It is December and the season of Advent is upon us!
A time to remember and consider how God in all His glory humbled Himself and came into our world. A time of expectation and hope. A time of looking forward to the promise of redemption and a new world order.
In so many ways, this struck a chord with me, especially in light of recent happenings. Serving as a volunteer doctor in Papua New Guinea, there were a number of times I have gotten irritated at the people and the way things work here. I was frustrated at how things are so different from back home and how I have to deal with the inefficiencies and (to me) incompetence here. I was frustrated with how messed up and “beyond hope” the society is.
I was on call last week when the Emergency Room nurse called me at about 5 in the morning. I had just reached home after seeing a patient and barely warmed my bed. Once again, Nurse L failed to identify herself over the line despite repeated reminders. I had told her twice that same night to identify herself when calling, as I can receive calls from six different locations and need to know where to go.
“Doctor! There is a patient with very severe bad chop-chop (a local term which refers to severe stab wounds and bush knife attacks), severe injuries, and profuse bleeding! I need you here now please.” I jumped out of bed, threw on my scrubs, and drove down to the Emergency Room (ER) quickly. At 5:30 a.m., the hospital was deserted and since the patient was supposedly at the point of death, I parked right outside the ER door but made sure to leave sufficient room for a second vehicle should another casualty arrive. I quickly entered the ER and saw Nurse L scrubbing the patient’s arm. No vital signs had been taken, and no attempts at intravenous cannulation to resuscitate the patient.
After snapping at the nurse to quickly get his vital signs and start an intravenous therapy, I proceeded to examine him, assess the severity of his wounds, and control his bleeding. In the meantime, Nurse L sauntered to the counter and slowly gathered the equipment. In the end, I had to take the patient’s vital signs myself. I subsequently found out that he got injured due to a drunken bar fight. His assailant was an off-duty policeman who was also drunk.
I spent the next two-and-a-half hour resuscitating him, getting X-rays, repairing his cut muscles, washing out and treating his open fracture, and stitching him up. Nurse L sat at the counter and didn’t help. It was 7:45 a.m. as I threw in my last stitch. Morning ward rounds start at 8:00 a.m. and I had not slept all night, had not had breakfast, and had not even had a chance to relieve myself.
Another ER nurse bugged me for the third time about moving the on-call vehicle parked out front. An issue that was not urgent and perhaps even a non-issue considering that I had left sufficient room for another vehicle! I felt like strangling someone.
Finally, I somehow managed to hit the ward on time at 8:00 a.m. to start work, finish my rounds, and then head to the Outpatient Department to see patients. Like all days, there were some patients who were a joy to see and some who just got on our nerves. There were some patients who came bearing huge bags of fruits in gratitude during their reviews, thankful for the help we rendered, and there were others who threatened to hurt or kill us, who disrupted hospital activities and functions over bad outcomes that would have happened even in the best hospitals in the world.
As I reflect on how the sovereign Creator of the world could humble Himself to come into our fallen world, to live among a people that do not love nor honor Him; how He too experienced fatigue, thirst, hunger, grief, and pain; how could I possibly hold on to my thoughts and gripes about life here? How can my leaving the comfort of my home to work among the people here and the little inconveniences and annoyances I face compare with the Almighty King leaving heaven and coming down to earth to dwell among broken people such as us?
As I consider such thoughts this Advent and dwell in expectant waiting for Christmas where we commemorate Jesus’ coming into the world, I think about and wait in eager expectation for His second coming into the world—where the new world order He initiated 2,000 years ago will be completely fulfilled and the world restored to His intended plan. I anticipate the day of His return when the work I do each day to relieve suffering and heal brokenness does not merely delay an eventual death but finds fullness of meaning when all is made whole, and suffering and death is no more.
By Jaryl Kok