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!



  1. Thanks for a great post Mark! Amazing to think of our different "homes" and the even better home we await.

    Hope that you're all well back in the USA. Love to you all from the Lean family - Dave

  2. Love. As always, very insightful post. Always appreciate your thoughts.