, and hand the rest to Dad as his salary.  Sometimes it was fifteen cents, sometimes it was ten dollars!

It was while they lived in Stevenson that my brother Gaymon and sister Camelia were born.  When the due date was near, Mom would go and stay with her parents in Portland, and the babies were both born there.

Dad continued taking classes on a part-time basis at Cascade College.  After a couple of years, he accepted a position as associate pastor of Mount Scott Church of the Nazarene, in Portland.  He later became senior pastor there.  One of the unique features of that pastorate was that his mother in law and father in law were both on the church board!

Dad later made the decision to transfer to Northwest Nazarene College, in Nampa, Idaho.  There he studied, either full-time or part-time, as he could afford to pay tuition.  He worked several jobs at a time during most of the years in Nampa, including laundryman at the hospital (which included firing the coal burning boiler which heated the building), construction hand, and others.  At one point he bought a house that was to be moved.  He bought a lot for it, digging the cellar by hand, and pouring the foundation by hand.  As I recall, he sold it $2500 making several hundred dollars in profit, and felt guilty for taking such advantage of the buyers!

After graduation in 1947, Mom and Dad moved to View, Washington.  This was only a post office and a gas station in those days, and doesn't exist at all any more.  The Nazarene church there thrived under Dad's leadership.  At first it met in the old one-room school house, but later acquired the newer 2-room school house.  They used one room as sanctuary, and divided the other one into 2 Sunday school rooms.  Dad's responsibilities included building a fire in the pot-bellied stove early on Sunday morning so that the building would be warm enough by service time.

After 4 years in View, they moved to Kalama, Washington.  The big event in their lives during those years was my arrival.  My earliest conscious memory of my father involved being sent from the parsonage to the church building next door to get him for lunch.  I was trying to get in the wrong door, the handle of which I could just barely reach.  He apparently heard the rattling of the door, but came out a different door, further along the wall of the building.  I just remember him leaning out the door, looking at me and smiling.  So my first memory of my dad was of him smiling at me.  From that moment to this I have never doubted his approval and support for me.

When I was 3 we left Kalama and headed to the Rocky Mountains. We lived in Butte and Kalispell, Montana; Cheyenne, Wyoming; and Thornton, Colorado, pastoring Nazarene churches in each place.  After Thornton, there was a period of 4 years when Dad was not a pastor.  For most of that time he worked for a construction company that specialized in building church buildings.  It was a difficult and trying time for my parents, a real trial of faith.

Then in 1969 we moved to Quincy, Washington, where Dad was the pastor until after I finished college.  The years in Quincy were the most rewarding and fulfilling time of Dad's ministry.  He once told me that he believed that all of his life up to 1969 was preparation for his work there.  When he was young, Dad had thought for a time that God was calling him to become a missionary.  As part of his preparation for that, he studied Spanish in college.  Little did he suspect that his last church would be the fulfillment of that call.  The ministry in Quincy was a bi-cultural, bilingual ministry. The congregation there tripled in size under Dad's ministry, most of the new people being new Christians.

From Quincy the folks moved back to Nampa, Idaho, where both my brother and sister were living by then, for what was planned as a brief time away from pastoral work.  In fact, it continued until full retirement.

In 1998 (I think, my siblings will correct me if I'm wrong) Mom and Dad moved to Karcher Estates in Nampa.  They lived in the Retirement section until Mom's care was more than Dad could handle.  Mom then moved to the Health Care section, and Dad took a small apartment in Retirement, that was as close as possible to Health Care.  There they spent their mornings together in Dad's room.  Dad was there to help Mom with every meal.  After Mom's death in 2008, Dad moved into Assisted Living.  Last December after suffering a stroke which left his left side paralyzed, he moved into Health Care.  We will always be grateful to the staff at Karcher for the great care they gave both Mom and Dad through the years.

This past Friday, the nurse went to get Dad up, and found that he had suffered a further stroke, leaving him completely paralyzed and unable to speak.  Although he appeared to respond to the presence of family members, there was no real communication until he died quietly in the evening.

Dad was the ultimate "people person".  He loved people.  He loved them without regard to their station or status, race or background.  He loved his kids and his kids-in-law.  He loved his grand kids.  He loved his neighbors, his barber, the people at the grocery store, the members of his congregations, the residents of the local jails, the local politicians, the drunks and panhandlers who showed up at the back door of the parsonage, the guy at the gas station, the housekeepers at the nursing home, the... well, you get the picture.  He really, truly loved everyone.  And people responded and loved him back.

Someone once said that if Al Bennett had two cans of beans he'd give you one; if Al Bennett had one can of beans he'd give you one.  My brother remembers one cold winter in Butte (they are all cold there) when Dad had two coats.  He met someone who didn't have a warm coat, so Dad gave him his good one.

I remember a time when Dad had just given a couple of sacks of groceries from our cupboard to a family who came asking for a handout.  Thinking my dad was naive, I angrily confronted him: "Don't you know that they are just taking advantage of you?" I asked.  His answer stopped me in my tracks.  He said, "Of course I do.  But we minister to them any way."

While home from college, I went with my dad to call on a new family in the church.  I sat there in their living room and watched as my dad lead them to saving faith in Christ.  Last year while I was on furlough, I was with Dad when he received a visit from one of the sons of that family, now in middle age, still following Christ.

Dad was excited and happy when God called Judy and me to the mission field.  He and Mom were unreservedly supportive our our decision to go.  I have felt bad not being with him much during the last years of his life, but I know that he wouldn't have wanted it any other way.

So what is our legacy?  What do Gaymon and Cammi and I along with our spouses children and grand children inherit from Al Bennett?  What do you who knew him, or those of you who have only heard about him receive?  Really, it's just a picture.  A picture of a life lived in complete, unreserved, enthusiastic surrender to the will of God.  A life lived for others.  A life lived for eternity.  What more could we want?

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Just a Link

I wanted to pass on a link to a blog I think you all would enjoy.  Jordan and Rachael Thompson have been missionaries here for almost 3 years now.  They first came so that Rachael could be our high school teacher.  After an initial 2 years term, they felt that God was directing them to continue in service here.  Jordan is now Maintenance Director, and Rachael is teaching the elementary kids.  We love them a lot, and are happy that they are staying on.

The latest post on their blog is about my ward.  The pictures are all from the other side of the ward, where they were under the care of Dr. Imelda Asaigo, at the time the photos were taken, but you won't care.  They are just as cute as the kids I take care of!

This is the link!  Bookmark it, and enjoy all their stories.

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Our Little Sisters

Nazarene College of Nursing, here at Kudjip has a program called "Big Brothers, Big Sisters".  The idea is that a staff or missionary couple "adopts" a group of students for the duration of their time in nurse's training.  The sponsoring couple will provide social and recreational times, spiritual mentoring, and friendship.
Judy with Loritha, Elis, Edna and Lavina.  Lottie was not present.
After talking about it for several years, this year we signed up.  Part of our motivation was that a young family friend is now a student at the CON, and wanted to be in our group.  The email arrived, announcing that we have been assigned a group of 5 young ladies, 2 first-year, 1 second-year, and 2 third-year students.  They are a diverse group, representing vastly different parts of PNG (except that 2 come from here in the Wahgi Valley).  Two come from single-parent homes.  A couple of of them have parents who are professional, some are subsistence farmers.  They are all Christians, coming from different denominations.

We had our first get-together last Saturday evening.  They came for supper, we visited, each sharing about our families and backgrounds.  We watched a brief devotional video, then we prayed together.  We agreed that we'd meet once a month for now, but we might revise the plan as time goes on.  We think it will be a lot of fun to get to know a few of the students better.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

A Surprise Visit

At lunchtime one day last week, a lady came to our door carrying a little boy.  She hadn't been sure how to find our house, but came looking.  She knew what Judy looked like, but hadn't seen her for a few years, so when she saw Becky Morsch who is of similar height, hair color and length and skin color, she asked her if she were my wife.  Becky explained that she wasn't but agreed to show her the way to our house.

When we came out, she introduced herself, and explained that her little boy had been one of my talipes patients a couple of years ago.  Those of you who read this blog regularly know that I've been treating talipes (also called "clubfoot") for several years now, and have seen several blogs about it, like this, and this and this.

She explained that the Lord had directed her to come to Kudjip and say thank you to me for what I had done for her son.  So she had gotten up at 4 AM in order to make the trip from her home in the Jimi Valley (the next major valley to our north) to come to Kudjip.  As far as we know, after visiting with us, she turned around and traveled the 6 or 8 hours back home that same day.  She brought a bilum (string bag) that she had made as a gift, as well as a bag of freshly-picked oranges.

Her son is Raymond.  He'd had clubfoot on his right only.  I got him to take his shoe off, and had a little ad hoc clinic there on my front porch.  He has experienced a mild recurrence of the talipes, with the mid-foot turned in slightly, but not enough to ask her to come back to the Kudjip area for the several weeks that it would take to correct it at this point.  He can walk normally, can run, will be able to play rugby when he's older and will have a normal life.  My heart was touched as this mom's gratitude, and thankful that little Raymond is doing well.

Friday, April 6, 2012

Surprise Message

Two great organizations that work together ("wok bung", as we would say in Pidgin) to support the work of Nazarene Hospital are Hands of Hope Northwest, in Nampa, Idaho, and Nazarene Hospital Foundation, in Medford, Oregon.  HofH has a great ministry gathering medical supplies that are useful to hospitals like ours.  NHF acquires a variety of supplies, medicines and equipment specifically for our hospital here.  They partner together--Todd at NHF orders supplies and equipment from HofH, and then includes them in the containers he ships to us.

Our daughter, Amy volunteered at HofH for several weeks a couple of years ago.  Apparently, one day she was packing a box that she knew was headed for Kudjip, and obviously thought of her mom.  Judy manages the medical store room here, and her responsibilities include receiving the containers of donated supplies that come, unloading them, then sorting, distributing and/or storing the supplies.  Amy knew that there was a good chance that her mother would handle the bag of suture that she was packing.

We got a container from NHF a few weeks ago (see story here), but it wasn't until several weeks later while unpacking a box from HofH, that Judy found this note.  What a sweet blessing, and reminder of Amy's love.

Saturday, March 24, 2012

World Tuberculosis Day

Teen with TB.  Photo by Dr. Erin Meier
Today (Saturday) is World Tuberculosis Day.  Not a day for celebration, but a day to learn and understand.  So what will I do to honor the day?  I didn't think organizing a rally on the roads of Kudjip Station would do much good.  And, I didn't know it was World TB Day until just a few minutes ago.  The best thing that I can do is to educate my friends about this terrible, and wide-spread disease.

When I lived in the US, the extent of my awareness of TB was doing skin testing on people who were planning to be food workers, or were getting ready to travel overseas.  I knew what to do with the positive test results--send them to the county health department!  That was it.  I encountered 3 or 4 positive tests in the course of my career prior to going to PNG.

Now, TB is a routine part of my daily life.  For instance, in seeing outpatients yesterday, I think I seriously considered TB as a diagnosis for 6 or 8 patients.  It's not unusual to start 2 or 3 patients on TB treatment in a given day.  I also see people who come in for other problems who are already on TB meds or have been treated in the past.

Most people don't realize that TB is not just a lung disease.  It can infect any organ or tissue in the body.  I have personally treated TB in the brain, intestines, pancreas, kidney, spinal cord, vertebrae and lymph nodes.  I could probably lengthen this list considerably if we had better diagnostic methods available to us.

TB kills indiscriminately, old and young, rich and poor, though the poor bear a disproportionate share of the burden.

So, here's what I'd suggest that each of my friends do to keep World TB Day.  Google "tb".  That easy.  Type a "t" and a "b" into your Google search bar, and then hit return.  Then pick 2 or three of the results to actually read.  Start with the Wikipedia article which comes up first. Then a couple of others.  Then, if you want to send a donation to one of the organizations that are fighting TB (and remember that Kudjip Hospital falls into that category), that would be fine, too.

Here's an article from today's news that you don't even have to google to find:  Sadly, this article contains news of the first confirmed reports or "Totally Drug Resistant TB."  There's a lot of work to do.

PS for medical folks:  When I asked my colleague, Dr. Erin Meier for pictures of "TB", I meant to say "pictures of people with TB", but she automatically thought of chest x-rays, and sent about 6 images.  She included the photo of the boy above.  Many of our readers do have some sort of medical background, and might find some of the CXRs interesting, so here are a few of those images:

Classic example of miliary TB

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Triple Header Part 3--New Boss

We woke up this morning to an email we have been waiting for for several weeks.  We've known that Dr. Louie Bustle, the Global Director of Nazarene Missions had announced his retirement, and Nazarene missionaries all over the world have been speculating for months now about who would take his place.  The candidates weren't necessarily limited to the current Regional Directors, but history would show that they had the best chance.

I had mixed feelings about the prospect of our Regional Director becoming the new Global Director.  On the one hand, I think he is a very capable leader, he's bright, creative (don't read this Verne, it'll look like just flattering) and an all-around great guy.  I've been pleased with what has been happening on our region under his leadership.  He'd make a great GD.

On the other hand, well, copy everything I said above.  Those are reasons that I'd love to have him as my RD for a lot longer.

The email from our Field Strategy Coordinator copied Verne's email sent to all of the FSCs on our region, confirming that he had been elected as GD by the General Board of the Church of the Nazarene.

Verne was our Field Director (the title was changed to FSC a few years ago) when we first became missionaries.  I went to him when when I was confused about the culture of PNG.  I asked him questions about mission strategy.

Verne and Natalie first went to the mission field as short-term volunteers to be house parents in the Nazarene hostel at the MK school in Ukarumpa, expecting to stay for a year.  Five years later they took their first furlough.  They did church planting and development work in Dusin, high in the Bismark-Schrader mountains in very primitive conditions for 9 years.  They came here to Kudjip and Vern served for 11 years as Field Director before moving to the regional job in 2005.

Please be praying for the Wards as they make the transition, and begin the huge task ahead.  And be praying for him and his team as they select the new Asia Pacific Regional Director.

Triple Header Part 2--Blackness

The scene in our house last evening
We've been having some struggles with power.  Electric power, that is.  Many of you know that we now have a really nice really big emergency generator, big enough to power the whole station.  We have an automatic switch that starts the generator when PNG Power goes off.  Diesel fuel to power the generator is pricey, so we only use it when we have to.  We used to have a hydroelectric system that gave us reliable, inexpensive power, but it broke.  Long story.  We're now beginning work on a really good hydro system that we expect to be the best possible long-term solution to our power problems.  It'll be ready in 2 or 3 years.

However, we have been having some problems with the switching system.  I don't understand it, but that's not the main point of this post.  The point is, the power was off a lot more than usual yesterday, especially in the evening, and for longer than usual periods of time.  Judy and I  were trying to watch a recorded TV show.  The power would be on for 15 or 20 minutes, then off for 30 minutes to an hour.  It would come back on, we'd find our place int the TV program, and within a few minutes, power would go off again.

At one point, I realized that it was a clear night.

Ordinarily, we have a lot of security lights on all around the station, so even when the sky is clear, most of the stars aren't visible.  But with the power out, I knew that the stars would be spectacular.  I used my pocket flashlight to find my way outside.  I was right about the stars.  I called to Judy to join me, and together we lay on our backs on the lawn enjoying the scene.

Well, eventually we got cold and our backs got itchy, but I didn't get any calls while we were watching the big show in the sky.

Triple Header Part 1--Pastor Collin

Last night I was on call.  Saturdays are the busiest day for call.  Yesterday it was complicated by the graduation of Nazarene College of Nursing (NCON), in which I and Jim and Bill played our trumpets.  But thanks to one of the hardest-working and nicest volunteers on record (Jennifer Jung, for the record) I was able to get through the morning and early afternoon fairly painlessly.  Then it was just a few relatively brief trips into the ER.

Pastor Collin with his wife and 2 daughters
One of these ended up providing a special blessing for me.  The patient was the father of one of our nurses, now on the faculty of NCON, Sister Dare Collin.  Pastor Collin is a retired pastor in the EBC (Evangelical Brotherhood Church, as Swiss denomination).  He hasn't needed to seek health care for many years, so he didn't know that his blood pressure was very high.  I'm sure that his 102 kg (221 pounds) isn't helping any.

At about 3 am Saturday morning, Pastor Collin woke from sleep with a song on his heart.  His wife reports that he was singing in the darkness.  Then, since he couldn't go back to sleep, he prayed for the rest of the night.  After he got up, the day seemed ordinary.  But then, about 6 pm, he fainted briefly.  When he woke up, he found that he couldn't move his left arm and leg normally.  When he tried to walk, he stumbled, twisting his right ankle.  His family noticed that his face looked a little crooked, and that his speech was slightly slurred.

My dad, Allen Bennett
The stroke isn't a severe one.  He can still move his limbs.  He walked into the ER with the assistance of a couple of his children.  We will give him aspirin and treat his blood pressure to try to prevent future strokes.

Thinking about this godly man and his years of minstry made me think of my own, dad.  Pastor Collin is 72 years old (and it's pretty unusual for older people in PNG to know their age).  My dad, also a retired pastor is 94, and he also suffered a stroke a couple of years ago.  It was a privilege to me to be able to care for Pastor Collin, and to pray with him and his family before sending him off to the ward.

While I was checking on Pastor Collin and writing up his admission, the power kept going off, but that's another story.  Stay tuned for Part 2.

Sunday, February 12, 2012


Yesterday marked the 9th anniversary of our arrival in PNG.  We are grateful to God for His call on our lives, his grace in providing a place of service and his strength that keeps us going.  We are grateful to each of you who supports us, through your prayers, through your giving to the World Evangelism Fund, or your help in other ways.  We love PNG, and we love you.

Who Came To Church Today?

This morning we attended the Tumba Church of the Nazarene.  Our friends, Pastors Kopi and Elis were away, preaching somewhere else.

So, who came to church?

 Judy Bennett, and volunteer doctor Jennifer Jung, among others.

 This nice dog.  Two other dogs came to church, but they didn't stay in their pew, and didn't pay attention to the service, but roamed around and left early.

 One of the church members who preached (I suspect for the first time--she seemed pretty nervous) in the place of Pastor Elis or Pastor Kopi.  The sermon ran about 5 minutes, and was entirely in the local tribal language, which we don't understand.

 These cute little girls who weren't afraid of Dr. Jeniffer like they usually would have been of new people.

 A boy wearing a shirt with this great graphic, and the name of our new province, "Jiwaka".

 Michael Kopi and his guitar.

 This cute little girl and her big cousin.

 This cute little girl, and a nice old grandpa.

 This not-so-young new mama, and her newly-adopted baby.

These little boys.

I trust that each of you will find a place to worship this Lord's day.  It may be a fancier building, or no building at all.  You may worship wearing fine clothes, or simple clothes.  You may find that you dog isn't really welcome.  There may be preaching in a language you understand, or one that you don't (although it's good to understand).  The sermon may be long or short (although I like short ones when I can't understand the language).  The preacher may be experienced and confident, or new to the pulpit and scared stiff.  But if you come prepared to hear God's word (preached, communicated through songs or testimony, or direct to your heart), and to give worship to Him, you will know that you've been to church.

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Another Flower

A couple of years ago I had a Saturday afternoon project of photographing every kind of flower in our yard.  In a couple of hours, I took (as I recall) over a hundred photos of about 80 kinds of flowers.  Then I posted them on Facebook, here.

A few days ago I saw a flower that I hadn't noticed before.  It's the flower of the passion fruit that is pretty common here, localled called "suga frut".  It's a pretty spectacular flower, almost 3 inches across.  When I got up close with my camera, I saw the bee who was harvesting nectar inside.


Wednesday, January 25, 2012

The Big Present

It was just a couple of weeks after Christmas when we received this big package from Nazarene Hospital Foundation.

It was quite a bit larger than most of the presents that any of us received at Christmastime this year.  In fact, it was larger than any present we'd ever gotten from NHF.  Although some of us had not taken down our trees, this box wouldn't fit under any of them.  We had to put it under a really tall tree up by the warehouse.

Many of you know that NHF in a ministry headed by Dr. Todd Winter in Medford, Oregon.  It's mission is "to support the ongoing work of Kudjip Nazarene Hospital in Papua New Guinea through the collections of medicine, medical supplies, equipment and cash donations."  They collect much-needed medical supplies and equipment, and ship it to us several times per year.  There were items from this container that were in use before the day was out.

The day that a container arrives is always exciting for us, as it often means the relief of at least some of the shortages that we have been dealing with.  It means that we can serve the people of the PNG highlands even better.  But this one was an especially big deal, because it was a 40-foot container, the first one ever sent by NHF.  They usually send a 20-foot container.  Judy is in charge of the medical storeroom, and is responsible for receiving, unloading, and distributing or storing the supplies and equipment that arrive.  For weeks she had been clearing out her various storage areas in anticipation of this day.  We usually only know approximate arrival times, so she is on edge for several days!

 When the container arrives, Judy calls together "her men".  No, I don't worry about her having a lot of men--these are faithful hospital staff and a few missionaries who come to do the hard work of unloading.  This time, since it came on a Saturday, I could be one of her men!

When we first open the door of the container, we have to be careful.  Like the flight attendant always reminds you, some items may have shifted.  This time nothing fell out!

Many of you will recognize missionary Jeff Myers, getting that critical first box off the load.

Some of you may remember Apa, about whom I posted a couple of years ago.  That's him in the black shirt and the shaved head.  They are still having to be careful about not letting things fall.

Each item is labeled.  As each one is unloaded, Judy calls out the orders as to where it should go: "Container 1" (she has 3 containers used as storage space), "Pharmacy" (this one goes on a truck that will ultimately haul several loads of medicines), "Storeroom" (these are items that need to be sorted, but that will be put into use in the immediate future--they go on another truck).  The relay of helpers moves them to their destinations.

And that's MK Ethan Myers with his back to the camera.  Strong kid, big help!

Heavier items need a team effort.  Here a crate of surgical instruments is unloaded.

 And here comes a new anesthesia machine!  That's a big deal!

Even with a team, we didn't try to carry this one very far!  We moved it from the container onto a truck, and then backed up to the warehouse.  That's my "concentrating real hard" mouth.  You know I'm focused when you see that.  And that's Jeff, telling me what to do.  Of course, that's what I needed.

Thanks to Todd and his crew of helpers in Oregon for all the work involved in collecting, packing and loading all of this.  And thanks to all of you who donated supplies or funds to NHF.  If you want to get involved, see their website at this link.