Friday, October 11, 2019

To return

“But oh, oh, my heart still burns
Tells me to return
And search the fading light”
-Josh Garrels

I walked through the Paediatrics ward with my son Gabriel in tow.  A young man reached out to take my hand and I recognized him as a boy I had drained an abscess on recently.  It struck me that although I will soon leave this place, the sick and suffering of the PNG highlands will still make their way here and receive care from compassionate doctors.  The thought gave me comfort as Gabriel and I went to my office to make a few last adjustments before closing that door for a few months.  All my daily sights and sounds impressed me more and I began to miss this home already.

A few days ago I lumbered home in the late afternoon after an exhausting Sunday morning of call.  Overnight a young lady came with bleeding at just 22 weeks gestation.  Her baby passed as I began evaluating a woman in the emergency room in the same scenario.  The nurses asked me to write admission orders for another tiny baby born at home the night before weighing just 800 grams.  A mother laboring in our maternity unit needed a cesarean delivery so I notified the operating theatre.  I made my way back to the nursery and watched three premature little ones take their first and final breaths.


So many of the memories I make in this place seem like dark sights.  But as I prepare to return to the US for our missionary furlough I find myself more apprehensive about what I will see there.  Though I am challenged every day to encounter and combat very raw needs in our rugged highlands, I recognize that they are changing me.  I worry that I am no longer truly at home in America.

 My loved ones are the reason I want to be there.  Yet I shudder a bit to think of re-entering an old life and wondering where to start my days when my new normal has been defined by my family’s presence here in PNG.

From afar it seems that things are changing and perhaps in ways that don’t fit me.  Meanwhile, I am changed by the place I now call one of my two homes.  Its burdens, its people, its joys and its sorrows - surrounded by a ring of tropical mountains like a crown of thin air.

I made the incision with a heavy heart, considering the new lives we were unable to help just moments before.  A minute or two later that heaviness lifted a bit as a vigorous baby boy cried fiercely in my arms.  After concluding surgery this little one rested comfortably - ready to begin his own journey in this place.  Outside his expectant grandmother grabbed my hands.  Though she spoke no Pijin, her tear-brimmed eyes said “thank you” in a universal language.  I went to the emergency room, where more of my neighbors needed help in challenging times.

I am torn between two worlds.  Not just America and Papua New Guinea.  I am indeed a pilgrim in this earth - created for another eternal home but finding myself wandering a bit in the Creator’s world with a calling to seek and serve and save those that are lost.  Many times I may not know my real destination - what I am supposed to learn or how I am to change into the man I need to be - but I can trust the One who is directing my course. 

The thought brings peace to my anxious heart as I ready my family to journey across the world to another home.  And I can embrace the rest and privilege to spend time among loved ones there - remembering that it is not a destination, but a continued part of this journey.

“So tie me to the mast of this old ship and point me home”

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