By Lena Allen
Director, Kunai Health Centre
It often happens that a family member will come to our clinic and ask for pain medicine for someone else, and our policy is to review each request case by case. But with Benjamin I always sent a package of Advil with his brother, child or mother. You see, Benjamin is paralyzed and lives downriver two hour’s hike from here in a bush hut across the river at the top of a hill. He had TB of the spine as a young father of three, and it left him with no use of his legs, making it impossible for him to come to clinic.
A couple of years ago a message came from the family that Benjamin was having more problems and needed transport to the Catholic hospital in Kanabea. His brother carried him on his back down the hill, across the river and placed him in the back of the mission’s Kawasaki Mule. This was the first time we met Benjamin in person, finding he had been to school and spoke some English. He and his mother, who accompanied him, were very polite and appreciative.
He stayed at Kanabea’s hospital for months and then was flown down to Kerema General Hospital for further treatment. Months later he returned to Kanabea and stayed at the hospital while receiving further TB medicines. It was during these times that we became friends. When bringing other patients over the mountain to Kanabea, we would check up on him, sometimes even bringing small things like a package of biscuits. He always was eager to chat with us, and his soul was always on our minds (he later told us that our visits were the only ones he received, and that his mother would weep each time after we left, rejoicing that someone cared for Benjamin).
One day he asked for Pastor James to come pray with him. When Pastor James returned from his visit, he told us about our new brother in Christ, Benjamin Luke!
When the day came for us to move him back to his bush hut, John loaded him back into the Kawasaki Mule again. This time they stopped at our home and we gave him a Tok Pisin Bible because he could read. Between the Mule and his brother, he safely arrived back at his bush hut with a new life and a new Bible.
Soon after this, the family started requesting “band-aides” and medicine for sores. Upon inquiring, I learned Benjamin had some sores that started under the skin and had broken open. So, I sent the bandages and more Advil.
About the same time, we began a new church in Aminawa, the next village past Benjamin’s place. Each Sunday we would pass near Benjamin’s hut, so we began stopping by on our three-hour trip home after services. That gave us the opportunity to help him grow by re-preaching the messages from the services at Aminawa.
It was also at this time that Andrew Schellenberger and Rachel Muldoon started their one-year internship (which has turned into full-time missionary work for both of them, as well as a new life as a married couple). Andrew and my husband John worked together at the new church at Aminawa, and so Andrew too became a close friend of Benjamin. Nurse Rachel worked in the clinic, and both she and our other coworker Sarah Glover would make “hut calls” to check on him. Any visitors who came with us to Aminawa also got the benefit of visiting Benjamin. When John and I went on furlough for most of 2011, Andrew and Rachel continued visiting and caring for Benjamin (as well as the many other roles they covered for us).
The very first visit we made to Benjamin in the fall of 2010, however, was terrible. He was clearly had sepsis, with fever and infection throughout all his body. Along with the terrible smell, we saw his wounds; he had huge bed sores from laying on his hips and back. They were the largest and by far the worst I have ever seen. I asked the family to come to the clinic the next day, as I needed to consult US doctors by email as well as my textbooks on the correct treatment. I wept, as I was sure he was dying. Short of a miracle, I could see nothing that could really help.
As the weeks went by, Benjamin began to improve! Thanks to the instructions of US doctors and a wound care nurse, we taught his family how to do special daily dressing changes. We gave him medicines, and we even helped him by bringing high protein food to add to his diet. There was a lot of work involved, but God had something special planned for Benjamin.
As he recovered, his desire for the Word grew. He eagerly awaited the preaching, singing and prayer on Sundays. Realizing he always had people with him in his hut, we gave him a solar-powered audio device (a Proclaimer) that plays the Tok Pisin New Testament. Giving him the spoken Word was just what he and his family needed. Daily they would gather and listen. On one Sunday afternoon, right after arriving, his father met us at the hut. Benjamin’s father told us they had just listened to the Bible and proceeded to give us an outline of the book of First Corinthians. Truly, faith comes by hearing! They love to tell stories, and this audio device was doing just that. Pray that Benjamin’s mother and father will come to know the Savior soon.
When Andrew came to the US to get married to Rachel in October 2011, he brought two videos he made with Benjamin. The first video was Benjamin giving a testimony telling of how he came to know Christ, and how that he is almost well now (Rachel told us his wounds are almost totally healed) from the care given to him. He is thanking us, thanking and praising the Lord, smiling and rejoicing over what God has done for him. The second video was of him playing the guitar and singing songs of praise. And I did not even know he played guitar!
Recently I was looking at some pictures a visitor posted on Facebook of his visit to Papua New Guinea this past summer. One of them was of Benjamin, sitting upright and smiling. American visitors surrounded him, and his mom was sitting right beside him. He had gained weight, and pain looks to be something of the past…physical pain and spiritual pain. He looks to have gained weight spiritually too.
Thanks for praying for us and for the medical ministry. It does open door for the Gospel as this letter shows. What a joy to be a part of a new hope in Christ!