“We have a clinic in Koki, and one in Papa” Colonel Chris said, pointing to the outer two of three large circles, “and a counseling center at Ela Beach,” she touched the middle of the three, “and they’re just not working.”
We hadn’t been in PNG 24 hours before I was being briefed on an immense and exciting challenge for which I would be responsible. The Territorial Secretary for Women’s Ministries – who had found herself with my job added to her considerably full slate of responsibilities and was thrilled that I was now here to step in – had drawn three large circles on one half of a piece of paper, and on the other half she drew ten small circles.
She told me that The Salvation Army in PNG was partnering with Family Health International (FHI) to confront the burgeoning HIV/AIDS problem in the country. We were being given the opportunity to provide health education, clinical services, medicine and counseling to sex workers and other at-risk populations in settlements around the region.
The ten smaller circles represented ten selected settlements scattered around the Port Moresby area that we would target. With funds funneled through FHI, we would start the clinics and counseling center over again from the ground up, with new staff, new equipment and a new focus. Peer educators would be hired, one in each of the ten settlements, and they would be brought in to learn about health screenings, self-care, medical services available through the clinics, and counseling support. They would then share their knowledge and encouragement with others in their neighborhoods that could benefit from those same services.
It’s been a humbling experience over these past several weeks to be interviewing nationals, doctors and nurses, counselors, and support personnel that proclaim the love of God openly and desire to use their skills to help their own people in a significant work. I believe God has brought to us some wonderful people to help us in this task.
My mind swims with 38-and-a-half dozen little details for our launch. On Monday morning we’ll gather with the new staff for orientation. We’ll tell them about The Salvation Army, FHI will share their story, and we’ll show them around the as-yet thinly supplied clinic at Koki. They’ll spend the rest of the week learning how the clinic will operate to serve the community, and especially those most in need of the special services.
Giving a cup of cold water in Jesus’ name has been given a new meaning. And I’m humbled—so desperately humbled—that God has brought me here to play even this small part in being His hands to reach out in love to love the unlovable, to heal the sick, to bring hope to the hopeless.