My heart was filled with excitement as we drove onto the Nazarene mission station in Kudjip, Papua New Guinea (PNG). I was eager to meet the missionaries who are living out the calling I feel has been placed on my own life. Also, I was filled with anticipation to meet the beautiful people of PNG who carry the Good News throughout their country.
Romans 10:15, "How beautiful are the feet of those who bring the good news!" flashed into my mind. In the time I spent in PNG, these words from Scripture became reality for me.
At first, I was frustrated with not being able to communicate effectively due to the language barrier. But this frustration became my motivation to learn the pidgin language as best I could. The children couldn't contain their laughter as the nurses attempted to teach pidgin to me. Eventually I picked up enough to have conversations. This process of learning allowed me to build relationships with the children, patients, and hospital staff.
How thrilling to watch the medical team in action: saving lives and bringing new life into the world while sharing the love of Christ and His power to transform darkness into light.
I worked in the clinic, visited the patients on the wards, and observed and participated in many surgeries. As in most places of the world, many of the medical issues are results of sexual and physical abuse.
Seeing countless patients who were simply victims of their circumstances made me feel helpless. After observing their responses to the assistance and love from the medical team, however, I saw that they were given a Hope here that they had not found before. I saw the hospital slogan, "We treat and Jesus heals," being exemplified daily to the people in this hospital.
The last week I was in PNG was the most revealing to me. The glow of being in a new country and the excitement of working in a hospital had begun to wear off. I glimpsed the core of medical missions. On one of my last days in the hospital, I had the privilege of observing physician Bill McCoy interact with his patients. His energy and deep compassion for people was evident to everyone he came into contact with; his smile was contagious.
On this day, I witnessed something I hadn't seen before. A six-month old baby, Joseph, gasping for air and extremely dehydrated, was brought into the emergency room. After what seemed to be a successful attempt to revive him, Joseph made a turn for the worse. He couldn't be saved.
Helpless, I watched as Joseph's mother and father wailed over his lifeless body. The sound of their sobs echoing throughout the room will haunt me forever. I stood there, crying uncontrollably as I realized that this is the kind of hurt people face daily in PNG. Our incredible doctors in Kudjip, such as Dr. Bill, cannot save everyone. Dr. Bill comforted me by sharing his own personal journey. I appreciate his transparency about life on the mission field more than he will ever know.
After a month, I left PNG feeling struck with confusion and sadness. I came here, thinking that this trip would be clarifying for me. I thought that since I felt "called" to medical missions, I would be affirmed and feel "good" about the trip and what I had experienced.
Sense of Inadequacy
Although I had an amazing time and met many wonderful people, I felt an incredible sense of inadequacy. I'm not sure if I will be accepted into medical school, so how is the Lord supposed to use me in medical missions?
The pain and heartache of the people can be so overwhelming. How can I even begin to help or offer them hope when I'm not sure I have any myself? It was in a moment like this, while I was spiraling in a sea of doubt, that I was reminded of the passage from 2 Corinthians 1: 8b-10:
"We were under great pressure, far beyond our ability to endure, so that we despaired of life itself. Indeed, we felt we had received the sentence of death. But this happened that we might not rely on ourselves but on God, who raises the dead. He has delivered us from such a deadly peril, and he will deliver us again. On him we have set our hope that he will continue to deliver us."
Lessons for a Lifetime
I felt God showed me that the purpose of my time in PNG was not for me to feel fulfilled or satisfied with my abilities, but to realize that without Him, I am nothing. I was on the right track when I recognized that I am not enough, no matter where I am living or serving.
No matter how great we are at whatever it is we are called to do, we are not the Savior. How comforting it was to remember that I am not alone and neither are the doctors in PNG.
When it seems that all hope is gone, and we aren't sure if we can take even one more day, we trust and know that God is at work, and He has not forgotten us even in our most meager states.
Having been with these missionaries and the people of PNG is encouraging to me as I walk into my uncertain future. It is my hope that no matter where I end up, or what I end up doing, my life will bring joy to the Lord, and my feet will be seen as beautiful. Just like the beautiful feet I found in Papua New Guinea.
Lauren Wegley, from Olathe, Kansas, is a senior at Olivet Nazarene University in Bourbonnais, Illinois.
Holiness Today, Jan/Feb 2011