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FOR NOW




In a perfect world, there would be no sorrow, no pain, no suffering, no shame, no guilt, no hurt… but that is not our world today unfortunately. However, as a Christian I know that the weight of these things are carried by my heavenly father. I cannot.. Cannot carry them on my own.

The last few weeks in Papua New Guinea were heavy. They were dark, and they were hard. I experienced a lot and saw visuals I hope people never have to see. I feel a bit selfish, I must be honest. The missionaries involved with this ministry are incredible and filled with faith unlike anything I’ve ever known. Faith that the Lord is guiding what they are doing, because He has blessed them in so many ways. And I could only handle so much of what they see on the daily..

The second to last week of my time in PNG, we went through some challenging rough patches. On a Monday morning, we started off by going through a huge earthquake that rolled throughout the compound. It was a long, deep shake- one that made you question when it would end. The aftershocks were quite noticeable also.

As the earthquake interrupted our staff meeting, we went on with our day and I was able to go on my third life-flight out to a village. We picked up a patient who had been bleeding for about two weeks with abdominal pain. A beautiful flight though as we flew through storm clouds over the empty, green plains of PNG. When we landed, there was a second flight but I wasn’t able to go on it as the injury really needed nursing attention in the flight, which meant there was no room for me.

As it turns out, this second flight did not go as smoothly as it could have. The plane, for the second time in 7 years, had broken down in the village where they were meant to pick up the patient. The battery had died and as all three Samaritan Aviation men were on the flight, that left them stranded in the village with no extra pilots to rescue them.

The men were able to call on a high frequency radio they keep in the plane for emergencies to let us know back on the base. They also told us later about a “magic string” that hung from a tree where when a phone was placed on it, they instantly received cellular bars.

One of the pilots had enough money in his pockets to buy the three guys dinner (aka tin fish and rice). They slept in a communal hut where they were visited by rats all night long and didn’t get much sleep.

Back at base, we called the other two businesses out here that have aircrafts but none were able to take a battery out to the guys. They were stranded for the night and the patient had to hold on a little bit longer.

The next morning, there was a boat leaving the village and going into town in which the guys would embark upon. A two hour boat ride on rough ocean seas left the guys with sore bums, wind blown skin and an empty fuel tank in which the boat couldn’t even make it all the way into town. Kirsten went to pick them up where the boat stopped working which thankfully, wasn’t too far out of town. They brought the patient in who had been cut with a bush knife while peeing in the bush, due to an argument over a papaya in a tree with someone.

As the guys returned and got the second plane ready to go back and fix up the stranded plane that was still docked in the village, Kirsten, Natalie and I were able to tag along for the flight back to Koup village. We figured it would be fun and great bonding time with the people of this village.

We landed the second plane and everyone ran out to greet us as now, they had two planes docked on their waters. What an exciting time for them!

As the pilots worked on the plane, Kirsten and I played with the kids watching and took photos of them. She showed them what her own kids looked like and they busted up laughing. I taught them how to play hot hands and how to have a thumb war. One brave girl challenged me at both and it got the crowd rolling.

Before leaving the airport, Kirsten had suggested we bring a stretcher just incase someone with an injury showed up suddenly, but we were not planning on that happening. We anticipated on Getting the stranded plane recharged so we could fly both planes safely back to the hangar and regroup after an odd 24 hours.

Before we knew it, as we were bonding with the villagers and fixing the plane, we received word that a man with a cut to his neck was in need of help and on his way already from across the lake. We could see him coming before we even agreed that we could take him.

And in this moment, the event escalated from 0-100 in about 10 seconds.

The man not only had a cut to his neck, but was bleeding (and I mean pouring out) uncontrollably. He was hardly alive.

I’ll spare details because as I talk about it, my memories are flooded with the sights, sounds and smells I wish I could unsee.

There was anger in the air as two guys on the same boat as the patient were suddenly raising their axes and spears in the air and raising their voices..

Tribal war was about to break out.

Kirsten said to me, “see those guys are angry. We need to move.”

We found out later that while the man was napping in his hut, he was cut deeply with a bush knife to his throat and his hut was set on fire with him in it. They tried to injure him and burn him alive. All due to arguing over fishing nets..

As the boat pulled up next to the plane with with injured man, there was yelling, wailing, dozens of onlookers, blood, lots of blood and confusion on what to do.

We sunconsciously knew this man was not going to make it, but Mark made the decision to try. To show these people that we care enough to just try and save their loved one.

Again sparing the painful and traumatizing detail, and a long story short.. this man did not make it.

As we returned mid-flight to Kaup with the body, the wailing and anger picked up.

It was something I will never forget. Something I can never unsee and something We will always have to deal with.

I went the next week and a half without sleeping or eating. I had no appetite. I couldn’t stop the replays and every time I put my head on the pillow, the sights, smells and sounds hit me like a ton of bricks.

I tried melatonin and broke out in hives (I think that’s what it was), I was spiritually weak, I was mentally weak, I was physically weak. I was having anxiety attacks lasting 20 minutes.

I couldn’t focus. I was praying for God to protect me because I was being spiritually attacked in this dark place. When I layed down at night, I couldn’t stop the tears for what seemed like hours. And somehow, I’d fall asleep for a few hours just to do it again.

I knew I needed relief. I needed prayer and clarity.

the Lord brought me to Ephesians where I took to heart more so then ever before, what it meant to wear the full armor of God. I craved for the shield to defend the firery darts of the evil one. I pleaded for the sword of truth, the breastplate of righteousness, the helmet of salvation.. all of it.. I needed it. I longed for it.

There is a wonderful man who is a PTSD counselor for Samaritan and we were all able to process the event together and with him over the phone. I’ve talked to him a few times now and will keep doing so when I return home for a huge reality check.

I’m already dreading western culture as I know my heart belongs in a different culture.

I love missionary work in extreme environments like this so much. My heart longs for it. The Lord has placed a clear calling on my life for this. And now, I am desperate to figure out what that looks like and where. This was a heavy experience for me and one I never expected to go through in my entire life.

I know the Lord is good and strong and guiding me in this. But it’s not easy. It’s traumatizing.

He never gives us things we can’t handle, but I beg to know why He gave me this one? Lord this was a lot for me. For anyone that was there. Did you really think I could handle this much? I can’t. I can’t handle it Lord.

This leads me to sharing that I left one week early from my original time planned in PNG. My health was not up to par as I shared, I wasn’t eating or sleeping and I was weak all across the board. I was suddenly afraid of everything but I knew it was evil. I was fighting it so hard because I knew it wasn’t right, but I was exhausted from fighting the battle.

I was overwhelmed, hurting and questioning everything. I knew the evil one was stealing my joy and I was pleading for God to help me fight against it. I wasn’t smiling- it felt wrong. I couldn’t laugh or talk much- it felt too “happy.”

It’s humbling and humiliating for me to say that I had to leave early, but that’s just another lesson the Lord is teaching me I suppose.

My missions pastor and his wife happened to be teaching at a conference in Australia where my expenses were covered to attend. Including the plane ticket.

My heart aches. I want to be there. I want to be here. I’m struggling with the in between.

My missions pastor’s wife prayed over me the last night of the conference this last week and I was overwhelmed with tears the entire time. She prayed Ephesians 6 over me without knowing that is what the Lord had been showing me. She prayed Psalms over me as well which was what the Lord had been running through my mind during the long, exhausted last few days in PNG. The Lord was speaking through her and comforting me.

“Yay though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death. I will fear no evil for thou art with me..”

please be praying for not just me, but everyone there that day from Samaritan. It’s not easy on anyone. Another perspective: Samaritan has had only one other death in 7 years.

Why did these two uncommon things have to happen while I was there? Lord you have a reason for everything, but please help me though this one and use it to glorify you!

I can’t do it on my own strength.

I’m so beyond blessed and grateful for this experience. This ministry is absolutely phenomenal and soooo rough. The missionaries at Samaritan are charging radical situations with God as their defender and stronghold, and not looking back. 

I encourage you to support this ministry as there’s truly none like them and their fruit is producing incredible outcomes! 

The people of Papua New Guinea are in desperate need of prayer. Pray for their perspective on life to be radically changed in the strong name of Jesus. Because He loves them too. Pray they find hope. Pray they begin to love. Pray they find meaning and value in life. Pray they find the purpose God has for them in this life. 

I’m so torn on this place as I see how radical and beautiful it is. Please be encouraging and praying for the missionaries in PNG and for the people of PNG.

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© 2020 by Catherine McGrath