Warmest greetings to you from Tarangau 2 (our house) in Mt. Hagen! I was telling Connie, “Wow…this quarantine time has just ‘flown by’ hasn’t it!! Seems like just yesterday we arrived and started the fourteen days, now only three days left to go!” From the look on her face, I immediately understood that our perceptions of quarantine have been a bit different 🙂 . We do both agree that we are very ready to get out and about with our team and to have guests in for coffee and fellowship. We’re definitely counting the days!
Thanks to modern technology, I have been able to be pretty much fully connected from the confines of quarantine. Within an hour of arrival I had my desk and computer screens set up and was able to be engaged with the activity on the ground.
Due to the pending arrival of new families with various housing needs, Connie and I shifted to a different home. The missionaries who were living in the home before, left quite abruptly due to the concerns related to Covid and our lack of supportive healthcare here in the highlands. This meant that they had no time to pack up their belongings in preparation for their departure. So Connie has been very busy connecting with the couple (who live in New Zealand) getting instructions on what gets packed and how, and then working through the process of making it happen.
I (Todd) have been very busy with end-of-the-year tasks. Writing funding proposals, preparing for leadership team meetings, annual review to come, and catching up on things we’ve missed while being out of the country. On the weekends I’ve been helping Connie with the heavier lifting and house maintenance that needed to be done. We’re slowly getting things whipped into shape!
We should be out of quarantine on the 16th and will hit the ground running with a flight to the north coast town of Lae on the 17th for a survey trip to look at options for re-opening work into the Morobe Province.
Thank you for your continued prayers and encouragement! So greatly appreciated!
The Lord’s blessings never cease to amaze us! Literally traveling almost around the world under Covid-19 conditions has proven to be an experience we won’t soon forget. And neither will we forget how the Lord was with us each step. From transfers, baggage checks, paperwork clearances, Covid test results (in 6 hours versus the advised 24-48 hours) and right up to arrival in PNG. The gate agent in Kuala Lumpur asked us if we would like to move forward in the plane a bit. Sure – why not – this would allow us to process quicker on arrival in PNG…it did…and we were so grateful!!
The weather in the highlands usually deteriorates rapidly each afternoon around 3pm. Due to quarantine restrictions, Connie and I along with another family from World Gospel Mission, were to be traveling from Port Moresby to Mt. Hagen on a MAF airplane, a 2-hour trip. We needed to be airborne by 1pm. Arriving to Port Moresby after 11:00am on the flight from Kuala Lumpur, we would definitely be racing against the clock to clear the health controls, immigration, collect bags, go through customs, and get to the MAF Hangar, the aircraft loaded, and be on our way!
Again, the Lord cleared the way. The first bags off the conveyor belt were ours! As we approached the health desk to work through all of the paperwork to confirm our approvals and quarantine requirements, the lady looked at our passports and MAF shirt and said, “Oh, I’ve been expecting you. I received an email just a little while ago – you’re all cleared!!” (Thank you Sonali – our HR Manager – she was really putting in the overtime). The other family was shortly behind us.
We arrived at the MAF Hangar in Port Moresby and MAF Senior Pilot Mathias Glass had just landed in our C208 Caravan. We were also met by our Port Moresby office team, Leah and Sandra, and by our MAF Administrative Officer, Eric Eribiang, who also happened to be in POM. Together we all were able to get the plane packed and ready to go. As we taxied out I looked down at my watch, 12:45pm, we were well on our way and on time. Thanks team for your TREMENDOUS efforts.
And so, as I write this we are at 10,000 feet, flying northwest, paralleling the southern coast of Papua New Guinea. We will very shortly turn to the North and head across the lush rain forest and high mountains to our Mt. Hagen base. Looking down, I am beginning to see the winding rivers, muddy but bright, reflecting the broken clouds in the sky, as they make their way through the rainforest, remote villages nestled along their shores. There are no roads down there, only rainforest, foot trails, villages of people, and the rivers. Dengue Fever, Malaria, Typhoid, Tuberculosis, and deadly snakes make their home down there as well.
And that is why we are once again here in Papua New Guinea. To be the wings of hope, the “life line” to the millions of people who make their home in the jungles. Bringing not just medical relief, but the message of God’s love to some of the most remote peoples of the world. Thank you for being part of the team that makes up this vital link!
A final note: Upon landing, we were greeted by our incredible team. We are so very humbled to be loved in this way and in many other ways (groceries in our home, furniture set up, a hot meal delivered in the evening, so many welcoming messages, and much more). It makes us want to serve and love our team even more! May the Lord continue to grant us the grace, wisdom, and perseverance to continue in the task that He has called us to.
And the journey continues. We are now at gate 33 along with probably 50+ other people from several different missions, all waiting to board the World Food Programme, special Malaysia Air Charter Flight 8796. This flight has been arranged so that there is a reliable way of reaching Papua New Guinea.
We arrived shortly after 8am local time here in Kuala Lumpur, some 35 hours after departing Boise. We have been so blessed as the flights have been smooth and we have had minimal issues at the transfers. So very thankful to Jan Bell (Journey’s by Jan), Sonali Ghosh (MAF PNG HR Manager) and Rachel Green (MAF Ashford Admin) who have been working tickets and paperwork all along the way. We are also so thankful for the many others who have been praying and paying the price for this return trip to PNG.
In about five minutes, we will be boarding for the final day (Lord Willing) of the trip. This will take us from Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, to Kuching, Malaysia, to Port Moresby where we will be arriving sometime around 11 in the morning, Port Moresby time. We will then board a MAF plane (if the weather holds) for the flight from Port Moresby to our main base in the Highlands, Mount Hagen.
There are still some unknowns: 1) The weather has been very marginal in the highlands lately. If it is bad, we will need to quarantine for one night in Port Moresby before continuing to Mt. Hagen. 2) A new order has been issued by the Government of PNG, requiring GPS tracking devices to be worn by all persons arriving internationally for the duration of the required 14 day quarantine. This is something totally new and it is unknown if it will allow us to quarantine at our base in the Highlands as was the original plan. The alternative is to quarantine at a hotel in Port Moresby for the 14 days at a significant cost. Please continue to pray.
And for those who love aviation – here are some pictures taken from the flight cameras on the plane as we arrived to Kuala Lumpur.
Sunday morning started early at the Boise airport as we began the check-in process shortly after 05:00. Things seemed fairly normal at that point – but that would change quickly. The only way to describe it…surreal.
We had a small farewell with our transport team (Dad & Mom Aebischer, and Todd’s brother Jeff) and then it was down to the gate and onto the plane.
The flight to Los Angeles was uneventful – at least I believe it was. I (Todd) was sound asleep before the plane even pushed back from the gate. It has been a full-court press the last few days, getting everything ready for today’s departure.
Upon arrival at LAX, that is where things were very unusual. Hallways that are normally full of passengers moving between terminals…were empty. Store after store were empty – signs in the windows – this location closed. The normally bustling ticketing and security area at the LAX International Terminal…was markedly empty.
As I write this short post, we are now waiting at Gate 131. Our Visas, quarantine paperwork, Covid test result documents, and World Food Programme (WFP) charter flight documents (Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia [KUL] to Port Moresby, Papua New Guinea [POM]) were all closely scrutinized. Finally we were given the green light and issued the boarding passes, along with our face shields and instructions for boarding. Yes…these are surely different days.
But…while surreal, we serve a God that truly is REAL and has once again paved the way for us. The gate agent at LAX was wonderful, putting everything together so that our bags and boarding passes were all set to continue on the WFP Charter flight from KUL to POM. No having to negotiate a transit desk at KUL. And so…boarding should begin in about 5 minutes…for the next leg of the journey – 15hours 45 minutes.
It is Thanksgiving evening here in the US. Connie and I have been reflecting on how much we have to be thankful for – the Lord’s blessings have been beyond abundant.
This year has not been without its challenges. Connie arrived in the States for her surgery in March and then…COVID. She would remain until her surgery was finally scheduled for the 26th of August. I would arrive in August in time for the surgery, only to become quite ill and we would spend many more days separated while I isolated…I quit counting at 150 days… We were scheduled to return to PNG on the 25th of October…the airline cancelled the route. The next option was to depart on the 8th of November. With bags packed and ready to go, I was diagnosed with Covid on the 7th.
It would be easy to become discouraged, but truly the Lord is in control. Nothing of this surprised Him. He had a plan.
Consider it all joy, my brothers and sisters, when you encounter various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance. And let endurance have its perfect result, so that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.
James 1:2-4 NASB
Connie has recovered so very well from her major surgery!
I (Todd) have recovered well from my encounter with Covid.
We were able to get our “negative” Covid tests just in time to purchase airline tickets and make all of the required submissions for travel to PNG.
We have been able to spend some tremendous time with our family.
The Lord has been providing financially to-date for all of the added expenses of flights, cancelled flights, Covid tests and medical bills.
Technology has allowed us to remain engaged and continue to fulfill many of our requirements from a distance.
We had a chance to experience some cold and snow…something I (Todd) have missed greatly. (Connie is just as happy in the warmer climates!!)
Too many more blessing to list.
Lord willing, we will be departing Boise, Idaho on Sunday the 29th of November at shortly after 7am. We would so greatly appreciate your prayers as the journey is long. It will take us from Boise to Los Angeles, to Qatar, to Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, where we will wait for approximately 16 hours and then continue on to Port Moresby on 2-December. We will quarantine one night in Port Moresby and then travel on a MAF flight from Port Moresby to Mt. Hagen, where we will then quarantine for 13 more days.
Thank you so very much for your continued prayers and encouragement. We echo the feelings of Timothy, thanking the Lord that He has strengthened us and considered us faithful, placing us into His service in PNG. (1 Tim 2:12)
We are looking forward to getting back to our team in Papua New Guinea!!
We will post updates along the journey as we are able.
b: continuity without deviation or change (as in purpose or action)
3a: the quality or state of being made one : UNIFICATION
One of the prayers Todd and I have for the MAF PNG Team is that we would have Unity, as Jesus prayed for His disciples in John 17. That is asking a lot when you consider that we have a group of people from 11 different countries with National coworkers from many different tribal areas (that don’t always get along with each other). Now add in the fact that they all come from numerous denominational backgrounds and there is a significant age range to consider as well. Now put them all together living in close quarters, in what can occasionally be a somewhat hostile region of the country, and then expect them to work together in unity.
With all of those variables, am so very thankful that we do have unity within the MAF PNG Program! And this is once again evident in the way the team has come together in this crisis we now find ourselves in across the globe.
I am so very thankful for the team we have there in PNG that is looking after my husband as he opted to not come to America with me for the surgery that I am needing, but rather, we decided together that he would remain in PNG to help guide the team in this difficult time for the best possible outcome that we can obtain! From dinners, to snacks, to checking in with him – the team has been so great at making sure that even though he as the Country Director is putting in really long hours every day, he is taking as good of care of himself as possible.
The PNG Program is on stand down (not flying) and now the Government there has issued a stay at home order for 2 weeks that includes NO crossing provincial border by foot, vehicle or air. With this order, there is very little movement at our main office or other bases, however many of our staff continue to work long hours from home. Prayers are greatly appreciated, as some of our mechanics are working to get a plane operational in case of emergencies, as well as HR and Finance working to get payroll out when possible.
The team went out and purchased food stocks for the National team members, as many did not have cash available to do so at such short notice of the stay at home order. I am so thankful for the whole team and how they have been looking out for each other.
The Immediate Response Team (IRT) have been meeting daily in conference calls to keep everyone informed and have been putting in long hours working on getting approvals for emergency flights from the government and working with Kudjip Nazarene Hospital in the next province over from our Hagen Base to verify that they will accept patients, should we have anyone of our staff contract the virus, along with approval from the govt/police to cross that border if needed.
As I sit here in self-isolation, alone in a small flat in Idaho, I read facebook posts of people in the US struggling with the isolation. I am doing all I can to keep in contact with our team back and in PNG and those who like me, for various reasons have had to leave the country, and as I focus on ways to do that, I forget about my own isolation. I am thanking God for technology that allows me to what’s app video talk to my friend in India who is recovering from a recurrence of cancer, and with my husband in PNG. I am thankful for the group chats I am a part of that help me stay connected to our team and to individuals around the world. And I get to witness via those messages, their love and unity!
I just posted on social media a photo of a girl from an isolated community we serve and that I was blessed to be able to visit with medicine, eye glasses, solar lights, and Bibles. The community was so thankful for everything we brought. I have thought of those people so much over the past days of isolation….. Especially here in America with several stores open within walking distance, we cannot comprehend what isolation really is. My prayer is that everyone across the world would really take a look at what is important and what is just stuff! That we would all look beyond our comfort zone and see the needs of the world around us, and that each one would take steps to help meet those needs.
Our youngest daughter is a 3rd grade teach in Boise Idaho, the school has a large refugee population and serves the underprivileged, with the schools shutting down by government order, she and some of her fellow teachers, along with the help of her sister, have been putting together healthy snack bags with reading books for her students and then leaving the boxes filled with them at the apartment complexes that many of her students live in with a note to take as many as needed…..I love the big hearts of my girls, to see the needs around them and do what they can to meet those needs.
My email signature has included a quote from a great Christian woman. “Victory in life isn’t about personal success; it is about helping others who have a need that you can fill”.~Ellen Cole Landreth (yep – that’s my Mom) J
What is a need of others / your neighbors that you could help fill? I challenge you to think about that and then act on it! As you do, reach out and help, your perspective will change and you will be filled with a joy that doesn’t come from binge watching your favorite TV program, or eating all the isolation snacks you bought. And don’t stop with one act of kindness – keep it going, looking daily for ways to bless others. And it doesn’t have to be physical – it can be spiritual or emotional as well, as you reach out in prayer for those you know need it, or with a word of encouragement via social media or email or even with an old fashioned card or phone call.
Lets turn Covid 19 into the starting point of a better tomorrow! Of a more caring, others focused, life for everyone across the globe! Don’t let it bring you down – look up and as you do, your body will follow, your spirit will soar and you will be a blessing to others!
As I sit in my tiny studio flat on this the 3rd day of self-isolation, I reflect back on our lives in ministry/missions across the globe. This was prompted by a fb post I saw from one of the younger brothers of our twin sons who just lost his newborn baby.
As I mourn with Louis and think about his loss and the way he became “one of my boys” and how many people there are across the world that are so precious to me it causes my heart to overflow with gratitude for all the amazing people God has placed in my life!
I also am reflecting on different situations that we have lived through, such as the devastating Hemorrhagic Dengue Fever outbreak in the islands (flu like symptoms resulting in death within 24 hours of onset) where Todd was flying to the places and bringing these patients back with at that time, an unknown illness that we assumed might take his life as well and yet we knew God had called us there to help as best as we could. And we trusted Him for the outcome!
Then my mind drifted to the war in West Africa when 3 moms and 11 kids were evacuated to South Africa leaving all the Dads in the civil war zone to wind things up for the mission and houses, and then attempt to get out if they could…. The longest 3 weeks of my life as we waited, hoping to hear anything we could from the men…..trying to keep the homeschooling going with all 4 of our kids in our tiny apartment with the kids all sleeping on thin foam mats spread across the tiny living room. And how we as a family had a pow-wow and decided that we would do what we could to help the other two families, so the girls would go and wash dishes for the other families, or volunteer to feed the baby breakfast, and the boys would help babysit so I could take the other gals out for coffee to de-stress and have some adult conversations, and also have a safe place to voice their fears and then pray together. Our kids look back on that time with fond memories because they didn’t just sit and feel sorry for themselves, they concentrated on others and they thrived through that time. (yes there is still some ptsd from it all but the overall memories are good ones for our family)
Then my mind drifted to the Super Typhoon in the central Philippines where Todd was going down into the middle of the disaster zone repeatedly for over a month to assist with assessing the needs and relief efforts. The World Mission Communication (WMC) team and I worked long hours, several times we would go home from the office well after midnight as we attempted to keep the global church informed of the situation, calling for prayer and also assistance to help the people with relief supplies and to rebuild. And yet God….. gave us the strength we needed, the wisdom and insight and abilities throughout it all.
Now we are dealing with a global pandemic with Covid 19. I am in the US in isolation, trying to keep in contact with our friends and team spread across the world now, and Todd is in the Highlands of PNG helping to lead and encourage our team still there in country.
I am seeing a trend here…..being separated from my wonderful husband with each of us focusing on helping those that God has placed us with……
This morning about 5am Idaho time, and 9pm Mount Hagen time, as Todd had just come home from a long day at work, we were able to talk on the phone. I was greatly encouraged by the sound of his voice and the things he told me about, and asked me about (how to make the dog food, ratios of water to veggies and rice etc…) and how normal it felt.
Since being in isolation, I have had a few distance visitors come see me. What joy it brings to my heart to see family and visit in person rather just by facetime. I have yet to be bored! Working with the team across the world on several different projects and with issues that have come up, doing my best to be a support and encouragement. I have some plans to work on organizing my photos etc… but have not had a chance to work on that yet. However, I am only on day 3 of isolation, so I still have time. Haha
I pray that each one who reads this would see the opportunities to encourage and bless those around you as you have more than normal time on your hands no matter what your situation is, with the restrictions and closures of so many schools, businesses and churches. Look for ways to be a blessing to others – you will be blessed in your efforts and you will be given what you need, strength, energy, wisdom and insights, to do so!
Your prayers are still very much needed and appreciated,
What crazy/uncertain times we are living in right now. Just when we think things are going to start to normalize, Covid 19 shows up and turns life upside down. And yet God…… (still my favorite saying) along with He Is Able!
In the early morning hours of Saturday, 14 March 2020, amidst the multitude of emails coming in and going out from the CD’s home office (aka bed) it was decided to send some of our higher risk staff out of PNG along with myself over the following days. Given the fact that there is next to no advanced healthcare support available in the Highlands. (Big thanks to Journeys by Jan for organizing my tickets! Always perfect planning!)
I was due to head to the US on 21 March for Doctors appointments and an upcoming surgery that is not available in PNG (Female stuff) But with the rate at which we were being notified that borders were shutting to different countries, we decided it would be best to get me out immediately rather than risk having to postpone surgery even longer.
After a very long 32 hours of travel, with very tight connections, I arrived in Boise, Idaho minus only one of my two action packers – yes, filled with TP and Peanut Butter J And a little coffee/tea from PNG.
My welcome party met me at the curb shortly after midnight, keeping strict social distances from me, giving air hugs and leaving the car running with the heat on high (of course I was freezing in Idaho). I had to load my own bags to avoid possibly contaminating them after my travels, luckily TP doesn’t weigh too much~ Haha. And soon I was headed down the freeway to MAF US Headquarters and a cozy studio apartment set up and waiting for me for the self-isolation period of at least 14 days.
As I was preparing to hurriedly leave, I was deeply touched by the love and well wishes and send off from the MAF PNG Team – both National and expat! Bon Voyage parties had been planned and that really means a lot to me. Todd, along with “Our Boys” and Sonali saw me off at the airport and the guys all stayed airside to wave, and I got a quick hug from Todd, as I walked to the awaiting aircraft. It really touched my heart that they all took the time and stood in front of the MAF Base to wave good bye as my plane taxied to the runway as well.
As I traveled, I saw some who were fully decked out in anti-virus gear (The woman at the airport in Brisbane speaking with Godfrey about self isolation) while transiting to NZ. And yet hundreds of people not taking any precautions whatsoever! I had been supplied with a mask that I saved to wear when the social distance got greatly reduced once I hit US Soil! As I read that prolonged use causes the mask to be less effective as breathing causes moisture and then it becomes somewhat useless – although I will say it was difficult to breath with that mask the way it seals so well! I wore the mask until I was settled into my little hideaway in Nampa.
I chose to self isolate not just so I don’t get the virus, but to protect those I love, and also those I will come into contact with here in Idaho, as well as those that they will then come into contact with, from possible contamination because of where I have been! Social distancing is the key to reducing the spread so that health centers can keep up with the sick once they contract it and need intervention. Most of us may just get nasty flu symptoms, but it is not most of us that I am concerned with – it is the elderly, the pregnant, the premature, those with significant health issues to begin with, like my sweet nephew Ronan that recently received a Kidney transplant at a very young age!
My heart yearns to see may granddaughter Noortje, that I only get to see once every year or so…… She is just 10 minutes away from here….. but I choose to self isolate to keep her safe, and to keep those safe that she will then come into contact with.
As I sit here in my little hideaway, stocked with food by my daughters Courtney and Jess, and also other family have brought things for me, like fuzzy blankets and books from my Mom. I am praying for Todd and the team as they make decisions on how to address this virus in an area of the world with very little access to healthcare. And as they deal with the social issues that will come once it hits the highlands…. I have lots of time on my hands to do so!
And Surprise! My last action packer showed up on my doorstep! Thanks MAF US, especially, Ruth, Barb, and Gene for your love and support!
I look forward to seeing how God will use this time to grow me spiritually as I spend more time in His word and reading books that will help me be a better person/leader/wife/mother/friend. I would love to hear what God is teaching you through this time….He is Able!
Your prayers are greatly appreciate for Todd and the team still in PNG as they continue to serve the remote communities, taking every precaution possible and having continual update meetings to be sure we are doing just that! These are difficult times as we deal with the unknowns, and yet maintain a positive outlook – None of this has caught God by surprise. He is still on the throne and still working things out for our good. When we need wisdom, He gives it. And boy do we need it!
Your prayers especially for the team to keep a positive attitude, to be wise in decisions and safe are very much appreciated! God hears and answers – and He calls us to lift our requests to him, with thanksgiving and praise!
This past week I had the incredible opportunity to pack a bag, leave the office, and venture out into some of the most remote parts of Western Papua New Guinea. MAF has entered into a partnership with Aerial Health Patrols (AHP), and I was taking the opportunity to see how this very strategic partnership was impacting the people living in the remote communities of the Western Province.
Departing Mount Hagen on Wednesday morning, we flew to a couple other remote airstrips delivering passengers and freight before arriving at the “town” of Balimo in the Western Province where I met up with the AHP Team. Balimo is the hub for the AHP initiative.
The heat and humidity of the lowlands is definitely different from the cool temperatures of the highlands. Shirts are immediately damp (ok – often soaked) with sweat, the buzz of mosquitoes and the cacophony of singing jungle birds permeates the air. It immediately transported my mind back to our very early days (Connie and I) on the island of Yap in Micronesia, nearly 30 years ago. I felt very much at home.
We made our way to our lodging for the night and prepared our supplies and equipment for the next day’s flight to Debepari an airstrip and village deep in the jungle of the Western Province, not too far from the border of West Papua (Indonesia).
Thursday morning we heard the distinct sound of our MAF plane arriving. We made our way to the airstrip, loaded the medical supplies, equipment, sleeping mats, mosquito nets and food on the plane, climbed aboard, and headed from remote….to REALLY remote!
Upon landing at Debepari, we were met with a great throng of people, all waiting for the much anticipated arrival of the AHP Medical Team. The team is made up of a doctor, nurses, WASH (Water, Sanitation, Hygiene) personnel and members for family Health / Planning. The AHP initiative partners with the village Community Health Workers, coming along side them in their village, supporting, encouraging, educating, and assisting. The purpose is not to supplant the residing Health Worker, but to work with them on more complicated cases, bring further education, and help to build the respect of the community for their health worker. Each AHP team will only be present in each respective community/village for a few days every quarter. The local village worker is there 24/7. By empowering them, the work of the team can be exponentially multiplied.
As we first met with the community John, the PNG National team leader, opened in prayer for those in attendance and the community as a whole. A couple hundred were present. We outlined the purpose of the visit and what we hoped to see achieved. We then invited them all to an evening video showing that would take place at the health center, prayed a closing prayer and left to the health center to prepare for Friday and to do some training with the local health worker – Michael.
It just so happens that in Debepari, the village health worker Michael (25) and his wife (who was gone to another village at the time), are both recent graduates of the Nazarene College of Nursing – Kudjip Mission Station. I have seen many health outposts over the years, and this one was exceptional. For his young age, Michael had his health post in top shape. Gravity fed running water from the rain catchment tanks, medicines organised, instruments clean and tidy, solar-powered LED lights and a solar powered-vaccine refrigerator. (The AHP team came with many vaccines to provide vaccinations as well as stock Michael’s refrigerator). Michael’s smile was infectious as he told us of his passion for caring for his people in the village. The health of the children and the village was truly a testimony to Michael’s training, care, concern, and compassion.
Thursday night we found a local creek to rinse off in, removing the dust of the day and sweat of the jungle heat.
Friday morning we started out early. The AHP team made their way to the health center and I began working with the MAF Agent and airstrip maintenance officer. There were several airstrip marker cones that needed replaced. Making sure that these airstrips are in top condition is a priority. Short of walking for days through the jungle, aviation is the only connection to the outside world for the people of Debepari. The grass must be kept mowed, ant hills addressed, and any holes made by wild pigs or dogs, filled in.
With the help of several young lads and a hearty wheelbarrow, we walked the airstrip, inspected for condition, re-aligned several cones that had been moved by children, and replaced missing threshold marker cones.
Returning to the health center, drenched in sweat, I found the AHP team in full action. At least a hundred children with their moms, dads, or both, were waiting to be seen, weighed, and for many – vaccinated. There were many adult patients waiting to be seen as well. Some had walked for hours and even overnight to be seen. As there was no way that the team doctors could see everyone in the short time, Michael triaged the more complicated cases. Cysts, infections, epigastric pain, suspected cancer, Tuberculosis, and hernias were all concerns that were identified with the patients. Some could be treated with the medicine at hand, several would need referral to one of the larger care centers / hospitals in the Western Province. All could be touched with caring hands, encouraged, and prayed for.
As Debepari is just being added to the regular patrols, it was planned that this first patrol would be shorter. Relationships would be built with the community, surveys of the greatest needs would be conducted, vaccinations would be started, as many patients would be seen as possible, and then the next scheduled patrol would capitalize on what was learned during this trip.
As the blazing tropical sun crossed overhead making its way to the horizon, the team continued seeing patients. Around 2pm in the afternoon the all familiar distant and increasing hum of the MAF airplane could be heard as it approached to pick up the team. With so many still waiting to be seen, we checked the weather and asked our pilot, Israel, to give us as much time as possible. Finally, with the afternoon sun waning, we packed up our bags, completed some final training with Michael and climbed aboard our MAF plane for the return flight to AHP headquarters in Balimo.
Lifting off of the airstrip, my mind was reviewing all that had been seen and accomplished in this short visit. The number of lives touched, those prayed for, and the ones who had diseases that would ultimately take their lives in this remote part of the world where access to curative measures is just not possible. Even if we could get access to the Chemotherapy necessary, the costs and followups would be absolutely out of reach for these precious people of the Jungle.
What we can give them is love, care, compassion and hope of something better to come. I’m so thankful that Michael and his wife not only completed nurses training at Nazarene College of Nursing, but also training to be ministers. We all know that any physical comfort we can bring now, pales in the light of the everlasting comfort of a life transformed by the Great Physician.
And so is the journal of a trip with MAF and the Aerial Health Patrol Team. Thank you to each one who prays for, encourages, financially supports, and advocates for the ministry of our family and MAF around the World!
Hope and Healing truly does come on the wings of love – the wings of MAF – and you are the wind beneath those wings!
It was late in the afternoon on Tuesday, 11 December when Dr. Erin Meier from Kudjip Nazarene Hospital called my phone, “Todd, what are our options for a medical evacuation to Port Moresby? We have a very critical patient!”
Dr. Erin would go on to describe a young man around 25 years of age who had suffered what appeared to be a significant heart attack while playing rugby. As Dr. Erin described the case my mind was weighing the facts. It was already late in the afternoon. The rugged rain forest jungle over which we fly does not allow for safe operations at night, and given the 45 minute drive from Kudjip station to our airstrip, a late afternoon departure for the two hour flight to the capital city was already out of the question. Dr. Matt Woodley (ER Doctor at Kudjip) and his team had already resuscitated the patient four times. Would he be able to survive the high altitude non-pressurized flight that is required to clear the high mountains of the highlands on the way to the coast? We agreed that at this point, the best plan was to see if the patient could remain stabilized through the night at Kudjip and then plan for an early departure on Thursday morning.
Shortly after 0600 on Thursday morning, Dr. Erin called. The young man had stabilized through the night and although still critical, they felt he could survive the flight. They would be on their way shortly. Quick calls to our Flight Operations Manager, Captain Brad Venter and Church and Community Partnership Manager Godfrey Sim put the plan in action. P2-SDP was readied and the base team awaited the arrival of the patient from Kudjip.
At 0850, the ambulance from Kudjip arrived at the MAF Mount Hagen Base with the patient, family members and Doctor Matt Woodley along with Anesthesia Specialist Officer (APO), David Wan. The team quickly went to work to prep the patient for the flight. Simultaneously, our team at MAF headquarters continued to do their part – praying for the patient, family, doctors, and pilot team as they prepared to launch.
At 09:49, pilots Brad Venter (South Africa) and Andy Symmonds (UK) lifted off with their valuable cargo on the wings of P2-SDP and much prayer from both the Kudjip Nazarene and MAF teams. Touching down 1 hour and 59 minutes later in the capital city of Port Moresby, the patient was transferred to the waiting ambulance and rushed to Pacific International Hospital.
On Friday morning our Mount Hagen team met for morning devotions as we do every morning. When it came time to list our praises and prayer requests, Nancy from our operations team said that she had received news from the family. Our patient had successfully undergone surgery, was in the Intensive Care Unit, and it was expected that he would make a good recovery.
“Seeing isolated people physically and spiritually transformed in Christ’s Name.” This is why we do what we do in one of the most remote countries in the world. Accomplishing this Vision requires a team. Doctors, nurses, pilots, ground operations, flight operations, finance, IT, engineers, and on an on. It also requires you!!!
Thank you so very much for praying for and partnering with us as a family, and our greater MAF and Nazarene Team!