We’ve entered PNG lockdown, but being so isolated we already felt locked down! The Kovol people feel the effects of both isolation and lockdown as well. As the number of COVID-19 cases started to rise rapidly in PNG, our network tower broke down, leaving us without internet. We sat happily in the jungle, alone with the Kovol people and with no idea what was happening in the country. When the lockdown proposal came out, we didn’t know anything about it because we had no good way of communicating with the outside world. We have a Garmin ‘inReach’ (a satellite texting thing) and a radio as our only ways of contact, but each is limited in its own ways.
Simple messages are easy enough to send, but we can’t chat. We couldn’t really ask our coworkers about their plans to return to PNG, or if the Stanleys had their babies yet. We couldn’t read up on the spread of covid or the new restrictions. We were worn out from working in the bush for several months with not much rest holding on to the fact that after just two more weeks we could go on a break. We had no idea our break had been cancelled due to nationwide flight restrictions!
The Kovol people didn’t know about the restrictions either and planned a huge soccer tournament in a different village, with many villages even from another language group. There was excitement. We saw people in sport clothes dressed up and neatly shaved. They were going to overnight there.
We had a go at connecting with our base via radio. Very few people use it here but the radio is supposed to be monitored at lunchtime, so that I know that somebody from Goroka will be checking in. So since I haven’t talked for a while to a westerner apart from my husband and kids, I thought I would find a lady to talk to on the radio. But I never got to it. Instead, we heard that the country is going into lockdown. And we heard that we can’t just go on our break as normal. That was a disappointment but at that point, it was hard to communicate and we didn’t just want to sit in Goroka for a month either while everything is in lockdown.
Before the soccer tournament should have finished, we heard from someone that a young guy had been injured and had broken his leg. That stopped that whole event. They said there was some fighting and people fled into the bush. We are not sure until today what really happened. The people seem to be avoiding telling us what actually happened. We might never find out. When they all came back up on Saturday, they brought coconuts, wild egg, sago and even a mandarine to us over the days. I could tell that our people really enjoyed the food down there in the other village and some wanted to share with us but they also came with the guy who was injured.
They made a bush stretcher for him. His right lower leg was broken. Everyone around him had heard the bone snap and they could see the broken piece poking in the skin. But the skin was still intact, so no compound fracture. As they carried him to the side, they heard the bone ‘rattle’. The Kovol people tried to set the bone into its place and a day later they hiked back and stopped at my house to be seen. It was getting dark and I started to get a terrible migraine. I told them that he needs to go to the hospital but with COVID-19 restrictions it might be difficult. I looked at his leg and gave him a Sam splint since the tiny little sticks that they made to support the break would not do their job of keeping the bone in place. He also got some painkillers. The next day it was confirmed to us that there is no way that our aviation can fly this guy to town and hiking to town seemed impossible for him in his condition. They had a hard time just carrying him over the steep mountains to his home village. So they did what they normally do, in these situations, a ‘Wanbel kaikai’. We have seen this a lot here among the Kovol people. It is a meal including meat (something very special) that is eaten by everyone involved. The expectation is that by showing harmony among themselves and declaring a good outcome for a situation they can in fact cause that to come about. Here they hope that the person will get better.
I checked on the injured guy yesterday. Knowing my last splint wasn’t long enough and that he can’t get any help elsewhere, I made him a longer splint. But while exanimating his leg, I found that the bone wasn’t straight anymore. He has been keeping his leg to the side which is not good. But they don’t anything about it. Also we don’t know if his fibula is also broken. My assumption is that it probably is, that it is a mess of broken pieces, because of the way he was kicked. There’s is nothing we can do about it though. We are isolated and locked down.
We planned to take Monday off to get some rest. Well, forget that! For a week or more we have been visited least twice daily by people seeking mediacl help! Broken bones, possible TB, Typhoid, and then several kids that have high fevers and are dehydrated among other things. On top of that, groups from different villages come to visit. On our intended day off two separate groups came. Several people have died in the last weeks here. In 2 of these cases families brought the terminally ill person to me for help but there was nothing I could do. One lady died of cancer. The other was a baby who had serious head injuries after being dropped twice.
Although yesterday was an especially hard day because we had seen lots of medical visitors during this week and had no internet to ask for advice, I was encouraged by God through Psalm 23:3 “He gives strength … for his name’s sake.” A German translation worded it “to give glory to his name”. Yes, we are living for God’s glory and everything is there for our good . God can use all of this for his glory….
One of my needs is being hugged and showing love through touch. I miss my family and friends. But in this time my kids (and husband) have hugged and cuddled with me many, many times. I love it. I’m also thankful for the work I get to do here. Many back home have lost their jobs. I’m thankful for enough food, and not just from the supplied via helicopter. The Kovol people share with us even their nice special things. Our kids struggle with constipation and we find papayas to be very helpful. A lady in Kovol keeps bringing us a constant supply of papayas because she knows we like them. We are healthy. We have Christ in us and many many other things.
We’re also thankful for all of you who are praying for us and being part of the incredible work that God is doing here.
Colette Harding · 25/03/2021 at 9:17 pm
Thank you for sharing so honestly the daily difficulties, all made worse by the lockdown now. May you know the Lord’s very real help each day as he sends you new situations to deal with.
Nelvie Herr · 25/03/2021 at 9:54 pm
🙏🙏🙏Praying for all of you there, that Covid will not get any worse. God , please protect the Kovol people.
Al Hester · 26/03/2021 at 1:51 am
We at Hill Country Community church(Rhett’s parents church) are praying that God will provide a flood of more than sufficient grace for you and your family!!!
Michelle N. · 26/03/2021 at 7:11 am
Praying for you all! That you can find a time of rest amidst the crazy and that Jesus will sustain you.
Lois · 26/03/2021 at 3:49 pm
Thanks for sharing. That is challenging. We will pray.