Most mornings, after the insects and birds wake me up, I try to spend some quiet moments on our back porch preparing for my day. The kids are usually asleep and I sometimes read through passages of scripture or listen to music. And every morning I look out on the village of Kuplang with a small mountain rising from its tea fields to catch the first rays of morning sunlight from behind me.
The past couple months have seen very little rain in our area of the highlands, and the situation has begun getting desperate. Fires roam unchecked around us, burning homes and gardens.
This morning I looked out on my usual landscape and saw that “my” mountain had scorch marks and blackened trees, like so many around us. Gardens are now just ashes, as are the homes around them. Some of our Kudjip staff family recently suffered the loss of homes, and even personal savings. They now live in a nearby village trying to piece together their livelihoods.
As our family watched another unchecked fire on the mountains around us last night, Esther said, “It's amazing to just feel so helpless.”
In two days, my family of five will board a plane bound for the U.S.
In some ways it terrifies me.
When we left nearly two years ago, I honestly didn't know how long we might stay in Papua New Guinea. When we tore down decorations in our Tulsa rental home, sold our cars, packed a few belongings into crates and said farewell my mind started making excuses. Excuses to move home sooner - in some ways, almost praying that God would give us an 'about-face' and return us to the States.
Then the work in the hospital started. And our daughter Lucy was born. And adventures in the mountains of this rugged country took hold. And it seemed obvious that we could be here forever.
But patients died. Children and babies and mothers lost their lives while literally in my hands. Levi got sick and I honestly didn't know at the time if he might join their ranks - the longest night of my life.
As reality set in, my heart hardened a bit. My blogs decreased. I struggled to diligently catalog the plight and losses encountered by the people of this incredible country. It seemed like the sorrows of this place started to eclipse the love that brought me here in the first place.
This morning I cried, looking at my scorched mountain, knowing that in a few days I would leave this place to its ongoing struggle. I can't control the rain, and many times, I can't control what ultimately happens to my patients here. Any grandiose thoughts I once had about my own abilities are long gone.
I don't know what difference I make in the middle of this. But I feel an overwhelming sense of both sorrow and love at the thought of leaving.
Sorrow because as much as I've invested in this place the past two years, its difficulties remain. The mountain stands scorched. The hospital goes on – every day bringing healing to some, and crying with others. The people continue to piece together their livelihoods amidst challenges – challenges that most of the world doesn't see or consider.
Love because of the beauty of the people around me. My ex-pat colleagues, my Papua New Guinean neighbors and friends, my patients and their families who continue their own journeys in this place. Who every day take the blended steps of joy and heartache along these scorched fields, trusting in the faithfulness of a kinder tomorrow.
But one morning, as I look on my burned mountain, the rain will come again …
“O Lord my God, who dwellest in pure blessed serenity beyond the reach of mortal pain, yet lookest down in unspeakable love and tenderness upon the sorrows of earth, give me grace … “
Thank you for joining our journey these past two years, and as we look to continue in Papua New Guinea in 2016.