I was 19 when I first went to Papua New Guinea. My university sent outreach teams every summer and though this was a “medical trekking trip,” I told the coordinators that I thought they’d do well having a PR major to help with things like organising medications. Either they didn’t care, or my pitch worked, because I found myself on my way to Mt Hagen with 3 nursing majors and 5 pre-med majors.
The trip was amazing… life changing… and I even returned to Australia to do training for more outreaches, hoping to go back to Papua New Guinea one day.
It took six years of working with YWAM in Australia before that became a reality. During the early stages of planning to bring the ship to PNG, we met with many key stakeholders. One group was the leaders of YWAM Mount Hagen, a man and woman named Osea and Doris.
We had a proper cultural exchange with them as we shared the vision and invited their blessing and input. I was most excited to see Doris that night as I had heard about her on my first trip to PNG back in 2000. She was the nurse at the YWAM centre but had been away on vacation when my team and I came through.
As soon as was appropriate on the night, I pulled her aside and introduced myself, “Hi Doris, we’ve never met but my name is Rebekah and I was in Mt Hagen years ago while you were away.”
Her eyes grew wide with surprise and she grabbed my arm. “Are you Rebekah from Oral Roberts University?!” she asked with shock in her voice.
“Yes…” I responded tentatively as she started to cry.
“Rebekah, we have been praying for 10 years for you to come back to our country.”
I was shocked. She recounted the many prayers that had prayed, the fact that sometimes they would make a bed for me, praying God would send them back. She went on to share stories of people who I had worked with there and the faith they had in the hearts that there was more for me to do in PNG.
Little did she know that Jared and I had been considering whether we should be continuing with YWAM to help bring a ship to PNG and were hoping to finalise our answer that weekend.
After that, how could we say no?
In fact, that conversation with Doris and the hours of chats that followed that night and in the days to come were some of the most impacting. I told her that I couldn’t come so long ago… I was preparing to bring many more with me and make a far greater impact.
Doris passed away last week. She had a nasty cancer that ate away at her body. In fact, there is no cancer treatment available in PNG so she had been in Australia trying to get well. She fought so hard for years… and it was heartbreaking to know that she had lost and left behind her gorgeous husband and young son.
I don’t know how many peoples lives she affected… how many others she prayed for (possibly, like me, without even know them)… but I know she made an amazing impact on many lives and on her nation.
I know she made a difference in my life. When life gets hard here, I remember back to the people who prayed for ten years.. for ME and I remember that its about a whole lot more than how I’m feeling at the moment. She reminded me of my destiny and even in her passing, her memory encourages me to keep going on.