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.