Category Archives: PNG Updates

What are you focusing on?

Sitting on the edge of the bed in the Surgery Ward, the mattress worn and stained by who knows how many hundreds, if not thousands of patients it has provided rest and comfort for over the years, my mind drifted to those patients. What had been their reason for being in this ward, awaiting surgery.  What had their outcome been?  I am certain that a number of them did not get the opportunity to go home… all these thoughts made my concerns for what lay ahead seem so very insignificant and trivial.

We were not prepared for me to need to be admitted to the ward when we had gone to the consultation with the Surgeon’s assistant.  I had a water bottle with me and a bag of peanuts in my bilum (purse) but that was basically all I had.  When we were led into the ward, and pointed to a bed that would be mine for that night, and possibly the next three nights, they asked if I had bedding.  “I am sorry but no, we had not realized I would be admitted today,” was my response.  So I sat on the edge of the stained mattress, praying that God would help me through this and would help me to have the proper attitude no matter what.

A short while later, a nurse said they found a sheet for me.  I was so very appreciative, as it gave some protection from the well-used mattress, and helped to absorb the sweat that dripped from my body with the heat, not only from being just south of the equator close to the sea, but inside the tin roofed, 12-bed ward were probably 30 people, with a few worn ceiling fans that tried to keep the humid air moving.

I lay back and tried to relax as Todd left to go get some water, some food, and a change of undergarments for me, as the clothes I was wearing were really the only ones I had brought that were appropriate for me to wear being in a ward with men, women and children all together in one room.  

We had flown on an MAF plane earlier that day from Hagen to Madang.  Being told that it would depart by 7 am, we were to check in at 6:30 – so in true Aebischer form, we arrived at 6:00am  to make sure we didn’t make anyone wait for us. No one was there at the base, lines had gotten crossed and other things had taken priority and we had not been informed and it goes on and on……. At first, we were frustrated, very frustrated, but I kept saying – “God wastes nothing” and tried to keep the smile on my face matching the smile I had drawn on my mask with a Sharpie.  A couple hours later, through many different misunderstandings, including our Pilot Glenys having to unload at Hagen, 500 + kilos of rice that she was to have dropped at Simbai, we boarded the plane headed for Madang.

Because we had gone to the airport so early, as the sun rose, the sky lit up and I grabbed my phone and ran out to the plane sitting on the tarmac to try and capture the beauty I was beholding.  I got several shots and as I walked inside and flipped through the photos one photo stood out to me and begged to be used.  It was focused on the gravel in front of the plane rather than on the plane or on the colors of the sky – but I took it and used that photo and posted it. 

As you can see, I wrote in the focused strip near the bottom – “What are you focusing on? And then underneath that “Look up- and see the beauty God has created all around you” I hashtagged it #seekingtobeablessing #eveninthis #usemelordtoday #whatsinyourhand #passionandpurpose .  As I felt the Lord prompting me to see the bigger picture and not focus on the possibilities with removing the basal cell carcinoma (bcc) from my nose – like would it be disfigured?  How would I react to the anesthetic again after just having a general anesthetic 10 months ago in the US, and so on.

Then, once we were airborne,  I pulled out my Bible to read since we had left so early I had not had time for my normally daily time in the word.  With all the crazy emotions going on inside of me at traveling to have this surgery, knowing the dermatologist didn’t want to try and remove it himself but wanted me to see a plastic surgeon to do it, I opened to my bookmark for the next chapter to read. And this is what I saw.

The book of Job.  My mind raced – is this what I am going to face?  As I read chapter 2 vs 21…The Lord gave and the Lord has taken away.  Blessed be the name of the Lord.  I echoed these words – no matter what happens today – Blessed be the name of the Lord.

We arrived and shortly after, were picked up by a Pioneer Bible Translators (PBT) Missionary.  He drove us to the flat we had reserved on one of their compounds and as we rode, he told us about the issues one of their families was facing trying to get out of Madang to go back to the US for their furlough.  Their flight had been cancelled 3 times already and there was just one more possible flight that they could get on to get to the capital (Port Moresby) in time for their flight to Singapore and on to the US.  But it wasn’t looking very likely that the flight would actually go. 

When we got to the flat, we met the family who live in the adjoining apartment and greeted them, the looks on their faces said it all.  You could see they didn’t have much hope that they were going to get out that day or make their connections on what was already very expensive tickets…… what were they to do. 

In walks Todd, and within 20 minutes, he had coordinated for them to fly back to Hagen on the MAF flight that Glenys would be returning for due to the issue of having to have offloaded all that rice for Simbai and many other “issues” that had caused our delay which ended up being God’s perfect timing! He was also able to personally call PNG Airlines and discuss getting them out on the last flight to POM – had his executive assistant meet them at the airplane, transfer them and their luggage to the Terminal and even stop to get them some lunch and a coffee before they checked in.  As we prayed with them before they left the house headed to the MAF hangar, I would say, they were fairly shocked at all of this and how God’s timing was so accurate, for us to have met them and understood the story and had the connections to make it all happen.

Todd and I marvelled as we drove to the hospital to meet the surgeon for consultation, how perfect God’s timing was, how God had given Todd the opportunity to meet the person (just three weeks earlier) in PNG Airlines that he was able to call and coordinate them getting on that flight along with their luggage!  We were on a spiritual high as we walked up to the hospital, and met the doctor.  Which was another miracle in how Rickson Poki’s father, Dr. Poki had coordinated for us to go to Madang to the only Certified Plastic Surgeon in PNG to have this rapidly growing basal cell carcinoma (most likely) removed from the end of my nose. After he had coordinated for us to meet with a Dermatologist in Port Moresby the Week before who strongly urged us to have it removed by a plastic surgeon because of its location and the scarring that would most likely result.

Within just a few short minutes of our arrival at the hospital consultation room, I was close to tears, as the doctor stepped out to get a chart to start for me as he had told me that I had to be admitted to the hospital right then so that they could do blood work and to prep for surgery with a general anaesthesia and most likely a skin graft the next day.  I had felt such a peace about the whole thing since the beginning, I had felt like God had orchestrated it all and that it was going to be such a simple thing, with a consultation on Wednesday and then back for surgery on Thursday morning.  I was not prepared to be admitted and not within the next 10 minutes. 

Todd took my hand while the doctor was out of the room and prayed, for wisdom, for peace and for direction.  I opened my eyes and said OK.  When the doctor came back and apologized saying there were no semiprivate rooms available due to covid and overcrowding in the hospital, and that I would be placed in the ward with the rest of the surgery patients, I said OK.

As we walked what felt like a mile down covered sidewalks winding around so many buildings, obstetrics, pediatrics, general wards and so on.  The nurse pointed out the beautiful new operating theater and pointed out the old operating theater and told how blessed they were with the new facility.  We arrived at Surgical Ward 3 and knocked, the door was opened and we entered and walked down through the center of the ward with nearly every bed full and people laying on the mats on the floor beside each bed. Men, women, children, babies. All eyes were on us as we walked past, I am sure they were wondering why the foreigners were there in their ward. The nurse had us sit on a bench while she spoke with the nurse in charge of the ward.  A few minutes later we were led to the bed in the far corner. I sat down on the edge of the bed looking up at the quizzical looks on each and every face.  I tried to smile at them, I waved at a sweet little boy about 3 or 4 years old with an untreated severe cleft palate who was awaiting the surgery to repair it to make eating and drinking less difficult. He just stared up at me wide eyed.

Todd and I sat there for a few minutes in silence, each deep in our own thoughts.  Then Todd said he knew that faith is my #1 strength, but that he really would like to take me and put me on a plane back to the US and get this done there.  And then he said that he realized that my having our youngest daughter on the island without him or my doctor, in the storm, was really a significant faith stepping stone for me and although he didn’t want me to have to go through this, he didn’t want to take away an opportunity for our faith to grow.  We then discussed what I would need from the few items we had brought with us and a list was made for what he would need to purchase, and he was off.  I laid back on the sheet the nurse had brought and prayed, I prayed for those patients around me that I would somehow be able to encourage them, that God would somehow bridge the gap in language and culture and allow us to be a blessing.  After an hour or so, of me sitting up and smiling and trying to greet those around me, and laying back for a bit and praying that the breeze from the ceiling fan 3 beds away would somehow reach me too, a nurse came with a plastic covered pillow she said she found for me to be more comfortable.

I decided that I would ask if I could go for a walk around the walkways inside the hospital compound.  They were puzzled at my request, but said yes.  I have been doing at least a 30 min workout every day, closing all the rings on my watch for the past 179 days and I was not about to stop!  Several people outside asked if I was lost as I walked around and around.  It was amusing but I just told them I needed surgery the next day and wanted my body to be strong for the procedure.

I was so overwhelmed by the kindness of the nurses even though they were not very comfortable having a foreigner under their care. I tried to reassure them and let them know how appreciative I was of their kindness.  They warmed up little by little and became more comfortable, but with each shift change I had to work hard to reassure the new nurses and they too warmed up after the initial shock of seeing a “white mary” (any foreign woman) in their ward under their care. 

Todd returned a couple hours later, making several trips from the car to the ward.  His first trip included a wooden folding chair he borrowed from one of the PBT missionaries – so he had something to sit on all night to watch over me and care for me, along with two boxes of Snax Crackers.  He dropped those off and out the door he went. He returned with his backpack filled to capacity and a large bag with everything he could think of that I would need.  And let me tell you- he thought of everything!  What a guy!  I am truly blessed.

Once he was settled and set up – we walked around the ward handing out the crackers to each patient that was able to eat and all of those that were there to help/watch over them, along with all the nursing staff.  They enjoyed that and it helped to break the ice a bit and to open up a little more conversation with them.  Then we returned to my bed in the corner and he brought out a container of warmed up Chicken Curry that I had made in Hagen for our trip to eat that night.  He also bought me a lot of water, some peanuts to snack on, a large bed sheet that would wrap around the mattress well, my toothbrush and Bible as well as several other items he thought I might need.

With so many patients, the lights stay on all night and different patients had to have their vitals taken every so often, and with all the others in the ward, it was hot and sticky and noisy and sleep was not something that came easily. Todd, sat up all night working on his computer answering emails, in that hard wooden chair. I dozed off and on, waking from time to time to find him walking around or working from a standing position next to the nurses station with his computer on a tall shelf.

About 3:30 I convinced him to trade me places for a little bit so he could take a nap and lay flat.  He didn’t stay there long and after we traded back, I was blessed with about 3 hours of solid sleep – right up till they came to take my vitals and prep me for surgery.

Todd went with me as they wheeled me down the covered walkways to the Operating Theater building and we were able to talk with the surgeon before the procedure and we discussed what he would be doing and the need for the skin graft and how we had hoped we wouldn’t need to do that but we left it to his expert judgement.  He thanked us for having confidence in him and his team.  We also discussed me being discharged after the procedure once I was awake and up and around, so I could recover at the flat that was just about a mile down the road. With Todd’s medical school training, he could care for me well at the flat and we would come back to the ward for any check-ups that they wanted.  They agreed and I was taken back, IV started, O2 mask in place and I drifted off to sleep.

After the procedure, they wheeled me back down to the ward, where I was warmly welcomed by nurses and patients alike. They put me in a bed closer to the nursing station and on the little table next to the bed was a water bottle vase of flowers from the hospital gardens.  I can’t explain how that brightened things up – and they had taken my bed-sheet and tied all the corners so that it hung on to the mattress and didn’t slip off so fast.  As I woke up more from the general anesthesia, they brought me food, chicken with veggies over rice (it tasted like Panda Express) and a coconut to drink, along with a large knife wrapped in a red and white towel that Todd could use to open it.  If you know Todd’s history with big knives, you will understand why he took it outside and had one of the guys sitting outside open it for him. J  It was so refreshing in the heat.

After a few hours, I was released to go back to the flat – Christina the head nurse seemed bummed that I was leaving – but we told her we would be back the next day for a check-up – and asked when she came on shift – not till later in the day so we said we would come back during her time and we did with more crackers to hand out.  We stopped at the store on the way and picked up a box and a couple packs as we hadn’t used two boxes the first round.  We handed one to every nurse, patient and family member there to watch over them and we had exactly enough!  A God thing for sure.

The day of surgery, later in the afternoon and the next afternoon, I was so thankful to be able to go for a walk with Todd next to the ocean, to see the beauty and feel the breeze – and to get all my rings closed!  181 days and counting! 

Sitting here in the flat, looking out the window past the rooftops and gently blowing palm fronds, I can see little glimpses of the gorgeous blue water of the ocean, I feel the breeze off the water and all I can say is thank you Lord – for this opportunity. The opportunity not just to be here in Madang by the ocean, but to be used as an agent of blessing for others, for helping me to look up and see the beauty God has created all around me in the people He has placed around me, and not to focus on my pain, my fears, myself, but to be open to what He has for me each step of the way.

Three Days to Go…

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.

Todd participating in a video conference with several staff members.

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.

Connie Packing Boxes

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!

Many Blessings,

Todd & Connie Lou

Mid-Day in Mount Hagen – We have Arrived!

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.

Loading P2-MAL at Port Moresby – racing against the clock and weather!

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.

It’s Midnight in Malaysia

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.

The weather today over Port Moresby – as posted by one of our pilots. He has wisely chosen to keep the plane on the ground!

And for those who love aviation – here are some pictures taken from the flight cameras on the plane as we arrived to Kuala Lumpur.

The journey to PNG Begins – So surreal – 1st Report

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.

Unity

UNITY

1a: the quality or state of not being multiple ONENESS

2a: a condition of harmony ACCORD

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.

MAF PNG Team Christmas 2018

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. 

Todd with his executive assistant Rickson Poki

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!

Praying together with you for our world!

Connie Lou

For Todd too

all about focus

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,

Connie Lou (and Todd too)

Leaving on a jet plane~

I really don’t know when I’ll be back again……. 

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!)

Have mask – will travel!

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 – our kids – keeping strict social distancing from me!

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!

Thank you all so very much,

Connie Lou

Hope & Healing comes on the wings of love…

P2-MAG offloading the team at Debepari.

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.

Local villagers meeting the airplane at Mougulu, an interim stop.

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.

Balimo Airstrip

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!

Dr. John Oakley – Medical Director for AHP – meeting village leaders.

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.

Team Leader John, praying for the village community members.

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.

A creek to rinse off in at Debepari.

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!

Yours and His for the harvest,

Todd and Connie Lou

Listen & Silent…Use the same letters…

I read the above statement this week and it really caused me to reflect. It was in combination with a devotional thought taken from Isaiah.

Behold, I will do something new, now it will spring forth; will you not be aware of it?

Isaiah 41:19 (NASB)

And in just a few hours from now the sun will rise and 2020 will spring forth here in the South Pacific. A new year will be underway. New visions, new projects, new plans, new expectations. But whose will they be? Ours or the Lord’s?

The reason we are here, to help New Guineans understand what Christ did for them on the cross!

I’m praying that this new year we can become SILENT before the Lord so that we can really LISTEN! “We have been conditioned by the religious, cultural, and social values of our time. Attitudes, reactions, goals and thought patterns have been inadvertently ingrained into the fiber of our natures.” – L.J. Ogilvie. It’s time for us to submit to Christ’s scrutinizing renovation and it means that we must spend time listening! May each of us be listening and discerning His voice as we enter into this New Year.

Connie and I want to thank you for your continued prayers, encouragement, support and partnership over this past year. God’s hand of protection has been on our team in countless ways.

  • Five times in December, unknown individuals gained entry under the cover of darkness, and in plain daylight, to steal property from one of our residential compounds, but there were no injuries. Praise God!
  • On 22 December, I (Todd) was out for a bike ride, getting some exercise and meeting and greeting people in the community. Within just five minutes from home a man (for reasons we’ll probably never know) tackled me off my bike and then attempted to hit me in the head with a rock. But God was there and the man fled into the crowd. The Lord’s hand of protection was there, only a sprained wrist and knee…again… it could have been much worse.

Please commit to continue praying for us and the team here in PNG in 2020.

Please Pray For…

  • Safety and protection of our team.
  • Favor with the government as we seek work permits for various new team members.
  • Those the Lord is calling, that they would be sensitive to the call.. Pilots, Engineers, Finance Professionals, Information Technology Professionals, and others who are desperately needed for the ministry here. Click here for International Job Vacancies in Papua New Guinea.
  • Vision, that we would be able to discern who the Lord would have us partner with and which communities of the hundreds with airstrips, all with needs, that are on His agenda for this year.
  • Our Hearts, that we would continue to see the people around us as the Lord sees them. Sometimes it’s so easy to just look at the ones who are challenged by addictions or with propensity to violence and to become “compassion fatigued”. Pray that our hearts would not be hardened.

We do believe as Isaiah proclaimed, that the Lord is going to do something new in 2020! We want to be Listening so that we can discern what it is and how we are to respond!

Yours and His for the harvest,

Todd & Connie Lou

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