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

Sunday, December 21, 2014

Broken Femur Medevac

Late Friday afternoon, just as the MAF Uganda Christmas party was about to start, I was told of an impending medevac for a lady who had broken her femur.  So yesterday, Saturday morning, I left bright and early to go pick her up from one remote location in Uganda, and take her to another where there's a great mission hospital, Kumi Hospital, known for having a a fantastic orthopedics department. 

I took Andy along, one of our fabulous MAF engineers (mechanics), so he could see how the aircraft he helps repair and maintain are being used.  After we arrived at 9:30 in Kalongo, where we were to pick up our patient, we found out that the 4x4 ambulance that was to transport her there hadn't even left yet.   On Friday, Louis, a sweet elderly lady from New Zealand, who runs a children's home in Kitgum, slipped on some wet concrete stairs and fell, resulting in a badly broken femur, just below the pelvis.  Although there is/was an airstrip in Kitgum, it's in disrepair and totally unusable.  So the best option was for her to be transported by ambulance to the closest available strip where we could pick her up--that being Kalango.  Unfortunately, the only ambulance available in Kitgum was sent out on a call during the night to another remote location, and hadn't yet returned to Kitgum.  The drive from Kitgum to Kalongo is several, long, bumpy, dusty hours, so we closed up the plane and prepared for a long wait. 

Kalongo is known among the pilots as being one of the strips where hundreds of kids swarm the airplane upon shutdown.  But unlike other places, these kids can be very ornery and bold, trying to pull, push, tug and hang on every surface of the plane they can get ahold of, if allowed.  Usually, there's guys that come down from the local Catholic hospital there to keep them at bay.  But due to a miscommunication I found myself, after landing, completely surrounded by hundreds of kids--all smiling and laughing and having a grand ol' game of "attacking" my plane on whichever side I wasn't.  It was a losing battle!  For obvious reasons I have no pictures of that--I was way too busy chasing kids away to be taking pictures!

Fortunately, within a few minutes, help arrived.  It's amazing how quickly the kids suddenly "respected" the plane, when the men showed up with their long, hardened, cattle sticks in hand, swinging them and shouting at the kids in their local language.  It was like the parting of the Red Sea, as these guys walked into the crowd of naughty kids, everyone staying just outside the reach of those ominous sticks of "discipline".  It was obviously great fun for the kids, as they squealed and jumped, staying just out of reach.  Clearly none of them wanted to find out what the "rod" felt like.  Within a few minutes they lost interest and all was quiet, with the guards relaxing under the shade of the plane and promising to keep it "protected" until we were ready to depart.  The sky was clear and the sun was piping hot--a typical day in Northeastern Uganda.

Off to the side, a few shy and well-behaved kids remained.  I don't at all mind having kids hang around if they're respectful of the plane and simply interested.  After all, kids love planes!!  They also usually love having their picture taken, especially if they can see the results.  So I snapped a few and then they laughed and laughed with joy as they saw themselves on the camera screen.  Perhaps next time I'm here I'll give them the printed images.

Meanwhile, our new freind, Kamilo, (below) offered to show us around the local Catholic Mission Hospital, also known as the Dr. Ambrosoli Memorial Hospital, where he works.  So we spent a few hours slowly milling around the various wards of the hospital and then sitting under the shade of a tree by the little canteen, waiting for the ambulance to arrive.  I'll do a separate post soon, showing you pictures of the Kalongo Hospital.

When the ambulance finally arrived, I was obviously too busy overseeing the transfer of Louis from the vehicle to the aircraft, and her care and comfort (as much as could be offered to a lady with a broken femur) to worry about taking photos.  However, I know Andy was taking some pictures, so perhaps I'll get a few of those to share with you in the future.

When Louis broke her femur she was in obvious need of advanced medical treatment.  Unfortunately she was in a remote part of Northern Uganda and there is nowhere close that could provide the care she needed.  She couldn't afford a Medevac flight, and the trip overland from Kitgum to the Kumi Hospital would have been an excruciatingly long and painful journey for someone in her condition.  MAF-International, upon finding out about the situation, covered the cost of the flight.  It would be an extreme understatement to simply say that Louis was grateful.  She continually expressed her deep appreciation to MAF and to the donors and all who help make flights like this possible.  She practically begged us to express her gratitude to ALL who play a part in MAF's ministry.

Upon arrival in Kumi, there was a large crowd gathered there to see the airplane.  They were extremely kind and respectful, and very helpful. (Photo below)

The medical team was there too, well-equipped and waiting for our arrival.  The doctors were handed an x-ray from Jackie, the young lady who was accompanying Louis from her Children's home.  They immediately examined it, right then and there under the tail of the plane, wanting to know what the situation was before moving Louis from the plane.  Everyone was very deliberate and careful in the handling and care of Louis, and again, she continually expressed her appreciation to all, both from MAF and from the Kumi Hospital.   The doctors and nurses there also repeatedly thanked me, and MAF, for providing the transport for Louis, clearly expressing that the alternative would have been awful for someone in her condition. 

Kumi Hospital, originally started by the Church Missionary Society in 1929 as a leprosarium, describes themselves today on their website as a "preferred destination for the poor, for those who have not been reached, a centre for hope, healing and wholeness bearing witness to Christ."  I know Louis will not only be well taken care of there at the Kumi Hospital, but will also join the staff there in shining brightly the love of Jesus to many.   We pray that she'll soon recover fully (as soon as can be expected for someone with a broken femur) and be able to return to her invaluable work and ministry at the children's home in Kitgum.  It was a real privilege to be able to help Louis yesterday, and to be able to serve many like her who sacrificially and selflessly live out their lives serving those "less fortunate" in some of the most neglected and remote parts of East Africa.  Thank you for YOUR part in helping to make this possible!

Friday, December 12, 2014

Really Random Stuff

Here's some really random pics and words from the past few weeks.  

Recnetly I was up in Arua, waiting for some passengers from South Sudan to arrive.  As often happens there, a large group of school children came to the airport for a field trip.  They were so excited to see the airplane--just sitting there.  I wish I could take them all for a spin around the circuit.  Can you imagine how excited they would be?  Well, that's not an option, but I could stop and engage them.  I asked if they had any questions for the pilot.  They were super excited and, after singing me a song--something about a butterfly and wanting to be a pilot--they asked me a few random questions.  But what they really wanted was a group photo of them with me.  (There was a guy from their school taking pictures of them.)  

So I handed my camera to a lady who was standing there watching, and then I stood where I was directed by the teachers.  Immediately the little boy in front of me turned around and looking up at me, held up both his arms, clearly indicating that he wanted me to pick him up.  So that's what I did.   It seemed like a smart move on his part--he was a short, little, kid in the back that couldn't see or be seen.   But now he could! (Photo above).  At some point the little guy just sort of put is head down on my shoulder and got all comfy.  He seemed oblivious to the camera.  But the lady who I had handed my camera to--well, you would have thought she was the paparazzi.  She was snapping pictures like crazy, which was good, because most of them were out of focus or had motion blur.  But there were a few good ones in the end, and I thought this one, in particular was a nice shot.

A different day when I was flying up to Arua, I fought some seriously ugly weather.  I was very glad for weather radar, but it took a lot of close attention to navigate through the "nice" parts of the bad weather.  That said, when you're descending or climbing below certain altitudes, unless there is an instrument approach (which there's not, except at 2 locations in Uganda) you must be out of the clouds.  This is what it looked like as I was approaching Arua--and this was the "nice" part of the trip.

Coming back at the end of the day, almost the entire center half of Uganda was smashed with weather.  There was heavy rain and thunderstorms that were very wide spread.  Again, I was very thankful for both the weather radar and the new avionics panel that made it much easier to navigate safely around the bad stuff.  What a feeling it was when I finally broke out (underneath the stormy weather) about five minutes from home, and saw this!  Can you believe my camera battery was dead though?  Yeah, rookie mistake!  I can't even remember the last time I've had that happen.  Anyway, I still had my phone, so these next two were taken on my phone.  This was looking off towards Southwestern Uganda, as the sun was sinking low in the sky and sending golden shafts of light through the very, very dark clouds.  And yes, they really were that dark!

Meanwhile, off to the other side of the airplane was our home city of Kampala, shrouded in a low, wispy, eerie-looking fog of sorts, from the rain that had obviously passed through.  It was a very surreal scene, and all of the passengers were clearly enjoying it--especially after an hour and a half of looking at nothing at all except for the dark clouds and rain that we were flying in most of the time.

These next two shots were taken up in Kaabong, way up in the Northeastern corner of Uganda, near the Kenyan border.  I love how almost every single boy that I ever see in these parts always has a stick with him.  It's their version of a Leatherman!  These are cattle and goat herders, and this particular group of boys had a herd of a few hundred goats and cattle they were moving along the strip when I landed.  I had to wait here for a passenger for a little while, so they were checking out the plane.  I was equally as interested in their herd of goats and cattle.  :-)

A few weeks ago I had a lunch meeting with our Operations Manager.   We're good friends from waaaaayyy back in our flight school days.  Anyway, we had to discuss some work-related stuff and decided that we'd get more done without the distractions that often happen at the office.  So we walked down the street to a little diner.  Now, this is not the finest restaurant you've ever seen, but it's actually not that bad either.  Quite a few ex-pats that eat there, and they are known to have good food that's pretty cheap.  No wonder it's cheap!  Haha.  Well, needles to say we didn't exactly get a distraction-free lunch, as this cat was playing with a dead rat right beside our table the entire time we were there.  The cat was having a grand old time, tossing the stinky rat into the air, (once it even landed on the couch) and batting it around.  Disgusting? Yes!  But did it ruin our appetite?  No.  After many years of living overseas, it would take more than this to ruin our lunch.  Besides, we were having the chicken, not the rat...I think.  Did I tell my wife about it?  No.  Well not for a while anyway...she likes that place and I didn't want to ruin it for her.  But eventually she saw the pictures on my phone.  And guess what?  She just laughed.  That's my kind of woman!

This is a not-uncommon sight along many of the roads around Kampala--a bunch of Acholi cattle with their HUGE horns walking down the center of the dirt roads, going from who knows where to who knows where to find some grass to eat.  I'm always amazed at how they can hold their heads up with those massive horns.  They must weigh a ton!  I always have to resist an urge to jump up on their back and grab the horns and try to ride one.  Yeah, probably not the best idea, but I keep thinking it would be fun to try.  That's probably the kind of thing you only get to do once!

Friday, November 28, 2014

Happy Thanksgiving! And a Look Around Our Yard

Thanksgiving day here was just like any other day--the kids went to school and I flew.  Being part of a multi-national team in a foreign country, it's not really a holiday that's on the local radar.   And it can really sneak up on you without noticing...which is impossible for sure in the U.S.!  A few weeks ago we did have a combined U.S. and Canadian Thanksgiving meal with the relevant families on our team, splitting the difference between the two holiday dates in our home countries.  We had lots of great food and fellowship!  But on Thursday (the actual U.S. Thanksgiving day) Joy and Hannah just cooked up a nice little thanksgiving meal for just our family, complete with two little roasted chickens, mashed potatoes and several other fixins and pumpkin pie.  Now we have to start playing Christmas music around the house all the time, so that Christmas can't sneak up on us. :-)  

This Thanksgiving we're thankful that God has brought us here to Uganda and is allowing us to be a part of His work in East Africa!  We're thankful for YOU, our awesome ministry support team, who make it possible for us to be here through your generous gifts and faithful prayers!  We're thankful that we have all settled in and feel like this is "home" and have made some great friends!  We're thankful for each of our children and for our family back in the U.S.!  We're thankful for the special little foster boy, Gift, who God has placed with us for a time.  And we're thankful for all of the BIG things that Gift has taught our family, through his absolute love of life and his overwhelming joy in even the smallest things that we so often take for granted!  He's deaf, and has cerebral palsy, and has had an unimaginably tough life so far, but he is so overflowing with joy and smiles and laughs that he literally can't contain himself! He quite literally bounces around and squeals and bubbles over with excitement at even the simplest of things!  And he has the biggest, sweetest, most serving heart we've ever seen!  

Most of all, we're thankful for the unfailing, unending, underserving love of Jesus, and that He's chosen to adopt us into His family!  In the same way that our little Gift can't contain his joy at being a special part of a loving family,  we hope that we too will overflow with bubbling joy and excitement--no matter our circumstances--as we contemplate just how blessed we ARE to be children of His, unconditionally loved and accepted by our heavenly Father! 

What are you thankful for this year?

Well, while some of you are having a white Thanksgiving and freezing your tails off, I thought I'd give you a quick look around our yard (or garden as they call it here) in Uganda so you can be jealous of the beautiful greenery, and fine, summer temperatures we're enjoying. :-)

We were super blessed to get a house with a big yard here in Uganda.  During our time in Indonesia the best feature of our house was it's close proximity to great friends, both national and international. The little yard and obstructed views there, however, weren't really the cat's meow.  Nonetheless it was home and so we loved it.  But now this is home, and we certainly won't take things like a big yard for granted!  It's great for the kids, and there's always birds singing, and butterflies passing through, and monkeys steeling our fruit and garbage, and other critters that we enjoy watching.  We also enjoy a pretty descent view over the hills of Kampala, with gorgeous sunrises and beautiful nighttime lightning shows that are even better when the power is out in our part of town...which is pretty often.   We feel so blessed to have the large area for the kids to play, and the green things to look at, and the breeze to cool things off in the afternoons!  (Our big tree has been dropping purple flowers for a few months now, which look quite pretty scattered throughout the yard.)

One of the first things I did after our crates arrived from Indonesia, in July, was to put up a swing.  I've had it for about eight years, but we never had a tree to hang it in when we lived in Indonesia.  Actually, we had the perfect tree for the first few months after we moved there (which is why I had it brought over there from the U.S.) but then the tree blew over in a storm and that was that.  Anyway, we now have a huge tree right out front, and it's got the perfect branch for a swing.  So after several days of looking around Kampala for the appropriate hardware, the boys and I were finally able to put up the long-awaited swing.  Yes, my ladder wasn't long enough to reach the branch, and after trying to attach it from the top, I decided the better of the insane ideas was to attack it as you see below.  With a piece of plywood on the roof rack of our van, it was actually pretty stable.  I kept thinking that this picture that Joy snapped with the iPhone was going to wind up in one of those e-mails about stupid things people do related to safety, or lack thereof.  But honestly, it wasn't as bad as it looks...I'm sure that's what they all say.  Haha.  And now the kids are having a blast with the swing!

Hudson's birthday was in July and my parents bought him some soccer goals (which I found at a South African store in town).  Hudson loves to play soccer but we've never really had any room for him to play, so this has been a blast for him.  Now if we can just keep the balls from popping on the thorn bushes at the edges of our yard.  We've had about a dozen holes so far, and the ball never stays inflated for more than a half hour before it must be refilled again.

Britton's thing is basketball, and when his birthday rolled around in August, my parents got him setup for that.  They paid for it all, but it took a combination of my mother-in-law bringing the attaching equipment when she came over in August, me building the backboard myself, and a massive effort on the part of our day guard and me to find the pole and rim and other stuff.  The rim later broke repeatedly (and was welded several times) and was just not working out, so we finally had one brought over from the U.S. with our friend, Walt, when he visited a few weeks ago.  We also had to pour the pole full of concrete and put some steel in there to reinforce it, b/c it was wobbling so much.  But finally, it's finished and Britton is really enjoying being able to shoot baskets right outside his house whenever he wants.  He just started last week on the school basketball team and is looking forward to a great season!

I mentioned we have a lot of birds in the yard.  There are SO many different kinds that show up, it's amazing!  I did a post a few weeks back about the hawks in our yard.  I think they're actually called Kites, but anyway, those are one of the most frequent flyers here.  A few weeks ago I was working outside when I heard a rustling of wings and looked up just in time to see a half-eaten chicken falling out of the sky, bounce off the roof and land just a few feet from where I stood.  Then, two of those big Kite birds swooped down just behind, a tangle of wings and beaks and talons, and pulled up just before hitting the ground.  The whole thing was very odd--I almost got clocked on the head by a chicken that dropped out of the sky!!!  Obviously they were fighting over it when one of them dropped it--or maybe they were aiming for me on purpose?  Anyway, they spent the next 10 minutes fighting in the air and taking turns swooping in to see who would be brave enough to get it back, since it was now lying just feet from our back door.  It was fun to watch!  

One of the most exciting birds we've seen here recently was a pair of hornbills.  We've only seen them about twice, but boy are great!

These ones look a little awkward in flight, what with the huge beak and all--at least in the picture below--but they're still pretty cool!  (I did a post a while back on some of the other birds here, including one in flight that was a lot more graceful looking.  You can find that post here.)  I remember occasionally looking out the window of my plane in Indonesia and seeing pairs of hornbills flying over the jungles of Borneo.  They were a different type of hornbill, but it was always so magnificent to see them soaring, in black and white, over the wildest, greenest parts of the jungle.  I'd love to fly like a bird!  Someday I'm going to have to try hang gliding and/or para sailing!

There's lots of smaller things in our yard too.  Sometime I'm going to walk around for an hour or so with my macro lens and then do a whole post on the tiny critters in our yard.  I love macro stuff--it's like a whole different world that we often miss as we go about our busy lives!

But this is one of the mall critters that I wish we would miss altogether.  Unfortunately, these mango flies are EVERYWHERE!  We have about a billion of them in our yard, and about half that many in our house.  They're much bigger and slower than the average house fly in the U.S. and they seem to fly around in packs (swarms? schools? flocks? whatever you call it) of hundreds.  Apparently these are the ones that will lay eggs in the undergarments hung outside to dry, which will then get under your skin in "special places" and later form a large "pimple" that will one day pop open with the little wiggling worms crawling out to produce more flies.  Yeah, it's a lovely thought.  (This is why you don't hang the undergarments outside, or if you do, you have to iron them before wearing to kill those critters!)  That, plus the fact that they devour any pile of poo they find from our dog or any other creature, and then always seem to want to land on our food afterwards to relax--yeah, it makes them our most reviled local creature!

Back to the fun stuff--with the blessing of such a big yard we've been able to use it for more than just our family.  We've been able to host an number of MAF events with our very large team here, and we also regularly host the junior high youth group from our church.  There's also a group of local kids that live down the road that like to come over to play "football".  Their regular place to play is a small, rugged patch of dirt, with two sticks at either end for goals.  So this probably feels like a world-class pitch by comparison.  It's not only a lot of fun (Hudson and Tanner and I always join in) but also a great ministry opportunity as we build relationships with them. 

Well, I hope you've enjoyed a quick tour around our yard.  If you ever come visit you can see it first-hand, and maybe join in for a game of football or basketball! :-)

Saturday, November 22, 2014

A Few of the People We Fly

The past few weeks I've been flying more and really enjoying it!  

I certainly don't have the chance to photograph all of our passengers--that would not only take a lot of time but be really awkward too!  But here are just a few of the ones I've flown over the past couple weeks.

This is Jesus Film Ministries team that I picked up in Mbarara after they spent a few days showing films and doing evangelistic meetings in a group of mountain villages in the area.

The Every Village folks are a doing some really great work up in remote areas of South Sudan and Ethiopia.  It's such a privilege to help, in a small way, facilitate what they're doing!   

There was a big conference last week up in South Sudan, where all of the Bishops of the Episcopal Church of South Sudan and Sudan got together for some worship, strategic planning, training, etc.

As you can see from the above picture, and this one, below, it was definitely a dark and stormy day when I flew some of the Bishops up there.  They still had about another 15 miles to drive in the 4x4 Land Cruiser to get to their destination.  I liked the phrase they had painted on the side of their Land Cruiser.

Here's a few more random shots.

Sunday, November 16, 2014

African Wildlife

This past week I had my first chance to see some of East Africa's famous wildlife, and boy was it magnificent!

A few times a year we (MAF Uganda) wind up flying short-term mission teams to one or another of Uganda's national parks, for a quick and scenic ending to a busy mission trip.  It's cheaper for them and MAF if, in a case like this, they just have the plane and pilot accompany them on the overnight trip, rather than have us fly up twice to drop them off and then pick them up again.  Last week was my first chance to be the lucky pilot that got to fly one of these groups.  Below, is a picture of one of our Caravans as it flies about 9,000' above Murchison Falls National Park, the park where I took the mission team.  If you look closely, just in the upper left corner of the picture, in the shadow, you can actually see the airstrip, Pakuba, which is located in the Park.  

The group I flew was a short-term team from a San Francisco church, who was here with Compassion International.  It was a privilege to get to spend some time hanging out with them and getting to hear about their ministry, both back in their home city in the U.S., as well as here in Uganda.

We were only gone 24 hours, but we sure saw a lot in that time.  After arriving just before noon, we had lunch and then went on a riverboat cruise up the Nile to the base of Murchison Falls, from which the park gets it's name.  This stretch of river is full of thousands and thousands of hippos (below).  It was an absolutely beautiful afternoon!

Elephants like to come down to the edge of the river to drink and play in the water, and just enjoy the cooler temperatures and shade.  Bull elephants, like the one below, tend to be off by themselves most of the time.  I thought this was a cool shot with the hippos in the foreground.

About a half mile away from the bull was a family of elephants, probably mostly females and youngsters.  As we passed by, the mama was putting her ears out really big and facing off at us--I think that's supposed to be intimidating.  Hidden in the grass beside her is a tiny, little baby elephant, much smaller than the one standing just to her left.  It was very cute, but we only caught a few glimpses of the baby, as it stayed mostly under its mama's legs.  

And here are the falls themselves.  Almost the entire Nile is forced through a very narrow rock gorge that is just seven meters wide in the narrowest place.  It's quite impressive.

This is just an average, boring, white-dirt cliff at the river's edge, right?  Wrong.  

If you look closer you can see that the cliff is full of holes that are the homes of a whole bunch of very colorful bee eater birds. 

When they take flight, they expose even more of their color from the undersides of their wings.  I wish I had taken my good camera with me, but I left it at home because of it's size and weight (being the pilot who was just getting to ride along, I didn't want to have a big, huge, bulky camera getting in everyone's way.)  So this is as close/good as I could get with my little micro 4/3 camera from the distance we were.  Still, you can get the idea--the birds are beautiful!  We saw many, many other birds as well, but again, it was hard to get good shots with the camera and lenses I had.  

The next morning everyone took a game drive before we flew back to Kampala.  I only got to be part of it for a short time, since they dropped me off at the airstrip by 8:00 to do a pre-flight and get the plane ready for our departure a few hours later.  Even so, I still got to see a bunch of animals on the way.  Below, a huge, old bull giraffe walking alone.  Do you see those light, round, scar-looking marks at the base of his neck?  Those are from fights with other bulls, where they swing their heads and nock each other with frightening force--the horns leaving bloody wounds.  I imagine this guy must have had quite a battle a little while back.

I have to say, that was certainly a very fun, overnight flight, and a lot different than any of the other overnight flights I've done in the past.   I can't wait to one day take my family up to do some camping at that park.  They'll all go nuts over the wide variety of beautiful animals, and the vast, open, gorgeous scenery!