Writing from the front-lines of remote medical missions. It’s breathtaking. Sometimes due to exhaustion, but most of the time because it’s amazing. Nonstop moments where there is only one shot and no filters. Sometime messy moments that become the most beautifully meaningful memories.
Remote medical missions is beautiful and messy.
Ten weeks of sailing and anchoring on uncharted Papua New Guinea coastline on the YWAM MV PNG. It’s a wild thing. I’m a six year full-time YWAM Honolulu staff on a two and a half month mission out of country leading the Optometry Clinic on a YWAM Medical Ship. Long days, hard work, cross-cultural strain alongside managing modern medical technology. Sometimes the only breaks come at the expense of turning away crowds of need who themselves have gone to great measures to arrive.
How do you tell a family, who has paddled for 8 hours by dugout canoe down a mountain river who are all fighting the weight of Malaria, that “We’re done with our clinic for today. Maybe a doctor will come around in a couple years.” In this recent real-life situation, there was fortunately just enough sunlight, energy, and medicine left.
What do you tell an old blind man led by his son 3 hours over a mountain, and through the jungle, barefooted, in hopes of receiving sight. Our assessment was his eyes were infected beyond our repair, no eyeglasses or surgery would help. Somehow in that moment, the hundred pairs of eyeglasses already given that morning and smiles of renewed sight of others fades away, replaced by a face of disappointment staring at blackness in front of you. In this real-life situation I was drawn to step outside the clinic hut to pray for the man. When finished, the man and his son smiled big, shook my hand expressing the most gratitude I had seen, and the son and the blind man departed on their long journey home.
Those are just two stories out of hundreds of consultations our group has seen in just the past two weeks in remote areas of Papua New Guinea. It’s messy, it’s beautiful, it’s worth it.
Messy; sweat, mud, seasickness, bush toilets, waste-high swamp water, bug bites of every kind, crocodiles, wild boars, large snakes and spiders, people wealing machetes, while majority of this nation is looking at you with a blood-red betel nut drug stained rotting smile, highly superstitious, tribally territorial, much disease and death.
Beauty; crystal clear coral filled bays, rolling lush green hills, mountain ranges that disappear into the sky, fresh huge fruits and vegetables, long family lines, a honoring and caring people, songs and dance, intricately fashioned shell and wooded jewelry, incredible traditional tapas and tattoos, a physically fit people, simple living, strong will-power, fresh air, listening ears, countless stories to share.
A healthy reality check, count the cost and enjoy the gift. Be real. Be love.
I am extremely grateful, God has opened doors and led me down this path. I’m writing this from a rocking boat somewhere on the Solomon Sea. Finding my sea-legs, while seeing the amazing sunrises, sunsets, and miracles daily. The inevitable transforming of my own character along with experiencing God, this is the reality of remote medical missions. Messy, beautiful, worth it.