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Gemo Sivaraina by Rev. Reatau Mea

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Original Motu Version Click Here

The late Reverend Reatau Mea was the first Papuan to be appointed Superintendent of the United Church in Papua. The late Reverend contributed an article in an LMS publication describing in detail of a health issue he and his family faced in 1949. The contribution in the publication was a year later but at the time he was confronted with this health issue he was a Pastor in Porebada village spreading the word of God. It was during this time that those in his household had fallen ill to a disease unknown to them at the time.

The original contribution is in Motu which you can read here but below is a summarized version of the events in English.

Here it is….

In 1949 Reverend Reatau Rau had fallen ill.

He didn’t think much of it at the time as he thought it was just one of those common illnesses in the village and that it would “go away“. While there were no serious signs, he recalls, he did not know that the infection was creeping in and building inside of him.

Around September that year, he started having chest pains and while it didn’t seem so serious at the time, he started having a fever too. After about three days both the fever and chest pains had gone and he thought that would be the end of it. Far from it. At the same time, he started noticing his daughters showing symptoms of measles but still no cause for concern, he says.

I didn’t think much about going to the hospital at first mainly because the kind of illness I thought we had was common in many of the villages and thought that it would go away.

Continuing to “downplay” the seriousness of the illness, Reverend Reatau decided to look after his children as best as he could at Porebada.

Within that same month, one of his daughters, Lily, started experiencing stomach aches. It was at that point that he decided the issue was far more serious than he had envisaged and subsequently decided to visit the nearest hospital.

But before he visited the hospital, he first paid a visit to Mrs Ure at Metoreia. Having spoken to her, she along with Mr Ure strongly recommended that he and the rest of his family see a Doctor and get X-rays done.

He complied with their recommendations and visited a nearby doctor and got x-rays done for everyone.

The results of the x-ray showed that TB infections had developed around his chest area. His wife and daughters were equally unfortunate and suffered the same results.

He recalls at the time that this came as a huge surprise.

Of all this time working and wondering around, we had not known that the infection was inside of us. We could have all died.  

The doctor then referred the entire family to Gemo Hospital just outside of Port Moresby city.  

About a week in Gemo, his youngest daughter Mea sadly died on the 27th of September. The Reverend suspected that being the youngest, her body was not strong enough to fight the infection.

The rest of the family remained at Gemo fighting the disease.

During his time at Gemo, Pastor Reatau recalls being prescribed Streptomycin by the doctors. He along with the rest of the family were taking it three times a day to fight the TB inside them.

With a strong Christian faith, the Reverend put his trust in the Lord believing that everything the Father was doing was through the doctors.

While undergoing this painful and unprecedented experience, he warned his fellow villagers and generally the LMS community of which he was heavily involved in. In a philosophical and spiritual context, he sounded out the warning:

I am writing this message to you and I have something to say to you, the people of Papua.

Many of you are short sighted. You only worry about today but do not think about what may come to you. Many of you are knowledgeable, yet turn a blind eye.

You want things that are new, new village, new house. You have worked hard to achieve your dreams. But what about the “house” inside of you? Do you wish to enter your new house whilst what is inside remains unclean?

Think of your family.

Clean what’s inside of you and only then can you think of entering a new village, a new house.

Reverend Reatau said that it was in Gemo that he had seen and learnt just how deadly the infection was. Some who had already succumbed to the infections and passed on while some of those who remained had recovered.

He continued:

New doctors with new knowledge, new medicines are being introduced. We are being injected with Streptomycin three times a day. The sisters are happy that patients are improving in their health. They have a lot of work to do and there are 180 patients here. We here are also happy as our conditions are improving.

I am happy that my daughters have recovered because they have been ill for several months.

Gemo looks like a place of life again people here are happy and joyful for the life they’ve been given. If you don’t believe me, come and see for yourself. I was a bit uncertain about all this at the start but I no longer have that feeling after seeing what has happened myself.  

Even though one of us has died, many of us are still alive and strong because of the love of our heavenly Father. He is the reason for this.

My wish is that if some of you have family members who have died from TB, those of you remaining should get x-rays to know with certainty whether you are healthy and free from infections.

They are building a new x-ray room here in Gemo so come over.

And he penned off:

Iesu   eto,   “Oi   mauri   o   uramu?”   E   kamonai   taudia   na   taiadia   e   veri   ginika-ginika   e   hakala,   dahaka   vada   be   varamu.   lesu   ma   e   gwau   lou 

“Emu   kamonai   dainai   vada   aola   mai   mainomu   ida.”  E   lou   mai   rohoisi-rohoisidia   ida.  

While the message and article is in a health context, these are life long lessons. Lessons are living and will continue to live in appropriate circumstances.

Blessed Sunday!

Nursing Sister C G Fairhall (right) and Sister G Clatsworth of Gemo Island with patients outside the island chapel [photographic image] /​ photographer, V Gadsby

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