One night on call, 2 potentially lethal chops (machete wounds), one man escaped with his life, the other did not. One man chopped over the election results; the other was drunk and was chopped after an argument with his brother. One was middle aged; the other was in his late 20s. One chop almost took off a forearm, going through the radius and all the blood vessels; the other was chopped twice. Once through the thigh and into the femur and the 2nd into the shoulder going through all the muscles down to the bone with the humeral head exposed. One man went to another health facility first and after 4 hours when no one helped him, the family brought him to us with bright red blood dripping off the dressings, as he was still losing blood. The other was carried on a home made stretcher made from bamboo and a feed bag down the muddy dirt roads behind us leaving a long trail of bright red blood the whole way into our ER. Both came with concerned family members who helped to hold the patients as we worked on them. Both required a team effort of nurses, anesthesia officers, lab technicians and doctors. One man survived the attack, after we stopped the bleeding and will either need an extensive surgery to repair the tendons, nerves and vessels of his forearm, or else will need an amputation if the forearm can't be saved. The other man did not survive, his chops were too deep and extensive causing significant blood loss and the distance they had to bring him was too far and despite our efforts, we couldn't resuscitate him and stop the bleeding fast enough.
A machete is a useful tool in the Highlands of Papua New Guinea. It allows one to chop down your bananas when they are ripe, to chop branches for firewood, to chop through the weeds as you are forging new trails in the bush, to cut grass with and more. It is also the most destructive tool in the Highlands of Papua New Guinea. Every home has at least one, and when there is an argument this is swung in anger. Our human bodies were not built to withstand a big knife cutting them. Skin, muscles, tendons and even bones easily succumb to the force of the machete as it enters the body. Fingers are chopped off, tendons are torn apart, bones are broken and lives are lost as a result of machete injuries.
Many survive, but are no longer the same as they were before. They might have chronic pain, a limp, be in a wheelchair, no longer have an arm or leg, have weakness, be paralyzed and more. If their physical wounds aren't enough to have to recover from, they have the mental aspect of it too. Will they live in fear for the rest of their lives wondering if their husband, wife, brother, father, mother, or 2nd wife will do this again to me? They struggle to sleep remembering the attack? They might become depressed because they can no longer do the things they use to do, etc.
These chopchop injuries (as we call them), didn't just happen tonight, but occur everyday as we are sewing up someone who has been chopped. Brothers chops brothers, husbands chop wives and wives chop husbands. Fathers chop sons and enemies chop each other. No one is immune. How does this end? Through the law, the church, or both? It seems like it needs to be both. The law punishes what has already happened, but doesn't always result in a change of behavior. God can change lives through the Holy Spirit. He can make the anger disappear and forgiveness appear. He can make one not desire to drink and to desire to spend time with their family. He can help us fight jealously and depression by filling our lives with hope, joy and peace in the beauty of His creation, the blessings He gives, and in His promises. He will stand with us through the pits we are in and raise us up on His Rock.
Ps 40:1-3 "I waited patiently for the Lord; and He inclined to me and heard my cry. He brought me up out of the miry clay, making my footsteps firm. He put a new song in my mouth, a song of praise to our God; Many will see and fear and will trust in the Lord."
We can't do this alone. Would you pray that there would be a real transformation in the lives of the PNGians, especially in the Highlands region. Pray that churches and people in PNG would be filled with the Holy Spirit so that lives can be changed. Pray that the violence would stop and love would abound. Pray that people wouldn't have to live in fear. Pray that those who have been chopped can forgive and have healing, physical, mental and spiritual. Pray that our doors would continue to remain open, so that we can treat those who are injured and offer healing both physically and spiritually. Pray that God would sustain us in the long nights on call, when the violence doesn't seem to end, and we are tried, worn out and don't want to show compassion - pray that we would show His love.