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Monday, July 18, 2011

Flying for a Church Conference

Last week I spent three nights interior with the Kodiak, flying tons of people and stuff to the huge bi-annual church conference in the Apo Kayan region of Northeast Kalimantan.  This time it happened to be in Long Nawang (pictured below, as the sun was setting over their old hanging foot bridge.) 

All said, between Thursday and Saturday I flew about 175 people from several different villages over to Long Nawang.  (During the course of the entire week, MAF flew about 350 people total to this conference--there's no way an event like this would be possible without the wings of MAF!)  It was a festive mood that greeted passengers disembarking the plane in Nawang.  The pastors and folks from the village were always there to welcome people.  For many, this is the only time they get to see friends and family that live so far away.  Everyone was excited and cheerful!

My co-pilot was Britton.  Actually, he flew down with another pilot in the Caravan, b/c my flight down to the region was full.  But then I picked him up and took him over to Mahak Baru, where he spent the next three days hanging out and playing with his friends.  He had an absolute blast.  Every day he helped me pre-flight the airplane, then after breakfast I would take off and fly load after load of people and stuff.  Around 1:00 in the afternoon I'd be back for lunch and fuel, and we'd hang out while I was eating, after which time I'd be gone again till nearly sunset.  Then he'd help me secure the airplane and get it ready for the next day, with just enough time for a dip in the river before dinner.  It was a good father-son bonding time!

Here he is, late Saturday afternoon in Long Nawang with some of his new friends there.  After completing the conference flying we flew one final load of stuff over from Mahak to Nawang and then spent Saturday night in Long Nawang where I showed films and shared with the folks gathered for the church conference.

On Thursday and Friday Chris D. was down helping with a Cessna 206.  I love flying for church conferences, and it's always fun to have two planes and pilots working it together.  At the end of a very long day, Chris is finishing some paperwork on the tail of the airplane, having already tied it down and secured it for the night.

We stopped flying on Thursday evening at about 6:00 pm.  Here's a picture just after I landed in Mahak at the end of the day.  Isn't it a beautiful evening?!  You'll notice that my buddies are already fueling the plane for the following morning.  Over the course of three days I used about 10 drums of Jet Fuel out of Mahak Baru.  All of it was pumped by hand by these guys, a very physically demanding process!  It would be very difficult for us to do what we do with the help of so many people, from you guys that pray for us and give generously to the ministry, to the mechanics that keep the planes going, to the pastors and helpers at each strip interior!

Well, the clear, beautiful evenings almost always give way to foggy, ugly early mornings like this.  Isn't that quite a contrast?  The only difference between the two pictures is about 12 hours, and a whole lot of early morning fog!  Even though we were ready to go early, we always had to wait until about 9:00 am before we were able to take off the first time, due to the fog.

Speaking of helpers, here's Pak Taman Bang helping to tie down my plane that evening.  He's a good friend of all the MAF pilots and is always a joyful face greeting us when we land.  He helps with fueling, loading, and getting the passengers and barang (stuff) weighed and ready.

And this is Ibu Tinan Kule.  The smile says it all!  She's a wonderful lady who loves the Lord and loves serving people.  We are very grateful for her help with the passengers out of Mahak Baru, and of course the ever-so-delicious fresh pineapple that is often waiting for the pilots, as well as fried rice and tea.

As I mentioned, each night we made sure to have time for a dip in the river.  In fact, that's where we bathed.  Hey, it's either there, or out of a 55 gallon drum, and the river was nice and clear and refreshing!  Here's Britton with his good friend Markus.  He's the same age as Britton and was having so much fun showing Britton how to spear fish under water, make all sorts of toys with sticks and grass and whatnot, and generally just having fun in the village.

I have one more post I'll do about the village Church Conference flying.  Check back soon to see/read the rest.


Anonymous said...

Sometimes looking at these pictures, my first reaction is to be sad over the impoverished state of some of these villagers, but then look at the smiles on their faces, and look at how content they are with so little, making the most of everything that comes their way. We that how so much, and so many opportunities, are not content and do not smile so readily. We find reasons to complain, criticize and (self)pity. We could all learn a lot from these humble brothers!

Greg and Linda, Hayley, Jacob, Zachariah and Aaron Wilson said...

Its so interesting reading about your life as an MAF pilot. My husband will be a miss. pilot also in Northern Australia. We are on our way there to reach out to the Aboriginal people of the area. We have 4 kids and homeschool. God bless you & your family in your work.