A mission trip to remember

Posted: on September 17, 2012

allan-and-teresa_200Dr Allan Sawyer (left) is an obstetrician/ gynaecologist who has been in private practice for the past 20 years. He has been on five mission trips with Samaritan’s Purse and World Medical Missions, four of them to PNG.

Wanting to minister again in PNG, God gave him the vision for this trip. He asked the Kopfs, a missionary couple with New Tribes Mission (living with the Hewa people in the Enga Province of Papua New Guinea), if they could benefit from a medical team coming and teaching a Community Based Health Care (CBHC) and Village Childbirth Attendant (VCA) Course. The Kopfs were enthusiastic about the idea but expressed the great need also for a dentist. So Dr Allan began lessons from an Oral Surgeon friend on how to extract teeth.

After raising the funds for the trip, Dr Allan set about putting together a team. CBHC Director Dr. Becky Morsch, Kudjip missionary physician Dr. Stephanie Doenges, a team from Samaritan’s Purse and two PNG nationals came together to join the mission. Before they knew it, they were gathered in Mt Hagen ready for the MAF flight to Fiyawana where the New Tribes Mission (NTM) helicopter would shuttle them and their equipment to Yifki.

Even though Fiyawana was not a safe place

On a mission! - The team travel to Fiyawana

On a mission! – The team travel to Fiyawana

(the Kopfs had vacated it following a murder at their door), none of the team wanted to return to Hagen, so they decided to stay in the Kopf’s old house overnight. As he watched the plane fly off into the sky, Dr Allan had a lump in his throat, but still felt that God would protect them. Their night was uncomfortable, spent on the floor and settee cushions, eating snacks, nuts and fruit.

The following morning they were woken by the roosters but at least the rain had stopped and the helicopter was able to arrive. MAF pilot, Nick Swalm who was flying in fuel for the NTM helicopter, came armed with hot coffee and cinnamon buns for everyone, which was received enthusiastically.

It took the entire morning to shuttle all the team, their supplies, and jet fuel from Fiyawana to Yifki. They were met by nearly a hundred of the Hewa and neighbouring tribes who turned up to hear them teach and to be treated for their medical and dental problems.


Everyone, even the animals, were welcome in the classroom set up by the locals

They started the CBHC and VCA class immediately after lunch in the open class room, with a Hewa man named Faimpot translating from Pidgin to Hewan. Dogs, chickens, roosters, and a young cassowary wandered in to ’listen’ to the teaching. Dr Allan and his wife Teresa, along with Dr Stephanie, started up the medical clinic (just one tiny room!) and began to see patients.

“That night we set up a small projector and speakers to show the movie ‘Jesus of Nazareth’ in the outdoor teaching area. The Hewa people had only ever seen a movie crowded around a small laptop computer,” Dr Allan said. “The large image that we projected thrilled them. I didn’t realize that it was a 2 DVD movie, so we finally had to call it a night half way through the movie and explain that we would finish it tomorrow night. We poured ourselves into bed, physically and emotionally exhausted.”

mathew_galman_with_clean_razor_12jun12_1866_250Matthew Galman (left), one of the PNG nationals on the team, spent the first few days covering personal hygiene issues. They took 150 toothbrushes and 150 tubes of toothpaste, so Matthew explained to his students how to brush their teeth. The people had never even had a toothbrush before. Dr. Stephanie and Dr. Becky spent an entire day on normal childbirth.

Then the following day Dr Allan (right) taught on complications of childbirth, including the management of delivery of the placenta.

The people were extremely grateful for the five-day course. allan_demonstrating_dbl_footling_breech_12jun12_1955_250They told the team that they never heard of, nor been taught, so many things. The men particularly were so grateful for being taught about childbirth so they could help their women when birthing. They explained that no other doctors had ever come to help them.

To express their genuine gratitude, the various tribes got together and cooked four enormous pigs and served a feast for everyone who had come to the training. They gave the team their spears and the women gave the ladies hand woven bilums (large open bags) that they had woven from tree bark.

Dr Allan recalled the partnership of MAF in this project: “This experience would not have been possible if MAF was not serving in PNG. Without MAF, it would be extremely difficult, and the cost of reaching some of the remote areas where missions serve, would be prohibitive. We were extremely grateful for the service received from MAF. Pilots Mike Davis and Nicholas Swalm were particularly helpful. Nick brought us hot coffee and breakfast the next day at Fiyawana when he knew that we had been stranded at the airstrip all night. That was very considerate!”

“MAF is a vital partner essential to our ministry in PNG”, Dr Allan Sawyer wrote, “We couldn’t do it without them.”

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