MATAFUM VILLAGE, Papua New Guinea — Under the cover of palm trees, locals here witnessed something most of them have likely never seen before: A surgery. Dr. Øystein Berg, an orthopedic surgeon from Norway, was mere meters away from the beach as he removed a cyst from the shoulder of a 17-year-old male. Berg excised the tissue as dozens of onlookers watched against the backdrop of the m/v PACIFIC LINK, a YWAM ship. The vessel had brought the doctor and a team of medical volunteers to Long Island, where this village is situated along the southwestern edge. The episode was not only novel for these rural residents, but for an American teenager who assisted the physician.
“It was an amazing experience. I’m impressed by how calm and relaxed Dr. Berg was operating under those circumstances,” said 18-year-old Zack Discua, of the United States. “He worked quickly and efficiently both when he was making incisions and when he was giving instructions to me as an aide. I’m happy to have worked with him.”
Discua was one of the five students from Port YWAM Kona who sailed aboard the PACIFIC LINK in July to complete a field requirement for Discipleship Training School. The students lived on the ship for eight weeks. Discua was delighted by the gratitude Long Islanders showed when the ship reached them.
“They were very appreciative. At one of the villages, we learned that many people had been praying for medical help, so when we arrived they were overjoyed,” he said.
Evelina Ström also had the opportunity to witness a surgeon in action when she traveled with the PACIFIC LINK to Kar Kar Island, Papua New Guinea. The 21-year-old from Sweden assisted Dr. Sunu Dulal in May as he performed cataract-removal operations on board. Ström prayed with patients, helped them change into their medical gowns and guided those who felt slight dizziness after their surgeries. She was present for the first eye surgery in the island’s history.
“I loved being in the operating room when the patients were undergoing a life-changing procedure,” said Ström, a University of the Nations student who completed a field assignment in Papua New Guinea. “I loved interacting with them and seeing the dramatic aftermath of having their cataracts taken out.”
Ström said one of her favorite memories was seeing the restoration of a 28-year-old cataract patient who was told his surgery was unlikely to be successful.
“The patient’s eye was so badly injured that his recovery even surprised Dr. Sunu,” Ström recalled. “The patient was smiling so much after that. He couldn’t contain his joy. You could almost see the raw emotions welling up from inside him.”
As a medical and training vessel, the PACIFIC LINK has 16 beds reserved for discipleship school participants during each of its two-week outreach cycles. Eight of them are to host groups from YWAM Ships Kona, which operates the ship. The students primarily focus on evangelistic ministry, but also spent a significant amount of time in healthcare roles. Kaisha Turner — also a participant in the Kar Kar outreach — said her experience with the medical team gave her an extra dose of inspiration as she prepares to study nursing in 2017.
“I definitely want to go back — especially after I have my degree,” the 18-year-old Australian said. “I’m excited to become a medical professional. I got to see the great difference health workers can make in people’s lives in Papua New Guinea and I’m desperate to get back there. So any time God calls me I’m up for it.”