In September, Canadian Salvationists April Barthau and Marco Herrera 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, they share their experiences.
This month of December was particularly special for us and moved our hearts to love Papua New Guinea (PNG) more every day. On December 1, we had the opportunity to participate in World AIDS Day. At the Salvation Army’s Ela Beach House of Hope we had a service that was attended by more than 150 people, from newborns to the elderly. These people are part of either our literacy program, our gender-based violence survival programs, or are people living with HIV. Almost 100 of the participants were children who are living with HIV or have lost their parents due to AIDS. These children receive sponsorship for food and education through The Salvation Army. This event was emotional as we had testimonials, sang He’s Got the Whole World in His Hands and lit candles for loved ones who had been lost because of AIDS.
In Port Moresby, where we live, we participated in the commissioning of cadets in the Joyful Intercessors Session. Five couples were commissioned and given their first appointment. Another five couples were commissioned at the territory’s other training college in the north at Kainantu.
Marco was invited to direct the band with only three weeks of preparation, but with hard work and additional rehearsals, the band had a great performance. We received many compliments and are working toward starting a school of music in February.
In the same meeting, the territorial commander, territorial president of women’s ministries, training college principal, and secretary for business administration were farewelled with lots of colour, traditional dancing and singing. It was interesting to watch as PNG culture was integrated into The Salvation Army’s Orders and Regulations. It was a long day, but full of the Holy Spirit and a great time to refocus on our commitment to ministry.
For Christmas, we had a small celebration and barbecue for our clinic staff who had never had a Christmas party before as a clinic. We shared Christmas stories, sang carols in Pidgin and Marco gave a devotional. It really started to feel like Christmas when we participated in our corps’ preparation and distribution of clothes and food hampers to 80 families in the GiniGini Settlement. The corps decided that, instead of having a Christmas party, we would spread God’s love to those in need.
Settlements such as GiniGini are formed when people come from their villages to the capital and do not have a home, so they go to a space they do not own and build their own houses out of any materials they can find. In PNG, families include distant relatives and even friends of friends, so one home may have up to 30 people. This poses a great risk with respect to spreading tuberculosis and other communicable diseases. These settlements do not have electricity and often go without running water.
Our corps’ visit to the settlement included a short devotional, singing carols, playing games with the kids and distributing the hampers. It felt like a typical Christmas kettle experience but, given that it was 32 C, we decided not to play I’m Dreaming of a White Christmas.
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As they embark on a new year and continue their ministry at the Koki Clinic, Ela Beach satellite clinic and House of Hope, April and Marco request prayers for the following:
- Wisdom in management as they continue to guide their staff and develop policies and procedures for the clinics and House of Hope
- Knowledge to increase their case management for both HIV and gender-based violence patients
- Open-mindedness to learn about the PNG culture and how it affects their worldview