KIMBE, Papua New Guinea — The truck turned off the paved road leading from town onto the dirt track that would take us up into the village hidden in the jungle, otherwise known as Sector 21.
Crowded into the open truck bed, my teammates and I waited eagerly until the vehicle stopped in a clearing where dozens of people waited. Adults eyed us with shy curiosity. Children giggled with excitement over this visit from pale-skinned foreigners. Hungry looking dogs mingled with the humans.
Our first day of medical outreach was here. We had left our floating base, the m/v PACIFIC LINK — a YWAM medical and training ship— less than 10 minutes earlier, thankful for our transportation so we wouldn’t need to walk the three miles to the site. An advance team had gone in a separate vehicle with the equipment and supplies so everything was set up when we arrived.
It was barely 10 a.m., but already hot even under the many trees surrounding us. One of our tents had been reserved for infant immunizations and wound care and another for general health care and medicines. Separate tents were reserved for registration and fitting people with eye glasses.
Our community engagement team dove in and began singing lively songs with the children gathered on the wooden benches set in rows to one side of the clearing. They soon moved to a flat area behind the houses to toss around a beach ball.
I scanned the clearing and noticed the evident poverty: Items of clothing (sometimes in poor condition), homes constructed of wooden planks and sometimes patchworked with tin and crushed aluminum cans. Roofs usually consisted of thatch or thatch and tarp or perhaps if the family was a bit better off, corrugated tin. By the appearance of the area, I assumed no one had electricity or running water. The community toilet turned out to be a wooden shack surrounding a pit in the ground behind our health care tent. The villagers called it “The little house.”
My role was to glean stories from this outreach, stories that would touch the heart of readers who might feel God’s call to come and help with this type of ministry.
Almost immediately, I befriended a young mother named Carol and her young son, Mauwe. She seemed to speak only pidgin mixed with some English but I was able to get a general idea of what she was saying so I could answer her questions satisfactorily.
Carol shared a bit of her story with me. She said she used to go to the large Catholic church in town but had stopped attending because she was “backslidden.” She did not say why or who had pronounced her backslidden. I reminded her of the story of the “prodigal son” and that, like the father in the story, our Heavenly Father is always ready to take her back with open arms. I then prayed for her. Not only was this young mother able to receive spiritual encouragement but she later took her son to the primary healthcare tent for some attention.
Reader glasses are quite a popular item in Papua New Guinea. Although it is rare to see someone here wearing glasses, the many hours of daily work in the hot sun weakens the eyes quickly.
Josephine received a new pair or reader glasses but much more as well. She came to us complaining of knee pain “because of my weight and too much walking,” she surmised. Our resident doctor gave her a shot and when a YWAM volunteer and I met her several days later in a local store, she beamed with happiness. “My knee feels so much better! I am so thankful to God for my brothers and sisters who came to give us help.”
Many others received essential care from our medical volunteers that day and, even more importantly, a touch from the Lord.
Young Nason exhibited the symptoms of yaws, a tropical disease that affects children ages 6 to 10 years old and is most common in coastal areas. The local hospital had run out of the needed medicine but we “just happened” to have some — a single injection that would cure this young boy.
Dorothy and her husband came to me and asked where we would set up our next clinics, information that was unavailable at that time. It was a bit difficult to understand the details of their story. Their teenage son had injured either his hip or leg some time ago and was in pain and unable to put his full weight on the leg. He was 90 minutes away by car, however.
Feeling helpless, I gave them a quick summary of the Roman centurion who asked Jesus to heal a beloved servant who was dying. Jesus granted the man’s request, amazed and pleased by the faith that believed Jesus could restore and heal someone while still miles away. I prayed for healing and comfort for their son, knowing I wasn’t depending on the strength of my faith but on the power of a loving and merciful God.
Later in the afternoon, several of our team members and I gathered around an elderly man named Daniel who dealt with partial deafness. We prayed for him several times until, with a smile, he told us his hearing had improved.
When we minister to others, especially those in desperate circumstances, we long to see miracles happen. If we see miracles, we want to see more of them. But even though dramatic results may not be present, we see only a tiny part of the big picture that God sees. While we are often aware only of the physical, we cannot know the ways God moved while we prayed or bandaged or dispensed medications — or hugs and words of encouragement.
We can only extend our hands and hearts as channels of Christ’s love and life and obey in faith that the Heavenly Father will do what we cannot.
By Cheryl Weber
YWAM Ships Kona volunteer