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

Saturday, January 31, 2009

Stuck!

On Wednesday I flew along with another one of our pilots in our beautiful, big Caravan. He needed some instrument currency, so I was the safety pilot. Basically, he did all the hard work while flying with foggles so he couldn't see out of the airplane, and I just made sure he didn't go into clouds or get close to other planes. I was looking forward to a relaxing, calm day for a change. :)

But then we got called to pick up a pregnant woman in Lebuson. While turning around at the end of the strip to take off, we got that let-down feeling on the left side. It took a loooooong time, and a ton of work to get our Caravan un-stuck. By the time we got out I was covered in mud and soaked with sweat. It wasn't just me though. Half the village was there helping. Without them, we'd probably still be stuck! The good news is, we DID get the woman to Tarakan, and she should be o.k. So much for a light day though. :)

After we finally got un-stuck, everyone took a breather under the shade of the plane.

Below is a little video of one of the many times we pulled the plane. Trust me, 99% of the time I was in there pulling too. Really I was! :)

video

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Solar Eclipse

Yesterday afternoon we were treated to a rare phenomenon--a solar eclipse. It wasn't a total eclipse. It's what they call an annular eclipse. I believe I heard that about 91% of the sun was covered. Even though that's a lot of blocked sunlight, you still can't look at it with the naked eye. That would be a HUGE mistake! What's more, if you magnify it through a camera lens or binoculars or the like, the intense light from just a small percent of the sun can quickly heat up and crack the glass. Imagine what it does to your retinas??!! (Above is the last picture I took, just as the sun was setting and the eclipse was coming to an end. The crescent is obviously the sun, while the "hole" is from the moon that's between the sun and us.)

With that in mind, we were prepared with "Uncle" Robby's (our maintenance specialist's) welding mask. Yeah, he has a sense of humor. :) I wish I had a special solar filter for the camera, but alas, a poor man's solution was to shoot through the mask. We also took turns passing it around from kid to kid. (Below at left: Britton donned the mask with fellow MAFers Isaac and Alan watching. In the middle is Hudson and on the right is Hannah.)

The best place in the world to view this eclipse was right here in Borneo. However, it was supposed to happen late in the afternoon and 9 out of 10 days the horizon is totally smashed with massive cumulus clouds at that time. But yesterday we were thrilled with the weather--it was a perfect afternoon/evening and quite an "event!" Here's a few shots I took. The first one is just as the moon is beginning to cover up the sun from the lower left. In the second and third it's progressing.

The picture below is what it looked like to the naked eye. We were perched on a little pinnacle, overlooking the island of Tarakan. The mainland of Borneo is visible just below the horizon. If you look closely you can see a reflection of the "crescent" sun in the camera lens, just below the actual sun. That was a mirror image of what you would have seen if you'd have looked through the welding mask.

I'm not used to shooting through a grinning, fiery face mask. It was a bit awkward to say the least. I was told that I looked like a crazy (as in loony) puppeteer in the picture at right.

Just as we were leaving our perch, I spotted a beautiful pitcher plant in perfect light. You know what I always say..."The best light for shooting a pitcher plant is during a solar eclipse." Yeah, I waited my entire life for that moment! :) With that in mind, and my camera and tripod at hand, I snapped the shot below. The pitcher plant is a little marvel of God's creation. The plant feeds on flies and little insects. The "pitcher" fills partially with rain water, and then when the insects fall or climb inside they can't get back out and subsequently drown. The plant then "eats" them. Isn't that cool?

Saturday, January 24, 2009

New Airstrip Checkout

Warning: Non-pilots may find this post boring. Yesterday I had the privilege of getting checked out at another airstrip. Many of the airstrips that we operate in and out of here on a regular basis are quite challenging. However, there's two or three that are just truly "exciting!" This is one of them.

As necessary we build in margins (through reduced loading on take-off etc.) to make our operations safe. It's not uncommon to have to reduce our loading on take-off by anywhere from 50 to 120 kg with our turbo 206's. With the non-turbo it's even more.

At Sungai Barang, the airstrip that I just got checked out at, we have to reduce take-off loading by 230 kg in the turbo! That's over 500lbs! On many of our strips, if it's recently rained or the grass is wet, the pilot will als0 reduce loading on landing. This one of the few strips where it's actually mandated in our aistrip directy (minus 120kg landing in normal conditions.) Suffice to say, it's truly a "short field," but we still operate routinely and safely within our margins.

I'm looking forward to serving the people of Sungai Barang!

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Thanks!

The re-standardization went very well despite some challenging weather to deal with on both days. Thanks for praying! We are so blessed to be here and you are an important part of that. Thanks!

Here's a few recent, random shots.

Britton still loves making friends with animals...in this case a baby gecko.



Below: our banana tree after a rain.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Determined Foe

Last week one of our neighbors and friends took their sick child to a "dukun" (essentially a witch doctor.) They follow the main religion of Indonesia, but like many local Muslims, when things really get "tough" they return to more "traditional" beliefs and practices. Over the past couple of years several of us MAFers have developed a close relationship with this family. They have had many opportunities to see and hear the Truth.

When Joy went up to their shack to visit them after hearing about the "dukun" consult, she said the feeling of oppression was overwhelming--and tangible. Later that night we felt a specific and definite oppressive attack on one of our children. Without going into details, it was immediately lifted in the case of our child, through the power of prayer. Please join us in specifically praying for these dear friends of ours. Please pray that they will be able to one day soon feel the peace and joy that we know. We believe that the seeds have been planted...and watered, and they are close to sprouting. But we face a determined foe. Prayer is critical! Your prayers are critical!

Along these same lines there's a lot of exciting news we'd love to share, but it would be "tough" here in this format. We're looking foward to sharing much of this with you when we're on furlough this coming summer. However, for one example, check out Joy's latest blog posting here.

(The pictures have nothing to do with our neighbors or the story above. Just random shots from my ministry interior.)

This week I'll have the "privilege" of undergoing a "re-standardization" with MAF's head honcho pilot from the U.S. flight training department. Every six months each pilot is required to do a PFR (Proficiency Flight Review.) A PFR is a fairly exhaustive flight, written and oral test that is usually done with one of our local MAF instructor pilots. Among other things they keep us from becoming complacent in our flying--one of the reasons we have such a good safety record. In addition to the PFR, once every four years we are each required to do the even-more-thorough "re-standardization." If you think about it you could pray for me on Wednesday and Thursday my time. Hopefully I will be able to fly in a way that accurately depicts my typical operations, and be able to receive constructive advice, criticism and/or fine-tuning. :) Two other pilots will follow me in this process over the next week and a half.

Sunday, January 4, 2009

Happy New Year!

Last week the boys and I were transplanting some papaya trees when we dug up a giant worm. Worms are always a huge hit with them, but this one was just unbelievable. It had to be nearly a foot and a half long when unstretched. It got even longer when it stretched out--crazy! You could have fried that puppy up and made a meal of it.

I had a busy couple of days flying leading up to New Years. Tuesday was a pretty rough one. I started out with a long schedule--most of which never happened. I was just ready to take off from my first stop interior, already loaded up with a sick patient, when I got a call from another village for a critical medivac--a young pregnant lady who needed to go directly to the hospital in Tarakan. Within 30 minutes I was there, and we had offloaded the first patient to make room for the young pregnant lady.

The initial patient wasn't as critical and would have to wait until later in the day to go to the hospital. First look at the young pregnant gal, and it became obvious that she was very critical. They said she had already journeyed half a day by motorized canoe, just to get to the airstrip. She was hemorrhaging, had lost a ton of blood and wasn't breathing well. But she was still talking weakly and conscious as we loaded her into the plane. Sadly, I never got to take off. Her condition rapidly deteriorated making it impossible for me to take off with her gasping for breath and the accompanying husband and "nurse" in a state of total panic. I was so utterly frustrated, as there was nothing I could do to help her physically. The "nurse" had brought an oxygen bottle with her...but it was empty. That was only one of several things that so frustrated me about the situation. I kept thinking, if this was in the U.S., she'd have been receiving oxygen, blood and first-class medical care from an ambulance crew right then and there.

However, within a half hour she had died, right there in my plane. It's certainly not the first time I've seen someone die--and not the first time that one of "my" patients has died. But that's the first time I've lost one in my plane. Up to now, with the Lord's help I've always gotten them to the hospital alive. This time all I could do was pray for the young lady, and try to offer some comfort to her grieving husband. After it was all over, the local airstrip agent saw I was a bit discouraged and frustrated. He said, "you know, this is how they would all end up (referring to the critically sick patients) if you weren't here. Because of MAF, this is rare. You take many, many pregnant women and others to the hospital, and they live only because of MAF. Before, they would all have died."

It's true you know. As I thought about it, over the past two years I've carried dozens and dozens of medivac patients out to Tarakan, many of whom would have probably died if not for the help of MAF. I praise God that we have so many opportunities to help so many people in such a tangible way. And even when it doesn't go like we had hoped, I trust that He can still use us to be an encouragement and light for Him.

The rest of the week was more "typical," if you can say that. I got a kick out of the women at Long Sule. These are some seriously tough women!! I've seen it in action before, but this was a prime example. I showed up with an entire load of "barang" (supplies) and there wasn't a single guy waiting to huff the load down to their village. It was all women, eager to strap massive loads into their woven backpacks and lug it down the mountain to the village.

Trust me, this stuff isn't light! I helped get it out of the plane. These women are used to hauling their kids around all the time, and working very hard in the rice fields on the mountains. They could probably take most of you guys (o.k., and me too) in an arm wrestling match, not to mention a foot race. Anyway, I just thought you might get a kick out of it. Incidentally, the guys are even tougher. Their upper bodies look like rippled race-horses! But for some reason, they don't usually carry anything from the plane down to the village. I'll have to try to find out why that is. :)

On New Years Eve, I got to fly to Mekar Baru, a strip that we rarely go to--an hour and a half from Tarakan. I got to pick up Pak Firman (one of our awesome, long-time Indonesian office workers here) and his family, and bring them back to Tarakan. We had flown them into his old village the week before in order to be with his parents for their 50th wedding anniversary. Isn't that awesome? 50 years!! They are an amazing Christian family, who love the Lord and show it. I was blessed to be able to help them out in this small way.