Friday, February 9, 2018

Black and white

“I used to think I needed all the answers
I used to need to know that I was right
I used to be afraid of things
I couldn't cover up in black-and-white”

Thanks to the generosity of an individual sponsor, for the past five weeks I have been able to study courses at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine. This represents part of my ongoing work toward getting a Master's in Public Health there.

The experience exceeded my expectations. Those at the School emphasize providing realistic public health care in settings of conflict or development – things that I feel complement my work in the hospital at Kudjip.

But for all I have learned I feel that my perspective has been unique. As the eighty-plus students around me take notes and the well-versed professors give insight into challenges I have personally faced the past four years, I am periodically drawn to look out the windows. My mind wanders back to my exam room, the delivery unit or the TB ward at Kudjip. I see clearly the faces of patients whose earthly burdens I've witnessed. Many seem so far removed from the walls of my school that my heart breaks – wondering how many have lost their earthly fights in my absence.

I am a life-long learner and I love black-and-white answers. Perhaps that is part of the reason the Lord put me in Papua New Guinea. Things so rarely declare themselves in black-and-white and the answers are even more complex. Perhaps he needed me to let go of that mindset.

I believe my studies will help me, and help those who come to Kudjip for care. More than that, I believe they have shown me that, even surrounded by the high ranking public health minds of academia, the most valuable contribution I can make as we serve in PNG is to truly care for and love those that put their trust in our hands. To consider how I can go “upstream” and make bigger impacts, but never lose sight of those individual faces.

“So I just want to look
a little more like love.”
-Ben Rector

Friday, January 12, 2018

Joly ol' England

Our crew just arrived in the UK this morning to visit with Esther's family for 5 weeks before returning to Papua New Guinea in February.

We are so grateful for those who came to hear about our work in PNG and who have joined our team in bringing hope and healing to the highlands there.

In the next few weeks we plan to connect with Esther parents, brother, sister and in-laws as well as her church family at Long Crendon. We are staying with Esther's family in a beautiful village called Studley Green. I will also be attending classes on Wednesday, Thursday and Friday each week to continue working on my MPH through the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine. I'm excited about this opportunity and have already felt like my studies enhance my work at Kudjip.

Thank you again for being part of our journey!

Thursday, December 14, 2017

Nearly there ...

What a privilege to see so many of you these past weeks.  It is hard to believe that in just less than a month we will be going on to the UK to visit Esther's family before heading back to Papua New Guinea.  Through our open houses we've shared stories and the great challenges facing the highlands where we live and work - but tried to convey the great hope that we have in the coming years of our service there.

With several doctors retiring in a short span of time, Kudjip will be busy tending to patients, reaching out into the community, making disciples and training the next cadre of health workers for Papua New Guinea.  We continue this work called to an important task, challenged by a difficult place, but motivated by a matchless love - that Christ would give himself sacrificially as an example to follow.

We are grateful to our new prayer and financial partners that have joined with us after hearing about our desires and our needs to continue working at Kudjip.  We are nearly to our monthly support goal and trust that the remaining need will continue to be provided through those who are called to join with us.  Not all can physically go to Papua New Guinea but many have already put virtual boots on the ground by sending their prayers and financial support to the patients we treat, people we teach and communities we touch.

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Join our team

We could not serve in Papua New Guinea without the prayers and financial gifts of friends, family and the body of believers that support us - thank you!

Current prayer needs are:
Our marriage and family to grow closer to each other as we minister.
The ongoing work of the hospital.
Financial provision for us and for Kudjip.
Health and safety for ourselves and our children.
Disciples to be made among our Melanesian neighbors and co-workers. 

We moved to Kudjip in January of 2014 with two children and the intention to stay for a year to "try things out."  We now feel a call to ongoing ministry there, and we have added two children!  We are grateful for the faithfulness of our supporters.

After four years of service we are looking for additional prayer partners and financial support.  This will enable us to remain serving at Kudjip bringing health and hope to the highlands.  Thank you for considering giving toward the Lord's work in Papua New Guinea.

Our monthly support covers travel to/from the field every 2 years, as well as our expenses while in PNG

There are two organizations that you can use to support our ministry financially: the Church of the Nazarene or In His Image, International.

To give through In His Image, follow this link.  Instructions are available for online giving through card or bank account, also via gifts through mail / paper checks.
Be sure to designate your giving for "Mark & Esther Crouch"

To give through Church of the Nazarene, follow this link.
(This web page allows online bank transfer only)

Your giving is tax-deductible and you will receive a year-end receipt for donations made.

Sunday, October 29, 2017

Open House - Date Change

Crouch Family - Papua New Guinea
Open House

Meal and childcare provided.
Please feel invited on the date that best
suits your schedule.


Nov 14th – 5:30pm – In His Image
RSVP for address

Nov 29th – 5:30pm – Believers Church
4705 S. Memorial, Tulsa

Dec 4th – 12:00noon – Family Medical
7501 S Riverside Pkwy, Tulsa
(No childcare on this lunch date)
Dec 13th – 5:30pm – Believers Church
4705 S. Memorial, Tulsa

To learn more about how you can support our work in Papua New Guinea, consider
joining our team 

Friday, October 13, 2017

And sin and sorrow cease

"Til Christ shall dwell in human hearts,
And sin and sorrow cease."

My family, after several stressful days awaiting a passport, prepares to go back to the States for some months.  As the bags are packed and various (temporary) farewells said, I reflect on our nearly four years in these rugged tropical mountains.  The times I have toiled in the hospital, the trials and sufferings of our Melanesian friends we have walked with, the redemptive work in the lives of those around us and the future.

In January of 2014, we set off from Oklahoma to live in the Papua New Guinea highlands, trusting that we had been called to bring hope and healing among those suffering here.  It was the first time in my life that I bought a one-way ticket, and I took my young family along.

About the same time as I was leaving my job in the US, a young lady here noticed a sore on her skin.  We can call her Mary.  The sore soon accumulated others just like it.  As her skin erupted in the painful blisters, she sought help from various people in her village and then her local hospital.  For three years or more, she suffered from the destruction of her flesh, with no end in sight.

After a particularly difficult time, she made the trip to Kudjip.  She was nearly unrecognizable and groaned in pain at the slightest movements, her arms and legs held flexed because of the cracks that would pierce her skin should she extend them.

When I attended her in the morning, her husband patiently and gently encouraged her to cooperate with my instructions.  She started taking powerful medicines to stop the inflammation causing her sores - her body's immune system inappropriately attacking her cells.  She also needed frequent washing to remove the dead skin and infection.  I rummaged in our pharmacy for the right combination of medications and prayed that we might see progress.

After three years a slave to her crumbling skin, Mary's body responded to the medicine.  Each day she moved more, groaned less and gradually began to speak and to smile as I saw her, like a butterfly emerging from her chrysalis.

When I journey to my native land, I find it challenging to know how to use the word "home". I feel like I am going home, and I am so blessed to get this time with my family.  Yet, I feel as though I am saying farewell to my home - the place I raise my children, grow my faith, laugh and weep with my patients and their families.

And I think of that time, in some months, when we plan to return. 

 We don't know our future and I have always preferred to hold it with an open, prayerful, fist.  Yet these stony roads, long call nights, challenging days and gloriously dirty few years hold some of my most fond memories.  And I can honestly say, with determined joy, that I am looking forward to going, and coming, home.


Update 5th November 2017
Here is the latest picture from Dr. Bill in the clinic a couple weeks ago!


Monday, July 3, 2017

Brokenness aside

"You take brokenness aside and you make it beautiful"

I don't do a lot of Facebook.  Not because I am against it.  I love that my kids' grandparents can see pictures of their daily lives despite being a world away.  I do struggle sometimes looking at the consumer-saturated culture displayed in the various items marketed on my screen.  But overall I feel we have a good relationship with our social media.

I recently clicked on a link to a popular Christian blogger.  (They have an agents if you would like to "book" them).  The post dealt mainly with parenting in a wholesome way.  What stood out to me though wasn't the content.  It was a picture.  The cover picture of this popular blog shows a pristine bible resting on a table top next to a fountain pen and a mug of coffee.  Two sets of hands rest next to it, one of them bedecked with jewelry and indicating a particular verse.  I think this picture encapsulates something - and I am sure that is the intent.  The embrace and study of God's word.  However, I struggle to make this picture do that for me.

In my high school year book I got one or two snaps outside the typical roster-style photos of my 600+ graduating class.  One of them shows me sitting at a table in a coffee shop with an open Bible underneath my hands held above it clutching a disposable coffee cup.  For those who know me well, they realize that this picture was obviously taken in the latter half of my high school days after I had an encounter with God in the 10th grade.  At the time, I was happy to see that I made the yearbook for something I considered positive.  Now I think back on that picture (I don't even know where my yearbook is) and have to wonder ...

A patient of mine here in PNG came to my clinic room a couple weeks ago, barely able to walk, supported by his friends and relatives.  We will call him Rob.  Rob and I have known each other for a little over two years.  When I first met him he had lost a ton of weight and coughed incessantly.  After a short discussion and blood test, I discovered Rob was living with HIV.  The virus had ravaged his body. Over the next month, though, Rob started medications to control the infection and his family helped bring him back to health.  After staying well a couple years, Rob now looked worse than I had ever seen him.  It was obvious he needed to be in the hospital and have tests done.

Checking his Xray, blood test and cerebro-spinal fluid I disappointingly realized that Rob had central nervous system complications of HIV and I couldn't give him any additional medical help.  I asked the nurses to bring him to the privacy of my clinic room to break the bad news.  Roaches scuttled through some of my drawers, papers were disheveled on the table behind me, a dirty blue drape clung to my exam table and the squeaking wheels of my stool sang incessantly as I made my way to him across the torn linoleum floor.

After telling Rob I had nothing left to give him and I expected he would die soon, I put my hand lightly on his shoulder, feeling every bone and sinew through his wasted frame.  He looked up at me and said, "Doctor - where is your Bible?"  I grabbed it from the shelf.  Rob then led me to a passage of scripture in Hebrews - explaining that if he had continued in his old life he would have already died long ago.  He felt that during his battle with AIDS, God had given him new wisdom and that he could now share this and instruct others.  If he hadn't gotten HIV, he would not have the ability to minister like he does now.  His frail hands grabbed mine and we prayed before he slowly walked back to the ward and likely out my life until Heaven.

I remember being back home for a few months in 2015 in the fall.  There was a miniature furore over the fact that Starbucks cups no longer carried any Christmas symbols.  Some thought Starbucks was doing away with Jesus and Christmas in general.  As a first-time furloughing missionary, I remember struggling to identify with my home culture.  I had just returned from a rugged land working to bring a little health to those struggling with cancers, HIV, and the many injuries born out of incessant tribal violence.  I thought of patients who taught me so much about life, God and His son, Jesus ... Many of whom were soon laid in the ground for an eternal rest.  All I could think was, "we are looking for Jesus in the wrong places"

For over a week I have been absorbing Rob's message to me.  A message he gave in a busy clinic room peppered with roach droppings and the scattered instruments of a missionary doctor.  He will never have an agent to book him for engagements.  In fact, he will probably never again walk unassisted in this life.  But perhaps he has more to offer than my "Christian" culture appreciates.  Perhaps Rob is where I ought to be looking for Jesus more.

I pray that I will continue to find Him in the dirty clinic, the grass huts of villagers, the bloody emergency room and the hearts of those who, I have discovered, are already so near to Him.