In case you missed us!

This certainly has been an odd trip to the USA for our family this time around. Normally we would have spent most of this time back traveling, speaking and meeting with friends and family. However, this pandemic significantly altered those plans. Ben has had a few opportunities to record some speaking for online broadcast. We wanted to share one of those recordings with all of you. We hope this will give you a glimpse in to our lives, our call and the work we are doing at the hospital in Kudjip, PNG. We are sad that we haven’t had the chance to see you in person but will look forward to the day when we can!

Here is our prayer card in digital format since we haven’t been able to give you a “real” one. If you’d like one to place on your fridge or stick in your Bible we’d be happy to mail you one. Just drop us an email at benandkath@gmail.com with your mailing address and we’ll send one your way!

Radcliffe Update: It’s Been Awhile

I was looking at how long it’s been since the last time we put something up on our site and a realized that it’s been sixteen months. Wow! I’m pretty bad at this blog thing.

I just wanted to take a few minutes to give a quick update to where we are and what we’re doing.

We are currently back in the USA on what is called “Home Assignment.”  This means we are supposed to be traveling, speaking, meeting with friends, family, supporters, taking continuing medical courses and the like.  As I’m sure you can imagine the global pandemic due to COVID-19 has changed our plans significantly.

We are eagerly awaiting the arrival of baby Radcliffe (our 5th), due the first of May. This new addition to our family will be entering our world at a time of upheaval and change. In spite of that, we look forward to the future with joy and hope. We would appreciate your prayers for Katherine and baby as the time of delivery approaches.

Needless to say, COVID-19 has seriously upended our plans for traveling, speaking and meeting with people.  I’m sure this incredible change in daily life has affected many of you as well.  We are thankful that we are well and we pray that you also are well.  It seems though, that none of us will remain unaffected personally by this pandemic. In the midst of this we want to still find away to connect with people in whatever way we can.

Even though we can’t visit you, your hospital, your home, your church or wherever you may be we would still love to connect with you if possible. Especially while we are here in the USA and have good internet access and are on a favorable timezone. For those of you elsewhere in the world we would love to connect with you as well.

If you’re interested in connecting via FaceTime, Zoom, phone or however; let’s get together! Here are some ways you can get in touch with us.

Email: benandkath@gmail.com

Phone: 740-485-0552 (Ben) or 740-485-0553 (Katherine)

You can also follow us on Facebook and Instagram. Katherine does a wonderful job. Ben….not so much 😉

Facebook: /radcliffekatherine

Instagram: katherineradcliffe

We would love to hear from you and find ways to connect despite “social distance.”

Blessings,

Ben, for all of us.

A Welcome Change of Pace

After quite a long hiatus from providing patient care (and no, I’m not counting all the doctoring I do at home), for the last few months I’ve returned on just a short-term basis to help in our cervical cancer screening clinic here at Kudjip while two of our other physicians are away. The White House, as we call it, serves not just our female

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The ladies at Xenia Nazarene Church in Ohio have made these sanitary packs that provide a woman with re-usable flannel pads, underwear, soap and wash cloths. These packs are life-changing for some women!

population, but also a growing group of patients with HIV/AIDS. I will say that after being absent from the doctor-patient relationship for a couple of years I was a little nervous about what the return to medicine might look like for me. I suppose that practicing medicine, in some ways, is a bit like riding a bicycle. There are aspects of being a physician that (for me, at least) require little to no practice. The building of a relationship and creating a space where a patient can be vulnerable are things the Lord has helped me to do with ease, much of the time. However, a doctor also needs to know things! Ha! And I feel so out-of-practice when it comes to creating differential diagnoses and choosing appropriate medication regimens. But, fortunately, I know that those things will all come back with time once I’ve returned to the hospital on a more regular basis (even though at this point I don’t know exactly when that will be).

But in the meantime, I am absolutely loving the chance to care for these precious women in our cervical cancer screening clinic. During the week, my dear friend and gifted nurse, Pauline, sees women from all over our area who have been referred to the White House for the initial screening for cervical cancer. We don’t use Pap smears here at Kudjip because they

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Pauline (middle) helps me care for this patient and many others.

require a sample to be taken, stored, transported, viewed by a pathologist and then results reported back to us. We’ve found that this method of screening presents a lot of challenges, including follow up for these ladies who often don’t have cell phones or who may have made a full day’s journey to get to us in the first place. So, believe it or not, we have an equally effective method to screen for cervical cancer and it utilizes something found in most kitchens—vinegar! A dilute vinegar solution causes abnormal cells on the cervix to turn white and also allows us to directly visualize (with a colposcope) other changes that are indicative of all stages of early cancer cells.

Each week Pauline sees ladies from all over our area who have been referred to the

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Our simple cryotherapy machine saves lives!

White House for one reason or another. She does an initial evaluation on these women and then refers the more concerning cases for me to see on Wednesday mornings. Often I’ll find pre-cancerous lesions that can easily be treated with cryotherapy (liquid nitrogen that freezes abnormal cells). This is an incredibly simple and cost-effective procedure that can be done at the time of initial evaluation and it absolutely save lives. Occasionally we find pre-cancerous lesions that are more progressed and in these cases we can schedule the patient for a LEEP (Loop Electrosurgical Excision Procedure) to be done at the hospital procedure room. And, as is sometimes the case, we discover more advanced disease. If the cancer seems localized to the cervix still, we are fortunate to have surgeons (I happen to know a good one) who can do a hysterectomy to save the woman’s life. And the

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It is a privilege to care for and pray with these ladies.

saddest cases are those that we see too late. Unfortunately, it is one of the stark realities of practicing medicine in a remote, underdeveloped place like Papua New Guinea. Some of the more advanced cancers that we see might be helped with radiation, but there’s currently not a hospital in this country that provides this service. I’m grateful that, even though we cannot always provide a life-saving measure, we CAN provide the hope of Jesus. Its really easy to feel overwhelmed by the sadness for the ones we cannot physically save and forget that there is One who provides healing of another variety that is far greater than the limited measures we can provide. And when I have the opportunity to share this very truth to the broken woman sitting before me, I realize that all of a physician’s book knowledge becomes a little less important, both for that moment and for eternity.

 

All in the Family

One of my favorite things about being a surgeon in PNG is that my children get to experience what I do in an up-close and personal way. In some ways I think it makes it much easier for them to understand the “why” when I have to leave the dinner table early or head to the ER in the middle of a bedtime story. It’s always a highlight for me when the family joins me on rounds. I think the only people who enjoy their company more than I do are my patients and the surgery ward nursing staff.

Naomi is the least shy of our four and is always there to ask questions, shake or hold a hand and greet the patients in “Tok Pisin.” The patient in this picture is a young girl who had a terrible infection of her right foot that required multiple debridements. Her heel bone ended up exposed and she’s now on wound VAC therapy to help prepare the wound for a skin graft sometime soon.

Matthias was quite fascinated by the wound VAC machine. He and Simeon always want to know how things work. They kill us with questions.

This young guy was speared in the left chest. The weapon narrowly missed the heart and injured one of the veins in his left lung. He lost a lot of blood but his family got him to the ER in time for us to help him. We thank the Lord for a team here at the hospital who can respond quickly when the need arises.

Naomi, ever the inquisitor, wanted to know why he’d been stabbed. This led to a conversation with a 2-year-old and a 6-year-old about what it means to be so drunk you can’t remember what happened. Life is just filled with teachable moments.

Ever the helper, Naomi insisted that she help Daddy with the chart. I found it most helpful for her to hold the medicine reconciliation sheet so I could check the patient’s meds while I wrote orders and notes.

This man had an unfortunate encounter with his brother’s bush knife (machete). It seems that his brother was less than pleased that the patient’s pig had gotten into his garden and damaged his crops. As an old missionary surgeon I know commonly said, “With families like these, who needs enemies.”

This is Chris. He’s been my patient now multiple times. He suffers from a terrible infection in the bone of his upper arm that has required multiple operations to try and get it cleaned and healed. This picture is from the second half of rounds. The other three kids have been otherwise distracted, but not Naomi. I’m pretty sure she thinks she’s already the Chief.

Right now we are in between trainees at Kudjip. This means that on the weekends if I want company on rounds I have to bring my own junior colleagues. That’s a pretty special privilege if you ask me!

Catching Up

Our days at home in the last months have been full of fun celebrations, visitors, and new friends. The kids are growing at lightning speed and I only wish I could share (or remember) all of the hilarious things they’ve done and said that have kept us in stitches. But this photo blog should get you caught up on some of the other highlights on the PNG home-front!

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As our household numbers grew, we realized we needed a bit more space on the inside of the house! So some of our national maintenance workers helped to build this shed on one end of our back porch. Its been a wonderful addition!

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Despite living very near the river, we don’t often ALL make it down there. But when we do, you can be absolutely sure that someone ends up falling in. I believe it was Matthias on this particular occasion.

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I knew the kids would enjoy this swing-set (which was their Christmas gift from us and their grandparents), but I couldn’t have ever imagined the HOURS of play time it would clock in from all of the neighborhood children. Its one of the favorite “hang-out” spots for the dozen kids that play together each day.

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We continue to make “family rounds” and hospital evangelism a priority in our family. Its easy for me to be home with the kids everyday and forget the reason that we’ve come to PNG! THIS is what its all about. And I’m glad anytime my kids can see lives changed because of what God is doing in this place.

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Each year on Christmas Eve the missionaries go caroling at each of the four hospital wards. We usually also do some sort of nativity play. And it usually involves enticing toddlers to wear certain hats or robes.

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I tried to get a handle on pre-school with these two (despite the multiple interruptions due to their sisters), and even if we weren’t very consistent or it wasn’t very creative most days, they still have a love for learning. Now Simeon is gearing up for kindergarten!

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Praying with patients on the wards is one of my favorite things to do. There is an openness and gratitude that is so refreshing and encouraging.

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This was Naomi’s first time in the baby swing that Grandma and Grandpops brought back from Australia!

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Boxes from America are still an absolute highlight around here!

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Thanks to many of YOU who made donations toward a vehicle, we were able to purchase this 2001 Toyota LandCruiser. In the last few months is been to several bush churches, up a couple of mountains and taken many trips on the pot-hole infested highway. We are so grateful for the freedom and flexibility it allows us!

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And it wouldn’t be a typical day around our house without some Lego play.

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Tabea can frequently be found wearing one of my scarves or necklaces. 

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This here was one of the greatest days we’ve had in awhile!  Grandma Betsy and Grandpa Lincoln arrived on May 18th and spent six incredible weeks with us. We made memories to last a life-time. And after several trips on the Highlands Highways, Mom says she will NEVER ONCE complain about a bumpy road or pothole again.

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This was the day after their arrival and this scene was repeated multiple times throughout their six weeks with us!

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Ben’s youngest sister, Lydia, graduated from high school and we had a wonderful missionary gathering with food, games, a slide show and a sweet prayer time. Lydia has since returned to the States with her parents for their furlough time and we already miss her here!

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This is a fairly typical scene on any day that Joy comes. She is quick to wipe faces and trays, sit down and play games or take both girls outside to run and play.

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And this is probably a less busy day on the swing-set!

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My parents had the “privilege” of experiencing election time in PNG (which happens once every five years). You’ll notice the candidates’ posters plastered to the wall of a store near Kudjip. Every day, from dawn to almost 10 PM, we heard loudspeakers blaring music and speeches from the LandCruisers that drove through the area.

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We are blessed to have a fresh market just a short walk (or drive) from the mission station.

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Mom and I enjoyed shopping amongst the lines and lines of used clothes that are hung up near the market each day.

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Joy and Tabea enjoy a swing together!

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I believe this was the day that everyone was hot but no one could quite be shaded properly enough. It was a LONG quarter-mile to Grandma and Grandpops’ house.

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I will treasure this photo for many years to come!  What a an absolute gift to have both sets of grandparents in PNG with us at the same time!

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With election season comes a whole host of decorated election vehicles. And this typically comes in the form of grasses and ferns that then become dried and take on the appearance of some sort of hairy car beast. We affectionately referred to them as “fuzzy cars”!

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The first ‘bush church’ that we visited with Mom and Dad is the home church of David Wan who is one of our dear friends and an anesthetist at the hospital.

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This wild band of buddies was frequently found “attacking” intruders on the road. This was the start of several weeks of playing knights and kings and princesses!

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Aunt Sheena is a dear friend who has now left PNG for her home assignment time. She was our dentist here at Kudjip and will return to another mission here in PNG later in the year. We had a “beach party” at the river for her send-off!

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Just kicking off the shoes before church!

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This is one of my very favorite photos of my dad ever. Its not a great quality photograph from any technical standards, but the meaning behind it is what makes it so special. My parents just became part of the PNG family during their visit and that will always mean so much to me.

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Church is always more exciting when EVERYONE gets a lolli afterwards!

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Pastor Tony at Konduk church had a special way with our boys!

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The main market in Mount Hagen may be over-crowded and dirty, but this little strawberry corner makes it ALL worth it. One pile of strawberries in a bowl costs 5 Kina which is about $1.50. Bring your own container!

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We took my folks to see our friend Meti’s place. Here she is with her son Lesley inside their home.

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During our trip to Rondon Ridge, a lovely hotel and restaurant on the top of a mountain, we visited their archives room that has some beautiful photos. These two especially caught my eye. 

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It turns out that Father’s Day in PNG looks a good bit like Father’s Day in the States.

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Only Grandma would think its a good idea to do playdoh on the living room rug. But it kept some kids (and Grandma) busy for the better part of an hour!

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Everyday the girls find their way to the stool that allows them to peek out the window to the garden and road…and sometimes Grandma!

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On our trip to the nearby orphanage, the kids were pretty entertained by Naomi and Tabea. And, in this case, Naomi was pretty mesmerized by the half-dozen pigs in the field nearby.

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These election posters were mounted along the entrance road to Kudjip station where they’d get a lot of viewers. 

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In the Mount Hagen airport there is a piece of modern technology that scares our boys silly!  They’re smiling, but neither one of them will go close to that hand dryer.

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And it wouldn’t be a proper photo blog post without twins in a laundry basket!

 

 

 

 

Stretching, Learning, Growing….

We’ve had some great days, some long days and some challenging days here at Kudjip. It’s been a busy time of learning, stretching, growing, and relying on God, my family and my team at the hospital.  We are now doing surgeries that have never been done in the highlands of PNG.  Thanks to Samaritan’s Purse/World Medical Mission, Riverside Methodist Hospital, Storz, Dr. Mark Potter and Dr. Mike Pyle  we’ve acquired the equipment needed to allow the people of Jiwaka Province to enjoy the benefits of laparoscopic surgery. Here are just a few of the highlights in pictures.

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Sr. Vero preparing for our first laparoscopic surgery at Kudjip.  We did a video assisted thoracoscopic surgery (VATS) procedure for child with a terrible lung infection.  The Operating Theatre staff worked hard for several months prior to this to learn how to clean, maintain and setup the equipment.  They have been incredible.  We started with several thoracic procedures since we initial didn’t have gas for insufflation to do abdominal surgery.

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One of the most fun things about helping bringing laparoscopy to Kudjip has been getting to teach Dad a few new tricks.  Who says “old dogs” can’t learn.  For all the things he’s taught me in the OR and out I needed to at least try to bring something to the table.

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I teared up and I’m pretty sure Gail and Margret were actually crying when Dad did his first laparoscopic appendectomy at Kudjip, 32 years after starting the surgical work here.  In case you wondered, I’m so proud of my Dad and the commitment to God and the people of PNG that he’s exemplified!

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Learning how to elevate a depressed skull fracture.  It’s not rocket surgery, just neurosurgery 😉

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This x-ray represents not just all the orthopedic surgeries I’ve had to learn but all the other subspecialty cases that aren’t always part of the general surgeon’s repertoire in the USA.  I’ve had some excellent teachers.  A big thank you to Paul Hitchens, an Orthopedic surgeon from Sydney, who’s now visited twice and helped me to get better and offer more to our patient’s here.

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Dr. Andy Bennett (family practice doc emeritus) has taken care of the kids of the highlands who suffered from club foot deformities.  His skill with casting and various methods meant most of those kids never needed surgery.  I’ve been able to learn how to do several procedures now for those patients need an operation.  Thanks Andy for asking me to learn how!

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Mentor and Mentee.

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“It takes a village.”  Or a big team on this mission station to make the whole place run.  These are two of our faithful and gifted maintenance staff.  They keep the lights on, the autoclaves running and water in the pipes.  Philip and Kulang represent many others who work tirelessly day in and day out to allow me to minister surgically.

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This couple are two of Jiwaka’s early adopters.  They both benefited from laparoscopic surgery.  She needed her appendix out and he was relieved of his infected gallbladder a few months later. They just missed out on our two for one special.

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Junior here isn’t so sure about his doctor’s sense of humor with the pretend stabbing.  He is recovering well after he fell out of a tree and landed on a stick.  He showed up in the ER with his intestines hanging out and bleeding badly.  This scenario bought him a good old fashioned laparotomy.  Thankfully he lived close by and his mother brought him in quickly.

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We recently reorganized our two sterile stock rooms, our pre-op and recovery area, and the surgical storage in the old hospital that is used for a warehouse.  It was a monumental undertaking but the improvement was so worth it.  It wouldn’t have happened without Sr. Roselyn and Sr. Edna, two of my scrub nurses, who kept the rest of us going and saw the project through.

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Two of our organizational consultants.  From Simeon’s hat it’s apparent that we are in desperate need of disposable and Buckeye scrub caps.

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The organizational project was initiated in preparation for the arrival of Dr. Sheryl Uyeda, our third surgeon. Yeah! I’m not the junior partner anymore!

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Teaching on rounds. 

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Since we don’t have CT scans, MRIs and many other diagnostic options, the ultrasound is a surgeon’s best friend here.  

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For us young surgeons, who grew up with all the tech and toys, its a steep learning curve to master the ultrasound and learn to rely on it.  Thankfully we have a reliable guide to the sonogram 🙂

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Dr. Cindy is one of PNG doctors.  She is part of a Rural residency that we participate in.  We’ve had the privilege in teaching surgery to her and her classmates.  They each come to us for three months of the year their first three years of training.  Cindy is the only doctor at the remote hospital where she works.  Teaching her and her colleagues to become confident with basic surgical and ob/gyn procedures has been incredibly rewarding.  In the near future we hope to expand our teaching and training.  Please pray that the Lord will open the doors for us at Kudjip to help train the next generation of PNG doctors and surgeons.

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The Surgery Ward (C ward) Team.  We couldn’t operate if it wasn’t for the nursing staff and nursing students who care for the patients before and after their operations.

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Katherine’s parents just left after being with us for six weeks.  It was a privilege to have them drop by the OR for a morning during their stay.  If you every want to impress upon your in-laws the need to pray for you, have them drop in on a thoracotomy when you have to take out most of the left lung from a terrible infection and have to control some bad bleeding.

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It was a blessing to have Sheryl operating with me on the difficult lung case I mentioned above.  If it hadn’t been for her help and the Lord’s help, our patient wouldn’t have made it off the table. Our patient continues to recover on the ward and we are grateful for his ongoing improvement.

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When we moved back to this beautiful place that I’ve called home for so many years I didn’t know what the work at the hospital would look like.  It’s been an amazing start to what we feel is a lifelong commitment to this place, this people and this ministry of healing. It’s now a place that we all call home. Katherine and I couldn’t think of a better place to raise a family.

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We don’t know exactly where the road ahead will lead but we trust God to guide and provide for our family.  Please pray for open doors to teach young PNG doctors, for supplies and medicines for the hospital and for peace for our staff and patients during the elections here in PNG (July-August).