Saturday, 30 April 2011

"Feed my sheep"

Every missionary goes through times when they wonder what in the world they are doing on the other side of the world--living in a strange culture, far away from family and little nephews and forever friends, minus all of the conveniences of the modern world.  A few months ago, it really hit me hard.  I suppose it was about time.  I was two years into my first term.  My parents had come and gone.  I was missing home.  I had just returned from Thailand where I met many people that were doing amazing things all over the world.  That trip would be the last big exciting thing I had to look forward to for a while.  The bush of PNG seemed like a long, long way from everywhere.  And it was a long, long time until furlough.

Lord, am I really supposed to be in PNG?  Am I supposed to be a missionary and a family doctor?  Why am I here?  Do I really make a difference for your kingdom?  Did I miss something, did I miss out on your plan for my life?  These are some of the questions that were going through my mind.

In our ladies Bible study, we recently finished studying the gospel of John (and have now moved on to Genesis).  John 21 records a conversation between Jesus and Peter.  Jesus asks, "Do you love me more than these?"  What do you suppose that Jesus meant by "more than these?"  The disciples were fishing and had just returned to shore with a net full of fish.  Peter was a fisherman by profession--it was his livelihood, what he knew and was comfortable with.  Did Peter love Jesus more than all of these things?  He did.  And Jesus answer to him was to "feed my lambs" and "take care of my sheep."

Do I love Jesus more than my family, watching my nephew grow up, independence, the city, the hope of getting married, hanging with my friends, travel, and working internet?  Do I love him more than PNG?  Yes, Lord, you know that I love you.  His response is "feed my sheep."  Maybe I don't always feel the joy and excitement of being a missionary, but I know that this is where I am supposed to be today--here in PNG, feeding his sheep.  I am taking care of sheep as I share the hope of Christ with cervical cancer patients and minister to mothers of nursery babies.  I help to feed lambs by being involved in the ladies' Bible study (below center).  Becky and I have also started a mentoring group with some students from the College of Nursing (right).  Sure, the medical part of my job is important.  After all, I am here as a missionary doctor.  It is in building relationships, investing in people, and making disciples that makes it a ministry.  Ministry is what makes this job worth it.

Saturday, 23 April 2011

Weekend in Wabag

Over Easter weekend, Scott and Gail Dooley were invited to speak at a regional retreat for the Tertiary Student Christian Fellowship.  TSCF is something like Campus Crusade back in the States.  It is an organization for Christian students who are attending various universities, technical, and professional schools around the country.  Since I wasn't working or on call over the holiday, the Dooleys invited me to tag along.  I couldn't resist the opportunity to get off station and explore a new part of the country.

The three of us plus one nursing student loaded into "The Turbo" Land Cruiser on Friday afternoon and drove down the Highlands Highway toward Mt. Hagen.  As we headed through Enga Province and on to Wabag, it was new territory for the Dooleys and me.  The road was good for about an hour, but rapidly deteriorated.  There were pot holes and more pot holes, boulders blocking the road, and a couple of precarious drop-offs.  As we climbed higher into the mountains, the beautiful views almost made up for the badness of the road.  After three hours of driving, it began to get dark.  The road became more difficult and dangerous.  Rain fell and fog began to rise from the broken pavement.

We safely arrived at our destination about 7 PM.  The TSCF conference was held at a secondary or high school just before Wabag.  The evening service was in progress, so we joined a group of almost 1,000 young people for a time of praise and worship.  The keynote speaker spoke about the Kingdom of God.  What an awesome way to celebrate Good Friday.

The service finished up about 10 PM.  One of the student leaders of the conference rode with us into Wabag and to the guest house where we would be staying.  It was nice to have a warm place to lay our heads for the night.  Our lodge was equipped with satellite TV, but we had no running water during our stay.  Something about when it rains the city turns the water off.  Huh?  Thank goodness for hand sanitizer, bottled water, and wet wipes!  

On Saturday morning, we headed back to the school where now we (including me) would be speaking at one of the workshops.  Scott and Gail had prepared a talk about sexual purity before marriage.  Scott read from 1 Thessalonians 4:3-7, challenging the students to live a life that is holy and pleasing to God.  Gail shared some practical tips on dating and relationships.  I gave my "10 toea testimony" about seeking God and trusting in his plan for your life.  (In PNG, someone who is single is called "10 toea."  A married person is "20 toea.")

At the end of the talk, students were invited to stand up and make a commitment to stay pure before marriage.  About 400 students came forward to pray.  Each of these students received a 10 toea necklace as a symbol of his or her commitment.  Wow, what an incredible trip.  Thanks to the Dooleys for letting me be a part!

"For God did not call us to be impure, but to live a holy life."
~ 1 Thessalonians 4:7

For Scott and Gail's accounts of our weekend adventure, here are a couple if links to their blog...

Wednesday, 20 April 2011

Passover Lamb

Exodus.  The Hebrews, the people of Israel, had been slaves in Egypt for 400 years.  They were forced to do hard labor, to work in fields and make bricks without straw.  Pharaoh had ordered that every newborn boy be thrown into the nile and killed.  The Hebrews were living under great oppression and in the land of darkness.

God heard their cries...

Moses was raised up and called to lead the people out of Egypt.  He went to Pharaoh with the request, but Pharaoh's heart was hard.  In response, the Lord sent a series of 9 plagues--from locusts to boils to darkness.  Yet Pharaoh refused to change his mind.  God sent one final plague upon the people of Egypt.  It was the plague of the firstborn.  Every firstborn child or animal, from the house of Pharaoh to the slave to cattle, would die.

But the God provided a way of escape for the Hebrew people and others who would choose to follow him.  Each household was to choose a lamb.  On the appointed night, the lamb would be killed and the blood painted on the door frames of the house.  The Lord would pass over these homes that were marked by the blood of the lamb and the firstborn would be spared.

God provided many specific instructions for observance of the Passover, for that generation and those to come.  It was to be one of the feasts that the Israelites would celebrate every year.  The celebration would remind them of their former life of bitterness, and God's mercy that provided an escape from bondage and death.  More than that, he wanted his people to recognize the coming of another Passover Lamb...

Exodus 12:2 ~ "This is to be for you the first month, the first month of your year."
Luke 22:7-8 ~ "Then came the day of Unleavened Bread on which the Passover lamb had to be sacrificed.  Jesus sent Peter and John saying, 'Go and make preparations for us to eat the Passover.'"
On our calendar, Passover falls during March or April.  Jesus's last supper with his disciples was the Passover meal.  The Gospels record that bread and wine were served at that meal, but there is no specific mention of a lamb.  Jesus, the Lamb of God, was crucified during Passover week.

Exodus 12:5 ~ "The animals you choose must be year-old males without defect, and you may take them from the sheep or the goats."
1 Peter 1:18-19 ~ "For you know that it is not with perishable things such as sliver or gold that you were redeemed from the empty way of life handed down to you from your ancestors, but with the precious blood of Christ, a lamb without blemish or defect."
The Passover lamb had to be perfect, just as Christ was a "lamb without blemish or defect."

Exodus 12:6-7 ~ "Take care of them until the 14th day of the month, when all the people of the community of Israel must slaughter them at twilight.  They are also to take some of the blood and put it on the sides and tops of door frames of the houses where they eat the lambs."
Matthew 27:45-46, 50 ~ "From the sixth hour until the ninth hour darkness came over all the land.  About the ninth hour Jesus cried out in a loud voice... And when Jesus had cried out again in a loud voice, he gave up his spirit."
The Passover lamb was sacrificed at twilight.  Jesus died at twilight.

Exodus 12:22 ~ "Take a bunch of hyssop, dip it into the blood in the basin and put some of the blood on the top and both sides of the door frame."
John 19:28-30 ~ "Later, knowing that all was now completed, and so that the scripture would be fulfilled, Jesus said, 'I am thirsty.'  A jar of wine vinegar was there, so they soaked a sponge in it, put the sponge on a stalk of the hyssop plant, and lifted it to Jesus' lips.  When he had received the drink, Jesus said, 'It is finished.'  With that, he bowed his head and gave up his spirit."
Hyssop was used to paint the blood of the lamb on the door of the house.  John records that the same plant was used to give Jesus a drink as he hung on the cross.  The gospel writer used this symbolism to point to Christ as the Passover lamb.

Exodus 12:46 ~ "Do not break any of the bones [of the lamb]."
John 19:31-37 (36) ~ "These things happened so that the scripture would be fulfilled: 'Not one of his bones will be broken.'"
John refers to Exodus 12:46 as a prophesy about Jesus, the Messiah.

Exodus 12:12-13 ~ "On that same night I will pass through Egypt and strike down every firstborn...  I am the Lord.  The blood will be a sign for you on the houses where you are; and when I see the blood, I will pass over you.  No destructive plague will touch you when I strike Egypt."
Ephesians 1:7 ~ "In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God's grace."
The blood of the Passover lamb spared the Hebrew families from death and provided an escape.  The blood of Christ was poured out for us.

Exodus 12:24-27 ~ "Obey these instructions as a lasting ordinance for you and your descendants.  When you enter the land that the Lord will give you as he promised, observe the ceremony.  And when your children ask you, 'What does this ceremony mean to you?' then tell them, 'It is the Passover sacrifice to the Lord, who passed over the houses of the Israelites in Egypt and spared our homes when he struck down the Egyptians.'"
Luke 22:19 ~ "And he took bread, gave thanks and broke it, and gave it to them saying, 'This is my body given for you; do this in remembrance of me.'"
The Hebrews celebrated the Passover to remember how God brought them out of Egypt.  We, too, celebrate the Lord's supper to remember Jesus and the gift of his life.

Can you see the parallels between the Passover story and the life of Christ?  That is not by accident or coincidence.  There are glimpses of the promised Messiah throughout many of the Old Testament stories.  JESUS.  Jesus is our Passover Lamb.  He gave his life that we might be free from the bondage of sin.  More than that, he conquered death.  He rose from the grave that we might have eternal life.  He is risen!  HE IS RISEN INDEED!

"Get rid of the old yeast, so that you may be a new unleavened batch--as you really are.  For Christ, our Passover lamb, has been sacrificed.  Therefore let us keep the Festival, not with the old bread leavened with malice and wickedness, but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth."
~ 1 Corinthians 5:7-8

Tuesday, 19 April 2011

Out to lunch--your guide to Mt. Hagen dining

Should you ever find yourself in Mt. Hagen, there are a few decent restaurants to choose from for your dining pleasure...

The Highlander Hotel is like the old faithful of Mt. Hagen restaurants.  When I came to PNG as a volunteer, it was a special treat to go to town for lunch at the Highlander.  And it still is.  Unfortunately it is quite a mess as the hotel is undergoing a major renovation project.  Not to worry, the restaurant is still open for business.  They have some of the best chips (french fries) in town.  You don't have to make the pizza yourself, so it is well worth the price.  There is a nice buffet every Thursday and Saturday evenings, but that requires a stay in town as we try not to drive on public roads after dark.  Admission to the pool comes with the purchase of a meal.  Missionary kids love swimming there.  No thanks!  The mountain air is way too chilly for my taste.

The Squash Club is another option and has recently gained in popularity.  What they lack in atmosphere, they make up for in good food.  Some say it is the best place to eat in town.  By the way, "squash" is similar to racket ball.  The club has several courts.  I have yet to see anyone play.

Rondon Ridge makes for a really nice day trip.  There is a beautiful view of Mt. Hagen and a lovely orchid garden.  Though it is quite a long bumpy road up the mountain to get there.

Other than a few fast food joints that serve chicken and chips, that is about it (as far as I know).  The selection is limited, as you can see.  So when a new place comes to town, it causes some excitement!

The Kofi Kave is located just down the street from the airport, about 15 minutes outside of town.  It opened up a few months ago, and immediately I began hearing good things.  I have been looking for an excuse to try the place.  Since I needed to go into town to pick up some new furniture, I asked my friend Gail if she would like to go for lunch.  Her girls, Emma and Olivia, also came along for the ride.

The Kofi Kave is work in progress, but already quite impressive.  The doors and floor are rich coconut wood.  There are plans for an aviary and some sort of fish pond or fountain in front of the cafe.  Beans of Banz Kofi are roasted in the back, just behind the dining area.  The menu is limited, but what they do--they do very well.  Emma and I enjoyed a glass of pineapple cucumber juice.  Yes, I know it sounds weird.  It was surprisingly refreshing!  The girls ordered pancakes that were beautifully presented.  Gail and I couldn't resist the steaks, something you don't each much of in PNG.  We were not disappointed!  The fillets were topped with mashed sweet potatoes and sauteed vegetables.  It was an excellent meal. 

A few years ago, I traveled to Afghanistan where I volunteered at a hospital.  There was an amazing little coffee place in the midst of that crazy place.   As you walked through the door, it was almost as if you stepped out of Afghanistan and into America.  You could order milk shakes or hamburgers or cheese cake.  You could bring your computer and surf on the wireless internet while lounging in an overstuffed chair.  It was a wonderful escape, even for a few moments.  

The Kofi Kave kind of reminds me of that Kabul coffee house--a little touch of [America, the West, whatever you want to call it] in the bush of PNG.  Thanks to the Dooley ladies for sharing it with me!  What a sweet day.

P.S.  There are rumors that a Chinese restaurant may be coming to Mt. Hagen.  The closest one (and perhaps the only one in PNG) is in Goroka, about 3 hours down the Highlands Highway.  A bit too far for take-out!

X-ray x-pert

Pamela is one of my forever friends.  It all began in 2002, during our first trips to PNG.  I was a medical student on elective rotation and Pamela came to work in the x-ray department.  She is a radiographer or x-ray tech.  We shared a two bedroom apartment, numerous cups of tea, and many laughs.  And we have been great friends ever since.

Pamela is from South Africa (and has a really cool accent because of it).  That is what she means when she talks about "home," though she is only there for a few months of ever year.  She currently lives and works in the U.K.  Her jobs there give freedom to travel, visiting friends around the world and volunteering in places like PNG.

This past February, Pamela returned to Kudjip for her 4th tour.  Her services were specifically requested.  A team from World Medical Mission just installed a new x-ray machine and she is helping to get everything in running order.  She is also training our current x-ray techs, who have no formal education in radiography.  [Picture:  Pamela (left) with her trainee Monica (right).]  We docs are so grateful for her expertise as we have seen a great improvement in the quality of our x-rays.

Pamela's gifts go beyond the x-ray room.  She has the heart of a servant, as evidenced by all the dishes she has washed at our house.  And many missionaries and nationals have benefited from her listening ear and encouraging words over a cup of tea.

"Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God's grace in its various forms."
~ 1 Peter 4:10

Thank you for using your gifts to serve with us, Pamela!

Monday, 18 April 2011

Sot win

This is Makip.  He has asthma.  Although I had never taken care of him until recently, his face was familiar.  He frequently visits the outpatient department for medicine refills, and the ER for breathing treatments whenever he is "sot win" or "short of breath."

I saw him in clinic for the first time a few weeks ago.  The asthma was acting up that day and his lungs were full of wheezes.  Since he was relatively stable, I added some steroids and antibiotics to his normal medications and planned a follow up visit in a couple of days.

Apparently Makip wasn't as stable as I thought, or at least he continued to worsen throughout the day.  He came back to the ER that night for another breathing treatment.  The nursing officer allowed him to sleep on medical ward until he could see a doctor in the morning.

I was on call that same night.  The phone rang about 2 AM.  A patient on medical ward was about to stop breathing.  I stumbled out of bed and drove madly to the hospital.  I was surprised to see Makip, unconscious and barely breathing.  His lungs were so tight I could hardly hear the air move.  I quickly gave orders to the nursing staff--continuous nebulizer treatments, IV steroids, sub-Q epinephrine, and IV aminophylline.  Slowly he regained consciousness.  I began to hear wheezing, evidence that air was now moving through through his lungs.  After about an hour, he was more stable.  I headed home for a bit more sleep.

Over the next few days, Makip continued to improve.  I saw him each morning on rounds.  The wheezing began to resolve and he was breathing easier.  After about a week on the ward, he was ready to go home.  

Makip is just one our many miracles at Kudjip Hospital.  Thank the Lord for his healing touch!

"In his hand is the life of every creature and the breath of all mankind."
~ Job 12:10

Friday, 15 April 2011

Girls nights out--in Madang

Start:     May 6, '11
End:     May 10, '11
Location:     Jais Aben, Madang
Erin, Pamela, Linda, and I are escaping to the coast for a few days of R&R.

Take your bush knife to school day

A bush knife, or machete, is a commonly used garden tool in PNG.  Bush knives can be used to prepare the ground for planting, cut back a tree, or crack open a coconut.  (Sadly, they are also frequently used in cases of domestic or tribal violence.  But this story is a happy one, so we will save that for another time.)


There is a primary school located just outside of the hospital station.  Many of our staff children attend the school.  Occasionally the students will spend a day working outside, keeping up the gardens around the grounds.  On garden days, you will see the kids in their blue school uniforms walking down the road with all sorts of things--spades (shovels), flower or plant cuttings, and of course... bush knives.  

The primary school recently received a donation of 50 computers.  Today there was a community event, a thank you for the gift.  This week the kids were helping to get things ready for the big day.

This is Lily, daughter of Esther (housekeeping) and Simon (maintenance), posing for a picture with her bush knife.

I couldn't resist taking a picture of this very handsome gardener and his spade--shiny black shoes and all!

"Toto, I have a feeling we're not in Kansas anymore."
~ Dorothy

Monday, 11 April 2011

B2--the sequel

Dr. Becky Wallace (a.k.a. "Becky 2" or "B2") first came to Kudjip in November 2008.  She was a long-short term missionary through the post-residency program sponsored by Samaritan's Purse/World Medical Mission.  Becky's two year term was completed last December.  We said our goodbyes, sent her back to America, and wondered if we would all be together again before heaven.  

Well, much to everyone's surprise... the answer to that question was a resounding "yes."  As Becky sought the Lord's direction for her future, some doors were closed and another opened wide--to return to PNG.  We welcomed our sister back to Kudjip just last week.  She will be serving with us at Nazarene Hospital for one more year!  What a blessing to have her "home."

Here is a picture of Becky, seeing her first patient on her first day back to work on pediatrics ward.  
Welcome back, Beck!

"Truly I tell you," Jesus said to them, "no one who has left home or wife or brothers or sisters or parents or children for the sake of the kingdom of God will fail to receive many times as much in this age, and in the age to come eternal life."
~ Luke 18:29-30

Saturday, 9 April 2011

Stephoscope: April 2011 Newsletter

Dear friends of PNG,

Here is the most recent version of my newsletter--a bit overdue!  This month's features include my trip to Thailand and an update on Operation Warm Baby.

In my last newsletter, I told the story of my friend Sister Jossina.  Her hand was injured in an attack last January.  She is recovering well and has started back to work.  Thank you for praying for her!

I am continuing to work on my itinerary for home assignment, January through April of 2012.  Check out page 3 or this blog for my updated calendar.  And let me know if you are interested in scheduling something.

Hugs from PNG,
~ steph

Thursday, 7 April 2011

Guava season

It is guava season.  Guavas are little green or yellow fruits with a melon pink inside.  Not my favorite fruit, but the PNG kiddos LOVE them.

Ever year about this time, the fruits begin to ripen.  The kids concurrently develop an amazing ability to climb the trees and collect their treasures.  They are like little monkeys swinging from the branches.  Though the ER does see a fair share of arm fractures and more serious injuries from those who don't climb or swing so well.

We have one guava tree in our yard.  Since I don't really care to pick or eat them, some of my little friends and neighbors politely asked if they could take care of it for me.  Despite my reservations about the risk of injury, I just could resist their cute little smiles.  Mom gave the OK and within minutes the tree was safely fruit-free.

"But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control."
~ Galations 5:22-23

Tuesday, 5 April 2011


Hello out there?
After about two months of being out of touch, the internet is up and running again on the north end of the station.  For now.  Well, I may be dreaming.  If so, don't wake me up!  I am slowly but surely catching up with the world.  Hope to start posting again soon.  Stay tuned...
~ steph

Back to B-ward

As promised, I am back to blogging!  And there is plenty to catch up on, so here goes...

Over the past 6 months or so, we have lost quite a few nursing officers to other jobs.  Better pay for less work, proximity to family, educational opportunities--there are a variety of reasons.  Last November, the staffing shortage became so critical that the hospital had to close its doors to "longwe" patients.  This allowed us to continue caring for patients in our primary service area without overworking our remaining staff.

In January and February, two nursing officers went on medical leave and several more resigned.  There were no longer enough staff to cover all shifts for inpatient, outpatient, and ER.  Medical or B-ward was closed.  Adult patients were moved to the north half of the pediatrics ward and the number of beds for non-surgical inpatients was cut in half.

Closing medical ward allowed us to fully open the outpatient department.  We were thankful to expand our services to those from far away.  However, inpatient admissions were limited.  There were still many who needed hospital care.  When the beds were full, the only option was to transfer to nearby hospitals.  Some patients declined and choose to be treated as outpatients with close follow up.  Others may have gone home to die.

We have recently started to see the light, or lights...  Graduation for the College of Nursing was held mid-February.  Ten recent graduates from the College of Nursing have joined our ministry at Kudjip Hospital.  They are currently doing their orientation throughout various areas of the hospital.  Though it will still be some weeks until they are working independently, these nurses are already making a difference.  B-ward was able to re-open just this week.  Sister Joyce and Mister Joseph are two of the new nurses working with me on B.  They are in the center of the picture below.  
Please pray for Joyce and Joseph, and the other new staff as they learn their duties and take on responsibility.  And continue to pray for more lights!

"No one lights a lamp and puts it in a place where it will be hidden, or under a bowl.  Instead they put it on its stand, so that those who come in may see the light.
~ Luke 11:33