Walking Through the Unexpected
by Matt and Tammy Woodley, serving in Papua New Guinea
Over the past few weeks, our lives and plans have changed daily. Literally daily…which is part of the reason we took so long to send out any updates. Our original plan was to return to PNG [Papua New Guinea] on May 2. As the U.S. started to shut down and other countries increased travel restrictions, Matt and I talked with colleagues at Kudjip and decided to attempt to return as soon as possible prior to everything closing. So, we rushed to the store and while everyone else was stocking up on toilet paper, we filled our cart with two years’ worth of toiletries not easily obtained in PNG and clothing for our kids. Unfortunately, our plans changed again the following day when Australia canceled all international flights through May. We found other routes to PNG but were once again stalled when we received a call from the PNG embassy in D.C. informing us that they were closing and that while Matt’s and the kids’ entry permits were processed, mine (Tammy’s) was not. That day ended with PNG itself canceling all international and domestic flights…at which point, Matt and I concluded that God was not opening doors for us to return to PNG early, and possibly not for many, many more months. While we were enjoying our time in the States, we were looking forward to heading back to PNG and we are heartbroken not only because of the delay, but because we have no idea when we might be able to go back.
But, 2 years in PNG has prepared us for COVID-19:
- Grocery shopping once a month (mostly :))—mastered
- Coming to terms with the fact that stores might not have everything on my list… sometimes for months at a time: still frustrating at times, but nothing new
- Realizing that I can survive without those items I couldn’t find, OR, creatively figuring out an alternative– mastered
A Door That God Has Opened Up In the Meantime
As our family grieved over not being able to return to PNG, Matt and I also began to think and pray about what our role would be for the next few months in the States. About two weeks ago, Samaritan’s Purse sent out an email asking for physicians willing to work with their Disaster Response Team in a field hospital fighting COVID-19. In contrast to the many doors closing for our return to PNG, God seemingly threw the doors open wide for Matt to serve in this capacity. Long story short…Matt will head to New York City in mid-April where he will work in Samaritan’s Purse’s field hospital in Central Park, treating patients with COVID-19. Despite our discouragement with not being able to return to PNG, we are glad that God has opened doors for Matt to serve during a time of crisis in the States.
Counting Our Blessings
We are also able to see how God has provided for our family in the midst of disappointment. Both the owners of the house we are staying in and the owners of a car we are borrowing, graciously allowed us continued use of these essentials for as long as we need. In addition, we have truly loved having this uninterrupted time as a family…something which was difficult to find both in PNG and while traveling during Home Assignment.
*Please pray for the doctors and medical staff at Kudjip, who no longer have short-term volunteers present to help out with the workload and may not have any additional doctors for many months. Pray for good health and endurance. Pray that God will meet their needs.
*Pray for PNG and the people there who are experiencing immense fear regarding COVID-19. Pray that God will give them peace, wisdom, and hope in these uncertain times.
*Pray that my (Tammy’s) entry permit will miraculously make it through the system so that we can return to PNG as soon as international flights are available.
*Pray for Matt as he serves in NYC. Pray for his protection and health. Pray that he will be receptive to opportunities to be used by God during his time there. Pray for the kids and me as we manage life without Matt for a few weeks.
*Finally, pray for our world which is broken and hurting. Pray that God will bring peace and hope to those who are feeling fear, anxiety, and those who are disheartened. Pray that Christians around the world will find creative ways to reach out to others and show the love of Christ. Pray for healing.
Dr. Matt Woodley, an Emergency Medicine physician, is a MedSend grant recipient serving in Papua New Guinea. He and his wife Tammy have been serving in Kudijip since 2017.
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