As much as women struggle with gossip and comparison and competition and judgment, when you boil it right down, women really do care about women. I’ve seen that to be true thousand ways, in person and online. And if I didn’t already have a heart for women’s issues and maternal health before, going to the Bamu River area of Papua New Guinea’s Western Province last year ruined me for good.
It was in the Bamu that I met Bokoro, the woman who gave birth in the mud and who might have hemorrhaged had we not been able to lend a hand. She’s a woman who most of us would consider ‘brave,’ and yet in her world most would just consider ‘normal’.
It was in the Bamu that I met Bamio’s village birth attendant, Josephine – the dear sister who lost her own baby at only a year old, and is afraid to have another for fear she won’t have enough to feed him. And yet in the face of poverty and disease and the constant threat of maternal and infant death, Josephine still continues to help countless other women bring life.
It was also in the Bamu where I met Umi and her mother, Komi. Three-month-old baby Umi was dying of starvation and her mother, Komi, didn’t understand that her lack of breastfeeding consistency was most likely the impetus for her baby’s failure-to-thrive. The lack of education, especially among women, is acute and devastating and literally destroying lives.
Because women care about women.
And because women intuitively know that if mothers cannot thrive, then families and communities and entire villages cannot thrive either.
The Bamu River region of the Western Province, PNG is quite literally one of the most remote, under-resourced, undeveloped, and impoverished areas in the entire world.
I’m talking about abject poverty so extreme that—according to the Human Development Index—if it were a nation on its own the Western Province would be the second poorest nation in the world.
Even just putting our feet on the ground in this region has been so difficult during our efforts over the last four years. There are many factors contributing to that, but simple remoteness tops the list. Due to the inaccessibility, these are a people little known and little served even within their own nation. This is not due to a lack of people caring or a lack of compassion from government or aid or development organizations. It’s simply due to the extreme isolation and difficult-to-navigate river systems these villages are tucked away in.
I’m going back to Papua New Guinea.
It’s all unfolded pretty fast, but I’ve just been given the opportunity to return to the Western Province with the YWAM Ship. I’m preparing to leave this coming Thursday and will be away for two-and-a-half weeks.
I’ve got a ton of mixed emotions about this trip. Some of them are for deep reasons, and some are a little more superficial, and yet still very real to me. (I’m kind of looking forward to unbroken sleep – is that bad? And a break in chores and cooking?) But honestly, leaving my littles for so long freaks me out a bit (they’ll stay back with Ryan and his amazing parents). I have moments of wondering how we’ll all cope, and yet the possibility of what God wants to do in this region is what motivates me and overshadows any anxiety I have about the separation from my family.
In the midst of my eagerness I also feel a measure of fear and trembling as I think about seeing baby Umi (or not?). Knowing that we left her teetering on the verge of death last year is sobering and I can only hope and pray that she’s now a thriving toddler.
There is also such a deep joy in my heart when I think about the possibility of being there on the ground in the village of Bamio to personally hand out the slings that you all so lovingly prepared for Project Baby Bilum. The thought of it makes my heart want to burst in the best possible way.
And who knows, maybe I’ll get to meet Bokoro’s daughter and whisper in her ear how courageous and beautiful her mother is and how their story is being told and retold around the world, inspiring so many to think beyond themselves.
There are a thousand reasons why this outreach is a Very Good Thing (caps utterly necessary).
But there is a ‘but’.
Our YWAM Medical Ship captain (who is American) is waiting for his renewed Australian visa to be processed and is not permitted leave Australia until it is granted. If his visa doesn’t come through in the next few days, the ship will still sail to the Western Province and set up clinics (with a stand-in captain), but we will not be able to go into the Bamu River region. If we aren’t able to reach the Bamu during this coming trip, we will have to wait an entire year to try again.
It will be so sad for me (and many others) if we are unable to reach the Bamu River area this year. But far beyond our personal feelings, the thought of not reaching these villages who already struggle with feeling abandoned and forgotten just makes my heart filled with grief. The people of the Bamu are so deeply cared about, so deeply valued by the heart of God, and we have the means to speak into their lives and bring hope – through our nurses and midwives, dentists and doctors, optometrists, storytellers, and friendship.
And this is why I need my praying friends to pray.
If you are a pray-er, would you please join me in praying and believing?
- For Captain Jeremy’s Australian visa to be granted within the next few days and for no mechanical failures that would prevent us from navigating the difficult river systems.
- For me as I prepare to leave my family for two-and-a-half weeks (logistics as well as matters of the heart), and for my children and Ryan to flourish even in my absence. (And special prayers for Judah as this will be his final weaning, please? He is a high-touch boy and the closeness to mama has been really important to him.)
- For me to be able to get the solar suitcase released from customs and shipped in time to take it with me next week. (Long story, but the short version is that it’s now in Australia… just not in our hands yet. I’ve got five working days to see this happen!)
- And ultimately: For the people of the Bamu River region to know that they are not forgotten and that they are deeply cared about.
Dear friends, I get a lump in my throat even now as I go to post this. These women (and their families and entire communities) are so precious and so important, even if a world away from most of us. Thank you for your prayer and investment into empowering women in the developing world and into the nation of Papua New Guinea as a whole through our Medical Ship and the simple projects of the Love A Mama Community.
with love & gratitude,
p.s. For real-time updates from PNG, please “like” the YWAM Ships Australia facebook page. I’ll be helping to contribute there, as well as trying to update my own facebook page as I’m able. (And maybe pray for our satellite communications/internet system to run smoothly!)