Week one was … well… I’m not sure how to describe it. The builders and I got to a fantastic start on the house, right up until the point that we realized that we had a miscommunication about a critical tool – the chainsaw. We each thought the other was going to bring one. No problem, though. “All we have to do” is use a device that sends a signal to a mechanism that is orbiting miles above the earth in order to contact someone in Sentani to get their chainsaw from their house, buy parts so they can repair it, and arrange to have it put on the next flight out to this area. Sigh… However, compared to what else was going on, that was a MINOR issue…
A few days after our arrival, one of the village heads named Karlos came from Sentani. He was suffering from what looks like rheumatoid arthritis. When I went to his house to give him some medicine, one of his children was very sick. After doing a blood test, we discovered that David had TWO types of malaria, so Kel gave them some medicine and instructions on how to give it. The next day I went to the house and found out that they had tried to give him the medicine once, but he didn’t want to take it. So… they didn’t give it. He was clearly a lot worse. I forced a dose down him and insisted they give him the rest. The next day I returned to find out they hadn’t given him any. By now the boy was nearly unresponsive. They were trying everything they knew to keep him awake and conscious. They were convinced that the dose of medicine I had given him had actually made him worse and didn’t want me to give him any more. Nonetheless, I insisted.
We prayed. We fasted. We did everything we knew to do but, a few days later, David died.
We were heartbroken. Then, to make things worse, we found out that the family had “secretly” (nothing in the village is secret) called a witch doctor from a neighboring village before I had even gotten the first dose down him.
The day David died we had an unprecedented outbreak of malaria (actually, they said it happens about every 4-5 years). Sick mommas were bringing sick kids. Thankfully, we had recently gotten some rapid malaria test kits (but we had a limited supply). People were torn. They do not yet truly trust medicine, but they knew a kid had just died. We told everybody who came that if they wanted us to test for malaria and give medicine they had to agree to (1) take the medicine faithfully until they had finished it and (2) NOT to call a witch doctor.
We no longer felt we could depend on parents to administer the medicines to themselves or their kids. So, we began taking the medicine to houses as often as every 2 hours.
Over 4 weeks we tested 28 people for malaria – 25 were positive – 10 were positive for both types.
During the second week, Sion brought his daughter, Jesika, to be tested (his middle child, Jeffron, had already been treated and recovered from malaria). While Kel was waiting for the test results, Jesika went into a major seizure. Jesika had BOTH types of malaria and it had gone cerebral.
After she was stable, Sion and his wife, Pauline, took Jesika back home.
Later that day, I heard people wailing from the direction of Sion’s house (about 400 yards down a path) and saw people running that way. When I got close I could hear Awa Wame (Sion’s dad) yelling, “Jesika sauwo! Jesika sauwo!” – “Jesika’s dead! Jesika’s dead!” I literally wanted to collapse.
As I got within sight, all I could see was a group of about 12-15 people standing in a close huddle wailing. When I finally reached them, I could see Jesika’s mom holding her in the middle of the group. Everyone was crying and wailing. Sion was calling out to Jesus. Jesika was clearly unconcious. I tried to reach in to feel for a pulse or breath, but it was such chaos, I couldn’t tell. So I started praying.
A few minutes later, Jesika opened her eyes. I finally got everybody calmed down and got them to bring her inside the house, so I could look at her. I sent a kid to run to our house for some medicine. Jesika was weak but conscious. We prayed.
Praise God, over the next couple of days, Jesika recovered fully.
Even with all this illness, we tried to press on with our other work (besides just living). We actually made tremendous progress on the house.
Our progress on the OneStory stories pretty much came to a halt because of the death, illnesses, and Christmas activities. Sion was obviously preoccupied with his kids (they all 3 had malaria – then he and Pauline each got malaria). Karlos is Jeri’s father-in-law, so he was involved in taking care of that family.
In fact, it was Jeri that came and told us that Karlos was again asking for us to come down and check on his youngest child, Sam. Sam and his mother had run a fever for several days. When I explained the conditions for testing Sam’s blood, Karlos refused to agree and asked that we only give a fever reducer. He did, however, want his wife tested and agreed to the conditions for her. She tested negative for malaria.
People talked openly about how Karlos was not a believer, about his lifestyle (multiple wives and other issues), about his persistent reliance on witchdoctors and “old ways”. Every time I made a trip through the village someone would tell me how “Karlos brought this on himself”.
I, however, was reading through Job at the time and one verse was seared into my heart –
“To him that is afflicted pity should be shewed from his friend; [even though] he forsaketh the fear of the Almighty.” Job 6:14
Throughout the next two days we treated Sam with fever reducers. On the third day, Kel took some ibuprofen. I was out working on the house and saw her coming, weeping, and motioning me to come. When I got to her, she said that Karlos had agreed to the conditions for testing Sam. We went together. I explained that three days earlier we had urged him to let us test Sam and that now he was much worse. I again confirmed that he would let us treat Sam and seek the Lord ONLY for his healing. He agreed.
Sam, like David, also had both types of malaria and was very, very weak. However, this time we were allowed to treat him and no witchdoctor was called. Graciously, Sam recovered!
The rest of the trip was much of the same. Morning, noon and evening – we took people malaria medicine, almost always staying to make sure they took each dose (25 people – 3 doses per day – for 3 days).
When one family refused to let their child be tested because of what Karlos had initially said about the medicine causing David’s death, Kelli told Karlos that he had to tell people that he was wrong and tell how Sam had recovered. After that, the family brought their child – who had malaria and eventually recovered.
The whole trip was exhausting – physically, emotionally, spiritually! But it was a major victory!
In Bias, you cannot find two people who are more polar-opposites than Sion and Karlos. One has fully embraced Jesus and the Gospel. The other has clung to fear and appeasement of evil spirits.
I couldn’t help but think of Elijah’s challenge to the people of Israel:
“How long halt ye between two opinions? If the Lord be God, follow him: but if Baal, then follow him”
Other happenings during this stay :
Lots of bumps and bruises, cuts and contusions!
A little traditional Christmas cheer
A little village Christmas cheer
Kel and Uriah made up gift bags for all the kids
Christmas “potluck” (more like “bucket-luck”!)
A Christmas dance
Corin’s 2nd birthday
Corin had an allergic reaction to… something
Performed my first Yetfa wedding (Alex and Cabe!)