DUKE OF YORK ISLAND, Papua New Guinea — The m/v PACIFIC LINK completed its first outreach voyage of 2018 here last week. The medical and training vessel carried to this remote location dozens of volunteers who provided thousands of eye-care, dental and pastoral services.
Rhonda Hamilton, a family nurse practitioner who co-manages the PACIFIC LINK with her husband, Rick, said the medical volunteers treated hundreds of people with high-risk diseases that included tuberculosis.
“My last patient” of the outreach “was a very thin woman who spoke very good English. She sat down in my makeshift office and said ‘I am thanking God because I was the last person they let through registration and I am able to see you today.’ As I took her history it became very apparent she had TB” Hamilton said referring to tuberculosis, which was the leading cause of death among infectious diseases in 2016 (ranking above HIV/AIDS) according to the World Health Organization.
The team also diagnosed and helped dozens of people who tested positive for malaria. Benedict Warwakai of Papua New Guinea, a provincial malaria supervisor who served with the YWAM team, tested more than 75 people per day for the disease. Thirty percent of his patients tested positive, including more than 20 percent of the children tested. Warwakai said he was gratified by the opportunity to donate his medical services to his nation.
“We are changing our country. We are saving lives by getting the education and treatment to these families,” said Warwakai, who also expressed excitement that he was traveling to isolated areas to bring health care and raise awareness about disease-prevention. “This is why I appreciate YWAM. We are a good team and we can get to the places that really need the teaching and the medication.”
Hamilton said since she joined the ship late last year she has also benefited from the knowledge of Papua New Guinea’s health care professionals, calling their partnership “absolutely fantastic privilege because I am learning so much from them.”
Volunteers also got to enjoy some light-hearted (if novel) aspects of being on Duke of York Island. It is a land inhabited by water buffalo, swine and zebra fish in the bay. Not far below the ocean surface, volunteers came upon a sunken military tank during a swimming expedition. Only weeks before they arrived, Australian officials located that nation’s first submarine — which disappeared more than a century ago near Duke of York Island. But Hamilton said none of these highlights topped the thrill of providing much-needed medicine to local villagers — especially her last patient on the island.
“This is why I do what I do. This frail sickly woman who sat across from me and continued to thank Jesus over and over again for treatment is my sister in Christ,” Hamilton said.
“My obedience to God’s call on my life is her answer to prayer.”
Rhonda Hamilton, FNP
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