That Village – a Story of Forgiveness

It’s not often I share stories like this… and I purposefully won’t share everything. But I thought that the end result was such a powerful story that I couldn’t not share it.

This story takes place in, well you guessed it… a remote village! In fact, we took the road as far as it would take us, hopped off the 4WD onto the surveyor track and hiked to the end of it, then followed the narrow bush trail into the village. We later heard from a minister in Port Moresby that “Nobody goes there; it’s just too hard & far to reach!” and I absolutely love the fact that we took local health workers with us and that they are the proof that it is possible, they can do it! We arrived in our village just before sunset. The villagers gathered as they saw us trek in, congregated around our rest hut and listened to our introduction. They were super welcoming, and excited to have us in the village and so grateful for the opportunity to receive medical care in their village the next day!


During the night, an incident happened. It wasn’t a major incident, nobody was injured, but some of our property was damaged.

In fact, I only became aware of the incident as I was having a chat with Philip. He had noticed something slightly off… his story linked with what I noticed waking up, and sure enough, he linked the dots…

As soon as he realized what happened, he was devastated. I could tell by the look on his face that our plans would have to change. I had also been in PNG long enough to know that the village would be upset. And as I was going through possible scenarios in my mind, Philip spoke out what I was afraid of: “We’ll have to leave; the village won’t let us see patients today.” PNG is an extremely generous nation and its people are way hospitable! In the even that they don’t look after you well, they’ll feel ashamed. In this case, we were well looked after by 99%, but 1% messed up.

When our other brothers (our police officers and health workers) found out what happened, they became angry. PNG is known for it’s passionate people. They were extremely passionate… wanted to protect their extended family (us).

Philip decided to inform our host of the incident before they heard from someone else. Immediately, he called the village chief and elders and convened a meeting. We were on stand by. We couldn’t get ready for clinic before the issue was resolved.

A quick walk to the loo showed me that the coconut wireless was working. Everybody seemed to know already. They’d point at us and whisper. They’d avoid eye contact. The air was so thick you could have cut through it.

I came back in the hut and had a chat with Philip. Our suspicion was confirmed. The village elders wanted us to leave, and were refusing treatment, believing that they had disgraced us and couldn’t accept our gift of health care after doing us wrong. We all agreed that the 99% goodness was more important to focus on than the 1% wickedness. Philip preached to the convince and told us that Jesus would stay and care for those in need. We agreed with him and commissioned him to go convince the village. While he was speaking with the leaders, we gathered and prayed. We decided to share with them about forgiveness and the importance to teach/disciple or mentor rascals into good people rather than to punish and possibly kill them.


When Philip returned he shared that the Chief wanted to hold a reconciliation ceremony. But that the chance that we could do clinics afterwards were very slim. Our local health workers weren’t keen (with the exception of our exceptional Philip!) one even said “don’t ask me to see anyone today, I refuse! I won’t see any!”

We saw a large crowd make it’s way towards our rest hut, then Philip indicated that the Chief was ready to start. That was our chance to change their minds, extend forgiveness and share from our hearts.

The Chief introduced himself and explained the situation and how disappointed he was. He said that he roamed the village to find people that shared his burden and wanted to apologize. He apologized and presented us with traditional necklaces to officialize the ceremony. As the team leader, I received the chief’s necklace, made of wild boar tusk; a highly esteem gift in PNG culture. My co-leader also received an intricate necklace, as did the rest of the team, and as the male leader of the team, he accepted the apology and extended forgiveness. We then had a chance to speak and had decided that one of our students she share her story and how she came from a hard past. How countless time should would have deserved jail or by Papua New Guinean standards, a good beating, possibly even loss of limbs. She explained that if she had received what she deserved, she wouldn’t be able to stand in their village that day to bring health care. She asked if the village would consider grace and mercy on the perpetrator of the incident. Not to turn a blind eye, but to opt for the loving option, the harder option of discipling and mentoring the young men rather than beating him up.

The villager cheered loudly as she made her petition, and agreed to consider our request. Some people came forward with gifts to present our team, some ran home to bring Tapa (a traditional mulberry bark cloth with intricate design), necklaces, and even a bird of paradise (taxidermy); an extremely rare and expensive gift! We then asked if we could stay and do clinic… their faces lit up! They couldn’t believe that we wanted to stay but agreed to have us!

When we returned to our hut to get ready, our health workers who previously wanted nothing to do with the village were excited to get to work and bring services to the community! I had never seen such radical transformation in the attitudes of people before! The village who wouldn’t look at us, and was ashamed was now smiling, singing and happy to see us, and our health workers let their anger go and decided to joyfully serve along!

What a story of forgiveness and transformation!



Philip’s Village

I made it! After all these years, I finally made it to Philip’s village!

I first met Philip in 2013 during my first visit to Oro Province. A trained Community Health Worker (CHW), Philip is also a Village Health Volunteer (VHV) Trainer for the Kokoda Development Program. Although he doesn’t have extensive formal education, he has extensive field experience and has been rubbing shoulders with various professionals and specialist that contributed to shaping him into one of the health workers I trust the most in the province.

Philip is not strictly a good health worker, he’s also an amazing man who will always fight for what is right and has an incredibly heart of compassion for his patients, coworkers and a strong faith that is contagious.

Much of  the beginning of my passion for TB streamed out of conversations with Philip. Dreaming out loud of what could be and how we could tangibly make a difference, influence others to advocate and change the trend! No idea or dream is too big or too hard for Philip he inspires me and many to do better and serve selflessly.

Philip often spoke of his village with pride. How welcoming, how peaceful and how beautiful it was; a true corner of heaven he would say. I was expecting a nice village, but I wasn’t expecting it to be that nice! We arrived in Barevoturu in the morning, and the whole village (we counted ~400+) was waiting for us, ready to welcome us with the traditional dances and singing typical of Oro Province! Philip in his typical cleverness had planned for the whole village to welcome us to ensure they’d all receive the health eduction sessions we usually conduct prior to clinic! We had amazing feasts prepared by the mothers and also a pretty cool dance party before leaving the village.

Some of the things that were dramatically different in this village was the Clinic & the Aid Worker’s house! They were massive, new, solid and very high tech by PNG standards! Solar electricity and water tank (running with a pump inside the house) for drinking water & flushing toilet! That in itself is a feat, but the health of the community is an even greater testimony for the work of Philip and his wife Sandy (also a CHW)!

Our two days in Barevoturu were the calmest we’ve had all outreach! The health of the community was off the charts!!! Pretty much every one was immunised; most kids that came for immunisations weren’t due yet, and were only weighed to be found in the right weight bracket! Well done mamas! All mothers were registered for antenatal care, and the sick people we saw were already on treatment! We had patients trickle in from surrounding communities… some a bit sicker but overall, they had a great understanding of the concept of active care and seeking treatment rather than the common fatalistic approach of “well it’s normal to get sick, that won’t ever change…”

Patrols are a very common thing..! Philip goes out monthly to the surrounding communities to bring essential medical advise and treatment! He hikes over mountains to cover his “catchment area”! And Sandy is a saint! She keep the fort along with their 5 children!

We need more Philips & Sandys in the world!

History of Barevoturu

This is the story I was told in Philip’s village regarding some of their past… specifically in regard to the 1951 eruption of Mount Lamington.

Barevoturu is pretty much sitting at the base of Mt. Lamington; located in the northern f0othills just a mere 8 kilometres away from the crater, smack middle in the 14km radius called the “avalanche valley” of the volcano. During the eruption, ~3,500 people lost their lives due to lava, rocks, ash, smoke, or the shear heat that caused fires to start throughout the area bringing extreme devastation on its path. One of the most devastating eruptions of the 20th century!

The people of Barevoturu took us on a tour of the village and stopped in the middle of what is now a village open air gathering place. The chief pointed at the line carved in the ground and explained how this area is the most significant of the their history.

Barevoturu had been a mission station for many years before the war, but despite the efforts of the priest, the village hadn’t adopted the christian faith as their own. When the Japanese reached the coast of Oro Province, the Barevotureans, afraid of losing their lives protecting their priest (whom they believed the Japanese would want to kill), exiled their missionary to its death in the jungle. The war finished and peace returned, the people in the village although not necessarily christian didn’t forget the teachings of their priest.

In 1951 when Lamington erupted and the lava was raging down the mountain, one of the elder in the community, out of the energy of despair decided to literally “test the Word of God” and put his Bile in the middle of the path. He asked all the villagers to grab their bibles and they lined them up in the middle of the path (what is now a carved out line in the ground) and prayed that God would push the lava back.

The elder of the village claims that their village was saved by God that day! As they watched the lava recede, they knew beyond shadow of a doubt that their priest had been telling them the truth. To this day, the community still has a strong faith testifying of their saving God that rescued them from disaster. Barevoturu became a place of refuge for many of their surrounding communities and a relocation centre for the people of Isivita!

Wow! The stories we hear from the “Land of the Unexpected”… Hard to fathom! But like Uncle Hub says in Secondhand Lions:
“Sometimes the things that may or may not be true are the things a man needs to believe in the most. That people are basically good; that honor, courage, and virtue mean everything; that power and money, money and power mean nothing; that good always triumphs over evil; and I want you to remember this, that love… true love never dies. You remember that, boy. You remember that. Doesn’t matter if it’s true or not. You see, a man should believe in those things, because those are the things worth believing in”

At the Right Place, At the Right Time!

Don’t get me wrong there are plenty of times where I wonder what in the world we are doing… but, every now and again there’s golden moments when we’re at the right place, at the right time, and the day we went to Harange was one of those!

Before I tell the story, I first have to clarify the way we pronounce the name of this village, just so you don’t think that we went to an “H-arrange” village…! So it’s pronounced “hah-ran-gay”.

Harange is in the Kokoda district so if you’ve been following along, you understand that this is in the mountains, fairly remote and that the village doesn’t have much access to health services. But beyond that, Harange is also situated inland beyond the Kumusi river. “The Mighty Kumusi”! This river is known for washing down vehicles that attempt crossing and wiping villages when it floods. Now the only way into Harange is across the Kumusi.

When I heard the possibility of reaching the people of Kumusi, my heart jumped at the thought of bringing health services to this remote place, but I got even more excited when I heard the provincial health team’s plan to get there…tubbing   Yeah.. “floating across” with all our gear and drugs :)img_6875

I then understood why the village hadn’t seen health workers before! The last health care team that came to see their community dates five years back and went as far as the end of the path but didn’t attempt the great crossing. Instead those who were sick or in need of immunisations (older people and babies were floated across!) Unbelievable.

We saw many patients that day, many that I wondered how they were still alive! Including a man that fell off a coconut tree and broke his back! But the one that struck me more as the reason why we were there was a baby Junior. One of my students asked me some advice for the mother, she was sick and too weak to feed her child. I asked to see the child, it was a “brand new” baby. we found out she had given birth two days ago and he hadn’t been breastfeeding since he was born. We proceeded to do a “healthy baby check” to find a grossly underweight infant. After a few questions and answers with the mother, we found out that the baby was 2 months premature!  That explained why the baby weighed less than 2kg… but not why the baby wasn’t feeding. So we asked the mother to breastfeed. Then it was obvious, the poor baby’s mouth wouldn’t open big enough to suck on his mother’s nipple.

We taught mum how to express breastmilk and feed it to baby with a syringe. Junior was HUNGRY! He must have gulped in 5cc instantly and sucked dry every syringe we’ve given him afterwards during the couple hours we were with him!img_6861By this point it was obvious that both bub and mum would need to go to the hospital for further care and follow up. We arranged for them to get across the river and for our transport to bring them to the hospital.

Imagine if mum didn’t have money to get to the health centre to give birth, how much longer she would have waited to cross the river and attempt to get to town… I love that we reached Harange that day, not a week earlier or later!

Ambene’s Passionate Mother..!

We have finally left Popondetta, Oro Province’s capital, and we’re on “actual outreach” in other words we’re finally getting far remote!

We set for our first village, Ambene! Ambene is in a difficult piece of land… They are in the middle of the mountains and there’s a road 3hrs out of their village, but they can’t build or pave a road to connect their village as the land surrounding their village doesn’t belong to them and they don’t have permission to build on it. So instead of having a smooth ride, we take a 4WD and go bush for about 90min, crossing mud patches, river beds and beetle nut gardens.

Ambene is like a little lost paradise! Everything is green and luscious, the village is pretty; it’s in the shadow of a mountain and there’s even flowers bordering the paths!

It’s our very first village we visited so we started with health promotion, followed by clinic. A day wasn’t enough to see the sea of people that had gathered for services! We returned the second day and opted for the same format; health education to draw a crowd before clinic.  We covered different topics on the second day to address the issues we had seen in clinic the previous day.

At the end of our helt toks (health education talks), we asked if there were any questions. One mother stood up and started speaking in the local dialect. It wasn’t long before her speaking turned into some loud, and animated expression. It pretty much looked like she was angry and shouting at us or at the community, I wasn’t sure.

Then I looked over at Philip (he’s a good friend and local health worker, fluent in over 12 dialects), I always turn to Philip in case of doubt. He seemed calm, purposefully looking at the mother and nodding his head in agreement. No need to worry, explanation will come… eventually!? Maybe :) The mother continued for what seemed like 5minutes. Then Philip thanked her and turned to us to explain!

The mother was beyond herself happy that we had come to visit and provide health care! She realized through our teachings that her village is a paradise where they pretty much have everything they need for life in abundance as long as they do a few things differently! She went from someone who had a fatalistic worldview about life and believed that sickness it a normal part of life to someone who is an activist for life and solution. She was encouraging her fellow villagers to build “tippy taps” or “leaky bottles” to help improve their hand washing & sanitation practices! She asked for our education charts to be able to spread her newly acquired knowledge with the ones that were in the field in the morning! She decided to act for change and no longer be ok with death and sickness in her community!

Needless to say, this doesn’t happen in every village at such a dramatic level, but it was such an encouragement to our team in our first few days to see the impact health education can have, the power of good, true and practical information in the hands of the villagers. Happy hearts!


Follow Ups = Happy Days!

I love that I get to work in very remote places! Unfortunately that often means that I have very few follow up visits with my patients. But in this post I want to share about 2 follow ups I’ve had this year!  The first one is oh so good and really happy! The second one is awesomely good, but sensitive stomachs, please abstain from reading ;)

This year I took the Primary Health Care School to Oro Province! (If I had favourites.. Oro Province would be one of them!) It was my fifth time to the province and we targeted the mountain areas around Kokoda, my third time there. One Sunday we went to church in Papaki. Although I hadn’t done clinic in Papaki before, I remembered walking through the village and across the river to reach Eiwo on the other side. I remember Eiwo for two things: 1- a cool cliff to jump off in wet season! 2- a girl called Ethel* with Pott’s Disease or Tuberculosis of the Spine. You might remember her…!
I showed a friend in the village a picture of Ethel and asked if he knew of her. He recognized the mother and said that she was currently visiting in Papaki! He sent word for her and within 5 minutes, Ethel, who was also visiting was in front of me!

When I saw her in 2013, I was unsure of what would happen to her. She had already gone 5 years without treatment and she didn’t have too much longer before getting paralyzed if left untreated. Leaving her with nothing more than health education and a referral letter to the hospital for treatment, I prayed that her mother would take her to the city for treatment. Most of the time I don’t get to follow up… so I tell myself as I leave a village, that everybody was granted their miraculous healings and fairy tale endings! Naive, yes, quite possibly, but the only way I can see what I see on a daily basis and keep going.

Seeing Ethel all grown up, taller and bigger than before and NOT in a wheelchair, made my day! Our time in Eiwo 3 years ago wasn’t in vain! Ethel’s mother believed that she could be healed and made the hard sacrifices to get to the city and complete the whole 9 months of TB treatment her daughter needed! And Ethel got her good ending :)
3 years later

First seeing Ethel launched me on a journey with Tuberculosis and understanding my role in “Ending TB in MY Lifetime”. I remember walking back to our village after clinic that day and having a long discussion with Philip about health promotion and the need to increase health awareness surrounding Tuberculosis as well as the need for mobile diagnosis! I’ve always held the picture of Ethel as a reminder that something needs to happen for TB. And now I can also associate it with the fact that health promotion does work and that sometimes the most seemingly helpless situations can be turned around with a little faith!

Alright! Sensitive stomachs, this is your warning ;)

The next story is about a patient I had in Ajeka! Before I write about the patient, I must tip my hat to his wife! The most loving and dedicated person I’ve ever seen… who accepted to put up with way more than anyone should ever!

So this amazing lady comes to see me and says “Angie, you’re back!” (Who is this lady!?) “I have to bring my husband to see you.” (Oh no!) Her husband, Jack* was seen in 2013 for a “boil” on his buttock. Instant flashback!

I, unlike some of my students, highly dislike when I need to ask my patients to remove their pants… I unfortunately tend to have a very good memory for things I’d rather forget… When Jack came to see me, he had had this boil for over 20 years! taken many antibiotics and never really improved. The right thing to do, was to give him a fair assessment and look at the thing… unfortunately. I had to remove the dressing his wife had put on the boil in order to see… as I removed the dressing, a scab pulled off and let pus along with tiny maggots ooze out of his wound. What a sight! I haven’t forgotten yet! At the time, I put him on Flucloxacillin, a great antibiotic he hadn’t had yet, and referred him to the hospital for surgical draining.

When his wife said that I had to see him, I was so sad! How & why should someone have to suffer through 25 years of but ulcer!? And poor wife!!! I immediately thought the worse… He hadn’t gone to the hospital and sat on his infected ulcer all this time… His health card surprised me with multiple trips to the hospital since my first consult, which is a good sign! He did get surgery, yay! But then, it got infected… according to the book, at the time of the last visit, things were in a good state.

So why did he need help? Did it get infected again? Dr. Thomas!!! A case for you :) He was surprised I had seen this guy before, and I was pleasantly surprised to find out that his sore was completely clean!!! I remembered what it looked like in 2013 and expected worse… but to my surprise, there was no inflammation, no redness, no puss, no worms, nothing but a small hole! Mind you that wound was tunnelling to the anal canal making a small fistula, but it was a minor surgery to fix the whole problem. And this reference in the wife’s hands was a guaranteed good outcome :)



A team of fifteen primary health care workers representing 7 different nations are jetting off to Papua New Guinea (PNG) next month to deliver primary health care and health education thanks to the support of camping and travel gear supplier, Kathmandu.

The team is a part of Youth with a Mission (YWAM) Medical Ships, a Christian charity that delivers health care and training to remote communities in PNG via its medical ship and land-based teams. Everyone working with YWAM is a full-time volunteer.

Team leader and Registered Nurse, Angelica Langlais, said that this trip will be her fourth visit to Oro Province in Papua New Guinea where her team will be working.

“My first trip to PNG was in 2012 – serving aboard our Medical Ship. The voyage opened my eyes to the reality of the remoteness and need for better health care services. Some people travel in canoes for two weeks, while others  trek for four days to reach healthcare services. The reality of it all was really confronting and hard to accept.

“Bringing teams of health care workers to remote in-land areas has been a dream on my heart ever since – and this year, I have the joy of leading a trekking team throughout Oro Province, while the other half of our team serves aboard the YWAM Medical Ship. We’ll be living like the locals – staying in villages, cooking over the fire, and showering using bucket! We have such a great opportunity to build relationship and to learn from one another.

Kathmandu has generously provided our team with trekking packs, that will carry essential medicines and wound care supplies as well as tents.  Having good gear is so important for a trip like this – we are so grateful for Kathmandu’s generous support,” said Ms Langlais.


The team will set up mobile clinics in every village they visit and will provide maternal health services, childhood immunisations, wound care and healt

The team will set up mobile clinics in every village they visit and will provide maternal health services, childhood immunisations, wound care and health education alongside local health workers.
“The health education is one of our most important roles – we’ll be raising awareness on some of PNGs most critical (and easily preventable) health concerns, tuberculosis, malaria and HIV/Aids,” said Ms Langlais.

The team departs Townsville next month and will serve in remote villages throughout PNG for 11 weeks.
For more information on joining a YWAM Medical Ships outreach, click here.


Willage, Wisual Acuity in the Wehicle!

Strive for excellence, all the time, in all you do. That’s the rule. The one I abide by anyways.

PNG is know as the land of the unexpected… when many unexpected things happen, we have to make due, adapt, overcome and just get it done.

One day we planned to do follow up visual acuity checks on our patients who had a cataract surgery the previous year. We brought everything we needed in the 10 seater car and headed out with our driver, the head nurse of the health centre and a list of patients.

Half of the patients couldn’t be found. When we did find a patient, we all piled out of the vehicle to set up a station. Except, there was no suitable location to set up, so we decided to se up right outside the vehicle (pronounced Wehicle if you’re german like my friend!). And as you would expect the whole “Willage”  came for the “wisual” acuity check. All in all, it wasn’t too bad, we had the proper chart and the right distance we measured with the tape we brought.

This got a lot more ghetto when it started to rain. Our driver called the patient right into the car! We open the back door, let him in and took a minute to think things through! Initially thinking we’d wait the rain out, but let’s face it it’s PNG, it might never stop!

I looked at the inside of the vehicle and wondered… “This is a big car! How long is it!?” We pulled out our measuring tape and we had our 3 meters! This was exactly what we needed for our special chart… So one of the team members help the chart as close as she could to the windshield! and we asked the patient to move as far back as he could leaning on the back door.

This is Willage Wisual Acuity in the Wehicle!


“This Is Number 10… 7 Died!”


Meet Epa, She lives in Ibuo with her 3 children. I first saw Epa on the bank of the river as we came into her village. She was one of the only ones that spoke English. We informed the people in the village of our presence and came to clinic with her last born. Epa brought her child for immunisations. She introduced him as “This is number 10; 7 died”.

No emotions on her face, simply stating the facts. But her presence alone was a cry of despair. She was asking for immunisations, she knew that it could possibly save this last one. She wasn’t quite sure why all the other ones passed away; pneumonia, malaria, TB, or diarrhea… but she wanted all the help she could get with this one. She ended up being one of the only mothers that came to clinic with her children, unfortunately many were gone to the sago camp for a few weeks.

We were able to reinforce the importance of immunisation and regular health checks, but reality is that this village lived so far away from anything and in such hostile waters that they barely ever go to the health centre. In cases like this I have to hold on to the belief that we made a difference. Belief that women in the village are going to change their view of health and sicknesses, stop entertaining a fatalistic worldview and start hoping and believing for change and health.

Epa hoped for a better future for her last born. My prayer is that Epa’s story would be transformed from a story of death into one of hope that becomes a catalyst for change in the hearts of mothers in the remotes parts of PNG.

Oh That Time We Collected $2M!!!

MP. Hon Julie Bishop - Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade

MP. Hon Julie Bishop – Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade

You never quite know what the day holds!

Most days I’m happy if I’ve managed to squeeze in a workout, reading, and cooking! I tend to like routine. But I also love for a surprise!

This is Friday morning, we are leaving for Papua New Guinea in less than 24hrs, and we still have a fair bit to do! It’s not the kind of that that I face full of confidence and enthusiasm… It’s the kind of day I take a minute at a time with big deep breath.

I have been on campus for barely 30 minutes when I get asked for a “favour”. I love to give a hand, but “C’Mon we’re leaving! I’m trying to get 7 students out the door and into PNG…” But I love friend and know that she wouldn’t asked if she didn’t think it’d be important!

“Ange, our grant from the department of foreign and trade has been approved and Julie Bishop is in town for the presentation today and we think it’d be great if IPHC could be present to receive the cheque ($2M) as you guys represent us well and are just about to head to PNG!”

Goes without saying, I agreed!!!

Making the news, and collecting $2M for the ship!

Making the news, and collecting $2M for the ship!


Finally Reaching Ibuo

Two years ago I was part of a small health care team deployed into the Gama River (one of the most remote rivers of Western Province)! I remember that day like it was yesterday! Most people we met looked at us with wide eyes, in disbelief and amazement, I reckon most of them had never seen anyone so white in their lives! The day was long and busy, most children had never been immunised and barely anyone knew English! We worked through lunch because we simply didn’t have enough food to share and it felt wrong to eat in front of them. We pulled out as late as we could to have sufficient amount of time to return to the ship.

That night we zoomed by a village on our way back. Being quite late and dark out we had to leave it for another time. But as we zoomed by, we could see light… probably fire, and the thought of being so close yet too far was killing us. It took me two years to finally make it back to the area and reach Ibuo Village…

Ibuo isn’t exactly what we call a remote village. A remote village we can usually access by the ship as we sail up river… We can use small boats and get in and out of the villages at any time. A very remote village is one that is also dependent on tide. Meaning we have to organise our trips in and out with the high tides and often get stranded in the village in-between said tides. Those villages usually require a much longer ride in the small boat as our ship can’t anchor this close to them. Ibuo is what a call an extremely remote village.

Ibuo is on the map in two different locations but the actually village in either of those locations! It actually isn’t charted. Three days out of four, the weather isn’t conducive to to reaching Ibuo. Unlike other villages in the area, Ibuo doesn’t have any protection from the land, it isn’t located in a river but rather out facing the ocean and in-between the mouth of two rivers! The currents there are wild and the tides horrible! Low tide lasts eight hours making it impossible to enter or leave the village! One of our contact lived in the Bamu River (adjacent to the Gama) and had tried to reach Ibuo for the last 20 years without success! No local boatsmen would take him there due to the unpredictable and dangerous seas.

When Captain Jeremy announced that the weather was good enough and that he was happy to send me if I had conviction that it was right, my heart skipped a beat! Of course I’d love to take my students to Ibuo!!! I meant taking a satelite phone, extra food and water, possibly returning very late, most likely not reaching the village, who knows they could have moved too! But most of all it meant having another shot at reaching the unreached!

As we pulled up towards the village, I tried to remember all the Motu I had learned, as far as I remembered, the people in Gama knew no Tok Pisin and these guys were even more remote!!! For some odd reason, I was the only one that had been anywhere close, and we had no Papua New Guineans with us… so I had to introduce us… I managed to say my name, where I was from and that we were with YWAM Medical Ship. That was all I could tell them in Motu. I had nothing else! And lo and behold, the chairman responded to me in Tok Pisin!!! Phewww!!! I don’t know what I would have done! They agreed for us to stay the day and were pleased to help us to set up clinic.

We walked up to a humble building with half a floor, which usually gets used as a classroom. We set up while the leader informed the community of our coming. Unfortunately, most of the village had gone out to collect Sago for two weeks. Those who were around welcomed us. After our introduction, the village chairman expressed his gratitude for our care, for our effort in coming to visit them. He told us that “No one has ever been here! No white man or PNG health team. We’re just too remote, nobody comes”

Despite the small number of people we were able to help, it was worth it! We’ve established connection, build friendship and instilled hope. We immunised their babies, cared for sores and prayed for the sick, but most importantly, we showed them that they weren’t forgotten.

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