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LIFE IN PNG





Here are a few things you might find interesting:Often times, when kids are born in the bush their mothers forget the day and year, so when their age is needed for an official circumstance, their age is made up or they’re not really sure. A kid may say he is 12 but looks 18 and probably is. 

A good amount of villages we fly to for life-flights, have never seen an airplane, white man, the ocean, infrastructure or cars before. Can you even imagine that? 

And another just for kicks- I don’t have hot water in the place I’m staying.  Cold showers can be refreshing on hot days though.

Two days ago, a PNG lady our base is friends with, went into labor with twins. I don’t remember exact details, but this is what I do remember.. There was a lot of laboring and lots of waiting. The result- the first baby was born naturally and she needed a c-section to get the second out because he was too high.. Except the doctors were on break and not about to come off of it to help her deliver the second. Rosie looked as though she had given up. According to Kirsten. You do not see Sepik-Meri’s cry.. (Women from the Sepik area). Especially during birth. The nurses, doctors and midwives hit them and tell them to stop yelling or moaning if they are in pain during birth or anything for that matter. They have to be tough. 

Because it took the doctors so long to finally tend to Rosie, the second baby did not make it. And Rosie almost didn’t either. She received 4 bags of blood during this process. 

When we went to visit her the next day, the doctors had told her just before we walked in, that her second baby did not make it.. She looked so sad. She was the most swollen I’ve ever seen a person. She hadn’t eaten or seen her baby since she had him the day before because the doctors said she was too weak to eat or see him. So we took photos of him on our phone to show her what he looked like, as we were allowed to see him briefly. 

We came back to show her the photo of him and she was determined to stand up and try walking so she could see her baby boy and eat. She was in no shape to be walkin I’d you ask me.

I have to admit, this was the first time I actually cried in complete overwhelm of a situation. I was so mad. I was so heartbroken. I was in awe. I was so many things.. And Rosie was a fighter. They were afraid she was going to give up on so many accounts. And she didn’t. 

Rosie is a Christian. And in that we have hope.

Fact: women in the bush often times don’t name their children for a few years as they expect them to not make it. They hardly expect them to live even at birth. 

Today, we took a life-flight call out to a village where a boy had cerebral malaria. When we picked him up, the whole village came to check out the scene of course. The parents rowed up in a canoe carrying this boy who was completely out of it and foaming at the mouth. He looked maybe 6 to me. 

He didn’t move a lot in the plane, but I kept checking for his chest to be moving indicating that he was still alive and breathing. 

His mom had a concerned look, holding his leg the whole time in the seat behind me. 

As we transferred the boy to the ambulance and from the ambulance to the haus-sik, he was not hardly conscious. I watched his eyes roll and limp body be carried away by his mom in to the haus-sik.

I’ve been picking up the language and able to understand more and more as the days go by. It’s fairly easy to speak as a majority of it has English words. But I really want to know more. 

I feel my true self starting to come back to the surface. I’m overwhelmed in the sense of that there is so much to know about this culture and I want to know it and understand it all. I do a lot of listening and not a lot of responding as I take it all in and try to remember it. 

The families here are full of story after story, that I just sit and listen. It’s incredible, it’s moving, it’s heartbreaking, it’s awful, it’s every feeling all at once.

I want to know more.

I can have a basic conversation at the market now and with people I meet, but I’m determined to speak it even more!

I’ve learned so so much in the last 3 weeks of being here. I’ve gotten to know the people on base and hear a lot of their personal stories which just blows me away. Sierra is 15 and is from Southern California and has grown up in PNG for the last seven years. She shared with me her story of being here as I asked her what it was like and she loves it. It’s “her home. It’s what she knows. But so is America.” She told me that when she went back to the states one time, she didn’t know who One Direction was and her friends couldn’t believe it. She’s sacrificing so much by being here, but she sees God moving. Look for another blog specifically on her story coming soon!

Here’s a few more facts for you before I sign off:

There is no real word for “love” here. There is no real word for “thank you” here. Showing emotion and attachment and care for things such as children, husbands and wives etc.. Is almost non-existent.. It was hard to wrap my head around as Kirsten told me this. 

This culture needs spiritual discipleship, and not in the animistic ways they believe in. 

Men and women get married for each other’s skills. That’s it. There is no love involved. 

Women are sold as brides and the bigger of a man their dad or uncle is, the more they’re worth. Women have no say. 

Last Sunday, we were on a nearby island trying to relax for a day when we were suddenly on edge. While playing soccer with the locals, the Palm boys came running over to the rest of us yelling Anxiously. 

He saw guys run past him with spear guns, axes and machetes. We thought there was a tribal war going on. Mark told us all to get in the house nearby then changed it to the boat we had taken over to the island instead. As we began grabbing our immediate things and leaving the rest behind, we headed for the boat and were about to jump in and leave. A local guy came up and said it would be okay. Mark triple checked and confirmed it was clear.

We came to find out later that there was a drunk guy who cursed at the Palm family’s friend’s husband and raised his machete at him.. That was a threat and a huge no-no, so all of the guy’s boys ran after the drunk guy about to take care of it… Long story short, they tied him up just outside of the place we were and they would “talk-sori” later that night. 

Tribal war can go on for forever.. If someone wrongs you, you get them back by harming them or anyone in their lineage and their lineage may not even know about their quarrel to begin with. Once you “talk-sori” things can go back to normal.

These are a few of my experiences in the last 5 days. I have a few more on my mind I could tell you, but this could quickly turn into a short novel. 

This culture is one of a kind.  

They’re nice, the women are so sweet and smile at you genuinely. They want to know you. This culture needs hope. They need spiritual discipleship. They need Jesus. They are a hopeless nation set in their ways. 

The answer isn’t to come in and change everything. It’s not to come in and shame them or paint them in a horrific light and tell them that they are wrong. It’s not to build or manufacture, or destroy their heritage, their culture, their only way of knowing how to do things.

That’s not at all what I’m trying to share with you. I want to share that, this culture is in need of love and grace and empathy to be shown to them. 

A culture that is so sustainable by living off the land, but not sustainable when factoring the value of life. There is no value on life here because they have no idea that they have a purpose. They’ve not been told that they mean something to someone, that they are cared for, and that they are loved by a savior. They’ve not been told that there is a greater picture, a father who loves them and a purpose for their life.

And that is what Samaritan Aviation does in the haus-sik ministry. They walk through the moldy, dirty, holes in the floors and walls-ward, and tell patients that they have a purpose and there is a reason they are being saved and resurrected back to life in the haus-sik. Because there is someone who has paid the price and loves them regardless. Before Samaritan takes off to a village and before they take off from the village with the patient, they pray over them and the flight.

I’m empowered by this ministry and this culture. And I hope if you are reading this, you are too. This ministry is thriving because they responded to the call and God’s blessing the work they are doing tremendously. 

If you haven’t already, you can donate as a whole to this ministry that I so much believe in and ask you, from the bottom of my heart, to pray about giving even just one time to. 

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© 2020 by Catherine McGrath