I started the day attending my usual F3 workout, this time led by Flex, who Rocky and I breathlessly followed into fitness glory. I have taught him well! We culminated the morning with a ceremonial handing off of the F3-PNG shovel flag, and a prayer of blessing for my flights home, and for these fine men to carry on the good work that has been started.
I picked a handful of pretty flowers on my run home, and presented them to my bride of 15 years with all the romance of our early teenage courtship. She accepted them kindly while cunningly evading my sweaty embrace.
After a quick shower and a few hungry drags of delicious PNG Highlands coffee, I joined Rachel to wake up the kids. Rachel usually claims a cuddly Pennie while I free a hungry Solomon from the confines of his crib. For the past month or two he has grinned ear to ear and repeatedly said “NANA!!!” after being woken up, as he has discovered a voracious love for bananas. Well, his Papa enjoys giving him the things he loves, so the boy frequently inhales an entire banana while we get through the diaper & clothes changing process.
After breakfast, I made my farewells to head out the door for work, and both children claimed their usual “Biiiiiiig Hug!” and “Smooch”, and I gave them the daily reminder to “Be kind to each other, and be a good listener for Mama.” With nostalgic feelings about the early morning sounds and smells of the PNG Highlands, I took some mental snapshots on my 1/4 mile walk to the hospital. It’ll be nice to reminisce on these treasures when dealing with commuter traffic Stateside.
For the 81st day in a row, I entered A ward and my “Morning All” salutation was warmly greeted by a chorus of “Morning!” from all the sick kids’ parents/guardians. With a fair number of new admissions, my side of the Ward was fairly full, and I spent the next 90 minutes greeting each patient and family, carefully reviewing their chart’s vitals/meds/labs/notes/etc, examining each child, and coming up with fresh plans for the next 24 hours. Along with lots of loving smiles and greetings, I have enjoyed entertaining the patients, parents, and staff with a regular charade of silly antics - breaking out a little dance or song, skillfully picking up and using my Dr Ted magic maneuvers to sooth a crying babe, and occasionally coming up with MacGyver schemes to improve something (like the fly traps pictured below, that sadly didn’t work very well).
After rounds, I helped with a couple patients in the ER en route to Outpatient. Seems I saw mostly older patients in the OPD today - many hypertensive and diabetic patients who have been off their meds while travel restrictions have been in place (restrictions were lifted a couple weeks ago, despite probable community spread - unproven since testing hasn’t been done very much, or very well). Being my last day in clinic for a while, the Holy Spirit provided an extra measure of compassion and desire to impact lives which generated lots of preventive education and wholesome prayers.
Perhaps the most powerfully emotional farewell took place on A ward over my lunch break. I had been asked by the staff to join them for a little going away “bung” (gathering), and Rachel met me there with the kids. To my complete surprise we discovered balloons hanging from every surface and a massive cake awaiting us, while all the staff stood about with glowing faces in anticipation of my appreciation (or maybe in anticipation of delicious cake!). Along with the many patients and their parents/guardians, at least 75 people in all respectfully listened as A Ward senior nurse, our dear friend Christina, provided a heartfelt tribute to my service. I was then given the floor (a chair to stand on), and raised my voice to give thanks - only to completely choke up. I had so much to say, a heart bursting with gratitude and bittersweet farewells...and for a looooong minute, I couldn’t. MAN, the Holy Spirit can move! Well, I finally got my voice back and was able to fully express my heart, which I am leaving in part with these people and this place.
While home for lunch I presented a little anniversary present to Rachel, a porch swing for the house we have been staying in. It’s too bad I didn’t think of making the swing sooner as it would have been nice to enjoy it during our stay, but as with all my projects, the swing will serve the purpose of helping a future missionary feel more at home.
Throughout the afternoon I made sure to stop in and bid farewell to all my dear friends in the various departments - pharmacy, radiology, emergency, outpatient, and others. Many shared their appreciation and hope for our safe travels and speedy return to Kudjip. I assured them the Spring of 2020 would not come soon enough.
The afternoon was fairly light in OPD, so I was able to head home a little early and juggle a little packing while preparing to host our farewell party. As mentioned in my former post, our dear friend John Gari has worked tirelessly to renovate and beautify the area behind our mission house. This area was many years ago made into a campfire hangout by other missionaries but had fallen into disrepair with many seasons and brutal rain and sun taking their toll. Before bidding John farewell today, I paid him for his work, and gifted him a few articles of clothing, including my favorite old North Face which has traveled around the world with me a few times over the last decade. The jacket’s tough build will serve him well here. On a final note, we have decided to continue John’s part time employment here on Station, financially supporting whatever landscaping and beautifying needs our missionary friends have around their own houses. It’s incredibly exciting and gratifying to support such a hard working man of God in need of work, while in a way also serving our missionary friends.
So with the “FireBung” project complete, we invited all our missionary friends to join us for a “Hobo Dinner” farewell party (which conveniently overlapped as a 15 year anniversary celebration). We enjoyed these Hobo Dinner gatherings a number of times on our last trip to PNG, with everyone bringing their leftovers in tinfoil to heat up over the fire, all the kids running around and adults happily chatting. It was no less enjoyable this time, and culminated with a time of prayer over us, and a surprise “Hook”-style colored pudding food fight! (Thanks Karla!) What a wonderful missionary family they are!