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By: Fr. Bobby Sagra, MSP
‘As a Filipino missionary, I am not a stranger to his experience of life and death... I came from a country whose misery of death and Hope of life is deeply felt year after year’.
Here in Papua New Guinea I serve the Kamea people. A few months ago, I brought a sick man of the Kamea people to the Kokipi Health Center. The man was suffering from cerebral Malaria. He was already in a state of coma and just moaning in pain when we took off on our small river dingy from Putei. We left at 4:00 p.m. and after cruising the winding Tauri River for six hours, we arrive at Kokipi in the night. He was given immediate medical attention, but on the following morning there was no sign of improvement. The nurse in-charge made speedy arrangements by radio for the man to be brought to Kerema Government Hospital.
While at Kerema, the man was given intensive care. I went back to Putei, leaving him still in his unconscious state. Three days later I was informed that the man died. It was as quick and simple as that. A man got sick in the mountains. We tried our best to rescue him, and he did not manage to survive. His case is only one among the hundreds of other unknown cases of getting sick and dying in this poor Kamea region. From the villager I heard more stories of children and old getting and dying after few days without the attention of any doctor. There are only two doctors in the whole province of Gulf, one in Kerema Government Hospital and one a Catholic priest from Melbourne working in Kanabea Mission Station. The rest are less trained nurses and aid post orderlies. Death is therefore inevitable in cases of serious and sudden illness like cerebral malaria.
Pouring the Water of Life
A month later, I found myself standing on a rock in the Wanto river, pouring the life giving and cleansing waters of baptism on one hundred and forty Kamea men, women, and children. It was a touching moment of my missionary life- the joy of being used by God as his instrument in giving new birth in Christ to my poor Kamea people. I’m amazed at the response by the people, most of them tribal leaders, to God’s call to embrace the Christian life.
Rain, a Grace
We had great feast after the baptism mass. The people arranged themselves in grouped and cooked the Momo Kaikai. It consists of pigs, sweet potatoes, gabi, and green vegetable leaves. When the food was ready, we all gathered around and asked God’s blessing. A gentle rain came from heaven washing us bit, a sign of God’s cheerful approval of our fellowship in his name and glory.
Memories of the Philippines
The memories of death and life in my precious moments with the Kamea people will always be part of my own faith experience as a missionary. As a Filipino missionary, I am not a stranger to this experience of life and death. I came from a country whose misery of death and hope of life is deeply felt year after year. What I am doing here with my Kamea people in Papua New Guinea is a sharing of my experience of death and life as a Filipino- a loving and caring in moments of sickness and death, and a joyful sense of gratitude in moments of feasting and celebration of birth of both in life and in Christ.
As the rainforest remain strong and the springs and rivers continue to flow, I go with my journey. I hear in the soothing echo of the mountain breeze, Lacordaire’s praise, “What life! Ands its yours, O priest of Jesus Christ” Before I end this writing, I need someone to remind me I am not dreaming.