My first published book, KAPUNA, comes out August 20, 2015. You can buy a hard or e-reader copy on Amazon.com.
For more info on the book go to Kapunabook.com.
I am in the final stages and preparing to release my first published book! My publisher (Aloha Publishing) recently asked me to put down the “WHY” behind this incredible true story. After five pages of mind mapping and weeks of edits, I present, my WHY:
“How we walk with the broken speaks louder than how we sit with the great.” Bill Bennot
Papua New Guinea is known as the “Land of the Unexpected.” I marveled this truth as our zodiac zipped across the open sea. Shouting to be heard above din of motor and wind, I conversed with a former Australian Parliament Member and a former Prime Minister of PNG. They gripped tightly to the side of the vessel as we approached Daru, Western Province. On the edge of one of the world’s last frontiers, I rode an inflatable dinghy with two influential political leaders.
Just weeks earlier, the same zodiac transported me to the muddy banks of the poorest regions in the entire world. Poverty does not diminish a person’s value. Yet, so often we shrink lives down to mere numbers and statistics.
Whether I sit at the feet of the destitute, impoverished, marginalized, and unseen or in the halls of the prominent and important, birthed in me is the gift to convey truth, bridge understanding, inspire action, and preserve. Words are power. They wield life and death.
With this power is great responsibility. It is an honor and privilege to handle people’s stories. My desire is to use this gift to bring life. I do not write for the masses, the numbers. I write for the individual; the individual who deserves a voice, the individual who needs to know about them, and the individual who quietly forges his/her way into a dark corner and lights it up.
In Papua New Guinea’s delta regions, swamps, and expansive mount ranges live over 800 people groups and languages. I knew there were incredible stories in each of them, but I never knew where to start until I came across a remote, faded hospital exuding hope, resilience, and a raging battle with medical victories, losses, and every struggle in between.
If you read this book and never remember my name, but fall in love with the people of Papua New Guinea, then I will have done my job. Just remember, love involves action.
I write because I love.
I am so happy to announce I have found a publisher. I am in the process of getting my first draft finished.
What is the book about, you ask?
It’s the telling of the incredible story of Kapuna Hospital and the resilient people of Papua New Guinea. The tale of the plight of under resourced, remote medical care and the fight to see development for the better. It is no small or easy task, but the Calvert family and many others have taken it on.
Stay tuned for updates on progress to the book and how you can get your hands on a copy!
Many years ago, Tim Shontere with New Tribes came and shared about his work with the Yembi Yembi tribe in Papua New Guinea. Little did he realize how God would speak through him, challenging me to let go of fear and follow God’s plan for my life into missions and the developing world.
2013 they finished their work translating the Bible into the Yembi language! Here’s the story. It’s well worth the time.
The Story is based off an interview with Pase John and multiple conversations with Dr. Beth, as well as, some of my first person account.
After unemployment had left Pase John unable to properly provide for his family, he left Lae in Morobe Province. As he searched, Pase was led to the Gulf Province where he found a temporary job with an oil and mineral company building bridges. The labor was hard, but he was happy to work for his wife and young children.
A gentle smile crossed his serious face when he talked about his small boy and baby girl. A sadness shown in his eyes, as well. He had not been in contact with them for months. It was hard to stay in touch when he was at his work camp in a remote area.
Laboring on the bridges a few months, the days wore into weeks and life was in a bit of a rhythm with nothing much changing. Then what started as an ordinary week of hard labor, changed dramatically as he began to feel weak. Weaker than his usual fatigue.
Both of his upper arms were losing strength at an alarming rate. That night, he tried to rest well. When he awoke on the Wednesday morning and got out of bed, his arms remained limp and now his legs were being drained of all strength.
Pase, like many Papua New Guinean men, was not tall but he had an imposing strength. His lean muscle indicated a life of demanding toil.
Doubts flickered through his mind as the extreme exhaustion came on. He knew something was wrong; this was beyond pure weariness. He alerted the base camp medic, who brushed off Pase’s concern. After a brief medical examination, Pase was sent back to his bed.
Pase awoke in the night with a terrifying revelation. Try as hard as he could, he could not move a muscle. Although he could talk, he was completely paralyzed. Panic set in as he called for help.
By the time the medical staff was alerted, they were sure Pase was dead. His heart rate was barely registering. Not a muscle moved.
That morning, they rushed him to their base camp in Tuel where they attempted to stabilize the dying man. Isaac Anley, the base paramedic, took over. He knew there was not much they could do and they needed to get Pase to a hospital as soon as possible if saving him were even feasible.
With the helicopter blades rotating swiftly overhead, Pase was strapped in with Isaac by his side. They took off and made the couple hour flight via chopper to the bush hospital in Kapuna.
Mid-Thursday morning the Kapuna staff had done their rounds in the wards. Many of them were sitting in the living room of Dr. Lin, Grandma, enjoying devotions. The singing had ended and it was more of a time of conversation when the tale-tale resonance of a distant helicopter broke the normal jungle noises. It was the second helicopter to arrive that week.
The doctors had been busy the past few days with an influx of severe Tuberculosis patients; although this was a fairly normal state for Kapuna hospital to be in. As the helicopter broke through the dense grey clouds in the morning sky, they knew there was likely another emergency to handle.
Since most patients – even extremely sick ones – usually arrived via canoe or dinghy, flights in are reserved for many of the worst cases.
The staff dispersed from their devotions and headed to the pad that sat amidst the swampy grasses in front of the hospital. Patients, families, students all came running, clamoring close enough to see the metal beast with its swiftly rotating arms. Isaac jumped out. Aided by staff, he carried Pase into the hospital.
The doctors were at a loss as to why a healthy, 26-year-old man would wake up completely paralyzed with a diminishing heart rate. ECG’s showed the heart rate was at risk of completely stopping. After a round of checks and basic diagnostic testing, Dr. Valerie and Dr. Beth diagnosed low potassium and treated to stabilize him. Then they, and even retired Dr. Lin, went off to consult every resource to figure out why it was so low.
Haunted by the terrified gaze of the dying man, they prayed as they worked.
Dr. Beth said, “His desperate look met my panicked one as I sent up probably the shortest but most effective prayer I have ever prayed. ‘God, HELP!’.”
As research and reading ensued, the three women came back together to discuss their findings. Dr. Beth found the diagnosis in books, and Grandma reminded Valerie that she had seen it once before as a student. (What a wonderful memory 89-year-old Dr. Lin has!) All of them had come to the same diagnostic conclusion: Shakhonovich’s syndrome… Hypokalaemic periodic paralysis. It was the only diagnosis that made sense with the failing heart rate.
The disease is genetic and very rare, usually showing itself in adolescence. Potassium, which helps muscles and maintains the heartbeat, does not transfer properly between membranes. This causes extreme muscle weakness when potassium levels drop or in extreme cases complete paralysis. If not treated timely the heart can stop.
The other risk of the disease is that recovery is quick and almost instantaneous. The sudden high potassium in the blood adversely affects the heart rhythm and can cause fatal arrhythmias. The patient has to be closely monitored to ensure this does not happen.
Days later, Pase was asked what was going on in his head while all of this was happening. He said initially terror. He did not think he would ever see his family again. Due to the remoteness and suddenness of his illness, his family was completely unaware of his condition throughout the ordeal.
He said once he was in the care of the doctors, could sense their concern, and had all of the tests running, his fear eased a bit. He knew they were doing everything possible for him.
Slowly they watched his heart rate improve with the potassium treatment.
Thursday felt like an eternity in the eyes of Pase and the staff at Kapuna.
By Friday morning, Pase was more assured by the doctors. Isaac never left his side, as he interpreted the English into Tok Pisin for the young man.
Monitoring him closely in case his heart rate spiked, the waiting game for his sudden recovery began.
The Lame Can Walk
Friday evening Dr. Beth did her usual rounds. While checking on Pase, he complained to her of pain in his chest. She prayed it would not be something worse and asked him where his pain was located. Without thinking, he lifted his hand and pointed to the source of the pain.
Dr. Beth, Pase, and Isaac all realized in that moment Pase was recovering.
Pase could move his hand and arms. His feeling and strength were returning. Overjoyed, they waited breathlessly to see how much he could do physically. In less than an hour, the patient sat up and swung his legs over the edge of his bed. With shaky steps, he began to walk across the room.
After monitoring his heart to make sure it was stabilized, Dr. Beth left her healed paralysis patient in joy and informed Dr. Valerie and those around the hospital of his recovery. Face alight, she came to us friends, to inform us of the miraculous healing.
Our cheers could probably be heard a long way off.
We all knew it was moments like this that kept the medical staff going. It made the hard work and sleepless nights worth it.
It’s not every day a person can say they saw a paralyzed man get up and walk. The staff at Kapuna can. Thanks to the hard work of a dedicated medical staff, the wisdom of God, and the determination of a man to live!
I woke up, surveying my room. As I realized I was not in Papua New Guinea (PNG) or Australia, the tears began to silently flow down my face. It has been over a month since I left PNG and returned to the States.
There was only one other time I allowed myself to cry. It was a loud, snotty, hysterical cry; one that left my face red and swollen for many hours. So, here I was in the middle of the night and the tears started again. I was glad. The deep, dull ache I have been carrying for this month is significantly worse than a good cry. I feel the weight of loss. Profound loss.
I never contemplated it would feel this way. I knew returning would be hard, but I had no idea how painful it would really be. Last time I returned from overseas I cried myself to sleep for a month.
It has left me wishing I had never left.
I remember hearing a sermon years ago about “the land between.” God called the Israelites out of Egypt and into the Promise Land. As they wandered the desert waiting for God’s promises to come to fruition, they began to grumble against God. They started telling him they were better off in Egypt. We have been cautioned against grumbling in opposition to where God has us.
I am made aware of this and pray I can keep my heart soft in the midst of mourning everyone and everything I have said “goodbye” to.
There is positive aspect. I have grown.
There was time in my life I would have shut off my heart to loving a people and a place so much to avoid being hurt. I am grateful I spent my time in PNG with joy and a completely open heart. I am also grateful I built incredible relationships.
Homesickness is a small price to pay for a heart full of love. I am sure there will be more sleepless nights, more dreams of the life I left behind, and I hope I can make the most of where God has placed me in this “Land Between”.
Back at the end of January when I was still in Papua New Guinea, I had the pleasure of photographing the graduation for Uniskript in Ara’ava, Gulf Province. Enjoy!
A rambling of the thoughts in my head and my heart as I prepare to leave Kapuna.
The calming, gentle morning rain continues to patter down. I look out on the bright green landscape and palm trees. A few birds sing, but most are still snuggly tucked away somewhere dry. I can smell the lingering smoke in the air as the locals cook breakfast over fire. This morning makes my heart soar. I am completely enraptured in my own little dream world as I sit on my deck with my morning coffee. This is bliss.
I am in the future in my head. I can see my own little jungle house. I have imagined and designed a few hundred times over.
I come back to reality, as my imagined house disappears in the mist. I sip more coffee. I am content.
It feels cold at 25*C (75*F). I know the tropical chill will not last and soon I will have droplets of sweat down my back.
Chill! I have to laugh at myself. Back in the Northwestern United States I would be glorying in my summer attire if it were the same temperature. Here in coastal Papua New Guinea (PNG), this is pretty cold.
My heart drops as I start to think of “home”. There are so many things about Boise, Idaho I have missed over the years. Our Saturday markets, my favorite coffee shop – JAVA – and all of my long conversations with friends over a Bowl of Soul, biking along the Boise River, the display of mountains around me, and my amazing church are just a few.
So why do I have a sinking in my heart, even a dread in thinking of going back to the States?
It’s because I have done it before. I have returned and faced reverse culture-shock.
My life in Australia, while in the midst of a very wealthy and developed country, was surrounded by people who lived like me. We had a heart for the developing world. We worked as full-time volunteers. Almost all of us were from far away countries. Many even spoke English as their second language. We were an assortment of cultures and backgrounds. All united under our love to see Australasia and the Pacific Islands receive better healthcare and community development.
Then, for a good portion of that time, I was actually in places like East Timor, PNG, and Cambodia. I have lived the village life. I have slept with rats crawling around and my mosquito net creating a thin barrier of protection. I have talked to a 12-year-old prostitute, held hands with street kids, built a toilet for a village that used the bush, glided through crocodile infested waters in a dugout canoe, and so on.
I can go home; I can tell them what I have seen; but I know their world has kept going. My world has changed. It looks different.
I can relate to C.S. Lewis’ Lucy. I feel like I have opened the door to a world in the wardrobe. It is a world just as authentic as the one back home, yet who will understand when I tell them? Unless they have also been there and seen.
I realize that sometimes it is a very lonely place, teetering between two worlds. My friends here with me, they understand. They are from England, Germany, and New Zealand but live in the bush. I wonder if they’ll be as lonely as I am when they go “home”.
I wonder how quickly we will forget we lived without the convenience of hot water, screens in windows, buying partially prepared food rather than making everything from scratch, and having to wear shoes to work again.
In the midst of the loneliness, I am afraid of who I will be when I go home. Will I start to care more about owning things? How long will it take before my normal far exceeds the lifestyle of the majority world? Will I start to feel the pressure of new fashion and commercialism again? After all, I have lived out of a suitcase for a good chunk of the past two years.
I am afraid after a while I may not miss the developing world as much.
A part of me that knows I have seen too much. I have been wrecked for the ordinary, Western lifestyle. But, I do not want even a sliver of me to return to who I used to be. I do not want to compromise what I’ve learned. I want to remember the faces, the smells, the tastes, the air, the good and the bad.
Last time I returned, I cried myself to sleep for a month. I do not even want to contemplate this time.
What do we do when we’re more comfortable in a faraway place than our own backyards? What do we do when we’ve lost our cultural identity?
This is reverse culture-shock.
When all the freshness of being home wears off, I wonder where my head and my heart will be. I begin to understand more and more what eternity must look like. It will be a place that incorporates all of the tribes, tongues, and nations. Glimpses of PNG will mingle with all of the other places I call home. The things I love so dearly in them all will be displayed in the face of God.
I will know fully then that I am home. I will know fully then that everything I love in this life is just a reflection of Him.
Until heaven, I will experience my culture shock and missing people and places. I will have to continue to cling to the hope that my cultural identity may be lost, but it is a small loss compared to what I have gotten to experience and who I’ve gotten to pour my life into.
Until next time, PNG! You will always have a special place in my heart and I pray I can see you again in this life!
About a month ago, I posted an album highlighting the work of SIL translators teaching Uniskript in the Gulf Province of Papua New Guinea. This is a continuation of the first album and their work. The kids from Ara’ava, Kairimai, and Kialavi get up early to learn during their school holidays. For more photos and info: https://speaklifespeakup.wordpress.com/2013/12/11/uniskript/
Dr. Patrick had come for a visit. The minute this young, unassuming Papua New Guinean started to talk I could sense an incredible intelligence and perspective that surpassed his twenty-some years of life. He possessed a humorous perspective, as well. He was brimming with stories from Kikori where he served as the sole doctor. With a wide grin, he began his tale of the day nature was against his patients.
He had three hospital patients in a row, lying in their beds. The first had been bitten on the right arm by a crocodile. It was a miracle he was not killed. The second one had his leg ripped open by a wild pig. Finally, the third victim was chopping down a tree with an ax. A tree he unwittingly had not seen a wasps nest in. Soon the nest dropped and wasps had descended on him. As he went to run away with his ax flung over his shoulder, the ax fell, splicing open his calf.
Patrick let out a laugh and we all joined in. “Nature was definitely against us that day!”
We were all intrigued by the crocodile victim and asked him to revisit the story. While the hospitals here have bite injuries coming in from time to time, we always marvel at the people who manage to escape this mighty predator.
The local man had been on a hunt through the swampy bush with his dogs. As he walked through the tangled growth, his dogs let out a resounding bay and took off after a bandicoot – a large rat-like marsupial that lives in the bush.
He paused, looking for the dogs. The animals switched back and went racing past him; the bandicoot fleeing for his life. The terrified marsupial then jumped into the swampy river waters nearby. Panicked, it could not swim and thrashed around.
The man saw this as his opportunity to get a tasty dinner. He entered the water up to his waist and went after the unfortunate creature. So focused on his future dinner the man failed to see a large crocodile waiting just feet away. Just as he was reaching for the bandicoot, the crocodile reached for the man. Chomping down on his right arm up to the shoulder, the crocodile was about to drag him under.
This is when the hunting dog instinct took over. The dogs, risking their own lives, jumped in the water attacking the crocodile who released their master.
With a badly mutilated arm, the man made his way home. His relatives loaded him into a canoe and took him the 12 hour ride to Kikori Hospital.
Dr. Patrick was awoken at 3 am by two apologetic staff who told him he had a crocodile victim waiting. They had downplayed the man’s injuries. When the groggy doctor came in to check the injury, he was horrified at the severely swollen and bruised appendage. There was little he could do until the bleeding and swelling went down.
So, this is where the man laid, next to his commiserating roommates also suffering from the harshness of nature. I want to say the man is unfortunate, but surviving a croc attack may actually mean the opposite. He was blessed to be alive.
What do you do when nature is against you?