By TONY PALME
DR Jim Radcliffe, the first and longest serving surgeon at Kudjip Nazarene General Hospital in Jiwaka will retire this year after 32 and a half years of faithful service. The 64-year-old chief surgeon and his wife Kathy, 63, a nutritionist, will return to their native Ohio state in the United States on Dec 24 to care for Jim’s 85-year-old mother.
His father Rev David Radcliffe passed away early this year and both his wife’s parents have died.
The departure of Dr Jim will end an illustrious career of a very humble and Godly man who performed more than 20,000 surgeries in 30 years.
Despite, the imminent departure of one of Kudjip’s favourite son, Dr Jim’s legacy will live on with his eldest son Dr Benjamin Radcliffe, also a surgeon, stepping in for his father.
Kudjip hospital has three surgeons but with Dr Jim retiring, it will have two – Dr Ben and Dr Sheryl Uyeda.
In an exclusive interview with Jim and Kathy last week, the couple told The National that they leave with no regrets.
“God has blessed us in this ministry in Papua New Guinea. We are satisfied with what we were able to achieve here.
“Kudjip has been home to us. Ben and Rebecca were born in the US but the other four children (Timothy, Priscilla, Josiah and Lydia) were born here. They will always be pikinini Kudjip and PNG. They love the place so much.
“We will take good memories back but we’ll still come back for visits. But right now it is important that we go back to look after my mom. That’s what dad told me to do before he passed away,” Jim said.
Dr Jim graduated from the Ohio State University medical school after five years of study that started in 1979 and did his surgical training at the Riverside Methodist Hospital, also in Ohio.
He said God had called them (him and Kathy) when they were children at their local Xenia First Church of the Nazarene.
The bible verse in Jeremiah 29:11 “I alone know the plans I have for you, plans to bring you prosperity and not disaster, plans to bring about the future you hope for” has given them strength and hope to come to Kudjip because there was a need for a surgeon here.
The missionary doctor and his wife said their favourite memory verse has been Psalms 48:14 which reads, “This God is our God forever and ever; he will lead us for all time to come.”
Kathy added: “When we felt like giving up or when we faced situations that made us felt down, God spoke to us. He is our enabler and everything.”
Reflecting positively on the past and present missionary doctors from America that came and worked at Kudjip, Dr Jim said it has been a privilege and blessing to also come here and serve God.
He fondly remembers Dr Erwin Meyer, Dr Bill McCoy, Dr Susan Meyer, Dr Nathan Mason, Dr Mark Crouch, Dr. Andy, Dr Mark, Dr Imelda Mel (first local doctor), and other volunteer doctors who have committed their time to work at Kudjip.
Missionary doctors make a lifetime commitment to serve people in a developing country like PNG. They give up the comforts and luxury of their well to do homelands to the call of God.
Dr Jim had to undergo an open heart operation (aortic aneurysm or valve replacement) in the US in 2014. He also had a tumour of the adrenal gland removed in another operation.
“God had helped me overcome these operations. Therefore all honour, glory and praise belongs to him,” Jim said.
During his time of need, donations from the public in Jiwaka and Western Highlands through wheelbarrow pushes, as well as prayers from everyone including his local church in the US helped him overcome his health conditions. Their leaving will be a sad and emotional moment for many around the country who have been touched by his work but Dr Jim has re-assured people that he leaves his son, Dr Ben who is his present to them.
He once told family members: “I can be white outside but on the inside I am a black man and my blood colour is the muddy Waghi River.”
One of the closest friends of Dr Jim is Sr. Margaret Mugang. She was around 21 years old when she started work with Dr Jim in 1985.
She was the first scrub nurse, a scrub nurse being one who assists surgeons to ensure all the surgery procedures are in place before the actual surgery takes place.
Mugang has nothing but praise for the outgoing chief surgeon.
“We heard that a surgeon was coming so we prepared for him. Me and two other nurses; a scrub nurse and anaesthetist.
“Soon we all became a team in the operating theatre. In all these 30 years, I have never seen Dr Jim compromising a patient’s life.
“He is the most humble and faithful doctor that I have ever seen. He is a man who prays a lot and put patients before himself. When people hear his name or see him, they receive healing even before they are treated,” Mugang said.
She also described Dr Jim as very special and a man of all trades in surgery.
“He can do oncology, gynaecology, general surgery, orthopaedic and plastic surgery. We’ll miss him but in Ben we have another special man. He is like his father but much more.
“Kudjip is in safe hands because we have some of the best surgeons and doctors that God has blessed us with. These missionary doctors and others are inspiring a lot of our local doctors and nurses to do their job as if they are doing it for God.”
“All our doctors here are very committed. They connect with God. They are not paid and most times they have no food. But God provides for them.
“It is a very stressful job being in an operating theatre. But it is also exciting because all these years, we have relied on God, We have seen his hands through miracles,” Mugang added.
“I was like family to them (Jim and Kathy and children). They are a very nice and humble couple. I will miss them but I am also happy because we have Dr Ben.
“Dr Ben is everything. I see Dr Jim in him. I’m planning to retire after three or four years,” Mugang said.
“It’s a huge challenge for Papua New Guinean doctors and nurses to sacrifice their lives. When do we start seeing our doctors going out to serve in countries like Africa for the love of Christ?
“People like Dr Jim and Dr Bill have given up the luxury life they were supposed to enjoy in the US. They left behind the land of milk and honey and promised mansions to follow God’s call to serve his people.
“If such people can make sacrifices, what about us? When are we getting out of our comfort zones? We must lose our life on earth to gain it in heaven,” Mugang stressed.
Dr Jim’s success as a surgeon can also be attributed to his supportive and prayerful wife. While he was performing surgery in the theatre, Kathy was in the house praying.
Dr Jim’s parents back in Ohio were very supportive of their son’s ministry and so as their local church – Xenia First Church of the Nazarene.
Dr Jim said he is so proud that Kudjip Hospital has improved a lot in terms of the operating theatre, they now have laparoscopic surgery.
He said he is glad that the nationals are now taking ownership of Kudjip and the spiritual ministry has expanded. Many patients who have passed through Kudjib have also accepted Christ.
“At Kudjip, we treat and Jesus heals. To God be the glory, honour and praise forever. The next chapter of life for me and my wife is to keep praying asking God to send more American missionaries to Kudjip.”
He leaves PNG with this message: “You can trust God in all and any part of your life.”
By TONY PALME