All photos and text are property of Dave Forney and may not be used without express permission.

Thursday, May 19, 2016

Speaking Schedule and News Letters

As promised, here's our upcoming speaking schedule, with the caveat that it's subject to change--things may be added, canceled, times may change, etc. So please contact the churches or us, to confirm, especially if you're going out of your way, or driving a long distance to make an event.

ALL of you are welcome at any of these events. However, we recognize that many of you have your own place of worship on Sunday mornings, and may not want to go to a different church just to hear us blab and see some cool pics. If that is your situation, then please feel free to join us on Friday evening, June 24th, for an 'open house' style event hosted by our friends from the Reflections Sunday School Class of King Street Church, Chambersburg, PA. Because they have offered to provide light refreshments, and because seating may be an issue, IF you are planning to attend that open house, it would be very helpful if you could shoot me a quick e-mail, at least a week before, so we know approximately how many extra people to plan for that evening. Thanks!


Also as promised, here's a copy of our May News Letter. Those of you that subscribe to our letters by e-mail should have already received a copy. That said, if your snail mail address is on file with MAF, then they should be mailing you a hard copy this time, so that you can get a copy of our new prayer card. If you always get our letters by snail mail, then yours should be arriving any day now, along with the new prayer card.

You can click on the 'pages' below to see a larger version (these are jpegs because Blogger doesn't let me put pdfs in the post.) If you want to see/download a pdf copy you can go here and scroll down the page to the "Prayer Letters" section, where you can download any of our four most recent news letters in pdf.  If you want to find out more about our ministry with MAF, and/or how you can be involved, please check out our MAF staff page


While posting this letter, I realized that I had completely forgotten to post our February letter on my blog, so here it is in case you missed it. Again, if you want the pdf version, go here and scroll down to the prayer letters section.


The next few weeks are very, very busy for us, as we're preparing our house for another family to live in while we're gone, packing for the U.S., trying to prepare for sharing in churches, and taking care of a million other details. Then, upon arrival in the U.S. we'll be trying to take care of a million details there as well. So I'll probably miss a few weekly posts on my blog over the next month or so.

Sunday, May 15, 2016

Flying in Chad 2

I really enjoyed my time in Chad, where I had the opportunity to do a number of very strategic flights, to some very remote locations. Since returning to Uganda, I've been going flat-out, and have not had time to catch-up on desk work, or update my blog. So, rather than skipping another week on the blog, I'm going to just post some more Chad pics here, with some brief captions. (I have hundreds more photos like these, and stories that could fill pages, but I guess something brief is better than nothing, right?)


Fellow MAF pilot, Andrew Mumford, and I flew a team to a number of remote locations throughout Northern Chad, over several days, so they could explore the possibility of putting wind turbines in to help community development. 


We spent a number of nights in the Sahara (in a remote village) during that trip, and each day we would fly the team to a different location so they could meet with the governor and examine potential sites. Our plane was always well-guarded, as it was here in Fada.


The last week I was in Chad I flew an English couple (both doctors) and a Swiss midwife, up to Bardai, in the very northern part of Chad, not far from Libya. We spent several days there in that village, and when we returned I also flew out the missionary couple (who has been serving there for many years) so they could go back to the U.S. for a few months of home assignment.


Here is a shot of Bardai. On the long flight up there, I gazed out the window at some of the most rugged, desolate, and inhospitable terrain I've seen anywhere in the world. The dusty trees here in Bardai, are indicative of the water that's not far underground here. Where there is water, there is life.  Bardai is a beehive of activity for a people group who roam freely between southern Libya, northern Chad, and northern Niger. Do you see those buildings within the wall in the lower right portion of the photo? That is a big hospital that was built by the government a few years ago, when oil prices were high and profits were booming.


The hospital is incredibly well stocked with brand new equipment of almost every kind--often better than what could be found even in the capital city. There are complex geo-political reasons why this people group is very important (and feared and respected and courted) by the Chadian government, as well as by other governments and 'entities' in the region, and even in the West.  But this hospital is mostly quiet, and all of that new, amazing medical equipment sits mostly unopened, and unassembled, covered in fine desert dust. Why? Because they don't have any doctors or nurses willing to live and serve here. It's an extremely remote place, and not an easy place to live. There are a few Chadian medical personnel here, but they don't have the education or experience to operate the hospital. So, what could easily become a strategic, humming medical facility for an entire region (of three countries) sits eerily quiet, while most people who need medical care, opt to make the arduous journey into Libya to seek help.


The team I flew, along with the missionaries who already live here, met with the governor (center) to discuss plans/options. He was very excited and receptive of the help being offered and considered.


We took an extensive tour of the hospital, and the doctors and midwife were astounded again and again as we encountered room after room of brand new, medical equipment that was (in almost every case) far better than what they were already using back in the capital city.


This has the potential to be a hugely strategic and exciting opportunity for serving the people of this region. I really enjoyed spending time with these great folks, and was encouraged by their love for the Lord, and their desire to serve people. They could easily be living a comfortable life, and earning big paychecks, back in their respective home countries, but instead they've chosen to learn foreign languages and cultures, and live in some very difficult places, to serve people in need. They've already been doing that for a number of years, and now they're looking at possibly moving to an even more difficult and remote place. That's pretty awesome!


Here's a couple of new friends I made in Bardai. We could barely understand each other, but had a great time trying, and there were lots of laughs as we mimed and tried to communicate--butchering each others' languages in the process.


We took a few walks around Bardai. Shortly after we arrived, a minor sandstorm blew in from the north, obscuring visibility of the rest of our time there, and casting everything in a sort of eerie, yellow-grey shadow.


Here, on the edge of Bardai are some large rock formations (actually these are nothing compared to the much larger ones which stretch as far as the eye can see in all directions). If you spot the people in the middle of the photo, that gives you perspective as to the size of the rocks.


The doctors (considering moving here) and the missionaries (already on living here for many years) used all the opportunities they had to ask each other questions and discuss so many different things that need to be considered when making a huge, decision like this.


By the way, all throughout these rocks are carvings, thought to be about 3,000 - 5,000 years old. What's fascinating is that many of these 'paintings' depict animals (ostriches, elephants, giraffes, cheetahs, etc.) that have not lived in this region for hundreds or thousands of years, but clearly lived here at one time. This area is now right in the heart of the Sahara desert, and except for the very few and far between oasis, (where the local people often have a few goats, camels, and donkeys) the land does not have enough water to support any large animals. But clearly it once did.






This is a very, very busy time for us. Among other things we're trying to get ready to leave for a quick home assignment, back in the U.S. this summer. Some friends of ours will be moving into our house here in Uganda (for the time we are gone), so we're trying to get things packed, while also getting things ready for them to live here. We're also trying to prepare for the sharing opportunities that we'll have in a number of churches. And we're also trying to deal with several other time-consuming, and emotionally draining, issues that I won't bore you with.

Bottom line: I'll try to keep posting regularly on my blog, but will likely miss a few weeks here and there throughout the summer.

If you subscribe to our newsletters, keep an eye out for our new, May letter, which just went out this week. Included with it is a new prayer card, with an updated family photo. In a few days I'll post that letter and photo here on the blog, along with a schedule of our upcoming speaking events in the U.S.

Sunday, April 17, 2016

Flying in Chad

I'm currently in Chad, where I'm flying for the MAF Chad program for three weeks. Their plane is currently down in Uganda getting some major avionics upgrades, so we've lent them one of ours (one of the MAF Uganda planes) for the time being. However, being that the loaned plane is registered in Uganda, they needed a Ugandan-licensed pilot to come over here and help to fly it. That's where I came into the equation. Yeah! :-) Meanwhile, Joy and the kids are holding down the fort in Uganda.


These shots (the one above and the two below) were taken just moments before the sun dipped beneath the western horizon of the Saraha, where I spent a night last week. It was a surreal, mysterious beauty--reminding me a lot of the desolate, boreal forest and barren tundra, north of the Arctic Circle, where we called home for two years shortly after my first son was born . Only this was a LOT HOTTER! But it sports the same ephemeral, harsh beauty, which is both intriguing and frightening all at the same time. I like it.


Don't be fooled! Behind the veil of this beautiful, fleeting sunset is a desolate, deadly desert that can, and does, kill without hesitation. The land offers no compassion to the traveller. Nothing is promised but the extremes--extreme heat, extreme thirst, extreme distances. Of all of the places in the world where I've flown or travelled, this has to be one of the most impressive, not in its overall grandeur, but simply in its overwhelming vastness--its blatant hostility to life.

Truly, for someone like you or me, not having been raised with the special skills and training needed to survive in this unforgiving land, if we were to be stranded out here, alone, it would be no different than if we were abandoned on the surface of the moon. The inevitable outcome would be as certain and final as it would be quick. This land gives no quarter to the weary traveler. There is no mercy for the week or lost. This is the Sahara!


From 10,000 feet above, it appears as an endless ocean of sand, stretching as far as the eye can see in any direction. On my first flight here, when I departed from the capital city in the "green" part of the country, the Cessna temperature gage (having been in the sun for barely 15 minutes), registered a rather toasty 135°F (57°C). However, the official temperature from the control tower (not in the sun) was a much more pleasant 116°F (47°C). Imagine how hot it was down on the surface of that endless sand, under the blazing rays of the desert sun?


On the surface, its a mixture of various types and colors of sand and rock, constantly being shaped and weathered by the fierce, hot winds that rip across the land. I found this area particularly interesting. It was a very chalky substance (indeed it looked, felt and even tasted--don't ask--like chalk) bisected by cracks and lines of red sand.


There are very few roads in Chad, and even fewer that would be considered 'safe'.  To venture far into the desert by vehicle, is to risk your very life. Even here, in the relative safety of the isolated oasis village of Faya, I saw numerous trucks broken down, or hopelessly bogged, in the constantly shifting sand dunes. From the air we saw many more. And this was in the village itself, or on the immediate outskirts of the village. 

It took us three, safe, relatively comfortable hours (even at cruising altitude it's still very hot!) to fly to Faya in the MAF Grand Caravan. But can you imagine what it would take to drive those same, nearly 800 kilometers, through the scorching, ever-shifting desert sands? Brutal! Perhaps even deadly.


The truck above has obviously been around for a while, but even new, properly outfitted 4x4 trucks don't handle these extremes well for long. And they are very expensive to maintain and operate. Thus, most locals simply walk, often using a more reliable, if slower, donkey or camel as their 'truck'.


The palms, in the shot below, indicate that there is water beneath the surface of rock and sand. Where there is water, there is life--trees, animals, people--they can all be found, and tend to congregate where there is water. The fuzzy sun, and the orange sky are due to the sand and dust that was whipped thousands of feet into the air, from howling winds that had just subsided a half hour or so before I took the picture. This little sand storm was relatively minor compared to what the Saraha can, and does deliver. This one lasted through the night and into the next day, with winds of 25-40 kts. It blew sand into our eyes and ears, and into all of our stuff, as we tried to sleep on 'mattresses' placed on woven matts that were directly on the sand floor of an open, woven hut.  But really, it wasn't that bad. Compared to the infamous storms that the Saraha is famous for, this was merely a small taste of what could have been unleashed, without warning, anywhere across this rugged land.


Here is the group we flew to Faya. It was a very interesting and unique opportunity. We had some of the highest, most respected leaders of the Christian Church in Chad, together with an Imam who is an equally high and respected Sheik in the majority Muslim population here in Chad. In a very unusual and bold move, the Pastor and the Sheik have decided to work together to try to spread a message of peace and reconciliation (non-violence) between Muslims and Christians throughout Chad. If it sounds like a much bigger story, and one which involves some very complex and multi-faceted issues--well, it is! But I don't have time to write it all now, and I need to save something for later. But suffice it to say that this was a ground-breaking and courageous trip, which had the blessing of the governor and religious leaders of both faiths in the area, and was facilitated through a generous flight subsidy from MAF. In fact, the trip to Faya would almost certainly not have happened if not for the help of MAF. The team was very grateful to MAF, and they treated us (fellow MAF pilot, Andrew Mumford, and me) as part of their own group.


Here's a few shots from around the village of Faya.




Next two shots: The Sheik and Pastors are welcomed after disembarking from the MAF plane in Faya.



Here, Pastor Victor addresses a crowd of locals, in a 'town hall' style meeting. 


Tomorrow I'll be departing on a four-day flight to the Northern Sarah. After returning next weekend, its likely that there won't be any internet available, for several days or so, during the announcement of the results of the recent presidential elections in Chad. So it may be a few weeks before I can post another update. In the meantime, I appreciate your prayers for Joy and the kids back in Uganda, and for continued safety and wisdom in all of the MAF operations here, and around the world.

Saturday, March 26, 2016

Rains

I am blessed to have some really great views form my 'office window'. I especially love watching the changing weather from a bird's eye perspective. The most 'epic' weather is often the most interesting, but it can also be the most challenging for flying. Two weeks ago was one such day. It started out absolutely gorgeous! Here's a view (below) of the Nile, taken that morning, as it flows north out of Jinja, just after it leaves lake Victoria. 

Up to this point there was nothing to indicate an impending, massive storm raging in from the East. The skies were beautiful, and there was a very thin, scattered to broken layer of clouds up high. It was really an unusually beautiful, calm, smooth morning, with no weather problems expected. Ha! Boy was I in for a surprise!


It's very rare to have visibility as clear as this. Here is Mount Elgon, over 14,000' high, just on the border between Uganda and Kenya. It doesn't look very high, or impressive, but that's because it's so HUGE at it's base. The enormous girth of the old volcanic mountain helps mask its height. There's a lot of great waterfalls and trails on Mt Elgon. One day I want to spend some time climbing it.


As I approached Mount Kadam, just west of Amudat, I was beginning to see a very dark horizon towards the northeast, which is where I was heading next. You can see it in this photo, just beyond the mountain, and below/beyond the thin clouds above and in the foreground. It sort of came out of nowhere, and had a very Morodo-ish look.


Here's a closer view of Mount Kadam, just over 10,000' high, and very rugged--another one that I'd like to climb someday. Although the sun was poking through here, and the ride was very smooth, those clouds about 15 miles north were looking really ominous.


Well, after landing at Amudat, I called a guy we know in Moroto (my intended next stop) to see how the weather was there. It didn't look too good from my perspective, and I was thinking I'd probably just sit it out in Amudat. But he assured me that it was "Quite good...you should come". From a pilot's perspective, that is not a very helpful weather report. We want to know all kinds of specifics--about the visibility, how high are the clouds, how far can you see, which direction is it coming from and moving to, and how does it look in those directions? Is there thunder and lighting? How are the winds? etc. etc. I tried and tried to get some of that type of info from him, but didn't really get anything beyond the "it looks good, you should come..." statement.

So, with the warning to my passengers that we may likely return to Amudat, or divert somewhere else, we departed for the 17 min flight to Moroto. I've 'worked' a lot of bad weather in Indonesia,  during my years of flying there, but this was definitely the ugliest I've seen in my two years in East Africa. As it turns out, this was the front end of a massive, ugly, powerful, fast-moving, but vast storm. I got to within 4 miles, but was never able to make it into Moroto. A pilot always has to keep a back door open, and I had several, but the return to Amudat was no long one of them, after the storm spilled over the mountains and enveloped that area as well. I could have gone straight to my third choice, but figured it was worth a shot at the second option first. With some effort I was able to work my way up in VMC (pilot speak for flying visually--not in the clouds) to a safe altitude, that allowed me to then safely enter into the clouds/weather (which is called IMC). Without radar in our planes, that would have been impossible, or at least stupid. But I was able to negotiate safely around the worst parts of the storm, to the next best option, which we eventually arrived above, only to find that it was completely flooded (I had our flight followers previously call some people there as well, and we were told that this one was ok too).

So finally I had no choice but to divert to Soroti (which was not even on our schedule at all that day, but which I was planning to use as my final  fail-safe 'out'). Sororti is one of only a few paved runways in Uganda, and they actually have some instrument approaches into there (one of only two airports in Uganda which have instrument approaches). The funny thing is that, the one day when it would probably have been most useful to have an instrument approach, the electricity was off and their generator wasn't working, so there were NO instrument approaches available that day. But not to worry, I had planned and prepared to get there in VFR, before the storm front hit the town.

Flying on good weather days is easy. These are the days when we really earn our paycheck... as if that's why we do it. In places and conditions like this, the pilot has to constantly be thinking way out ahead of the situation.  It's nice to have good equipment and resources available in the aircraft, which help make our job safer and less stressful. Anyway, we made it (1.5 hours after departing Amudat) safe and sound to Soroti, where we spent most of the rest of the day waiting for the weather to clear, and for fuel (since we don't store any jetfuel there). About 15 mins after landing in Soroti, I took this picture, as the storm bared down on Soroti. A few mins after taking this shot, it was raining cats and dog and the wind was blowing something fierce! Usually storms like this last less than an hour, but this one went on much of the afternoon.


Very late in the afternoon, it finally blew threw. MAF sent another plane up, with fuel, and a plan to split my remaining schedule into two, so we could tag-team it, and both get back to our home-base just before our last landing time. Here is what it looked like up near Moroto after it all blew threw. There was a very high overcast, but it was glassy-smooth air, and the visibility was fantastic.


Soon, all of these black, and brown areas will begin sprouting grass again, and everything will turn green.




Nice view from my office window, hugh?

Saturday, March 19, 2016

South Sudan Trip, Part 2 of 2

Here's some more shots from South Sudan, during the week that I spent flying ,and hanging out with, the Every Village team. 



You see a lot of donkey's pulling two-wheeled carts in this area. I don't know why exactly, but I really like these donkeys. They clearly work hard, but they seem to have great attitudes...and I think they're cute. At least the ones that I saw, and patted on the head. Maybe I should trade in our van (which keeps breaking down all the time) and get a donkey instead. We could put a couch on the cart and all our kids could sit up there. Haha.


Of course, as I was taking a picture of the donkey, the kids (who were following me in a big swarm) all gathered around for a donkey candid.  The donkey seemed quite happy with all the sudden attention. Or terrified. Not sure which. :-)


I had to show you this shot--it really captures what was going on 80% of the time, while my camera was out. In the last post I mentioned that the kids were pushing and fighting to get in the shots. That was not an exaggeration. It was pretty brutal actually. I tried really hard to make it a point to take pictures of the little kids, or the ones on the outskirts, who were too afraid, or too small, to bully their way in. But I literally had to push and shove my own way over to them, because I was in the middle of dozens of kids all the time, all wanting to have their picture taken. It felt like full-contact, tackle photography. In fact, I got knocked over a few times, when crouching down to be on eye level.


Here's a sport I know and love. It seems like kids everywhere in the world play football (not American football, but the 'real football'.) Most kids here use balled-up plastic bags, or other home-made roundish objects, but these guys were fortunate to be able to borrow a real ball from the mission school.


The big smiles indicate success!--success in having finally caught the chicken, which they were chasing all over their little compound. The chicken, which is hanging from the hand of the boy in front, is going to market.


I really enjoyed my time with Every Village in Mvolo. The people there were so kind and welcoming.


Here, the Every Village short-term team is praying with the family and friends of one of the guys (in the blue shirt) who has been helping Every Village in Mvolo. He's an amazing, invaluable guy, with a great attitude and work ethic, not to mention smile.


And this is his father, a very kind, elderly man, who happens to be fully blind. Each time they have a short-term team come here, they make sure to visit him at his home (that's his home behind him) and each personally greets him. He was smiling broadly the whole time, clearly honored by all the guests.


A group photo in front of his home.


I just had to throw in a few more airplane/flying shots. Here, a crowd gathers around the plane in Mvolo.


This is the Mvolo airstrip.


Much of the landscape was barren, with no trees. Or, if it had trees, they were scorched from the fires.


That little greenish ribbon through the middle of the photo is a seasonal creek--but it still holds moisture, and that's why the cattle (all those white dots) congregate here. Nearby, the grass was burning furiously as I flew overhead.


But, not far away, huge storms (the first of the season) pounded down rains. It will still be another month or so before the whole area gets enough water for things to start turning green again, but this is a good sign!


A parting shot of the plane in Mvolo. I loved how all the kids swarmed onto that big, old log, a great vantage point from which to watch the pilot put the plane to bed for the night. This is clearly not a common sight in Mvolo. I can guarantee you that if I was a child living here, I too would be perched on the log with a big smile on my face. :-)