Greetings from the jungle mountains of the Philippines! It’s crazy to think that we’ve been here for over a month now. God has been working in such amazing ways. I’ve encountered so many things that I’ve never thought I would, one of which is direct contact with spiritual warfare.
I’ve settled into my role as girls’ dorm dean and nurse in the clinic since my last update. Now that boot camp is over, I have my own gas stove with two burners. I’ve been able to send an order out to receive food from the lowlands that are more “American,” such as veggie meat, powdered milk, spaghetti, jelly, etc. Since it can only go so far, I’ve learned to incorporate the Palawano diet into my American one. I’ve also since acquired a mattress. Though not the most luxurious, it is definitely better then sleeping on bamboo floor. Ironically enough, it was hard adjusting back to a mattress after two weeks of sleeping on bamboo floor!
We still shower with a bucket and pail, use the restroom in a squat pot in the ground (it flushes by pouring water down it), and still hand wash our clothes. We still have to hike everywhere to get anywhere. But by God’s grace, He has helped me to adjust a little better now.
Our ministry has established a clinic here in our village for several years now. Along with an exam room, a pharmacy, a lab, we also have two inpatient rooms and a birthing hut down the trail. Not only are we the village nurses, we are the village doctors, pharmacists, clinic janitors, paramedics, and dentists. We triage the patients that come in, assess them, diagnose them, prescribe their medications, and dispense their medications. We accompany them to be sent out if needed, do home visits to our home bound patients, pull teeth, respond to emergencies at any hour of the day/night, and deliver babies at our birthing hut or at their house. We keep our clinic clean by taking out the trash and sharps containers ourselves, disposing of them appropriately ourselves, sweeping and mopping ourselves, and keeping our grounds clean. In the states, there are different workers for each scope of practice. In the jungle mountains of Kementian valley, we do it all. This is not your ordinary nursing assignment.
Other than all day and night shifts (and the lack of sleep thereof), the hardest thing for me is diagnosing and prescribing. It’s being able to assess patients, identify their disease according to their symptoms, and prescribe the correct medication regimen for them. Unfortunately, I didn’t quite learn this particular skill in nursing school. There’s no signal here, therefore no Google to turn to. Thankfully, we had prior training as well as a village medicine manual. Most of the things we see in our clinic are malaria (lots of it!), dysentery, TB, pneumonia, malnutrition, and of course coughs and colds and the occasional wound that needs to be sutured. We get anywhere from 5-70 patients a day. Although our clinic is open from 0800-1500, we still have home visits to do and emergencies to respond to.
Culture affects our practice as well. Medication compliance is an old challenge that we battle daily. Fear of the spirits drive our patients decision. Witch doctors are consulted before we are, sometimes just before it’s too late. The resources we give to the kids on our malnutrition program sometimes don’t help, because it’s usually distributed to all the family, with little left for the malnourished child. It’s not uncommon for young girls (anywhere from 7-13 years old) to be married and some with kids. Most women my age have 2 or 3 kids already.
But God is so sovereign, and helps us fight through the challenges and culture barrier daily. He supplies strength where it is gone, and gives us the wisdom to make the right diagnosis. Though sparse our resources, He shows which can be used in place of what we need. He reveals to us the right patient to send out, and protects on the trails as we make the hike to the next mountain for a home visit. He guides our hands as we examine, suture, insert IVs, give meds, pull teeth, and deliver babies. He is so good, and though I am so inadequate, I cannot help but be grateful to simply be His instrument of healing.
Our latest battle that is currently being fought concerns spiritual warfare. “For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places” Ephesians 6:12. As much as I never thought it would, this truth has become a sobering reality. Beauty (name undisclosed for privacy sake), comes from a village on another mountain—about a 12-hour hike from our village. Her village is deeply rooted in animism. Sacrifices are given often to appease the spirits. The locals from our village refer to them as “angry people” because of their diligence and constancy in appeasing the spirits. They are driven by this fear. By God’s grace, Beauty’s family was baptized May 2016 and is now actively serving as frontier missionaries in their village. They chose to go against what they had known all their life, choosing to follow the true God of heaven. As one of the first converts of that village, they help established a church there. Beauty is attending our school for her second year now. Though it has come with trials and difficulties, her parents were determined to send her to school here so she can learn how to read the Bible and pray, and help her parents back home.
What caused her to be possessed, we don’t know. I wasn’t even sure what was going on when it first happened. She was in my dorm demonstrating strange behaviors one Friday night. At first I thought she was emotional because of her malaria meds (it’s known to have weird side effects, such as emotional thoughts). But her behavior didn’t change, and got progressively worse, to the point where we’ve had to restrain her multiple times because of her violent outbursts. As much as my western, medical mind would love to believe it’s a mental health disorder, I know it is not. Even our psych nurse on staff ruled out that possibility. Never in my wildest dream would I have ever imagined I would encounter this.
God is so good, though, and has been helping us persevere. All of the girls take turns to watch her throughout the day and night. On top of clinic and school responsibilities, we have duties to ensure that our sister does not hurt herself while she is being tormented. Your prayers are greatly appreciated in helping us fight this battle!