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

Tuesday, March 24, 2020

Latest from Uganda

Here's a picture taken while I was doing an early morning pre-flight inspection 2 days ago, on Sunday, on a remote strip in South Sudan.

It's not normal for us to do flights on Sundays, but we've had an aircraft stuck in that location for a long time now, requiring some TLC from our engineers. There have been a number of attempts to bring the aircraft back to Uganda, but b/c of various complicated logistics, it hadn't happened yet. But seeing how the world, including Africa was shutting down travel, we all felt better if we could get the aircraft out of that remote location. Thus, I was asked to fly an engineer, and another pilot up to that village on Saturday, with the idea that we would all come back Sunday in both planes. Here's a shot of some test flights the other pilot and engineer were doing in the Cessna 182 aircraft.

Unfortunately, late Saturday evening Uganda announced impending closures of their borders and all international flights. There were so many other complicating factors involved in this maintenance-ferry flight, that we and management made the decision to leave that plane where it was, rather than run the risk of having us (or the other pilot) stuck in countries away from our families for possibly extended periods of time. So we hightailed it out of there early Sunday morning (picture below) and flew straight back to Uganda. We were really thankful for the hospitality of the AIM folks there, and their past and continued help in keeping an eye on our little plane sitting off the edge of that runway.

Meanwhile, here are some other random shots from the past two weeks... 

We've had tons of rain, which has led to challenging conditions at a lot of our strips, including both our home strip (b/c Lake Victoria is actually so high that it's flooding over the end of our airstrip) and the airstrip pictured below in Karamoja, Uganda. In the photo below, I was giving a routine proficiency check to another one of our pilots (something we all undergo on a regular basis) and he had to evaluate the condition of the runway where water was flowing over from one side to the other. In the end we 'cut-off' the unusable part of the runway, rather than risk sinking in, and were still able to take off with our required safety margins on the remaining portion of the runway. 

The past few weeks were extremely busy as MAF not only completed normal flights, but also did lots of extra, last-minute, urgent flights at the request of many people and groups who were afraid of being stranded here in East Africa as international flights worldwide began to get cancelled. I was happy to be able to do one such flight for our friends from IMB who had a short-term group from the U.S. helping out in northeastern Uganda. 

Here's a picture of the very typical housing setup of the villages in Karamoja, Uganda. For the vast majority of people in this part of a the world, life goes on completely as normal, no matter how the rest of the world is reacting to Covid-19.

The flight from Arua, Uganda to Yambio South Sudan takes us over the northern part of East DRC, a vast area of wilderness.

This is a tea plantation that we fly past every day when we land at our home base in Kajjansi.

An early morning departure out of Kajjansi on our way up to South Sudan...

This was the view from my bedroom window on Saturday morning.

We've been enjoying our 'family time' most evenings, with various outdoor games like croquet (pictured below) and corn hole, rollers, can jam, spike ball, etc. 

Many of you are curious how we are doing (with the Covid-19 situation) and what is going on with that here in Uganda. If you don't care, you can skip the rest of this. But if you do, then I'll give you a brief update.

For what it's worth, MAF has a Crisis Management Team that is meeting daily, and keeping an eye on situations all over the world where they have staff. There are numerous procedures in place to minimize our own risk, while allowing us to continue to provide help to others if/as able. Obviously it's a highly dynamic situation, so things continue to be monitored and often change daily as needed.

As I mentioned previously, we at MAF were extremely busy the past few weeks trying to meet all the urgent flight requests. Many foreigners have now left East Africa, and returned to their passport countries. But some are still here. Most of us at MAF are still here, but our flights have now been drastically reduced, as most people are understandably limiting travel. Last week Uganda announced the closure of all schools, churches, public gatherings, etc. for 32 days. Obviously that had a big impact on families like ours, who have kids in high school--they are now doing school from home, online with their classes and teachers. 

Over the weekend the government further closed all international borders and banned all international flights to/from Uganda. So we are here for the duration. Uganda had their first (known) case of Covid-19 a few days ago, and now they have 9. Life for some people has changed rather dramatically b/c of the aforementioned closures/restrictions. However, for the vast majority of Ugandans and East Africans, life goes on as normal, almost as if nothing is happening elsewhere in the world. 

Most people in Uganda live hand-to-mouth, day-to-day, without any discretionary income to stockpile food or even to buy 'excess' stuff like hand soap/sanitizer. They often live many people in one small house or hut, and share a common outhouse, if even that. The idea of social distancing in those situations is ridiculous.  Furthermore, they have to continue to sell or do whatever it is they do to get their small daily income--for example, selling street food, or produce from their garden, or eggs, or whatever, so that they have a bit of money to buy food for that day. None of those activities will stop. That hustle and bustle just continues to go on, because it has to, no matter what virus is out there. 

It's worth noting that many people in this part of the world have suffered so much in their lives, often on a wide scale, and often more than most of us will ever suffer in a lifetime. There are certainly those (especially in the city) who do feel fear/panic, but there are many, especially in more remote locations, who do not. They don't really even have a choice. They live life in a raw, gritty, real way that many of us don't understand, and with that they see pain/suffering/death as a very real part of life... not something fun, but not something strange or foreign or to be feared. In other words, they have been facing this type of struggle (and worse) often throughout their entire life and they just deal with it as it comes. Many also have a deep faith that God has already chosen their day, and they have peace in that. We should too!

So all that to say that yes--many things have changed here, specifically as it relates to public gatherings and organized things like school, government, and travel. And the next days and weeks do hold a lot of uncertainly for us, as they do for you. But we rest in the peace and confidence that God is in control, and none of this took Him by surprise. 

Sunday, March 8, 2020

Random Shots from the Phone

This post features a few random shots from the iPhone. Some are from my very old iPhone 5s, that recently died. And some are from the refurbished iPhone 8 that replaced it. As a photographer, I don't buy into the concept that phone cameras will ever totally replace 'real' cameras. That is a discussion for another day, but trust me, there are many situations and types of photos where a phone will never come close... especially if you know how to use a 'real' camera and it's settings. However, it is true that the best camera is the one you have with you, and I don't always have one of my 'real' cameras with me. But I usually do have a phone. So, although they aren't quite as striking, here are some of those phone shots...

Above, a shot taken late in the day after completing a flight to South Sudan. There was a lot of rain earlier that day which cleared out the dust and haze and led to a beautiful, late afternoon sky. 

Below, the pilots often get to see some pretty awesome sunrises out over lake Victoria as we pre-flight the aircraft. 

During dry season it gets extremely hazy/dusty and smoky. However, the past year has been one of the wettest on record here in East Africa, and this has been a strange dry season, with lots of intermittent, heavy rains. Here's an early morning shot of the outskirts of Kampala (one of  the well-to-do areas) after some heavy rains cleared out the sky.

One of the places we frequently fly to is called Kalongo. You can see the end of the airstrip in the lower left third of the picture, just below and to the left of the group of blue-green roofed buildings surrounded by green trees. All those little buildings make up a small hospital that sees many hundreds of patients each day from all over the region--people with every type of ailment, injury and sickness you can imagine.

I had the privilege of flying these really great friends of mine, whose organization is doing some really awesome stuff in the remote, northeastern corner of Uganda, and elsewhere.

A few weeks ago, Joy had the opportunity to speak at a chapel service for hundreds of high school kids who had come here from several International Schools around East Africa to play a football (soccer) tournament hosted by our kids' high school. That can be a tough audience--a bunch of teenagers who have no idea who your are and why they should listen to you. But Joy really knocked it out of the park, sharing from the Word, and speaking Truth, while sharing bits of her own testimony and our family story. Everyone was totally tuned in and listening to every word, and the feedback we got confirmed that her sharing had a big impact!

In other news about Joy, the past two weeks have been pretty rough for her. Two weeks ago she started feeling really ill. Long story short, after passing out twice, and with extreme dizziness and fatigue etc., she eventually wound up in the hospital for 3 days here in Kampala. Interestingly, after first being in the ER for a few hours, and then the maternity ward (apparently that was the only place that had a bed available for a while) she eventually wound up staying in the exact same room that I was in 15 months ago after my motorcycle accident. Obviously that brought back a lot of not-so-good memories for Joy. Two weeks later, we're thankful that Joy is continuing to slowly get back to normal, and feeling a small bit better each day, gaining a bit more strength and energy.

This was a daddy-daughter date with my beautiful big 'little girl' Hannah. She's no so little anymore but she'll still always be daddy's 'little girl'--she's a beautiful, amazingly talented young lady who will be graduating from Heritage International High School this May, and will be starting university this coming fall in the U.S., studying pre-med. Her and I am a lot alike in our personalities, humor, likes and dislikes... which, yes, includes riding the motorcycle. Several times she has thanked me for giving her such a vivid demonstration of the medical world (by getting run-over and squished by an SUV) so that she could see first hand that indeed she does like trauma medicine and most likely wants to pursue that as a career. Haha. See... we both have an odd sense of humor. I thought it was funny. Anything for you Hannah... it was the least I could do. :-)

And here's my other beautiful little girl, Sanyu. I always tell her that she's daddy's favorite little girl, so when she heard me telling Hannah that Hannah was daddy's favorite big 'little girl' Sanyu burst into tears. Through her sobs, with big alligator tears streaming down her face, she asked me why she wasn't my favorite little girl anymore? Then we had a good talk where I explained that she was daddy's favorite little 'little girl', and that Hannah was daddy's favorite big 'little girl', so they were both my favorites, and then everything was ok. That made perfect sense to her and the tears stopped and the smiles came back. :-)

She loves to be daddy's little helper with anything and everything that I am doing, including making pizzas. 

Speaking of food... fried grasshoppers are definitely 'closed-eye-worthy,' a term that we coined after our son, Tyler, always used to close his eyes every time he bit into something that he thought was super succulent. So now we often do that to emphasize something that is super tasty, which is what Sanyu is doing here as she enjoys this seasonal treat--crunchy on the outside, and squishy on the inside. Yummy!

And since we are on the subject of food, last week I whipped up another batch of my famous (well, it's at least famous in my own house) hot sauce. The base for my pepper sauce is a variety of the scotch bonnet pepper, grown locally, which is much hotter and tastier (in my opinion) than an average habanero. Then I throw in a few other types of chili peppers, some onions, lots of garlic, and a ton of cilantro. All of that becomes a pepper mash, which I carefully weigh to the exact gram, so that I can add just enough salt and vinegar to allow it to age in corked bottles on the shelf. The longer it ages the better it gets. This made about 10 liters, which will probably last us about a year and a half or two. How hot is it? Well, it's not even comparable to any of the average Tabasco's, but if you've ever had the Habanero Tabasco, then it's probably at least about 2-4 x hotter than that. It's not as hot as Dave's Insanity Sauce though. What I (and some of my kids who also like hot stuff) enjoy about it is that it not only has just the right amount of heat, but also has a very complex and delicious flavor. We put it on just about everything. :-)

Friday, February 14, 2020

And Here We Go Trying Yet Again...

There are so many good reasons/excuses I could give you as to why I did just one blog post last June, with indications that I would start consistently blogging again, and then I disappeared... again. I could tell you that life has been super crazy busy, and that by necessity some things just don't get done. And that would be true. But it sounds like a lame excuse. I could tell you that I have been (and continue to be) in a season of 'work' right now where (for reasons that I can't really share here) I am not able to talk quite as freely on this open blogging forum about some of the exciting things that happen because of the MAF flights that I get to do. That would also be true, and is probably the biggest reason that I have struggled to keep blogging. 

It definitely makes it a bit frustrating for me, b/c if I can't share details I feel like I'm just sharing very generic, boring stuff and wasting your time. Yet, some of you who used to check my blog have indicated that you miss seeing the posts. So here I go yet again...

As I said above, my posts will continue to be quite general and generic for the foreseeable future, as they relate to who/what we fly, and why. Hopefully you can understand and read between the lines. Cool stuff is happening, but you'll just get some pics and generic descriptions.

Above, and below are shots from a flight to South Sudan. I really enjoy being able to serve a variety of organizations who work in difficult and remote parts of that country.

The next 3 shots are also from South Sudan...

Here are 2 shots from Uganda. The first was taken a few months ago when it was still green-ish. You can see a little family village down there, in the shape of a circle with dividers. They form these from branches of acacia, which have huge thorns. That helps to keep both predatory animals (and people) out, and also at times to keep their cattle and goats in the innermost part of the circle at night.

This was taken just a few weeks ago. As you can see it's starting to dry out as we are now in dry season. It will continue to get more and more brown until the rains return. 

I hope that I'll be able to actually follow through on my intentions to post a few times a month going forward. You'll just have to bear with me and expect photos, but not so many behind-the-scenes details. The flights I get to do are facilitating some really exciting work through many awesome organizations and people. I wish I could tell you all of the individual stories in detail, but perhaps that can happen someday when we are face to face. :-)

Saturday, June 1, 2019

Still Here... Again.

Folks, I'm still alive! I don't just mean that figuratively, I mean it literally. It seem like I've made a lot of excuses on this blog over the past year, for the chunks of time where I seem to disappear for a while. Well, this time I really had a good excuse! 

Last October I had a bit of a 'mishap' while riding my motorcycle. That sort of put me out of commission for a while. But now things are back to normal. (There's a lot more to the story, but if you don't already know it, and want to hear more details, then write me an e-mail.) 

Here's our latest family photo, taken in April.

Since I've been gone from the blog for so long, and wasn't flying for a while, I thought I'd start by showing proof that I'm back in the saddle again. :-)

A huge thank you goes out first to my wife and kids, and our families back in the U.S., who've been such a huge support and encouragement throughout this 'stretching' season in our lives. And second, we'd like to thank my amazing DPT, Nicky, who gave SO many countless hours helping Joy and I to retrain my body to do what it is supposed to do, and in the process has become our great friend as well! And of course my brilliant surgeon, Dr. M. in the U.S. who did wonders to fix some seriously busted stuff. And all the other docs and nurses who helped in so many ways. And of course our MAF team here in Uganda and around the world, and so many others here in Kampala and elsewhere who encouraged and prayed and helped in practical ways. We are so grateful for all of you!

But make no mistake, I am here today ONLY because of God's grace. I should have died... several times. But for some reason, that only He knows, I'm still kicking. And not only that, I'm back to 100%. A lot of people deserve credit for helping me get here, but ultimately, all the glory and credit belong to my Creator and Healer!

It's been great to see so many friends, like Celestino in Yambio, South Sudan, after being absent for so long. He, and so many others like him, were praying for my family and me a lot over the past months.

And in case you're curious... yes, I'm riding my bike again. That was a given. I was already riding several months ago. And yes, Joy is fine with it. The truth is, Joy, understandably, did have quite a bit of emotional trauma to work through as a result of all of this. And I certainly wasn't going to push her to let me ride again soon. But she also knows me well, and she knows that I don't live my life in fear of what might happen, or what did happen. Life if far too short for that. Plus, I love riding... been riding motorcycles since way back in flight school twenty some years ago. And a little knock-down ain't gonna change that. There's more to it than that, but for now, you can just believe me when I say that Joy and my kids are all fully supportive, and I'm so glad to be back on the bike again. :-)

(Incidentally, I've gotten a lot of flack from a few people--even to the point where some have indicated that they feel betrayed, or even angry at me, for riding again after they have prayed so much for me to recover. It's like they take it as a personal offense that I would have the gumption to ride again--like I take all of this for granted. I don't. But there's more to it than that. I hope you don't take this the wrong way, but if you're upset at me for riding again, it's not going to do anything to change my mind. I am sorry you feel that way, but I don't live my life, however short or long it might be here on earth, trying to make others happy with me. I am definitely concerned what my wife and kids think, but aside from that, I do what God gives me peace to do. And that's basically how I role. I hope you can understand.)

In other news, a big congratulations to our oldest, Britt, who graduated yesterday from HIS (Heritage International School) in Kampala, Uganda. We are so proud of him and can't wait to see what God has in store for him in his future!

Britt will be starting at Liberty University this fall, majoring in Zoo and Wildlife Biology.

Over the next few weeks I'll try to fill you in on some of the other things that have gone on over the past number of months.

Tuesday, October 9, 2018

I'm Still Here

Wow, it's been nothing but crickets chirping here on my blog for quite a while, but I'm still here! Those long periods of silence on my blog are indicative of how super busy it's been here. The summer was a blur, and it hasn't slowed down since. 

Here are a few random shots from the past few months. Above, a flight I did for Every Village from Tonj, South Sudan.  Below, I flew a team from World Vision Korea to Kaabong, northeastern Uganda.

This is one of several Congolese refugee settlements that has sprung up on the Western side of Uganda in the past six months or so (on the Eastern shores of Lake Albert.)

The pink (magenta) line is my intended flight track. There's a good reason why my plane is off to the left of the intended track. All of those yellow marks represent lightning strikes up ahead--indicative of a massive, and very 'hot' thunderstorm. We have to give a wide birth (even up to 25 miles or more) to large convective weather like this, which is not all that uncommon in the tropics.

Someone brought this cute little critter up to my plane. It was on a leash. The guy then let it go, and it promptly ran underneath the cargo pod, where it nibbled the grass in the cool shade.

This summer we were blessed to have my younger sister and two nieces come to visit us here in Uganda for a few weeks.

I was able to take them along for day of mission flying throughout Uganda. Above, they are posing in front of the big rock at Kalongo. Below, there are always lots of kids to greet the plane in Kotido.

Hannah got to ride along on that flight day as well, which also happened to be her 16th b-day. (I'm sure you already spotted her in the above photos.) Here we are posing in front of the vast, East African grasslands. She might be 16 (and thinking she's going on 25) but she's still daddy's little girl.

And speaking of Daddy's little girl, here's my other little girl, Sanyu. She was very, very excited when Joy brought her to visit me at the airport. She got to sit in 'daddy's airplane' (on the ground) which she hasn't stop talking about for weeks. I can't imagine how excited she'll be when she takes her first flight.

Monday, July 9, 2018

Nineteen Years of Joy, and Counting!

Nineteen years ago today, I married my best friend, Joy. 

One year later our first child was born...

... and well before his first birthday, we were commissioned by our church to head to the mission field. That was 17 years ago, and we've spent the vast majority of our married life since, living and serving in cross-cultural contexts.

Everywhere we've lived, whether for a few months, or many years, (and that has been many, many different places over the years) Joy has expertly and lovingly worked her magic to make our house a home--a safe, warm, and loving place for me and for our kids, of which we now have six. This was our first home, a 390 square foot, one-room log cabin, in a small Athabascan Native American village, just north of the Arctic Circle. We were there for two years, during which time God allowed us to be broken in our own strengths and skills, but where we learned to completely rely on Him and His strength. 

Six months after that, we were well on our way to joining MAF, and a few months later, it became official! Our first assignment with MAF was to the Indonesian portion of the island of Borneo, in Southeast Asia. 

But first we had to learn to speak Indonesian... which meant almost a year of language school in Java. 

Then, until the summer of 2013, we served as a pilot/mechanic family, based out of Tarakan, Kalimantan.

Everything was not always easy during those years. In fact there were many challenges along the way--but always, I had my best friend, my Joy, with me, and we faced those challenges together, anchored in our faith in God, and our commitment to each other, and by His grace we really enjoyed and thrived during those years in Indonesia. To this day, our kids still view Indonesia as their true 'home' since that is where they feel they 'grew up' and in many ways the same could be said of Joy and me.

Here are a few shots of me and my Joy, during those years. Thanks to my good friend, and great photographer, Tripp Flythe, for taking the all of these next shots, except the one where I'm in the green shirt, and Joy in the pink.

After our time in Indonesia, we transitioned to a new assignment with MAF in East Africa. But first we had to do some training with the MAF International office in England... a place Joy has always loved!

The next few months, before we moved to East Africa, we had a bit of time to recharge our spiritual, emotional, and physical batteries.

As we tried to process, both individually, and as a family, the myriad emotions we felt saying goodbye to Indonesia, a special highlight for all of us was the 5-week tent-camping trip we took through the American West, visiting many National parks, and just decompressing in God's beautiful creation.

In early 2014 we arrived in Uganda, East Africa...

... where we continue to live and serve today!

This was a huge transition for our family, but as usual, Joy quickly made our house a home, and has always been the biggest cheerleader for both me and my kids. AND, she still likes to ride my motorcycle with me!

My Joy is an amazing woman! She has a huge heart to serve, and feels empathy and compassion for ALL who are suffering, on levels that I will never understand. She is especially drawn to the 'least of these' -- people whom many others might be even be a bit hesitant to approach, b/c of the disease they carry, or the dirt or smell or disability they have. But not Joy--she always jumps right in and loves them the way Christ would. And she loves me and my kids the same way, despite all of our equally daunting faults and issues! My Joy has been my best friend and cheerleader all these years--from the mountains of Northeast Tennessee, to the Boreal forests of the Arctic Circle, and from the Jungles of southeast Asia, to the Rift Valley of East Africa. During this time, I have often travelled to serve in many additional places, for a month or more at a time, and Joy has held always encouraged me to do so, happy to hold down our fort, alone in my absence--no small job in the U.S., but all the more challenging in the places where we've lived. I think there are probably not too many women who would be happy to live a life like the one she has. She is an amazing woman--my Joy! I'm so blessed to have had her by my side these past 19 years, and I look forward to what God has in store for us in the years to come!

Happy 19th anniversary to my best friend!