Something takes us to Wabag once or twice a week –buying diesel, produce, and/or top up cards for our phones. If we need one of these things (today was several things), we usually take care of the others, too. if we are going to Wabag, you can also bet that a person or people want to come along.
Today, it was Bishop Nik who needed to go. Bishop Joshua was in the hospital at Wabag. He’d recently been diagnosed with liver cancer. I have no idea how old he is, but he doesn’t look like he’s reached 30 yet. Papua New Guineans when they are young look younger than they are. When they are older, they look older than they are.
Joshua is bishop of the Mari Mari district — the remote regions. He is a nice guy, handsome, well-dressed, very kind. He always seemed to ooze energy. A few months ago, we’d heard that he had typhoid. Liver cancer frequently follows hepatitis here.
Hospital wards are like you see in British movies — large, narrow rooms with bed after bed after bed of patients, only instead of evoking an air of cleanliness and organization, here they project misery and confusion. The hospital provides the bare minimum — the bed. The person often has to bring their own blankets, pillows, etc., if they want to have them.
People who come to the hospital also need to bring someone to come and take care of them. This person buys and prepares food for the patient and stays with the patient. They often sleep on the floor next to the patient (anyone who knows anything about how dirty the floors are in hospitals is probably cringing right now), and they also do not have blankets or pillows. Plenty of times they don’t own them. Houses are warm. Hospitals are not.
As we went into the center room, the wards branch off from here, we met Pastor Maniosa and those caring for Bishop Joshua. They were waiting for the doctor to be done with him. In the next corridor, the one marked “Kitchen/Morgue,” a group of people were wailing. Pastor Maniosa told us that one of the men who was a translator with him on the Enga Bible Translation Project had just died. He was a Big Man, so there were plenty of people there grieving him and wailing.
Bishop Joshua walked by me and I didn’t even recognize him. He was walking to the bathroom, just outside. When he was done, he came back and sat down on a bench outside. He shook hands with everyone, but held out just one finger. He was so emaciated, except for his bulging belly. The whole time we were there, he never even lifted up his head.
The doctor had prescribed medicine for him — but the hospital doesn’t have it. It will have to be bought in Hagen, if it can be found there. He also needs a wheelchair. The hospital doesn’t have one of those for him, either. Another thing to buy in Hagen (this is the hospital that didn’t have aspirin for Samuel two days ago). Papua New Guinea has nationalized medicine. This is what it looks like.
Bishop Nik and Jeff prayed with Bishop Joshua, and assured him that he was in God’s hands, that God had redeemed him, and was caring for him even now. This is an important message in Papua New Guinea. Sickness can be viewed as a sign that a person has been abandoned by God or cursed by a demon or a sanguma (witch – I pray that no poor, innocent woman is being blamed for this). Suffering is part of a sinful world, but God is still holding us and caring for us. God may heal, because we have more to do here, or He may bring us home to Heaven. But even this, God will use for good. It’s hard hearing this, looking at Joshua, and comforting at the same time, because it is true.