Saving lives in the highlands of Papua New Guinea
The following story is from On Call, the quarterly magazine highlighting the ministry of World Medical Mission, the medical arm of Samaritan’s Purse. Read or download the latest edition.
When Ted and Rachel met in high school they had no idea of the plans that the Lord had for their lives. College, marriage, medical school for Ted, and a call to missions finally drew them to Kudjip Nazarene Hospital in the highlands of Papua New Guinea for a year of volunteer service.
“We have dedicated our lives’ training to bringing the Gospel and love of Christ to the unreached and underserved,” said Dr. Ted Henderson, who is serving through World Medical Mission. “We go to see God’s kingdom advanced, to escape the stifling consumerism of America and grow in our faith as we live harder lives, to learn more of this world’s great need, and to make ourselves available for God to show us where and how we might serve for the rest of our lives.”
A love for children inspired Ted to become a pediatrician.
“I’m always pleased to see a child is next in line when I’m in the clinic,” he said. “It’s not just that my pediatric training makes caring for them easier, it’s the pure and simple fact that kids bring me joy! I love their little personalities, I love making them smile and laugh, and I love seeing them get better.”Rachel quickly put her skills as an educator to work teaching the children of the medical missionaries
“I am teaching the 4th – 6th grade students at the MK (missionary kid) school,” she said. “They are a joy to work with. They truly grasp the purpose of their families’ roles in the mission and are little missionaries themselves.”
The children make regular visits to the hospital to minister to patients. In art class, they made prayer journals to give to the patients and knitted “Frizbees” for the children. They also pray with boys and girls in the pediatric ward and share the Gospel.
“They enjoy our visits to the hospital and are keenly aware of the need for the ministry that is provided,” Rachel said. “My kiddos are awesome and I am really enjoying getting to know them!”
One Sunday, the Hendersons traveled in a 4×4 and on foot to reach a “bush church,” high on a mountainside, overlooking the hospital.
“I was captivated by the spirit of freedom which carried forth upon joined voices,” Ted said. “Shoeless, I found my place next to Rachel, standing among a throng of Papua New Guineans, worshipping our Lord and Savior. As I joined in song, not quite understanding the words, I remained stricken with the powerful beauty of these brothers and sisters—hands raised then clapping, bowing low then dancing, tears of joy released in the presence of His love.”As a physician, Ted’s commitment to his patients has been tempered by the grim reality that death is all too common on the mission field.
“Almost every day someone dies at Kudjip Hospital, or is carried in already dead. In most cases, it seems that death might have been prevented,” Ted said. “When I see things that could have been done sooner or better, I am overcome with frustration, with grief for the loss of precious life, with a ‘why’ for every little aspect of the patient’s course of illness and medical care.”
The frailty of life on the mission field draws physicians closer to God and to each other to help meet their patients’ spiritual needs with prayer and the power of the Gospel. Ted was encouraged when he and veteran missionary Dr. Bill McCoy prayed for a TB patient named Kenneth.
“During our prayer I found myself again in an extreme state of thankfulness—to be here, playing a small part in the very real ministry to these beautiful people, an instrument of God’s love,” Ted said. “The hospital motto has returned to my mind over and over: We Treat, Jesus Heals.”