The Least of These

MMay the weak say I am strong,

May the poor say I am rich

May the blind say I can see

What the Lord has done in me.

This is the song that for me shows the extent of God’s love for the whole world and reveals the need everyone of us has for Christ, no matter where we are from.  Where ever we live and where ever we go, God calls us to join Him in reaching out to other people, even when the needs are overwhelming and we feel our contribution is inadequate.  I love that God has called me into the third world to serve and I love that God has called me into my home town to serve.

I see the mother, ravaged by AIDS, with a nursing baby and five-year old daughter lying on a bed in a remote Papua New Guinean hospital.  No support.  No help.  Waiting to die.  What of her children?  Who will help them?  Truly these are the weak and the poor.

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A suffering  mother and her 5 year old daughter.  Gulf Province, PNG.

I see the woman nursing an ailing husband at home.  There is oxygen tubing running to his nose, morphine liquid by the bedside, ready to be given when the desperation for breath becomes too much in a body fighting lung cancer and emphysema.  A palliative care team comes each week.  A well equipped hospital is nearby.  Still, this cannot keep at bay the heart sickness of a woman who will soon lose her best friend and life companion.  This is right here, in my neighbourhood, my everyday work.  The weak walk beside me.

I see the mother struggling to carry her six-year old son, concussed, drowsy back to our clinic.  I met the father earlier – proud of his family, eager to get his children immunised.  He is prone to rages and threw his eldest boy from the window of their hut on stilts. Across the field I see a woman struck to the ground by her husband with a heavy stick.  She makes no cry, simply gets up and walks away.  This happens frequently enough that no one takes any notice.  This is the ugly side of beautiful PNG.

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Transporting a 6 year old boy with concussion to hospital.

I see a mother, struggling with lightning pain shooting from her neck to her fingertips as bone and disc press on nerve.  I see her shadowing her grown schizophrenic daughter, dreading the harm she could do herself if left alone, fearing a call from the police, patiently accompanying her to appointments and hospital admissions where improvement is painfully slow in coming.  The daughter begs mum for alcohol and seeks comfort from men who only abuse her.  This is the pain of a mother in my home town.

I see myself struggling with what I can do to help in a world where so much is wrong.  I too am weak.  I can’t do much by myself.  But, I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me (Phil 4:13).  I can’t supply Papua New Guinea with a health system where all can receive treatment and welfare is provided to support the poor.  I can’t cure cancer or schizophrenia.  Yet I can do a little.  I can listen, pray and learn more.  I can bring some physical and emotional comfort, using my medical skills.  I can go to PNG and teach on health and health care.  I can encourage someone with suspected tuberculosis or AIDS to go and get tested…and treated…and perhaps their life and livelihood will be saved.  I can be part of a team bringing the love of God to people in remote areas by providing health care.

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Doing clinics in a hut.  Babaguna village, PNG.

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Women’s health talk. Demonstrating the birth process with the model placenta. This produced lots of giggles!

Whatever you did for the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me (Matt 25:40).  Where ever we live and where ever we go, we will encounter the ‘least of these’, the poor, sick, lonely and grieving.  We may find ourselves becoming the least of these when our own circumstances become desperate.  The wonderful thing about being a part of God’s family is that we can share the love He has given us in very practical ways.  God’s blessing is released through people willing to be His hands and feet in a hurting world.

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New friends – Irimuku village, PNG.  Elizabeth (white and blue shirt), age 16 wants to be a nurse.  She shyly watched me all day before I went to chat with her at the end of clinic.