I was just part of a very cool adventure and I’d love to tell you about it...
So firstly, the adventure was on a YWAM medical ship in Papua New Guinea. This ship operates as a licensed medical provider in PNG, reaching extremely isolated villages, and the ship is run totally by YWAM volunteers. My mum is a nurse and wanted to go and help out on this ship, and I decided to tag along with my parents for the experience. This outreach was to the Western and Gulf provinces, and two days in central (Hula).
I was put in a community engagement team. The idea is that these teams are out connecting with kids in villages, playing games, providing some education about sanitation and water and health and different diseases, and getting to know what each village is about by spending time with people while the medical volunteers run clinics. The health clinics included immunisations, dental work, optometry, testing for tuberculosis, check ups for pregnant women, family planning and probably more stuff I don’t know about since I’m not medical.
There were some really cool ways that art played a big part of the trip from a community engagement point of view and here’s afew:
Art for non-verbal cross-cultural engagement.
This one was a basic one: we had chalk, and most villages had some form of bark or timber flooring, and some villages had a school room of a sort. So our team would get down on the floor with kids and take turns drawing symbols and images together. For e.g. We drew basic triangle roofed houses, and kids would watch that and then draw their own version: a house on stilts up off the mud. We mirrored each others drawings and used humour to build on them. I noticed this process brought about something we talk about in the mental health field: a sense of mutual enjoyment and delight that is a shared experience, and good way to build rapport. We didn’t really need to speak, because our drawings and the experience of laughing together and sharing in this way was special and it was enough.
2. Art For Documenting and Reflection
I had a little notebook and some watercolours, and each day I drew and painted something that stood out about each village we visited.
3. Art as part of the group experience for YWAM volunteers
Each day I painted, and this lead to people wanting to join in and I ended up using some butchers paper and setting up an art station for people to come and paint and reflect on their experiences. People painted squares of the paper and then on our celebration night the group posters were displayed. This was a really nice aspect of the group process; we enjoyed time together and it brought about a sense of satisfaction and was also a good activity for people to do during our evenings (we had some children on the medical ship too, and they also loved joining in with the creativity and contributed a lot haha)
Another trip highlight was getting to be a part of a longer term education program called Community Action Participation, which is designed to educate and empower people in their own village contexts to take ownership and be leaders in their community to create healthy environments. Part of this teaching is about worldviews and how our values lead to our behaviour. What struck me about this was the absolute sincerity of the participants and their genuine interest in learning. It really moved me. I also liked this program because it has follow up and continues to check in with these communities around implementing their ideas for positive change.
Here’s some paintings from the program:
Overall, I LOVED this trip: the mud (SO much mud), the way we were so welcomed (we even had our feet washed for us), the tiny insight into remote PNG communities and their struggles and hopes. It was also really nice to spend time with my parents on the trip. Most of all I love that God was there. He’s wherever people are, and I got the opportunity to have a small glimpse into what his kingdom is like through this experience. Jesus came to bring life to all of us, life to the full; including people who have never heard of wifi and are so far removed from our Western ways that we can’t really comprehend it. He cares equally about the most powerful person in the world as He does for the smallest, least valued child in a remote village. That is the beautiful levelling of the gospel. There is no hierarchy in the kingdom of God.