SUZANNE NOLAN WISLER | Monroe News (Michigan USA)
Regular readers will know that PNG Attitude occasionally republishes articles about missionaries, usually from the USA, who are about to embark on a Papua New Guinea journey. Frequently these people have misconceived ideas about PNG and we publish perhaps in the forlorn hope that exposure of such misconceptions may assist remedy the deficiency. The New Tribes Mission seems to be an especially persistent offender....
The family first sensed a need to serve nearly three years ago.
“We felt the Lord moving overseas missions on our hearts,” said Mrs. Cooke.
As proof, things fell together.
“We found out about a need for a nurse for a clinic there,” she said.
Mr Cooke spoke to the doctor, who’s been serving PNG for 13 years. They had a good rapport. Then, after investigating several missions organizations, the couple found New Tribes Mission, which seemed a perfect fit for the position.
“God worked it all out,” said Mrs. Cooke.
Next came 2½ years of planning.
Their house had to be sold and most of their possessions had to be given away. Family pets needed new homes and all six family members had to get visas. Mr Cooke had to get a PNG nursing license, which alone took a year.
Typhoid and hepatitis A shots were necessary and money had to be raised.
“It’s been a process,” said Mrs. Cooke.
But the Cookes’ believe all the work is worthwhile, as medical personnel is greatly needed in the country.
“The medical care in PNG is limited at best. The few hospitals are located in the cities unreachable by most citizens and are of poor quality. The majority of tribal people believe puri puri (witchcraft) can both cure and cause disease,” wrote the couple on their blog.
Mr Cooke will work with two clinic doctors, doing whatever is needed for PNG residents and its more than 300 missionary families.
“Keeping the missionaries and tribe healthy. He’ll be doing emergency things where he flies out to the tribe,” said Mrs. Cooke.
Medical problems include malaria, typhoid, hepatitis and accidents.
“Missionaries build their own churches and homes” and sometimes get hurt, she added.
Mr Cooke worked for Prizm Pain Management in Canton, but had been a trauma nurse in a Detroit emergency room.
“That really prepared him,” said Mrs Cooke.
Mr Cooke will receive no pay for his work. Missionaries are fully donor-supported. Help came from local people and churches, especially Monroe Missionary Baptist.
“The church is huge supporters of the international mission board. Without them, (it would be) very hard to go,” said Mrs. Cooke. “The church gave us a generous love offering. It will get us there and sustain us.”
But, much more is needed. Although they are just at 45 percent of their goal, the family purchased plane tickets.
Their departure date is uncertain, as plans must be worked about with the embassy, but soon, the family will be living in a place vastly different than what they’re used to.
“It’s seriously the other side of the world,” said Mrs Cooke. “When I first looked into it, I cried for about a week.”
The weather is humid, and about 850 languages are spoken in the country, which is the size of California. All foods must be cooked from scratch and many fresh items must be soaked first in bleach water to avoid diseases.
“There are no road systems. All tribes are secluded,” said Mrs Cooke.
“Our home is in the absolute middle of nowhere. Food, equipment, medical, etc. all has to be flown in. It’s just like in National Geographic. Coca-Cola is there, but not the Gospel.”
But, then she learned her home, while simple and secluded in the mountainous Highlands area, will have electricity and a washer.
That news brought a change of heart.
“It’s such a blessing. We will have a lot of changes to get used to, but we won’t be in a mud hut,” said Mrs Cooke. “God will give us what we need.”
Mrs Cooke plans to help her husband in the clinic, but not full time.
“I’m going to try my hardest to work just a couple days a week,” she said.
The girls, students at Stateline Christian School in Temperance, will attend classes taught by fellow missionaries. Children for all different countries attend the school.
The girls are a bit apprehensive.
“The youngest is five and is excited. The older ones are scared,” said Mrs Cooke.
Nonetheless, the Cookes are hoping for a long-term commitment to PNG and its people.
“Our plan is to be there for four years, come back to Monroe for a year, say ‘thank you’ and then go back,” said Mrs Cooke.