Nazarene Hospital, Kudjip, Papua New Guinea: Gertrude’s mother was very ill when she came to the Nazarene Hospital. She was septic with fever, severe abdominal pain, and unable to eat or drink. When we asked how old they thought Mama was, we were told by the family that she was in her mid 80s. When we asked about her spiritual health, they assured us that she knew Jesus as her Lord and attended the Nazarene Church. Her daughter, Gertrude, is one of our strong women lay leaders, very active in women’s ministry.
We stabilized Mama medically with a nasogastric tube, intravenous fluids, multiple IV antibiotics and we prayed with her and her family. She also needed emergency surgery. We knew that it would be risky at her age as we have no ICU to help with post op care for critically ill patients.
During surgery, upon exploration of her abdomen, we found she had a gangrenous gall bladder and stones, which had ruptured into her abdomen due to the infection. We were able to get the gallbladder out and the infection cleaned out, but it was a major surgery for her. Post operatively she did well for the first 48 hours and I was happy, thinking that we had not only had an octogenarian survive surgery, but also a neonatal patient for surgery all in the same day.
That night I was called to the surgical ward emergently as Mama had suffered a cardiac arrest. Despite trying CPR we were unable to prevent her death. I was discouraged that night as the heavy mourning began, which is so much a part of the culture here. She probably had a blood clot in her lungs or a heart attack which caused the arrest.
Over the next few days and weeks I tried to remember Mama’s family, our friends, in prayer. I wondered how God would help them through the loss of this matriarch. I prayed that the Lord would comfort them and bless them. When I next saw Gertrude and her husband, Juneus, I asked gently how they were getting along. It was surprising what they told me about the days following her passing.
In PNG, there is the cultural practice to grieve at the graveside for several weeks. Mourners gather in a temporary shelter called a “house cry.” As the family and community met to pay their respects to Mama, they decided to not just grieve as the heathen do, but to worship and praise God. Revival broke out in the village! Men who had been desperate criminals and deep sinners came to commit their lives. At that time 40 had been converted right there by the grave of this Christian lady!
The next week I was operating in our minor operating room on a young man. His friend was with him to help him home after the case. As I told this story to my operating room staff, the friend spoke up and said, “That was my grandmother!” I then asked him if he was a believer. He said he had not been before, but he was one of those who had committed his life to Jesus and now the number of new Christians had grown to 44!
As I thought later, this lady had only a few years left to live even if we had been able to pull her through to recovery. She is in heaven now with her Lord. All the patients I operate on will eventually die. My goal is to point them to the Savior and give them the hope of heaven and the comfort of His love. We praise God Who can work to bring victory even out of death and dying! Please pray that these new believers can grow in their faith. Pray too that we do not miss the opportunities to share Jesus with those who are hungry and ready to receive Him.