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May9ThuCanadian medical missionaries meet physical, emotional and spiritual needs in Papua New Guinea. May 9, 2019 by April Barthau
In September 2016, Canadian Salvationists April Barthau and Marco Herrera Lopizic embarked on a medical mission in Papua New Guinea. A nurse and a doctor, they are running The Salvation Army's clinic in Port Moresby. In this blog for Salvationist.ca, they share their experiences.
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- Opinion & Critical Thought
Here in Papua New Guinea, this year is going by very quickly. There are so many patients in need of attention, but so few staff and resources. It is challenging. Still, we praise God for the ministry we are able to provide at the Koki Urban Health Center, helping patients with their physical, emotional and spiritual needs.
We are overjoyed with the number of women receiving antenatal care during their pregnancy and then bringing their babies to the clinic to be vaccinated. Maternal and child deaths are an ongoing problem, so these preventative services are essential to their health and well-being.
At the same time, we are saddened to see the increasing prevalence of HIV in Papua New Guinea. Once again, the country is in a state of emergency for HIV, but resources are limited and there are fewer international donors, which makes this a challenge to tackle. Our clinic now has 660 patients registered for care and this number is increasing on a weekly basis as new cases come in and other clinics close their doors due to a lack of funding.
Last month, I completed training to be a pediatric HIV care and treatment provider, along with another nurse. We have started providing care to our HIV patients' children and are working toward providing integrated family-centred HIV services. This is a huge need as, presently, only hospitals provide pediatric HIV services. This results in a high lost-to-follow-up rate as patients are discharged and switch to their local clinic. We are excited to fill this gap in the health-care system, but we have a lot of work ahead of us as we implement these new care components, especially with our limited staffing and resources.
At our corps, the School of Music is blooming! There are so many students and so much talent to nurture. We have 10 beginners who got to hold instruments for the first time on March 27 under the supervision of my mother, Major Donna Barthau, who was visiting us for a few weeks. The students were overjoyed, as were our corps officer and divisional commander. The junior band, which has been practising with the senior band, performed on the International Day of Prayer for Children and Youth in March. The two bands will join forces for the training college's field and social mission placement service on May 26. This is a great challenge and will be a success for the kingdom.
On a more personal note, over the last few years, Marco and I have been working through our paperwork to attend the College for Officer Training in Winnipeg. After much prayer, we have been accepted into the Messengers of Grace Session. We will leave Papua New Guinea in August and spend a couple of weeks on furlough before we start training college. This is a time of much anticipation and excitement, but also sadness as we say goodbye to our ministry and the beloved friends who have become our family here in Papua New Guinea.
A recent weekend sums up the last few months for me. I had the privilege of hosting a retreat for missionary women serving here in Papua New Guinea, which was based on Velvet Ashes retreat material (Velvet Ashes is an online encouragement community for women serving overseas). The theme was "shalom." Being in ministry and raising Hadassah have been the biggest blessings over the last year, but it has been hard to find a moment’s peace and quiet. I was deeply touched to learn more about shalom, as we are in a period of transition. Most of all I love how the Bible continuously reminds us of the grace and peace that come from God our Father.
I look forward to being a part of the Messengers of Grace Session and pray that God will continue to bring shalom to us as a family and to all those whom we will be geographically separating from when we leave Papua New Guinea. "I am like an olive tree flourishing in the house of God; I trust in God's unfailing love for ever and ever" (Psalm 52:8).
Please pray for:
- Our nurses to be wise as they assess and treat patients every day.
- Our staff as we continue to work alongside them and mentor them during our final quarter in Papua New Guinea.
- Marco and I as we prepare to transition back to Canada and to training college.
- Marco as he leads the Koki youth group in a devotional on Daniel.
- Me as I lead a missionary women's Bible study on Saturdays.
- Hadassah as she continues growing and developing, that we will have wisdom for how to raise her.
Read past entries in April and Marco's missionary blog: