Wednesday, 30 September 2009

Sarah is getting married

Start:     Jun 19, '10
Location:     Mount Vernon, Ohio
And I'm coming home!!! See you next summer :).

Baby shower

Start:     Oct 10, '09
Location:     Kudjip, PNG
We will be celebrating our recent addition to the missionary family and my newest nephew: Noah Riggins. Congrats, Jill and Scot!

Nashville Soundcrawl

Start:     Oct 3, '09
Location:     Nashville, TN
My family minus me will be gathering in Nashville, TN to celebrate Mom's birthday and support Aaron during his big event! I will be with you in spirit.

Orientation, continued...

Start:     Oct 4, '09
End:     Oct 9, '09
Location:     Mondomil, PNG
Steph heads out to join new missionaries for a few days in the bush. Don't worry if you don't hear from me for a couple of days!

Let there be light

Kinda funny that as I have attempted to write this entry, the lights have been flickering on and off.  It just goes to demonstrate exactly what I am about to write about:  that the electricity situation around here is a bit precarious.

The big problem started earlier this year when heavy rains and a flood at the nearby river took out the hydroelectric dam that supplied power to the hospital.  Since that time, we have been dependent upon PNG Power with a generator that is used for back-up for more extended outages.
There are several problems with this.  First of all, buying power is much more expensive than generating our own.  Money is diverted from other important projects to keep the lights on.  Second, PNG Power is unreliable.  It comes and goes, sometimes going for hours at a time.  This is not only inconvenient, but it can be life threatening for our patients if OR lights or oxygen concentrators don't work.  And number three, there are wild surges that can damage or destroy important equipment that is needed to care for our patients.  Repairing or replacing the equipment can be costly or impossible depending on locally available parts and expertise.

Dr. Becky recently wrote about one of her on call experiences.  It was about 1:30 in the morning.  She and Dr. Erin were in the middle of a c-section when the power went out.  The generator did not automatically switch on.  The room remained completely dark.  OR staff were unable to contact maintenance for help because phones were off with the power.  The two docs proceeded with the surgery by light of flash lights and head lamps until the power spontaneously returned.

A recent article in Engage Magazine gives additional information about the history of the hydro and the challenges of current situation.

Kudjip Nazarene Hospital has been hoping to rebuild the hydro to help restore reliable power to the station.  The estimated cost for this project was more than $1 million... a sometimes overwhelming project, but we have a very big God.  
However, we are also facing some community barriers that are currently preventing a rebuild of the hydro.  I won't expand on those here today, only share with you that the barriers are seemingly insurmountable.  But again, we serve a very big God.  We are very much needing prayer about this situation.  Would you join us in bringing this important matter to the Lord?  Would you pray for God to make a way for life giving power?

And God said, "Let there be light," and there was light.  God saw that the light was good.
~ Genesis 1:3-4

Saturday, 26 September 2009

Back to A

To keep things interesting (as if they weren't interesting enough), we docs switch ward responsibilities every once in a while.  I just finished a few months on B-ward, so after returning from Australia I rotated over to A.

Things are a little different from my last time on pediatrics.  The ward was previously overflowing to an entire third row of kids on the floor.  Now we are only about 2/3 full.  Much more manageable!  And my new partner in crime is Dr. Andy Bennett.  Dr. Andy is a family doc.  His wife Judy does all sorts of things around the station, her biggest job is to manage the storeroom of donations that come in to the hospital.  And it is a very big job!  They have been at Kudjip for about 6 years now.  It is a privilege to serve along side this wonderful couple.

So A-ward rounds generally go something like this:  pneumonia, malaria, gastroenteritis (diarrhea), penumonia, pneumonia, TB, gastroenteritis, abscess/pyomyositis/osteomyelitis, gastroenteritis, pneumonia.  As you can see, pneumonia and GE are probably our two most common diagnosis.  The good thing is that most of the kiddos do well and recover quickly. 

This time around I started out with some out of the ordinary cases.  Let me share about a few of the patients who have touched my heart this week.

Esther is 6 years old.  She came into the ER when I was on call two weekends ago.  Her story goes that she had two weeks of hip pain and fever.  The pain had become so severe that she had been unable to walk for a week.  I checked x-rays, blood work, gave her antibiotics and pain meds.  For the first week after her admission she continued to lay on her bed, unable to move because of the pain.  The diagnosis was still unclear.  I sent out an update and asked my prayer partners to pray for her.  Today she is smiling and walking with very minimal pain!  I am planning to send her home tomorrow.  Thank you for your prayers.  God hears and He answers.

Roger is just a little guy with Down syndrome.  At two months old he weighs only 6 pounds.  He was admitted last week for pneumonia and failure to thrive/malnutrition.  He is quite sick, but I can tell by the way he wiggles around that he is a fighter.  We are treating his infections and giving him supplemental feeds with formula.  Grow, baby grow!

 Billy is one sick kiddo.  I took his picture today and he couldn't even smile :(.  He is 9 years old and was admitted with a WBC of 75,000 and suspected leukemia.  He has one of the biggest spleens I have ever palpated; it fills up the entire left half of his abdomen.  Diagnosis was confirmed today:  ALL.  Luckily ALL is a type of leukemia that we can treat at our hospital.  Billy needs a miracle.  He needs the healing touch of Jesus.  I am praying for that miracle.

I have enjoyed being back on pediatrics.  I love the kids.  I love to treat their sicknesses and help them smile again.  It can also be challenging.  Some do poorly.  Sometimes we loose one.  Maybe I don't have the right test to make the diagnosis.    I can't do it.  I am not enough.  Perhaps I am just not smart enough to figure it out.  I have felt that way this week with these and a few other challenging cases.  But God is enough.  The very Creator of the human body walks with me through rounds and sits with me as I see patients in the clinic.  And He loves each one more than I ever could.

Here is one of my favorite verses, from The Message:

"This is God's message, the God who made earth, made it livable and lasting, known everywhere as God:  'Call to me and I will answer you  I'll tell you marvelous and wondrous things that you could never figure out on your own.'"
~ Jeremiah 33:2-3

Saturday, 19 September 2009

Two bush meris go to Australia

This is my underwater self-portrait.

Becky 2 and Steph headed to Australia in September 2009 for a week of R&R, and a bit of fun and adventure.

Monday, 14 September 2009

Australian holiday: finding Nemo and other tales from the Down Under

(Brace yourself... this is going to be a long one.)

When you are single and female and live in PNG, you can't just travel around wherever you like or whenever you want.  To go on any sort of trip away from the mission station, you must either... A) find a travel buddy and/or entire security escort, or B) leave the country.  My friend Becky (a.k.a. Becky 2 or B-2, not to be confused with my roomie Becky 1) and I opted for both option A and B.  Last week we took our first real vacation, heading Down Under for a week of R&R and of course some fun and adventure.

Early Thursday morning, Gail drove us to the Mt. Hagen Airport where we boarded a plane and flew out of the bush for the first time in more than 8 months.  The layover in Port Moresby was several hours, so we enjoyed lunch at the beautiful Airways Hotel.  Wow, is this really PNG?  If you ever have an extended layover in POM, be sure to stop by the Airways.  An afternoon flight on a twin prop plane took us across the sea and to Cairns, Australia.  It was my first time in that country and on that continent!  I love adding to my country list.  Next stop Africa?  We caught a taxi to the Tree Tops Lodge where we stayed for the next week.  Tree Tops is an amazing place and a wonderful ministry.  It is sort of a mission guest house run by SIL-Wycliffe and Mission Aviation Fellowship.  The Lodge is currently managed by two missionary couples who were wonderfully hospitable.  Room rates are really reasonable, especially for a touristy area like Cairns.  Most of the guests are missionaries from PNG and the surrounding area who come to Cairns on holiday, business, or for medical care.

Friday was our first full day.  We figured out the bus system and made our way downtown to do some totally normal things:  shop at Target and the grocery store, eat at Burger King (or what the Aussie's call "Hungry Jack"), cruise the mall and some touristy shops, and walk along the Cairn's waterfront.  The purchases we made were seemingly random but based on what we cannot find in PNG... food coloring, flea collars, measuring spoons, a watering can, karo syrup, kleenexes, chocolate, and a Marilyn Monroe pot holder.  I'm sure we had the "FOB" (fresh out of the bush) look as we walked around in awe of the wonders of modern civilization.

Our second day was a bit like the first.  We started at the local butchers where we bought two very nice steaks for a future cook out.  Becky took a picture of me at the butcher counter, and after receiving some rather odd looks we explained to the workers that good quality read meat is hard to come by where we are from.  The head butcher commented, "Then why stop there (with just 2 steaks)?"  Next we explored the Cairns Botanical Garden where we enjoyed some amazingly flowers and walked along a rainforest boardwalk.  It was a beautiful walk and absolutely free (one of the few things that didn't cost anything).  After lunch and gelato, we strolled along the Esplanade and dipped our feet into the saltwater "Lagoon."  For dinner we satisfied our craving for Mexican food and enjoyed some chips and salsa and such at Montezuma's.  Chips and salsa and Mexican I didn't have to make from scratch... awesomeness.  And such was the end of day #2.

On Sunday we took the bus into town to go to church.  Becky comes from an Assembly of God background, so we attempted but failed to find an AOG church that was listed in the guest book at the hotel.  So we snuck in late to the service at a Presby church across the street from where we were looking.  We missed the music but did get to hear a sermon in English!  And the people were super nice.  After church we made a stop at Rusty's Market and picked up a few things for dinner.  Speaking of dinner, the day ended with one of our best meals of the week.  Tree Tops has a deck area with a gas grill.  Becky and I loaded it up with our two steaks, some onions and peppers and sweet corn on the cob from the market.  We did a pretty good job considering neither of us had ever really cooked on the grill before!  It was an excellent meal.

Early Monday morning we caught the first bus into town.  We boarded the "Ocean Freedom" along with 30 others from all over the world.  The friendly crew took us out for a day on the Great Barrier Reef.  The initial boat ride took almost an hour.  We reached the designated spot out in the middle of no where, suited up with snorkel gear, and jumped into the water.  Peering down into the water below, it was like Finding Nemo but in real life.  Incredible.  We also took a ride in a glass bottom boat, our leader was a marine biologist turned tour guide.  That afternoon, we boated out to a "cay" which is a sand island that appears and disappears with the tide.  A true deserted island!  The water was quite shallow and you could walk out for quite a few yards/meters.  From the cay, we snorkeled back to the boat.  The most amazing part of the entire outing... we saw several sea turtles swimming in the area.  That alone was well worth the trip.  It was a wonderful day except for being toasted to a crisp (despite several applications of sunscreen).  Ouch!

Tuesday was another full day.  Becky and I rented a car from Tree Tops and headed north about an hour, driving on the LEFT side of the road.  The coastline drive was breathtaking, with miles and miles of untouched beaches.  Mossman Gorge is on the edge of the Daintree National Forest; the Daintree is also a UNESCO World Heritage Site.  If you ever do some traveling, be sure to look up the local World Heritage Sites.  The Great Barrier Reef is also one if that gives you any idea of the quality of places that make the list.  At the Gorge, we enjoyed a short hike and a splash in the river.  Unfortunately the major part of the trail was closed for bridge repairs.  Lunch was at a random gas station cafe in the blink-and-you-might-miss-it town of Mossman.  The Raintree Cafe turned out to be a great find.  They claim it and I agree... one of the best burgers I have ever had!  From Mossman we headed a few kilometers down the road to Port Douglas.  We stopped at the Rainforest Habitat, which is one of those really cool zoos where the birds fly around and animals roam free.  Sort of like a super-petting zoo.  Becky had her picture taken while holding a koala bear (they are sooo soft!) and we both enjoyed feeding the kangaroos and wallabies.  We ended the day by walking around the once upon a time fishing village of Port Douglas.  It is now a resorty tourist town.  The beach was really nice.

On Wednesday we had our last big adventure of the trip.  We boarded a skyrail that took us up out of Cairns and over the rainforest.  It was a neat way to see the rainforest without disturbing the habitat.  There were also a couple of stops along the way that allowed you to get out and walk around a bit.  Our destination was the village of Kuranda, which probably exists solely for the tourists but was fun to walk around anyways.  We headed back to Cairns by way of the scenic railway, which offered some lovely views of Barron Gorge and waterfall as well as the coast of Cairns.

Thursday was our final day of vacation so we took it a bit easy.  Becky got her hair cut for the first time in many months.  We made a last minute shopping trip so we could develop our underwater pictures and stop at K-mart.  We particularly enjoyed K-mart.  Since that was our last time to eat out and enjoy Cairns, we chose a nice Italian/pizza place with a view of the water... a perfect end to a perfect week.

It really was a good week:  good to get away, enjoy modern civilization, eat in restaurants, shop at Target and K-mart, pamper ourselves, and forget about being a doctors for a while.  But it was also good to come back home.  This really is home, and it feels like it.  Going away helped me to remember that, and to appreciate more what a privilege it is to live and serve here.  Thank you, Lord, for that gift.

For some pics of Steph & Becky's Awesome Australia Holiday, check out my photo album.

And here are a couple of links to Becky's less wordy rendition of our outback adventures:

Saturday, 5 September 2009

Stephoscope: September 2009 Newsletter

Hi, ya'll.
Here is the September 2009 version of my newsletter.  If you aren't already on my mailing list and you would like to receive this and other occasional updates, please send an email to me at
:) steph

Thursday, 3 September 2009

Faith comes by hearing

Some of you have already met Robert.  And to those of you who haven't, let me introduce you.  He is a 3rd year student at Melanesia Nazarene Bible College, which is just down the road from Kudjip.  Over the past few months, I have gotten to know Robert and Kauntz. Here is a bit of their story...

Robert and Kauntz come from a somewhat more remote place in PNG, what they refer to as the "big bush."  Robert was born with a problem in his right eye, and has never really been able to see from that side.  He later developed a cataract in his left eye which even further impaired his vision.  Robert felt a call to ministry, and despite the challenges of his disability he followed the Lord's leading and went to Bible college.  Kauntz has never attended school.  Robert taught her to read the Bible so that she can help him study and prepare his sermon for Sunday service.  This works well most of the time, but recently Kauntz was experiencing some headaches and was unable to help Robert with his work.  Thankfully, her headaches have now resolved.

A few months ago, a couple of our missionaries shared about Robert's story during a church service back home in the States.  The people in the church were moved by this story and gave money to purchase a Proclaimer, which is sort of an audio New Testament.  It even comes in Pidgin!  It can be charged through a power cord, but also by hand crank or solar power which is great for bush kind of places.

The Proclaimer recently arrived in PNG.  Robert came by this week and I was able to present this special "radio" to him.  You should have seen his joy!  He was so excited as I showed him the various buttons to make it work.  A big smile spread across his face when he heard the Bible in Pidgin.  He stopped by again today to send a big thank you to those who provided this Good News gift.  He had used the Proclaimer to prepare for this morning's class devotions.  He had set the machine to play his text from Matthew 7:7.  All of the other students were amazed at his new Bible!

So to the Liberty, Missouri Church of the Nazarene, thank you for your gift... from Robert and Kauntz, and the many lives that they will reach with the Word of God.

"Consequently, faith comes from hearing the message, and the message is heard through the word of Christ."
~ Romans 10:17