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

Monday, June 22, 2009

Made it!

It was loooooong, but we made it! the Indonesia portion of our journey actually went very smoothly. The rest of it, not so much. It was a bit of a pain in Singapore, b/c we had to leave the airport to stay in a hotel, which involved dealing with immigration, customs, etc. Plus travelling to and from the hotel took extra time. It meant a very short night!!

The flight from Singapore to Tokyo treated us to almost constant moderate turbulance for over seven hours due to a never-ending line of thuderstorms. Poor Tanner threw up about a dozen times...both Joy and I were baptized more than once. After using all the sick sacks in both of our rows, we had to ask for more! Poor little guy!

We arrived in Tokyo and got stuck in a massive herd of people (think African wildabeast migration). I still can't figure out why they always make every person go through security immediately after getting off a plane? Weren't we all ALREADY checked PRIOR to boarding the plane? And if someone was going to do something, wouldn't it have been BEFORE they got off of the airplane? And as if that wasn't confusing enough, they check you again before letting you into the individual gates. So why do you have to get checked extremely thoroughly, just after deboarding??? And there's four or five international flights arriving at the same time, and being ushered through only three lines that move very slow. It's insane!! Well, we would have missed our next flight, but after sweating and working our way through the heard for almost 2 hours, and running through the airport (thinking it had already left, based off of the TV screen information,) we found that our flight hadn't even arrived in Tokyo yet. So we made it on our flight, but left Tokyo almost three hours late.

However, we arrived in Portland after our flight had already departed and were unable to get another flight till the following day. Since leaving the hotel in Singapore, we had been travelling non-stop for almost 40 hours befere we got sleep in a bed. Ya, it was a marathon!! So after five days of travel we arrive here at MAF headquarters, exhausted. But it's been great to re-connect with good friends from the area, and we look forward to the busy week ahead. Thanks for your prayers!

Oh yeah, the locals say it's nice weather here, but we're freezing!!

Sunday, June 14, 2009

U.S. - Bound!

In 24 hours we'll be departing Tarakan on our long journey to the good ol' U.S. of A. for our first furlough. To clarify, we are not leaving Indonesia for good. This is a scheduled six-month assignment in the U.S., after which time we look forward to returning to our home here in Indonesia (After 3 1/2 yrs overseas, MAF families serve six months in their country of origin.) We already have tickets for the return flight in January.

Day one takes us from Tarakan to Balikpapan, Indonesia. Day 2 we cruise on to Singapore. Day 3 starts at 3:00AM and takes us through Tokyo, to Portland, and on to Boise, ID where we'll hopefully arrive about 36 hours later (but actually just later the same afternoon b/c of crossing the International date line.) So hopefully we'll be at MAF headquarters on Thursday afternoon (U.S. time.)

Should be an exciting and exhausting trip with the five kids. We appreciate your prayers! I'll update you some time after our arrival.

A Tremendous Loss!

Today, our MAF family here in Kalimantan suffered a tremendous loss. Pak (Mr.) Simeon, was MAF's first national employee here in East Kalimantan, hired way back in 1978. Over the years he's become an indispensable member of our team. He has been quite literally the keystone player, handling dozens of difficult tasks and keeping the MAF ministry thriving. Here in Tarakan he has been our "number one go-to guy" for a long, long time--working directly with our MAF program and regional managers and the local and national government to keep things going smoothly.

Early this afternoon, after church, the Lord suddenly took Simeon home. His home-going came as a tremendous shock and loss to our MAF family. But he leaves behind an amazing legacy. For nearly 32 years Simeon served his Father faithfully through the ministry of MAF. Over the years, because of his experience, character, and reputation, he could easily have taken other job offers that would have come with considerably higher salary and benefits. Yet he chose to joyfully continue to serve with MAF, because he had his sights on higher things! He had an eternal perspective that shaped who he was and what he did.

As news spreads throughout villages all over East Kalimantan, and to Java, Papau and the far reaches of Indonesia, literally thousands of people will mourn the loss of Pak Simeon. I truly can't think of anyone more well-loved, respected, and influential, both within MAF and among the Lun Dayeh community, church, and government throughout Kalimantan, than Pak Simeon!. But though our loss is real and painful, it's tempered by the fact that we know Simeon is rejoicing with his Heavenly Father--and we have a hope and expectation that one day we will be reunited!

In the meantime, please take a moment to pray for Simeon's family and friends, and for our MAF family. Thanks!

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Jungle Trek 5

This is the last post on our big adventure through the Borneo rainforest. After arriving at our "final" camp, our guides declared that this was the place where we'd wait to meet the guys from Data Dian who were supposed to be bringing a small motorized boat up to get us. The picture below was taken well down river from where our camp was located. I have no pictures of that evening, or the next morning, b/c both of our cameras were all fogged up inside and not working properly. But trust me, the "river" where we were supposed to wait was more like a wild creek, small, shallow, and cascading over massive rocks and boulders.

Paul and I were absolutely convinced that there was no way the guys would ever come up river that far to get us. It was totally impassible there. Furthermore, as we had already learned, all previous attempts to do this trip with tourists had failed at this very point. The idea of waiting three or four days for people that weren't going to show up, only to have to turn around and hike all the way back to our starting point was quite depressing. We don't like to wait around for solutions. We like to forge ahead. Plus, we didn't have enough vacation days left to wait around. We had to get this thing done!

So after several hours of eating, visiting, etc., we finally broke out the map (actually it's a chart that we use for our flight navigation) with the guys and showed them our location, based off of our GPS readings. It took a while to convince them. Then we gradually introduced the idea that the next day (sixth day of the trip) we would like to continue downriver. That idea was met with much grumbling and consternation. They had never been beyond this point and were content to wait for days at our present camp. However, Paul and I again urged them to accompany us further downriver, enticing them with the idea that our chances would be much greater of being picked up, and then they could get on their way back to their village. Finally they agreed. In truth, we were ready to go with or without them at that point, as the idea of forging ahead was much more exciting than waiting with little hope, only to eventually turn back.

So the sixth day we tore off downriver. Most of the day we just walked right in the water, b/c there was no trail and the jungle was very thick. It was all rocks--wet, slippery, slimy rocks of every possible size. Amazingly no one fell or twisted an ankle. Seriously, it was miraculous, b/c we were going at a very fast pace, criss-crossing and wading through endless rapids. We saw tons of big fish. They were everywhere! It was like the land flowing with milk and honey...except in this case it was water and fish! In the above picture, we were taking a short break on a rare, wide-open area where the river ran shallow and gentle. As you can see in the picture above, we're looking pretty wild, wet and worn-out by this point.

Of course, there were times when we were forced back into the jungle b/c of steep rock walls, or deep channeled water. We slopped our way through endless mud, swamps, and entangled vines and thorns. These pictures of the ants, butterflies, fern, and mushrooms were actually taken on different days, b/c I rarely got the camera out on this day. We were just going to hard, and we were to soaked to risk it. But it gives you an idea of stuff we saw each and every day that we were trekking in the jungle.



Late in the day we came to a "cabang" or split in the river. Since we were going downriver, this meant that another river was dumping into the Kat river that we were following. It doubled in size and became channeled into a gorge. We looked around and it became obvoius that going further would be very difficult by foot unless we took a bearing and headed straight off into no man's land. But we were fine with waiting at this location, b/c the river seemed deep enough for a skilled boat driver to navigate. In the picture below, taken at the point where the two rivers joined, the Kat river looks gentle and lethargic. But don't be fooled. It was full of insane, pounding white-water, that would promise to take us on the ride-of-our-life before long.

Again, clouds rolled in and it began to rain. In fact, it rained and rained all night and the water rose higher and higher turning into a chocolaty brown by morning.

We set up our camp just up the river bank, and somehow our guides got a fire going with wet wood. And then the wait began. Not long before dark we heard a distant noise that sounded like a "ketingting" (the name given to the small motorized boats they use, b/c of the sound they make.) But we had been fooled already many times that day by noises that we thought were boats and turned out to be any number of other things. In this case, however, it was indeed a boat! Boy were we glad to see them!!! Soaked to the bone, and exhausted from fighting their way upriver, the two guys from Data Dian arrived just in time for a grilled fish and rice supper, followed by hours of good story-telling and conversation under the smoke-filled tarp.

In the morning we all got together for one big group shot before Paul and I and the two guys from Data Dian took off downriver, and the three guys from Long Jelet began the long journey home. Incidentally, the boat guys were very glad that we had gone downriver to that point. They agreed that they would never have made it that far upriver, and that we made the right decision when we spent another day hiking downriver! Thanks Lord! By the way, the boat guys, standing next to Paul, check them out--they were way ripped! Driving these boats around the rivers of Northeast Kalimantan is not easy! All you big tough guys out there, forget the weight room, just move over here and drive a boat for a while!
After days of slogging our way through the jungle, it seemed almost to easy to be riding in a boat, watching the trees pass by. But that was just the initial feeling. The unbelievable beauty of the wild and untouched Kat river was too enticing and deceiving. This was the calm before the storm.
B/c up ahead there were tons of spine-chilling runs of white-water. I can't tell you the number of times that we nearly got smashed to pieces against a jagged rock face rising straight out of the churning water. Out of nowhere it would go from calm and quiet to frothy, raging and pounding, boiling and grabbing at us like the ravenous mouth of some giant, evil monster. It was too loud to hear ourselves, even when yelling. Over and over we all had to jump out, saving the boat from capsizing, and/or pulling it through extra-bad areas. Time and again we got swamped with waves and dunked under swells, only to come up smiling and whistling, amazed to still be in the boat, with the boat still together and on top of the water.

It was seriously an awesome ride--probably the kind of thing that you'd have to sign a bunch of consent forms for in the U.S., giving all rights to your life away, after which you'd be fitted with a life jacket and helmet to make you feel better. But hey, there's no such thing as law suites here, so who cares! Since we didn't have an underwater camera, you'll just have to take my word on all this. By the way, those guys were amazing! I don't know how they kept us from swamping! Below, Paul stretches his legs during a calm stretch.

By early afternoon we had made it through most of the harrowing areas, and the river began to get larger and deeper still. They finally turned on the motor (up to that point it was all poles and paddles, at the mercy of a vicious current) and we started cruising.

Late in the afternoon, not long before dark, we made it to Data Dian. The truth is, we made excellent time, arriving one day before we were supposed to. But it was an unbelievable journey! The entire village was excited to see us. Everyone knew about the two, crazy MAF pilots trying to hike their way from Long Jelet to Data Dian, and it seems that their were many doubts and concerns about our trek. So the next morning we joined in a church service (it was a Christian holiday--the Ascension of Christ) and shared about our adventure, tying it into our testimonies and the ministry of MAF. There was also a ton of time to visit with the local village pastor (whom we stayed with) and many other folks who we often see at the airstrip, but don't have time to get to know personally. It was a fantastic opportunity, one that both Paul and I, and the people we serve greatly appreciated.

On the ninth day of our trip, we left the banks of Data Dian for the short boat ride to the airstrip. Dozens of folks were waving goodbye having loaded us down with gifts of wild honey and honeycomb, fruit, rice, traditional pastry things and more, and making us promise to one day bring our wives and kids back to visit. I would like nothing more. But in the meantime, I was simply looking forward to seeing them myself.
So after an hour and a half in an MAF plane, we finally landed back in Tarakan. Waiting there at the hanger were two happy wives (one for me and one for Paul, just to clarify) and nine very excited kids (five for me and four for Paul.) :)

You might be intersted to know that even now, a month after initially leaving on the trip, I'm still dealing with weird infections breaking out here and there on my body, as well as a continually painful and swollen knee. The shin no longer seems to be infected, but is lumpy and still quite painful. This all underscores the difficulty of travel the "old-fashioned" way out here in the wilds of Borneo, and the reason why MAF serves the national church at the ends of the earth. It is indeed a very valid ministry, and one that I'm honored and humbled to be a part of!

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Jungle Trek 4

Did I keep you in suspense, wondering what happened to us out in the jungle? Ya, I'm sure you were really on the edge of your seat. It's been busy around here, so I haven't had a chance to post the next update.

Well, the fourth day had us climbing up a huge mountain. The trail pretty much disappeared, and we just pulled and clawed and smooshed our way up, up, up the mountain. The guides were pretty much hacking there way through the entangled mess, sometimes splitting up in three different directions, b/c again, there was no trail. Eventually, we got to a place where they said, "Now we go up." Our thought was, "Well what the phat have we been doing for the past four hours?" And sure enough, we went basically straight up a very steep side of ridge, arriving in a cloud forest at the top.

It began to rain, and we got soaked to the bone. And believe you me, it was cold. Don't ever let anyone tell you that it doesn't get cold on the equator. We were up close to 6,000 feet, and totally drenched and it was soooooooo cold! Even after the rain stopped, the clouds still engulfed us, and sent constant shivers down to our sloshing toes.

The weird thing is that there were HUGE oak trees up there. They were of "prehistoric" proportions. The leaves that had fallen to the ground were maybe 2 - 3 feet across. And the acorns!...I'd hate to see the saber tooth squirrel that it would take to down one of these babies!

Well, we set up our camp, right up there in the eerie cloud forest. Every single stationary thing was covering in dripping, hairy moss. It was strangely quiet...and did I mention cold?

Paul and I had a bit of a hard time finding spots for our hammocks, b/c the trees were so thick. We wound up having to cut quite a few of those little buggers down.

Our guides told us that there would be fewer leaches up here, b/c they don't like to get cold. The key word was "fewer". They didn't say "none." Yes, they continued to drink freely from our sweet, foreign blood.

The next morning, as we woke up (day six), the sun was shining through the clouds, which still surrounded us.

We started by hiking up some more. That's right. Apparently we weren't at the top yet.

But alas, we finally reached the top, where there was a sign in the ground, indicating the dividing line between the two regions. In past times, if a person from one area had crossed this line, it was just about guaranteed that he'd lose his head to the people who's area he was entering. Fortunately, we didn't have to worry about that.

Just as we started to descend, we saw some strange flora. We were still up at a high altitude when we came across this...pine tree? I mean, it sure looked like a pine tree...and smelled like one too. And tasted like one. Don't ask. Anyway, I'm not a plant guy, so don't take my word for it. But it sure seemed to be a pine tree. If that's true, well, I had no idea that pine trees lived here. Our guides were pretty stoked too. They said they were going to dig it up and take it home on their way back, to plant in their village. But I doubt it will grow down at the lower elevations.

And then we saw this weird fungi thing. Of course, there's a zillion types of mushrooms in the jungle, but this one was just plain weird. It looked like some sort of ice-cream ball, which was oozing a clear jelly type stuff out it's base. Cool stuff. By the way, I didn't taste this one.

And we kept passing these huge, strangling fig trees, that were all hollowed out underneath, and were obviously being used as homes for wild pigs. So Paul and I both had to crawl inside to have a look around one of them. Not a bad set-up if you don't have a hammock...and aren't afraid to share your spot with a bunch of creepy-crawlies.

Finally, around mid-afternoon we came out to the Kat river. As you can see, with Musa sitting in front of it, this was more like a creek than a river. We still had a long way to go before we would MAYBE get picked up by the boat guys from Data Dian. And we were about to embark into "uncharted" territory. But more on that next time.