The Worry Song


It was the song that got to me.

This story starts in a grass hut, on a bush trail far from the main road, late on a Wednesday night. While most of Jiwaka Province sleeps, a young man, drunk, enters his aunt’s house with a knife. He intends to stab her. In his drunken stupor, he misses his aunt, stabbing his 10-year-old cousin in the head. The young man runs away. The child is carried to the road, loaded into a car, and driven over rough terrain to Kudjip Hospital. Initially, the young girl is awake but vomiting and becoming drowsy. After arriving at Kudjip, she becomes unresponsive and goes into cardiac arrest. The on-call doctor and ER nurse perform CPR. They get a pulse back, but she is not breathing. As a last-resort, the on-call doctor puts a small tube into the child’s trachea and has the staff breathe for the child.

Now it’s Thursday morning. She’s my first patient of the day. The on-call doctor had informed me of the child. Walking into the ER, I see an otherwise healthy 10-year-old girl lying lifeless on a stretcher. The only sign of trauma is a small, sutured laceration on her head. A seasoned nursing officer is squeezing air from a bag into the child’s lungs. Her mother is standing silent by the child’s bed. She is alone, shoeless, wearing a dark green skirt and flower-patterned blouse. Her calloused hands are clutching the rusty railing on the stretcher, caked with dirt and her daughter’s dried blood. She remains standing, waiting anxiously while I check her daughter. The child still has a faint pulse, but there are no signs of brain activity. I have the nurse stop, I remove the tube, and tell the mother that her child, her only daughter, is dead.

Intermingled with sobs, the mom starts singing. I cannot catch everything she is saying, but the most common word that keeps on being repeated is “wari.” In a cadence reminiscent of many tribal songs, this grieving mother sings about her daughter, and she sings about the worries of life. The word worry, or “wari” in Tok Pisin means more than just anxiety about a situation. It also encompasses the weight and heaviness caused by the troubles of life. In my mind at that moment, this mother became the essence of the struggle of life for women and children in Papua New Guinea. She was singing a song of worry on behalf of so many.

Papua New Guinea was recently ranked second to last in a United Nations
report of the “Safety and Treatment of Women and Children.”

Pray for the women and children of Papua New Guinea. For their safety, for justice, for equality. Pray for the Church to raise up godly men and women to stand up and bring about change in this land, a country with rugged and stunning landscapes, populated by a resilient and sturdy people with warm hearts and beautiful smiles.

Why, Lord, do you stand far off?
    Why do you hide yourself in times of trouble?

Arise, Lord! Lift up your hand, O God.
    Do not forget the helpless.

You, Lord, hear the desire of the afflicted;
    you encourage them, and you listen to their cry,
defending the fatherless and the oppressed,
    so that mere earthly mortals
    will never again strike terror.

~ Psalm 10: 1, 12, 17-18


6 thoughts on “The Worry Song

  1. Wow, Dr. Matt. Stories like that are hard to hear and even harder to tell. I’ve prayed for justice for this girl, forgiveness among all family members, and endurance for you and your team as you help many through dark situations in the name of Jesus.

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  2. Sending thoughts and prayer for you and all the medical staff for what you are doing. May the Lord guide all your hands as they work and for all the love you show the people.

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  3. Thought of you recently as I returned to Stoney Brook for the first time since I retired. Lost Joyce to pancreatic cancer last year and returned to each place we had lived as part of a memory trip in her honor, If there is any way I can help you in your work please let me know. Your old teacher and chess coach, Jerry Eddy (Doc)

    On Sat, Aug 21, 2021 at 4:50 AM Woodleys Around the World wrote:

    > woodleysaroundtheworldblog posted: ” It was the song that got to me. This > story starts in a grass hut, on a bush trail far from the main road, late > on a Wednesday night. While most of Jiwaka Province sleeps, a young man, > drunk, enters his aunt’s house with a knife. He intends to stab her” >

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  4. Prayers for this grieving Momma and for you and your family and your continued work. So so heartbreaking.
    The poor “safety and treatment of women and children” was something that struck me from our brief time in PNG and is on my heart. I will continue to pray that God would work throughout the people of PNG. Thank you for all you do Woodley family.

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