Stories from the Gulf of Papua New Guinea

Jadon and Esti at our bride price

The work here at Kapuna Hospital can seem like it never ends, Esti in the hospital, with her radio going off at all hours of the night/morning, and after 10 years of working on sanitation infrastructure my work here can often feel like there is always soo much more to do. 

But we are thankful for Gulf Christian Services, the community here in Kapuna and how special it is to be here.  It is a place where you can feel the presence of God, his love and joy radiating in the people who are here. A light in what can often feel like a dark place.

When my Grandparents (Dr. Peter and Dr. Lin Calvert) who had arrived in Kapuna in 1954, had been here for 20 years, were about to leave and return home, they asked God if there was any more for them here, God responded with, wait in Kapuna until I have sent my spirit, a few years later revival broke out and God's spirit brought change to the Baimuru district. Since then Kapuna Hospital has grown into Gulf Christian Services, providing Christ centred services to about 60,000 people who desperately need medical and educational services, making all of that possible has been Gods spirit in the place.

After her husbands Dr. Peters death in 1982, Dr Lin stayed on to work as the only full time doctor, late into her 80's and then became Kapuna's favourite consultants and Grandmother/ Mother to all in the Gulf of PNG, and finally on the 8th of August this year she graduated to heaven after 69 years of faithful services to the people of the Gulf Province.

It was special for Esti and I to be here in Kapuna and to sit with Grandma as she passed on, after four years of being unable to travel with covid restrictions, we made it back to Kapuna together just in time (2 days). And God was working overtime on the Phillipines visa department to get us here on time to say goodbye.

Below is a deeper dive into the life of my Grandmother, BubuMei (Bubu, meaning Grandma and Mei is the word for mother in the language of Baimuru, Gulf Province) ,Dr Lin Calvert. Or you can watch a short film I made about her life. 

The Life of Bubu Mei 

Lin Tombleson grew up on a hill country sheep farm in New Zealand. Her mother was a nurse in WW1 and her father a soldier. Her father was wounded and spent some months in a hospital in Egypt. Her mother was a nurse at the hospital. After the war they were married and went to live on a block of land in the hill country of Gisborne in the North Island of NZ, a farm they called Ahititi. It was a pioneer life on the remote farm, isolation, hard work. Lin learned to look after farm animals, milk cows, ride horses and grow gardens to survive. She did most of her schooling by distant studies.  But this was just the life that prepared young Lin to be a pioneer doctor at Kapuna in the Purari delta of Gulf Province. God was preparing her for the call on her life.
In the deep south of New Zealand, in the city of Dunedin a young man, my Grandad, was doing law at Otago university. When the war broke out, he went to Canada to train as a navigator with the Air Force. The war changed his direction in life and on return to New Zealand he took up medicine, met Lin, who was just completing her training After his graduation they were married. Both their hearts were now joined to serve, not long after this they received a letter from the LMS asking if they would serve at Kapuna in Papua. The LMS were clear in their letter .. Kapuna is a place of mud, mosquitos and malaria. As they read the letter they looked at each other and said “just the right place for us” In 1954 their boat arrived at Kapuna and they were taken by canoe to the hospital. As they came to the step of the Doctor's house, my aunt who was two years old at the time, who is now Dr Valerie and currently the senior doctor at Kapuna, spoke out saying “HOME” and so it was. And so it has been for 69 years.

Now my grandparents began their life work. 
What were their priorities in this new life? Their first commitment was to training of young local girls as nurses in the hospital and men to be Aid Post Orderlies to work in the villages. Training nurses and CHWs has continued to this day, the training school now being in its 65th year. 
Services to remote peoples was the next priority. They travelled first by paddle canoe and then outboard motor in the Delta and by jet boat to the Pawaia villages of upper Purari. Later the reach of the clinics was greatly increased by the support of MAF and its float plane.  Medical clinics were carried out all the way from the Vailala River to the Bamu River.

Were there difficulties? Plenty.  Did they give up? Never. What was it that strengthened Drs Peter and Lin ? It was their walk with God, knowing that we are to love others as Iesu Messiah loved us, love that will lay down its life for others. 
It is now 69 years since they stepped their feet on Kapuna ground. Dr Peter died in 1982 and is buried here, he was buried in a mat as is the custom of Baimuru. Dr Lin died on the 8th of August at 12:30 am, her body, the husk that belongs to this world was rolled in a mat and laid in a canoe to burry beside her husband on the land of the Kapuna. 

Remembering ‘Grandma’ Lin Calvert, Missionary Doctor Who Brought Life to Remote Papua New Guinea

I paused to soak in the scene before me. I had come to the remote Gulf Province of Papua New Guinea to write a book about the Calvert family, who, together with the local medical team, transformed medical care in the region.

Now, bathed in sunlight streaming through a window in her home, the elderly Lin Calvert sat bent over her Bible, grasping a magnifying glass. A doctor known as ‘Grandma,’ or Bubu Mei in the local Koriki dialect, the then-89-year-old didn’t notice me as she meticulously noted what God had taught her through the years.

I remembered this image when I learned that Bubu Mei died at age 98 on August 8, after serving nearly seven decades at Kapuna Hospital in Papua New Guinea. She and her husband Peter, along with their two young children, first arrived at the mission hospital in 1954. Their work enabled Kapuna to serve more than 45,000 tribal people making their home in the remote area accessible only by boat.

read full story here, by Erin Foley

Prayer points

What can you pray for?

  1. Esti and I feel called to stay on here in Kapuna for the next year, to support Gulf Christian Services in this time of growth and change, please pray for us that we can support the team here well.

  2. Pray for a senior accountant to help the organisation, this is our biggest need in this time of growth and change for the organisation.

thanks for all your prayers and support 

Jadon and Esti Calvert


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