Noel’s Best Day Ever

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Jungle.  Rain.  Mud.  Hunger.

Smoky huts.  Leaky roofs.  Tattered clothes.  Bark blankets.

Multitudes of mosquitos.  Malarial fevers.  Ravaging typhoid.  TB encephalitis.

And seizures. Every day.


Many of these things make up the daily lives of the Kamea people. True, there are happy things as well; but for most of our people living in the remote mountains of Gulf Province, these difficulties are a fact of everyday life.

Except for the seizures. That was something Noel alone had to live with all of his life.


Noel’s World Began to Change

When the missionaries moved into Kunai village in 2004, Noel’s grandfather Isaac was one of the landowners. It wasn’t long before Noel, who was hindered by microcephaly (which causes an under-sized cranial cavity), became acquainted with these strangers who now lived among his extended family. Over the years he never grew up much, mentally or physically; but that never stopped him from touching the lives of everyone who ever visited Kotidanga Baptist Mission.

IMG_5336And it wasn’t long before smiling Noel became a fixture at the mission. Once the Kunai clinic opened, almost daily he could be found  hanging around with the missionaries, especially the nurses. They loved him unconditionally. They hugged him, and he was always glad to reciprocate. They walked with him to the village market. Many times he accompanied them in the Kawasaki Mule on short trips—and if Noel had his way, he would have gone every time.

IMG_4703In his younger days he earned the moniker, “Naked Noel.” Like many Kamea children, he would scamper about without a stitch of clothes, in complete innocence. When Sister Becky told him he should wear clothes to church, he would bring his trousers and put them on once he got into the building—and when service was finished, he would take them off and scamper out the door.

IMG_4012He loved anything with an engine, anything with a sound he could imitate. Every construction project where we used a generator, Noel would be there, desiring to be the one to turn it off when given the signal. (He would have started it, but his crippled arm couldn’t pull the starter rope.) When the project leader would stand aside, arms folded, pondering the next move, there too would be Noel—standing beside him, arms folded in the same manner, looking as important as he could. Except that he would have a grin. A huge grin.

IMG_1141Noel enjoyed worshipping with the believers at Kotidanga Baptist Church. At times, he would make a grand, slow entrance, just as the songs were being sung. He would look from side to side, as if to make certain everyone saw him, smiling from ear to ear. Some would motion him to sit down and not to disturb, but he often ignored them and made his way to the front where the pastor was sitting. IMG_6024Noel would then sit down on the floor beside the pastor (most people normally sit on the floor anyway), and then put his hand on the pastor while doing his best to sing. Many times before the service was over, he would make his way back to sit with one of the missionaries, usually one of the nurses.


Noel’s Passions in Life

Everyone who knew Noel knew that he had one favorite thing: Helicopters. Because we have a large open area at the mission, and because the missionary helicopter pilots know us, sometimes they will come land at our place to refuel—which puts them not only in our front yard, but in Noel’s front yard. Keeping a safe distance from the twirling blades, Noel would serve as security, keeping the younger children away too. IMG_1458
Once the chopper (or as Noel called them, “sopa”) was shut down, Noel would get as close as he could and look wonderingly at the beautiful, magical aircraft. The pilots all know him, and one day, one of them actually took him for a brief, hovering flight. Ah, Noel! As he would say excitedly, “Sopa! Sopa!”

Would it be too presumptuous to say that he had a favorite nurse? That would be his beloved Setina (Lena). He hung out with her so frequently, both at the clinic and at her home, that most of the nationals called her his “mama.”

Lena & Noel, February 2015

Lena & Noel, February 2015

How those two loved each other! Many days in the clinic, Lena would give Noel a pen and paper to keep him busy, and he would sit and draw myraids of tiny circles all over the paper—which he would proudly show everyone. Of course, he could never resist being Lena’s assistant as she treated patients, following her from patient to patient. It was there that his inimitable heart of compassion showed through.

IMG_6549Whenever someone was suffering, or if they had a visible, ugly wound, or if a baby was crying, Noel would go and pat them gently, saying, “Äwa, Äwa” (I’m sorry, I’m sorry). How many times we missionaries would be injured, and Noel would rush to us saying, “Äwa, Äwa” until we gave the proper response, “Awa ti, tenkyu Noel” (It’s OK, thank you Noel)—which would usually be followed by a big hug from Noel.

If someone was hitting or fighting with someone else, regardless of the situation, Noel would bravely run into the conflict and try to defend the weaker party. He had a keen sense of justice and mercy.

It was clear to see that Noel’s own suffering informed him of what it felt like to suffer. His own experience of being bullied by other children because of his being different made him especially sensitive to others who were on the receiving end of injustice.


Noel’s Best Day Ever

Noel was plagued with seizures. Lena put him on anti-seizure medication, which helped a lot. But sometimes the medicine wasn’t given properly by his family, and in the last few years his seizures intensified in frequency. Often he would fall into the cooking fire or into the river when having a seizure.

Matt & Noel, April 2015

Matt & Noel, April 2015


It happened for the last time on Monday morning, May 4, 2015. Noel went to wash at the creek near his home, and it seems he had a seizure. One of our men found his lifeless body in the water a short while later.


Imagine Noel’s surprise when he awoke in a new home, in the presence of the God Who loved him with a perfect love. In a place with no more suffering. In a body without limitations of thought or action. In an environment without mud or smoky huts or hunger or malaria. In the midst of joy and love and peace that exceeds that of his friends at Kunai or helicopters or even his beloved Setina.

Imagine his being able to speak clearly. Imagine his hearing the songs of Zion in perfect harmony. Imagine his looking on the face of Jesus!

Imagine if his first day went like this:

He meets his grandfather, Bubu Isaac, one of the first Kamea believers. “Bubu, you are strong again! You look so healthy!”

He meets a former playmate, Allen, who died in an accident a couple of years ago. “Allen, you are well again! You can talk and play and run and live!”

He meets another young man, whom he only had known by his picture in the clinic. “You must be Ben. I saw your picture in the Kunai clinic every day. Our Mama Setina really misses you.”

He meets other Kamea believers who have gone before. He joins them in perfect harmony, perfect love, perfect joy, singing praise in their own heart language to the God Who created and loves all nations and tongues:

“Nkot’o awamanga ti! Nkot’o qe’atamanga ti! Nainga Na’a’oi’ya taka apa’ma nuwäno!”

“God is good! God is great, wonderful! Let us go worship the name of the Lord!”


And then, Noel meets Jesus.





It was Noel’s best day ever.






Just as Noel would wait for us at our gate, we imagine him waiting at the gate of Heaven for us now!

Just as Noel would wait for us at our gate, we imagine him waiting at the gate of Heaven for us now!

9 thoughts on “Noel’s Best Day Ever

  1. Thank you for this heartfelt, amazing story that I could honestly say would be given the title of “The Book Of Noel”. Let there be no doubt that joy sings from the treetops of our perspective when reading this heartfelt story of a child who grew up before one’s very eyes. How honestly many of us identify with this beautiful person, God rest his soul, as we discover the Lord working through him each and every day. God does that. he chooses those of us with severe disabilities and PROVES it to the world that we are the ones that actually are enablers. We fight for the underdogs of the world. We show how much we love a great sermon. We empathize with those in great pain. And soon enough, those around beautiful persons like Noel in this world begin to realize just how strong some of us truly are. Sometimes empathy can win battles, while helping others fight their own wars. The greatest part of this story is that no matter what our weaknesses, God in the end…wins. I read this like I read a parable, and a wonderful parable at that! Thank a million times over for sharing with me and others the “Book Of Noel”. It will never be forgotten!

  2. God Bless you Sister Lena and Brother John for your faithfulness to God’s call to the work in PNG.
    God help Sis Lena to recover fully and as soon as possible and reliever her physical pain, Bro Warren, Rom 8:28 !
    P.S. Some people may think Rom 8:28 is not a very appropriate verse to give to some one suffering, but I’m sure you would understand the real significance of Rom 8:28, and to God always be the Glory, Amen and Amen !!! 🙂

  3. We will certainly be praying for Lena’s surgery next Tuesday. So sorry for the loss of your little friend. Such precious memories and photos. May God comfort your hearts.
    Love and hugs to you both, Bro. Ted and Lyn

  4. Such a touching story! That is what missions is all about! I am so thankful that you were there to minister to Noel these past years. May the Lord bless your continued ministry to the many others needing God’s love there in PNG.

    • We never know how or whom we will impact. Noel had no idea how he was impacting us, and through us, multitudes more. Heaven will reveal it for him.

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