Monday, July 26, 2021

Hard days

Some days are hard.


I stood watching the baby struggling for breath, still cyanotic hours after her birth. She had swallowed a large amount of meconium during the birth process. Despite suctioning and resuscitation, we were unable to help her breathe normally. Now she was on maximum oxygen therapy after CPAP had failed. My heart sank even further as I read the chart. She was her mom’s fourth child, but of the three before her, only one was still alive. The next morning her crib was empty.


The morning before, I learned that Dora had died. Dora had been living in the hospital for the last several months. She suffered from chronic lung disease from tuberculosis as well as heart failure. Every morning I would see her, and she somehow usually was able to give me a smile. Each day I felt a little more helpless as I saw her slowly deteriorate, the medications no longer helping. She made me a beautiful bilum (decorative bag) the week before she died. We often prayed together, although I know towards the end, she was losing hope and the will to live.



Later that night I took care of a woman who had been brought into the ER after being tortured in her village, being accused of sorcery. She had burns on her back, chest, arms and legs and a deep machete wound in one leg. She struggled to answer my simple questions, on the edge of shock.


In clinic, I pushed through, but unable to fully hide the sadness and weariness I felt. A dear friend offered me some really good advice post-call-“Take a nap and then pray for these patients.” Later, I released them to God with tears, anger and confusion giving way to shared grief.




Henri Nouwen talks of service as an encounter with God, “a joyful way of life in which our eyes are opened to the vision of the true God who chose to be revealed in servanthood. The poor are called blessed not because poverty is good, but because theirs is the kingdom of heaven; the mourners are called blessed not because mourning is good, but because they shall be comforted.”


Today I’ve had in my mind the image of Jesus calling out to Mary Magdalene from The Chosen. Christ chooses to see us amid our brokenness, pain, and suffering. He meets us there. He was working here before I came and will stay long after I leave. He is working through my incredible PNG colleagues. I don’t always understand it, but it will always be a privilege to join Him in His work.




  1. Wow amen my brother! That was a good way to end the blog. Sounds like you dealt with some difficult, sad circumstances of patients' health. There are definitely things we don't understand, but it is beautiful to walk with the Lord, joining Him in His work. That's beautiful b/c it shows absolute trust. God is beautifully shaping you and the people your worked with. God bless you my brother.


  2. Thank you for sharing Daniel and thank you for your commitment to serve God in this very special way. Praying for you and the people you help. sandy

  3. That is so hard. We don't know why God heals some and not others, but he is good all the same. Love you Daniel.

  4. Daniel, My God be at your side each and every day as you provide care. Thinking of you, Patti

  5. So thankful that you are there to LOVE and care for these folks... God is using you in the good and the bad. He loves these folks and is showing them through your actions and words! Well done....

  6. Praying for you, that God provides you with comfort when you need it, Peace and wisdom all the time, He is always with you Daniel! Thank you for sharing these difficult times.

  7. Amen Daniel! You have allowed the Lord to create beauty out of ashes.
    Isaiah 61:3 to bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes, the oil of joy instead of mourning, and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair” Praying for your heart.

  8. God Bless you Daniel. You would have enjoyed our Camel Camp this weekend... It was all about Heaven and when we daily experience the imperfections, injustices, miseries of much of this life for many, it is a great and real comfort. May God Bless you as you lift those in misery in this life and bring the power of the Gospel both for this life and the next.
    Gary Gilberson

  9. Hang in there! God is with you! May you be encouraged the very moments you are discouraged.

  10. Thinking of you Daniel. You have a way with words and touching those of us who do not see or experience this level of suffering every day. Thank you for sharing and reminding us that we are all connected.
    Becky Davies

  11. Dear Daniel,
    May you experience God's comfort in new and intimate ways. May His presence be tangible to you and those you grieve with!
    David and I send you love from Northfield!

  12. Dearest kind-hearted physician, Daniel
    Our love and prayers are with you. It is so hard to see such suffering. The people are lucky to have you.
    Remember, Jesus sought rest and Jesus cried. He knew He could not do anything without His FATHER. You are Jesus physician brother. Take good care of yourself so that you can help take care of the broken beautiful people you meet. A nap sounds good! So does a breath-prayer meditation. when I was overstressed with very ill parents and other loved ones dying, I learned to sit still daily, breath slowly in and out. I chose breathing in Jesus and breathing out differed. doing it daily helped me feel the Spirit within me.

    You are a gift. take good care of yourself and know that God is with you with every breath.

    With lots of love,
    Betty Smith

  13. Laura told me about your blog post since we've been talking about the rough days at the hospital lately. I was praying for the patient who had been tortured last weekend but I'm sorry to read about the other difficult cases in those same few days. Prayers for wisdom & strength for you all on the hard days!


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