Last Sunday I went to church and was greeted by an overly excited young lady. She knew me by name, I had no recollection of who she was and it made me feel like the worse person in the world. I had been to this church a fair bit in the past… enough to call it my PNG “home church” and I’m usually good at remembering faces… but not for this girl! I’m hopeless with names, but I do well with faces… usually.
At the end of the service, she came to see me and told me that she had a baby girl 10 weeks ago. Right away I remembered everything!
In mid April while on outreach with the Primary Health Care school, we partnered with a clinic in one of the settlements of Port Moresby. Every Wednesday is antenatal day. My favorite day! All the gorgeous pregnant mothers “Bel Mamas” come to get assessed and get their regular supplies of iron supplements and malaria prophylaxis.
In the afternoon I stepped out of my examination room to take a breather and chat with the mamas. I like asking them how many children they have and whether they’d like to have a boy or a girl. The mamas always laugh at my Tok Pisin and my cheeky jokes. (They laugh because it’s funny to them that a white lady knows their language, not very common.) That day I noticed a much different mama. A rather young lady, too young to be pregnant, and also not glowing… You know that pregnant mama glow…!? Well she didn’t have it.
I sat down beside her and asked a few questions. It didn’t take too long for me to gather that it wasn’t a planned pregnancy, nor was she happy. Mary was ashamed, very soft spoken and cried a lot. I understood maybe a ¼ of everything she told me, but I understood that she had made a mistake, her boyfriend left her when he found out she was pregnant, and then her family also kicked her out. She had no one to help her, and had to work long hours in order to afford a place to stay and some food.
I told Mary that she was loved and that it didn’t matter how bad she messed up, she didn’t deserved to be forsaken. I advised her to seek the help of “meri safe haus” a shelter for abused women to have a home and fellowship. I prayed for her and trusted God for the result.
Part of my work in PNG is very transient and I rarely reconnect with the exact same people. I have a tendency to blindly trust that all is well when I leave. It’s just too hard not to.
But this time, I had an amazing surprise! My “PNG home church” runs “Meri safe haus” and Mary had been staying with them ever since I first saw her 4 months ago. Not only Mary and her baby girl were both alive and well, but Mary was also filled with joy and hope. Something she hadn’t had for the past year.
All it took was for me to stop working. To stop being so focused on the task and to allow myself to look beyond the obvious and see the real need. A 5 minutes conversation is all it took to change this young lady life. How will you spend your coffee break today?