I sat with pen posed this week while listening to Kathleen and Afri, our Indonesian nurses. I anticipated that I would jot just a few notes from their observations of their two weeks interior, hiking through 28 villages. Two hours later, my blank page is filled with tiny scrawl and my heart is moved, beyond what I expected, to see the immense needs through their eyes. I can’t hold their report to myself. I must process the information and share it with you. We have to formulate plans and goals of how we can impact people groups who have little or absolutely NO access to health care. Please listen with me, as I recreate their conversation:
“Mam Ruth, we are so confused how to teach health care prevention in these far places. We thought we would teach them the importance of washing their hands, before they eat. Yet they have no water anywhere near their houses. The people have to walk maybe thirty minutes to the river, before they can wash their hands. By the time they return to their homes, their hands are dirty again. And we tried to teach them to brush their teeth. They were eager to learn, but they said, ‘Where are the toothbrushes?’” (My mind is racing. Building churches and schools and clinics is not enough. They need water piped into their villages. We don’t need other countries to buy toothbrushes. We can purchase them here for .15-.50 cents a piece, we just need toothbrush sponsors. Brushing teeth alone can extend ones life over 5 years).
The brave nurses then went onto tell me about being in one village with a beautiful clinic that was built over a year ago. The village people clean it often faithfully. Waiting. Waiting. Waiting for workers. Waiting for medicines. But it stays empty, because nobody comes and they continue to suffer for nobody is there to help. Pregnant hopes. Pregnant anticipations. Pregnant needs. Unfortunately, this scenario is all to familiar in Papua.
“Mam, in two weeks we saw 400 patients. The most common medical problems we saw were wounds, poor hygiene, poor nutrition, worms, respiratory issues, and skin diseases. Also many of the men were smoking. They grown their own tobacco. The hiking was very difficult. Often we had to cross over rivers where there were only thin pieces of wood.” At which point the conversation digresses into laughter at Afri who was so scared and often would forge through the river instead (A woman after my own heart. I have a strong aversion to balance beam bridges……ugh). They then showed me many little videos and pictures of extremely difficult places they had to cross. And they shared how they ran out of food and medicines and……
“And Mam, the babies. The babies were just kept in the nokins (a traditional Papua woven bag). When the baby goes to the bathroom the Mommy will just use part of the bag to wipe the baby clean. Then the baby and the dirty clothes are just repositioned to another spot in the nokin. This will go on like this for several days until all the clothes are dirty and there is no clean spot in the nokin left. At last, the baby and dirty bag and clothes are taken to the river to be washed. Then the process will start all over again. Infant mortality is high. One lady we talked with stated she had nine children, but only two currently alive.”
“One village we stopped in there were no patients, because there were six witch doctors. Except for one man, forty years old. A tiny hut has been built for him. A month ago he got sick and now he cannot walk or control his bathroom needs. He has large decubitus with necrotic tissue and foul smell. He is constantly wet. The village people believe he is sick like this because a curse was put upon him. We want to send in rubber mats for him so that he can stay more dry.”
“We need small scissors, that we can boil in water to sterilize. We took stiches out of one Papua person who had left them in for over one month. We need more gauze and ace bandages and Vaseline gauze. We need a thermometer and a glucometer. We need waterproof raincoats and ways to keep our medicines dry.” Yes, pregnant needs. Not selfish wants. NEEDS.
“Look at these children, Mam Ruth. They are using a wheelbarrow bucket to ride down the hill. But at the bottom of the hill where they stop is open toilets. All this area, in the tall grass is where they use the bathroom. No hole or water. Just the open tall grass.”
“We came to one village where there was a school, but no teachers have been there in five years.” Pregnant learners, waiting.
Its almost too much to process. To think that just a few mountain ridges away from my comfortable home are tribal group after tribal group experiencing all of the above and so much more. Please pray for wisdom for us, that we will know how to help most effectively. Pray for laborers. Pray for funding and supplies. Pray for the health and safety of the brave hearts that are serving.
I can’t imagine sitting in any first world hospital board meeting and hearing a medical report that was so moving, compelling, full of need, and pregnant hope. Through their eyes I saw great need.