In 2009 and 2011 I wrote a monthly journal entry and compiled and (digitally) published them. I would like to try it again for 2022. Since I have this option to blog, I will try to publish each “chapter” about once a month. I make no promises, but it is a goal for this next year. (This is the first chapter).

2021 has been an exhausting year for many of us around the world. I remember thinking a year ago that 2021 would have to be better than the general mayhem of 2020. There were some aspects that certainly were better. The fear and panic have subsided into a plodding weariness. We are all so used to not getting used to anything anymore. Overall there seems to be an indifferent confusion; about just about everything. Hopefully it has been a good year to get our focus off of people and institutions (a misplaced focus to start with) and settle our hearts again on the Rock of Ages.

It certainly was a stressful year here: lock downs, covid surges, tribal fights with dozens killed, hospital employee walk-outs, aggression from hospital workers, supply chain confusion (and expense), a home invasion, my car windows being shot out, a community poisoning incident with over 200 affected and over 20 dead, and the list goes on. I have been reminded that my Savior is very near, and has supplied all my needs, including protection from both visible and invisible enemies. I am very grateful for His kindness.

One trial was the death of Rick. He was instrumental in opening the position I now fill at the hospital. I was put in contact with him by the sales lady at the Toyota dealership in Goroka. I was looking for a vehicle at the time, and she asked what in the world I am doing in Kainantu. I eventually sat down with him, and he arranged for me to return when the CFO of the organization would be in PNG (he is from NZ) so that the 3 of us could discuss possibilities. The rest is history, and I am a volunteer under this organization.

Rick was a diabetic, and took a “relaxed” view of the disease. I would see him now and then, but he also saw at least 2 other providers (he didn’t want to be partial). He had at least 6 “wives” (married 2 of them), and an unknown number of children. He was a strong leader in his community, and was one of the most patient and level-headed people I have ever worked with. He had worked in accounting for years before becoming the manager of this company. He was also religious, following the local Seventh Day Adventist religion. I had one opportunity to clearly present the Gospel, and a few occasions to point him to Christ. He would smile and wave the information away; content with his own religion as a means of purchasing favor with God.

He began with covid symptoms in October. At first he did well, but his blood sugars began to rise. He was afraid of the medicine I prescribed. He had a family member who is a nurse and who actively opposed and warned the family about what I recommended, recommending penicillin injections instead. He slowly deteriorated until I brought him to stay at my clinic for 2 days. I hoped that some IV treatment would get him over the hump, since he was now over 2 weeks after the onset of symptoms. It was while I was going in early one morning to care for him that some rascals shot out my car windows with a modified slingshot. I discovered that day that his kidneys were failing. My machine couldn’t even read the test until I diluted the specimen. I then stopped most of his medicine and began giving insulin instead of the pills he had been taking for his diabetes. For a while he improved, but then deteriorated again. I transferred him the next day to the hospital in Goroka.

helping Rick into the ambulance

He was there a week with no improvement, and requested a transfer to a better-equipped hospital in the capital city. Inexplicably the doctor at the Goroka hospital resisted every effort; so that a medevac that should have taken no more than a few hours to organize took 5 days. I was making phone calls, texts and emails nearly every hour for those days, organizing a way around every step. Finally the team came from the capital city on a Sunday. He was in some respiratory distress that morning, but they worked hard to stabilize him and got him to the plane. But he “crashed” before take off, and he died there on the tarmac. It was incredibly hard on everyone involved.

The local funeral home refused his body because he died of covid. It has been baffling to me to watch people with known positive covid cases wander the hospital grounds freely, but when they die a team of 4 (or more) people put on full infection-control suits to carry out the body, and also to carry the coffin later (wrapped in thick layers of plastic). Mind you, sometimes the folks who died laid in the covid ward for days (right alongside those still living) before the team got around to removing them. Obviously, they are getting paid big bucks for this “service.” Of course, you and I know that it’s breathing people that spread the disease, not the non-breathing ones. So when Rick’s body finally arrived here in town (over a month after he died), with the coffin fully wrapped; a group of 6 people managed the coffin, and put up a barrier to make sure no one else came close to the coffin.

covid coffins waiting for pickup

I stood in the back of the crowd and watched the chanting and wailing. There were probably 300-400 people there. The road was lined with leafy branches and vegetables tied to stakes. I was the only white face in the crowd, and (thankfully) generally ignored. I asked questions of the lady nearby who translated some of what was being chanted in the tribal language. I went to say a few words to the family (after asking permission, since no one else was doing it). At this point another employee of the company came to get me, because they wanted me to sit up with some of the other company folks.

part of the funeral crowd

I was given a “program” of the day’s events. It was supposed to last no more than an hour (ended up being about 3 hours). Officially it was a presentation of the body by the company back to the family. I’m not actually sure I understand the concept, but that’s how they described it. The first thing that was supposed to happen was the “arrival of the ‘gasket’ at 2 pm.” Instead a casket arrived at 3:30 pm. I feel fairly certain I was the only one in the crowd who noticed the discrepancies. I told the other fellow employee that I needed to leave at 4 pm, since it really is unwise to drive the roads much after that time as a single white woman driving alone. He said that would be no problem. Because of that I was only there for a portion of the ceremony.

One of the first speakers was one of the pastors of Rick’s SDA church. He read the verse (I suspect from the Good News Bible- in English) “1Cor 15:33  Do not be fooled. ‘Bad companions ruin good character.'”  He replaced the last word with “companies.” He then proceeded to “preach” that we need to be careful how we live because on earth and even in Heaven people are going to talk about us, and sometimes they just say bad things. I looked around and realized that everyone was just taking in everything he said as being from the Bible. I realized just how dismally blind and dark these hundreds of people were. Not one ray of light. Not a spark or glimmer of hope. Not the slightest question that this may not be what the Bible actually says [not to mention that it is an odd passage for a funeral]. It was overwhelming to me, particularly because I had no voice or opportunity there. There are days that the lack of a Bible-believing preacher is even more keenly felt; this was one of those days.

This past Sunday as I re-told the Christmas story, combining it with the story of the “wordless book”, I reminded the little ones of how much darkness there is in the Christmas story. So many really important things occurred in the darkness and in the night. It seems to emphasize the brightness of the glory of the “Light of the World” who came that night: the Dayspring from on High. I am amazed that the Lord shone His light on me in my darkness. I am no different- no better than that mass of blindness on that hill of mourning. But I have had my eyes opened and my blindness healed by the gracious Savior. While there is life, there is hope that some may choose to follow the Star of Jacob.