Joshua told the people, Make yourselves acceptable to worship the Lord, because He is going to do some amazing things for us (Joshua 3:5, CEV)
13/11/12 -14:14:37hrs - Emma I landed in pop now… 21:29:26hrs – Left pop 4pm and arrived 9pm now - drived on a roughy road n arrived now at Afore - overnight and get home tomorrow
14/11/12 - 14:40:08hrs – Leaving Afore on a hire car going to Itokama… 16:48:52hrs – ARIVED NOW ITOKAMA
SO WROTE JOHN KUMBO, a bible translator of the Barai tribe (population 5,000) and chairman of the Barai Non Formal Education Association (BNEA).
He had been in Goroka attending a consultation network comprising various government and non government organisations whose common bond is “holistic transformation” using CHE (Community Health Evangelism developed by Medical Ambassadors International) as the tool to facilitate community development.
And it was not only John who had travelled great distances. The United Church Health Services of Milne Bay had three representatives who braved rough seas to travel from Salamo, Ferguson Island.
Manus Provincial Health Department also sent representatives as did the newly formed Jiwaka Province.
Other people came from the settlements of Port Moresby, the mountains of Chimbu and Eastern Highlands.
Joseph Sukwianomb from the Prime Ministers Department (Director 20/50 Vision sector) chose the rather humble meeting over the National Health Conference that was being held in the same week.
The theme of the fifth annual conference held in Kefamo EHP from 4-7 November was “be prepared for the unexpected, be prepared for surprises” and the accompanying Bible text was taken from Joshua.
It was felt that too often we focus to on the accomplishment of our goals without taking into account the unexpected ripple effects that impact individuals and communities in various ways.
At the conclusion of the meeting, I came away in awe at the amazing work carried out by unlikely heroes in various areas of Papua New Guinea.
These people see development as their responsibility and have raised their hands to do something about it.
There really were surprising and unexpected stories told and, as we approach Christmas and remember that this season is about love and the pouring out of oneself for the betterment of mankind, these individuals epitomized that.
For them their work is more than a job or something to gain; for them it is about the love of their fellow man and the sharing of their knowledge and abilities so that “peace and goodwill to men” can be realised.
Here are some of my summaries of what for me were highlights of this year’s conference.
Barai Non Formal Education Association: 21 villages working for their own prosperity [John Kumbo]
Mr Kumbo told of how 10 years of constant community interaction using CHE materials (which he and his team translated into their language) had seen marked improvements in combating malnutrition, increased immunisation (almost 100%) and almost 100% literacy. The whole language group of 21 villages in Afore district of Oro Province has been affected.
In addition to the CHE translated booklets, John and his team have also translated booklets teaching on cooking, agriculture and budgeting. As a result of this there has been reconciliation among groups of people with the 21 villages.
A ripple effect of this endeavour has been that they have now registered an association, Afore Hope for the Disabled and are teaching from the CHE lessons on disability looking at how they can better integrate the disabled into their communities, allowing them to actively participate in community life and decision making processes.
Living Light Four Square in Port Moresby: Fearless mother combating TB in Moresby settlements [Egma Mua]
Egma is a mother of five children (aged 2 to 16) and is a volunteer from Four Square Living Light Church in Kaugere who has been working in settlements near the church, where CHE volunteers (settlement residents) are also trained in TB DOTS (Direct Observation of Treatment Shortcourse).
The CHE volunteers each find a TB patient in their own settlement, take them to the health centre, and each day observe their taking the TB medicine for six months. For this they receive a small monthly allowance of K70.
With this amazing program of 300 volunteers some communities are now clean of tuberculosis. Egma now gives a five-minute time slot each Sunday between worship and the sermon for a health talk which so far focuses on the major issue of TB.
Egma has been doing this work for nearly six years using her own time and resources. She travels around on PMVs and walks the notorious settlements of Port Moresby with her volunteers.
She related a story of when she was at Koki market and about to get on a PMV when she was dragged back by a youth. The young man gently held onto her and told her to wait.
As she waited, watching a couple of youths go around picking pockets, she asked the young man if they had ever met. He replied, “Yu no save long mi tasol mama mi save long yu na wok yu mekim” (‘You don’t know me, mama, but I know the work you do’).
He then helped her into the bus and went on his way.
Kundiawa Pastors’ Orphan Care initiative (Orkids) [Pastor Felix]
After our conference in 2011, Egma went to her village of Om Kolai in the Gumine district of Simbu Province. She felt that, while she was doing good things in Port Moresby, her own community could also benefit from this training. She met with pastors and leaders from 18 churches and conducted a three-day workshop.
In looking at issues in their community, praying and doing house-to-house surveys, the pastors realised that adopted children (orphans or single parent children) were neglected by the families caring for them, resulting in 200 malnourished and unschooled kids.
Girls barely reaching puberty were pregnant and drug and alcohol abuse was high. Pastor Felix, as chairman, drew up a schedule to share the load for a three times a week program of Bible teaching, feeding a healthy meal, teaching carers about hygiene and cleanliness, distributing used clothing, and taking turns to make sure the kids went to school. Some have been taken in by the pastors’ families.
In discussing whether a care centre might be a good idea, the group urged them not to warehouse kids, but to work with their families to help improve living conditions and to teach about cultivating crops so they don’t lose the land they have a right to own.
St Mary’s Catholic Parish, Goroka – A vibrant congregation impacting their neighbours [Joyce Kuias]
Joyce Kuias is a full time mum taking care of her paraplegic son and two primary school children, yet she still finds time to teach kindergarten classes, nutritional cooking lessons for mothers and to help train cell groups in CHE healthy home lessons.
Joyce, together with her priest Fr John Ryan, have so far established 146 healthy homes in the settlements. They have also encouraged their church members to know their HIV status. Joyce and her husband along with Fr Ryan were the first to get tested.
They are continuing to encourage young couples who want to marry to know their HIV status and to continue counselling once their status is known.
The CHE program has influenced the whole church around Goroka and has extended to more congregations as their small groups study the Bible together and encourage Bible reading in every home, reach out to the poor and establish healthy homes. Joyce is now also teaching sports teams and children’s groups in holistic development.