She was tiny, nothing more than skin stretched over bones. She wouldn’t make it through another night. I turned away feeling powerless to make a difference. I couldn’t imagine what we could do when my family was struggling to survive in a rain soaked tarp roofed shelter, rushing every minute of precious daylight to clear the jungle and cut lumber in order to build homes for our missionary team. God have mercy on that poor child.
At the same time we were moving with our co-workers into the Hewa tribe in January of 2000, a sickness was sweeping across the rugged mountains of the Central Range of Papua New Guinea. Among those who died were Fisa’s husband (Fisa is the woman pictured left) and her son Waina’s wife.
“We just buried my wife,” said Waina, “and now our only child will die also.” He said it as a matter of fact. As if he couldn’t change it any more than he could stop the gathering thunderheads from producing a downpour.
I couldn’t bear to hear his words. What could we possibly do in this remote location?
“I chew sugar cane and spit the juice in her mouth,” said the grandmother, Fisa, “but I don’t think she is going to make it. Look how she just flops there as if she is already dead.” It was not hard to see she had nearly succumbed to starvation.
I was despondent, but not Susan. She and the other ladies searched through totes that were scattered around the tents until they found a baby bottle and infant formula. “Here, try this,” Susan said.
“What is it?” Fisa asked, pulling away in alarm. She had never seen a baby bottle and didn’t know there was any such thing as re-hydrated formula milk.
“It’s for the baby,” Susan answered. “Here, hold it like this so she can drink it.”
The emaciated baby would not drink from the strange bottle. It was too late. She was so weak her reflex to suck was gone.
Again my heart sank. Is there any hope? She needs to be treated in a sterile hospital. How can we possibly help her when we have just begun clearing trees and brush? Maybe later after we can build a little medical clinic and gather a few supplies.
The baby couldn’t wait.
After Susan patiently dripped milk from the bottle into the unresponsive mouth, she finally swallowed. Then later she closed her mouth around the nipple. At first her sucking was slow and she drank very little. Later, however, she gained enough energy from the first milk to suck a little more. After a few hours passed, Susan succeeded in getting the baby to drink a little more. With much persistence she was later able to drink a few ounces at a time. After a few days we breathed a sigh of relief as we watched her strength return. Thank you Lord!
But then, one morning when Fisa brought the bottle back, the nipple was gone. “Rats,” she said. “They must have eaten the rubber during the night.”
Now what? There were no stores in the jungle. No roads. No options. The supplies we had brought were mostly tools, chainsaws and house building materials. The only thing we could do was to call for help on our high frequency radio. We asked if someone in town could locate a new baby bottle and put it on the next helicopter flight. We were relieved and encouraged when new bottles and more formula arrived on the next flight from town.
The baby survived, and was later given the name Yalofam. Now, at the end of 2014 she has grown into a young woman. She is smart and fun-loving. She enjoys sitting in the front row for church services. Her father, Waina, has grown in his faith and is now one of the new Bible teachers of his tribe.
Waina and Yalofam, a few years ago
Thank you for your love and prayers for us and for our Hewa friends. The Lord is doing wonderful things in the lives of the Hewa and some day you will have the privilege of meeting them as we bow together in front of His throne. Thank you.
Thank you for your love and prayers! We deeply appreciate your part in reaching out to the Hewa tribal people with the Love of Jesus. Thank you!
Jonathan, Susan & Mikenna