Our Ship Has Sailed!

Photo Courtesy of YWAM Medical Ships Australia

Ahhh… we breathed a huge sigh of relief, satisfaction and gratefulness yesterday as we watched our ship sail into the horizon.

What an amazing six months it has been renovating, maintaining, and caring for this beautiful, floating hunk of metal that was given to us. It was incredibly rewarding to hug our friends tightly and watch Jared pass the gangway over and throw the last of the lines. He’s a bit sad to not be sailing this time, and fully enjoying having a relaxing evening on the couch watching TV after many late nights and long weekends of preparations. 🙂

Last we heard they were cruising along, spotting dolphins, and not too sick yet. A good sign! We’re looking forward to some great stories to come soon and will most certainly share them.

In the mean time, there is this amazing video from the former Prime Minister of PNG who shared some insightful and touching words at our annual breakfast last week. It is lengthy for a computer video, but well worth the time!

And the shorter but also inspiring news clip:

PS – If you’re looking for a good Mother’s Day gift, why not sponsor the distribution of birth kits!?

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BYO Water!?!

This has been a year of babies, babies, babies. For the past couple of months, I’ve had a friend deliver a baby at least once a week… and they’re not stopping anytime soon. I think I am up to 10 friends/acquaintances who are due the same week that I am early next year!

Just in the past few weeks, four of my girlfriends here have had beautiful little babies, all born in the comfort of our local hospital, with wonderful care to keep them and their mamas safe.

That’s why I was shocked when I read this as my own little one kicked around in my belly this afternoon:

“A sign at the front of the hospital in [Papua New Guinea] reads, ‘Women in labour must bring their own water.'” — Fraser Coast Chronicle

Holy. Cow. There are no words. There are absolutely no words.

And this coming from a girl who has been studying health care in PNG for the past number of years, spending this very week up late at night writing up our current strategies while Jared helps to outfit the new waiting area onboard our medical ship, knowing full well that 1 in 7 women in rural PNG will die during childbirth…

Knowing Molly’s story intimately… Molly the sweet newborn girl who didn’t live… but has inspired hundreds to take compassionate action…

Knowing that for many of these women, clean water is actually quite hard to come by in the best of circumstances, much less in the middle of contractions.

And yet, as upsetting as it seems that a woman would have to BYO water to deliver a baby in a hospital, also knowing that it is still probably the best possible place to deliver and the ones who get to go there are truly the lucky ones.

I guess some days it hits you harder. Fresher. A deeper knowing. Deeper motivation to keep on keeping on to do what we can to change it… for more to have life to the max.

Let it be…

Max visiting a remote village in PNG earlier this year.

Lumps and Bumps

I got an email today with a scanned copy of a letter from a man who leads a remote village in Papua New Guinea. In broken English, he sent a request for help from our ship, listing out about 10 health problems the village are facing, the last of them being “lumps.”

As I read that, I swallowed a lump in my own throat.

I can picture the lumps. Strange growths like the man who had a tumour so big in his mouth it has started leaking through his cheek… for the past several years.

Giant, infectious lumps like this little girl’s

Lumps and bumps that never get diagnosed… and often claim lives.

And to me, its that extra bit of sad right now because my own baby has a little lump… that still isn’t gone.

I’m so grateful to live in a country where we have had adequate health care. And not just adequate, but nurses that remember him between visits and treat us like rock stars. Surgeons who spend an unlimited amount of time answering our questions. Doctors who come in just to listen because they’re all a little puzzled about what’s been going on…

It tells me they aren’t just doing their job but they actually care about our little boy.

We’ve followed up on Max’s surgery and they’re not happy with the way his wound has healed… or about the new lumps that have emerged. That said, its not bad enough to warrant surgery yet… and they are over trying antibiotics.

So we wait and we watch and we pray.

And while we’re okay (I mean, you can’t argue with the fact that he’s an adorable almost-18-month-old who runs around giggling and cracking us up for the better part of every day), we don’t like it. We want to know he’s healthy and forget about the scary words the doctors mention as possibilities.

So while we wait… and watch… and pray… we continue on with our life. And for us, continuing on means doing our best to help other peoples’ lumps go away… Recruiting doctors and nurses, fundraising, renovating ships, writing newspaper articles, planning strategically for the future…

Because just a couple of hours away is another mother, making dinner over an open fire outside her hut, who is not only wondering what that lump is on her little boy’s neck… but also knowing that she may never find out… and may face the very real possibility that he won’t be okay.

We believed our little Max would bring life to many… and he inspires us every day to do our best to do the same.

Toothaches and Heartaches

I’ll be honest.

Hearing each night about the hundreds of teeth that the dentists pulled every day on board was starting to make me cringe… and wonder.

I love what we’re doing, but why were so many teeth being pulled? It wasn’t as though I doubted their integrity… but still, it didn’t add up in my mind. I mean, what does someone do if you pull 18 teeth from their mouth? How is that possible?

Is this really necessary?!

And then it was my turn to head up to the clinic. It has the sterile smell of any doctor’s office you’ve ever been to, mixed with the sickly sweet smell of too much beetlenut chewing. People waiting nervously… but excitedly…

I put on my mask and glasses to maintain the hygiene standards of the clinic and stepped up to our first patient.

It only took a moment to see. This was not fancy dental work. This was basic, primary and emergency care. His “teeth” were nothing but black stubs – rotted away and causing deep infection in his mouth. Sometimes when the teeth came out, they revealed giant pussy abscesses.

It was absolutely sickening. Not in the “you’re the kid no one wants to be on the playground with sort of way” but in the “oh my goodness, your life is at risk from the infection that is growing inside their mouth sort of way.”

The heartbreaking sort of way.

Oral care is something we can easily take for granted. Something we often complain about because let’s face it – its not always comfortable on our mouths… or our wallets!

But here, oral care is not only virtually unheard of, but the lack of it is causing major disease and infection in people… and they don’t even know it!

So as our dentists came down each night, rubbing their sore wrists (I now know from first hand experience the kind of muscle it takes to get those teeth out!) and sharing war stories, that not only were they helping to give brighter smiles, they were also helping to save lives in a very real way.

The Sweetest Home, Sweet Home

Did we have to leave?!

We had such an amazing time in Papua New Guinea. I am still working on getting our stories updated. We had trouble with internet and then trouble with  pictures but I’ve uploaded a couple now and will continue to do so – with or without pictures! – over the next few days.

Because it was amazing and you will love it.

It was hard to say goodbye but we are making the most of our time at home.

And I do mean the most.

Cookie baking most.

There’s something in this egg kinda most.

Making messes most.

It is sweet to be home… and I don’t just mean the chocolate. I mean, the richness of family. The fresh gratefulness for every single thing we have. The feeling that our bed… our house… our yard… is absolutely huge. And luscious. Grocery stores stocked with food. Friends next door.

And then there’s Jesus. This has been an incredible season to remember and reflect on His sweetness.

It is sweet to be home.

Linking Up with the Paper Mama's Multicolored Challenge

The Paper Mama

Having a Ball

We did indeed have a ball in PNG… And so did many of our new friends.

As suspected, the balls were a BIG hit. And while it was a delight to see so many precious faces light up with big white smiles and sparkling eyes, there were a few stories that just felt… Like destiny.

Like Mida… We were chatting on board the ship as she waited for her turn in the dental clinic. Max played at our feet as we chatted about her two children in the village and how she was the eldest in her family and the only one to go to school, hence her good English.

And as the conversation turned, she shyly asked me whether I had a netball. I kicked myself because I was so close to getting a netball and then asked her if a soccer ball would do. She was thrilled and I went to my cabin to pick it up.

Days later I learned that this village saved for months to buy the men a rugby ball in Port Moresby. Now the women, with no way to make an income, were saving for a ball for themselves.

What started as a fun idea actually turned out to be an answer to prayer for around 50 women.

And then there was Joyce.

Isn’t she beautiful?

Her eyes are absolutely radiant. Like, can’t-help-but-smile-because-they-sparkle-so-bright sort of radiant. She’s smart and quick and witty and kind.

She is also mute.

She’s never said a word in her life. No one knows why. And the bright intelligence that embodies this little girl is absolutely astounding in a place where the fit are the ones who survive and thrive.

She is strong, lovely and tenacious and I’ve fallen in love with her.

There was also Jeffrey. His oldest son was given to him when he was a single man by his sister. Its the thing to do here. If family doesn’t have a baby, you give them one. Now he’s married with another little girl. He’s been in this village as a school teacher for 10 years.

10 years in a place where they are only just now getting a clean source of water. 10 years in a place where he couldn’t even access his pay check unless he took a $300 trip to the city… via dingy… on the water for two days… if the weather permits.

The man is so committed. We gave him balls with globes on them for the kids in the classroom. He was SO excited.

Those are only a few of our friends, only a few who adored those balls, each for different reasons. There are many more shining faces and bouncing balls round these villages.

Thanks for helping us make their faces light up and giving us another reason to connect!!

A Rocky Start to An Incredible Adventure

We’re here. One exhausted dry docked daddy. One meetinged-out mama. And a baby boy whose “white” skin, as tan as it is, is quite the novelty around these parts. We are talking strangers-taking-pictures-of-you sort of novelty.

It’s strange to be on the other side. Strange and good.

We are anchored off the coast of Port Moresby where we have welcomed doctors, dentists, nurses and deckhands to join us in the Gulf next week.

I’m not going to lie and say that it’s the romantic picture I’ve had in my head. Keeping a kid quiet around 50 sleeping people in close quarters (read: very few actual walls) is not easy. Pacing him around the only room on the ship that is sound proof before sunrise was not part of the vision.

But at the same time, we are so so so convinced we are to be here at this time. Challenges are interesting like that. They seem to take the best of you, mess it all up, and spit you out. But sometimes what comes out is pure conviction… And pure conviction is hard to argue with. We have a job to do and we are not going anywhere.

Clearly, deep thoughts muddled by an exhausted mind while sitting on the steep steps of a ships cabin don’t come out very eloquent.

I wish this was the time and place to tell you how amazing this week has been meeting with different leaders of this country. But, this place is the world wide web and it would in fact be wholly inappropriate. So you’ll have to trust me when I say that it has been absolutely fantastic.

Can you picture me in my heels and a life jacket riding across in a Zodiac to go to meetings with Governors and CEOs?

Now you can.

The adventure was the icing on the cake of a truly amazing week.

So was this little honey who fell asleep in his daddy’s arms as his thick teething drool literally hung about a meter long, waving in the wind of the Zodiac.

After our 15 minute boat ride, he stayed asleep in that life jacket for well over three hours.

Sweet boy.

We are off to the Gulf early next week but for now we sleep in our gorgeously renovated cabin with 42 balls underneath us.

We can hardly wait to meet the friends who will receive them!!

Love, The Hoovers