In September, Canadian Salvationists April Barthau and Marco Harrera Lopizic embarked on a two-year mission in Papua New Guinea. A nurse and a doctor, they will be running The Salvation Army’s medical clinic in Port Moresby. In this monthly blog for Salvationist.ca, April shares their experiences.
After two years of planning and preparation, we are finally in Papua New Guinea (PNG)! It has been a long journey, but we are proud to be working at Koki Clinic in Port Moresby, capital of PNG—myself as a nurse and manager, and Marco as their only doctor. Next month we will write more about the clinic, but here I want to reflect on what we have learned as Salvationists navigating the process of working overseas with The Salvation Army. The process is hard, but it’s worth it.
First, there is a lot of paperwork. Second, because of The Salvation Army’s military-style hierarchy, your paperwork goes from your home territory to International Headquarters in London, England, then to the territory where you will be working and finally all the way back to you. A lot of people with many other projects to juggle need to approve your paperwork. Sometimes it feels like yours should take priority, but that is often not the case. Third, getting your work permits and visas depends on the speed and processes of the country you are going to. For us, this required a lot of following up with people to ask them to process our documents, a kindly reminder that we were still waiting.
While we waited for our paperwork and our nurse and doctor licenses to come through, we attended mission prep. This two-week conference was life-changing for us as we gathered with other Christians who have the same desire to do mission work. We were reminded that we have to be lifelong learners and to always focus on worship as our centre.
Pastor Rick Warren writes that “worship isn’t an event to attend and watch. It’s a lifestyle to be lived.” Through all the waiting, the moments of joy, doubt and frustration, we learned to breathe and worship. We had to focus all our attention on Christ. It reminds me of Martha and Mary in Luke 10:38-42. Martha was focused on doing and serving through her gift of hospitality; however, Mary was sitting at the feet of Jesus completely focused on Christ.
After we said goodbye to our family and loved ones in Toronto, our journey to PNG took a total of 42 hours. When we finally landed in Port Moresby, our new bosses, Lt-Colonels Kelvin and Julie Alley, were waiting for us. We are very grateful to them for all the hard work they put into getting us to PNG.
We know that if God did not want us in PNG, we would not be here—the fact that we are in this beautiful country is a miracle in itself. What does God have in store for us? We look forward to sharing that with our fellow Salvationists through this blog.