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Faith in action: Queensland doctor & family move to Kudjip

Lean family in PNG (Mary Lean)
The Lean family at their new home in Kudjip in the Western Highlands

PETER GUNDERS | ABC Southern Queensland | Extract

TOOWOOMBA, QLD - Dave and Mary Lean have made a very different kind of tree change — taking their five young children with them from Toowoomba in southern Queensland to the highlands of Papua New Guinea.

"A lot of people say, 'Are you taking your children with you?', but I think in their minds they're actually asking, 'Are you crazy?'" Dr Lean said.

"Our youngest is 15 months old, and we're going for at least two years. So yes, we're taking our children!" Dr Lean said.

Home will be on the compound of a 160-bed hospital in Kudjip, an hour's drive east of Mt Hagen.

Dave Lean will be one of two paediatricians at the hospital that covers a population of 400,000.

"I've loved working at Toowoomba hospital for the past two years, and in one sense the work doesn't change, but the way children present in PNG is often far sicker than what we see in Australia," Dr Lean said.

Working in developing countries has been a goal for the couple for years.

"Even before we knew each other, in our teens, we separately felt this was something each of us wanted to do," Dr Lean said.

Two decades and five children later, plus "vaccinations to the hilt!", the family is now making the move.

"In one sense it's a wow moment, because it has been such a long time coming," Dr Lean said.

"It is a boyhood dream, but we are going in eyes wide open."

Kudjip (Nazarene Hospital)
The area served by Kudjip Nazarene Mission includes  spectacular country like this where 400,000 people live

Before they decided on PNG, the couple spent six months working in Zambia in 2012.

"That's when I discovered a love for paediatrics," Dr Lean said.

The time in Africa was formative for the couple in understanding life and work in developing countries.

"But after spending a short time in PNG last year, I was gobsmacked at how significant the need was so close to home," Dr Lean said. "These people are our neighbours.

"A significant percentage of the paediatric problems are related to premature birth or problems at delivery."

The family spent a month at the hospital last year, before committing to an extended stay until at least 2021.

"On my last night shift I was asked to help with the delivery of a baby, and when the midwives were trying to deliver the placenta they found a foot sticking out, and realised there was another baby," Dr Lean recalled.

"No-one had realised she was having twins. The baby was coming out breech, she had to have an emergency caesarean, there was no baby heart rate we could hear, but thankfully after a period of resuscitation and CPR the little baby was able to survive.

"She was only 1,750g when she was born, and about a month after we left the hospital we got a call to say she was ready to go home.

"And that was such a great feeling that my own humble efforts did a bit of good in that little girl's life."

Dave Lean developed a passion for paediatrics while working in Zambia (Mary Lean)
Dave Lean developed a passion for paediatrics while working in Zambia

Both committed Christians, the Leans see their move to the Highlands as a natural extension of their faith.

"I feel the Bible teaches that it's very important to meet people's physical needs. Jesus did that," he said.

"Christians are called to care about those in need, so I guess it just sort of comes naturally to us."

The family arrived in their new home in time for Easter, the most sacred season for Christians.

"The thing that is most important to us is being thankful for, and remembering, what God has done for us. And Easter is the ultimate example of that," Dr Lean said.

"For us, the people of PNG are our neighbours who have a significant need in the area of health, and there's an opportunity for us to help meet some of those needs.

"So there's a real joy for us to go and do that."


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Joe Herman

Congratulations to Dr Lean and his family. A testament to being a Jesus follower. Down the road, your children would probably cherish their PNG experiences.

Philip Fitzpatrick

Congratulations to Dr Lean and his family. They sound like my idea of what constitutes a good Christian.

Garry Roche

Wishing Dr Lean and his wife and family all the best in Kudjip. The hospital run by the Nazarene Mission has had a very good reputation over the years.

If I understand correctly, it has also been declared to be the provincial hospital for Jiwaka province. The hospital itself is in the Wahgi valley and not so close to the mountains as the photo above (Kudjip from the air?) would seem to indicate. Kudjip is in fact between Banz and Minj.

The Nazarene Mission also worked in the Jimi valley at Tsengoropa.

While financing health services is an ongoing struggle in PNG, the people of the Wahgi valley had three well managed hospitals in Hagen, Kudjip and Kundiawa.

Again wishing Dr Lean and family and all the Kudjip staff all the best. Enjoy the good climate and the good coffee.

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