On the road to a village meeting

It’s been an eventful week. Finishing off the last week we attended our first village meeting. Representatives from a number of Kovol villages came for an ‘official’ meeting where they ran through an agenda of nine separate points (all relating to us).
It could probably have boiled down to 2 points: How to behave with the missionary kids and how to look after us missionaries.
Oscar did super well sitting through the 2 hours of talking in the Kovol language and we tuned out after a bit.

Village meeting in action

We got to speak into the side of how they can look after our kids. They know from the Pal team right next door that we have different standards to them and some ways they might show affection to children are absolutely forbidden in our culture. The Kovol people have interpreted this as “never touch the missionary children – EVER” and I got to speak into that a bit. “You can hold their hand, you can carry them, but don’t touch their trouser area and don’t be alone with them” was our line – but for the moment I expect it’ll be a continuation of people being so careful around our kids it’s a bit weird.
The older kids walk around a bit like sharks in a shoal of fish with an exclusion zone around them! We’re hoping that becomes more natural with time, but for the moment we’re appreciating the concern they show.

As to looking after us, the Kovol consensus was to visit us often, spend lots of time with us and bring us lots of food. Three weeks in and we’re still receiving more taro and greens than we can eat through!

Then on Saturday evening while out for our family walk we spot a big group of people coming back from somewhere. We thought it was a party or something and greeted them happily. The grim faces told us something was up, and sure enough, they told us that a child had hurt their leg. He was being carried back by one of the adults.

We asked which house they would be in and let the go their way glad that we’ve not become the go-to place for every injury yet.

Once Oscar was in bed I took my head torch and went to check it out, what I discovered was far more severe than I was expecting. A heavy log had rolled and crushed the 7-year-old boy called Lendi’s leg against another tree and it looked like a serious break. My heart lept into my mouth when I saw the blood; dreading that it might be an open fracture, but that was just blood from lacerations the family had given to reduce the swelling.
Nonetheless it was a serious injury.
Vital signs were stable, but I had to head back and talk to our team – I wanted to give painkillers (we follow a predecided policy so we all respond the same and this wasn’t in it) and we needed to arrange a medevac.

The leg after being pulled straight

My big concern was the unnatural angle his foot was pointing indicating to me the bone was in a bad shape. The next day we decided we needed to attempt to set the bone.
With only paracetamol and ibuprofen on hand, it was super painful for Lendi as two of us pulled his leg straight and pointed his foot in the right direction. We splinted it and it looked better, but this clearly needed surgery and we started to make arrangments.

This was the first time we’d be doing this – the possible medevac before never happened. Our policy is that we will redirect an NTM helicopter flight if it was in the area but we won’t charter a flight, so we checked the schedule and it turned out that on Wednesday our neighbours in Pal a 2-minute flight away were flying people in and the helicopter was going back empty – perfect!
The cost for us to redirect this flight to drop by us and then go back through Madang was estimated to be $320.
The next part of our policy is that we ask the community for K200 (£50) as their part of the payment. We wanted a medevac to be possible for them to contribute to, but the cost high enough that the ride won’t be abused. The whole if something costs nothing it’s worth nothing argument.

We had no idea if the money would come. Did we set the right amount? Does the community have that money? (we thought they did) Would te family send the boy out with the hassle and unknown of the family now being in town?
We told them – this is in your hands now. Lendi might die if he doesn’t go to the hospital and we won’t call the helicopter until the K200 arrives.

Thankfully the family paid up and said: “we’ll do whatever you reccomend.” It was still a few days of waiting for Lendi though. We visited him morning and evening to check how he was and give paracetamol. Amazingly Lendi was smiling and enjoying the attention! What a tough boy!

Another ‘wanbel’ kaikai

Tuesday was a miserable, rainy day and we got on with painting and inside projects. Uknown to us the Kovol people were itching to eat with us. Our village it turns out hasn’t put on a ‘wanbel’ (agreement, harmony) feast for us since our families moved in. Other villages had, but they hadn’t and they concluded that this injury had come upon the community because they weren’t wanbel with us. It was their fault that this bad thing had happened and they were itching to put on the feast so the world was right again.

It’s a glimpse into their worldview – but that’s all it is for now; we’re too new to the langauge to pick anything up from it!
The sad part was seeing the tears of the lady who donated her pig. She was quietly stroking it and cuddling with it just before it was shot. Ladies raise their pigs like they’re family.

Louis comforts Lendi

Moving Lendi this morning was very painful for him, but we praise God for the beautiful weather that allowed the helicopter to arrive right on time. Our neighbours in Pal added passengers to the flight, a lady had a serious stab wound that needed urgent care so it was quite crowded in the back!

We sent Lendi with his dad and handed a cheap phone to him as a means of staying in touch with us and the community. We also provided a referral letter for Lendi with our observations and the first aid we provided. We’ve heard rumours of people being turned away from the hospital for not having photo ID so we were doing what we could to grease the wheels in the background. We called the health director for the province and gave the details to try and make sure the hospital would take Lendi.

The community see Lendi off

Missionaries in Madang took care of the final leg of the journey for us and we were glad to hear Lendi was admitted.
I got a call this afternoon from his dad saying that the hospital’s x-ray machine is broken though and they have to wait until it’s fixed before Lendi gets any attention. We’re praying it’s fixed quickly!

I guess we’ve done what we can. Life here is so rough.


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