Servant Leadership… Oil in the Machinery

1 Apr 2010

The remote Western Province of PNG has many health needs. For the 200,000 people in this province where there are very few roads, it can be a very long and difficult journey to get help in times of sickness. Illness is a part of life in this predominantly tribal rain forest area. On average, one mother dies from complications of childbirth every 150 deliveries with about 8% of babies being stillborn or dying within twelve months. There is also an enormous burden from malaria, malnutrition, tuberculosis and now an increasing prevalence of HIV.

Working in Partnership

With only around 12 doctors in the entire province, it is clear that something is needed other than a medical model dependent on doctors. The Pioneers North Fly team has been involved in health work and training at Rumginae since the 1960s. The medical ministry at Rumginae involves direct and necessary patient medical and surgical care, but follows a model consistent with the Pioneers core value of Servant Leadership.

‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul,
and with all your mind.’ This is the greatest and the most important
commandment. The second most important commandment is like it:

‘Love your neighbour as you love yourself.’ Matthew 22:37-39

Being ‘Rumginae Doctors’, we come across many serious medical problems and are privileged to be able to help many people. Working closely with other missions, including Christian Radio and Missionary Fellowship and Mission Aviation Fellowship, we  provide  a lifeline to rural PNG. Without radio and aircraft we could only affect a tiny fraction of those we currently help. I mention CRMF and MAF in particular as they are leaders in remote communication and aviation services, yet they exist to serve, and they bring much glory to God in their service.

It really is a privilege to be where God has called us to serve. We have the opportunity to serve when we are operating at 3.00am, when we sit with the health service leaders to make decisions and plan the future, and when we spend time teaching any of the 30 health worker students being trained each year. These men and women provide first-line medical and spiritual care to people in  even more remote places. In each of these situations we are seen as leaders, but with God’s help, we see ourselves as servants.

Please pray for our team that we will bring glory to God as we obediently serve Him in PNG.

Oil in the Machinery

The other day, I was in theatre trying to unscrew a fitting on the operating table to no avail. I mumbled something about a ‘bit of oil’ being needed and went on to seek an alternate way to proceed with the operation with another gadget. It reminded me of something I was told early on my time on the field. The words were spoken by Dr John Oakley who was the senior doctor here when I arrived in 1997. He told me one day that he considered what he was doing at that time as ‘being oil in the machinery.’ I’ve thought about it often since. I came to serve as a doctor, working at the hospital, but my days fill up with many things that are not directly part of ‘doctoring’. For instance, reminding the Administrator to chase up a fuel order when the Maintenance Supervisor was on leave. We emptied the last of the diesel into the generators the following day and thankfully received the new supply the day after. Does that have anything to do with my medical profession or my missionary career? You bet it does! We run out of diesel and our generator (our sole electricity supply) stops and the hospital is reduced to functioning without much of the important equipment we are reliant upon.

Strategic Ministry

At any given time, we have between 40 and 60 patients from all over Western Province of Papua New Guinea, occasionally from further afield. In addition to these patients, any number of ‘guardians’ who have accompanied the patients are onsite too. They come to Rumginae because there are doctors here, because they have heard of the hospital’s reputation as that of a Church hospital, or simply because it is the nearest medical facility. The Nurses and Community Health Workers (CHWs) have the opportunity to lovingly and compassionately care for these patients and their guardians. Doctors seek to alleviate their suffering and point them to the Great Physician. The Chaplain and staff share the gospel and pray with them regarding their fears and worries.  CHW students receive training in the basics of providing health care with an emphasis on disease prevention. There are also opportunities to give spiritual input into these young people who will then go out and be the nearest thing to a GP that most Papua New Guineans will see. From Rumginae, nurses and CHWs in remote village facilities receive advice and support.

Leading by Serving

It is not every day we doctors chase up the fuel. But there are daily challenges that our Medical College training did not equip us for! While our aim is to train, equip and empower local staff members to take on more responsibility, often that can be difficult with limited staff numbers and is exacerbated when people are on leave. What should be our response then? “I am a doctor.  I can’t fix the radio”? Or to say, “Lord, You know the radio is important. I have no clue what the problem is.  Help me to find someone who does know and to get it fixed so that the staff members out in the remote villages can have access to advice and help in emergencies.”

I think that often when we tell the Lord we are willing to follow wherever He leads, He guides our steps onto paths that are outside our comfort zones. Our human tendency is to desire to be the light powered by the generator’s electricity. However, someone needs to be the oil that keeps the generator running smoothly. This, for me, has been one of the biggest challenges contrary to my expectations as a new and naive missionary twelve years ago. I fully expected to have challenging medical conditions to diagnose and treat with limited resources. But what took me by surprise is the fact that I have to be involved in ‘non-medical’ activities that ensure the smooth running of the health service, when there is no one else with the skills to do those things. And then to patiently pass my newly acquired skills to others when demands for trouble shooting and patient care crowd in on my time. God continues to patiently work in me, shaping my pride with his humility and compassion. I hope I am learning more and more to be oil in the machinery that glorifies the Name of my Precious Lord Jesus.

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