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

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Christmas Flying

Merry Christmas! It's been a busy week here in NE Kalimantan, Indonesia. Typically we get a ton of flight requests close to Christmas. There's no way we can do them all. However, we do our best to get as many as possible, prioritizing the church-related flying. I had the privilege of flying many National pastors and their families this week, right up through Christmas Eve. Above, left is a picture of Pastor Angit Aje and his family. I flew them from Long Nawang to Long Sule to hold Christmas services and visit family there.

Most of the interior pastors are actually missionaries themselves, serving far from their home village, culture, and even local language. Many of them serve for several years or more at a time, before getting the chance to return to see family and friends from their home town or village. So it's a joy to be able to take some of them back and forth for this reason. Others, I was actually taking to villages to hold special Christmas services for local folks. Either way I was blessed to be able to help in this small way.

On Christmas Eve I took a few shots of the terrain over which I carried these folks. Keep in mind, these were all shot in one day (actually just in the morning of one day,) and this just represents a small glimpse of the vastness and ruggedness of the terrain over which MAF flies daily here. Indeed, without MAF, much of the ministry going on interior would be severely hampered in Northeast Kalimantan.

Above, another shot of our picturesque "volcano mountain." Below, numerous waterfalls can be spotted, cascading hundreds and hundreds of feet down sheer rock walls.

If you look at he size of the trees at the base of the rock spire below, and imagine that they're probably at least 80 to 100 feet tall--or more, you get an idea of just how tall it is. The face of this wall is actually slightly inverted when looked at from the side. It would be an incredible climb!

In this shot below, four falls are visible. This is unbelievably rugged and inaccessible terrain! Keep in mind these are different than all the other waterfalls posted here. The terrain is just endless cliffs, mountains, jungles rivers and waterfalls, so there's plenty to choose from.

One of my favorite falls. It's visible from 12,000 feet above if the weather is nice, but rarely is it as clear and well-lit as it was on Christmas Eve.

Anyway, trust you had/are having a wonderful Christmas celebration with family and/or friends. Thanks for the part you play in allowing us to be here. We feel truly blessed!

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Wrastling! And a View from our Roof.

An all to common occurrence in and around our house these days is "wrastling." Anyone on the floor is fair game to be "wrastled" by the twins. I managed to catch this sequence on camera last week when we were at the hotel (you can tell it's at the hotel, b/c no one has carpet here in Tarakan--it would mold in no time.) It all started when Tyler jumped on an unsuspecting Tanner.

It only took a few seconds for Tanner to wiggle free, and then grab the legs of his fleeing foe. It's worth noting that Tyler weighs quite a bit more than Tanner. But what he lacks in mass, Tanner more than makes up for in attitude. He's an animal!!

So within moments, the tide had turned and Tanner was busting his move on the now screaming Tyler.

And before you knew it, the victor was sitting on top of his prize, happily basking in his glory. To be clear, we generally don't sit around watching this play out for entertainment, but it is pretty funny. I guess boys will be boys.

To completely change the subject, I climbed up on our roof on Friday and took a few shots as the sun set over mainland Borneo. Note the new Mosque being built not far from our house. One of the first things to be operational was the loudspeakers on top.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Hey Mr., That'll Cost you $5!

We just got back from a few, long-overdue vacation days. While in Balikpapan (the closest city to Tarakan that has a decent "Western" type hotel, and even a Pizza Hut...but no McDonalds,) we took the chance to go to a crocodile "farm." Cost all of about $2 for our family of seven to get in. After walking around the holding "pens" and seeing a ton of crocs of various sizes and types, we settled down to enjoy some good ol'-fashioned mid-day, "throw the huge hungry, growling, angry-l00king croc a chicken" game. I wish you could have heard those suckers growl! I included one of the "nice" pictures below. The ones with chicken feet sticking out, and feathers flying...well, you'll have to see those some other time. Don't want to give your kids nightmares.

Let me tell you--it can be addictive. I mean, how many places in America can you barter with a guy to give you chickens at a buck each, and then chuck them into a pond full of giant, and very hungry crocs!! Man! Now that's livin'! For us, not the chickens. To be clear, the chickens were dead (to the disappointment of my boys and myself.) Ya, they probably got them for free from the local chicken farm--the ones that died from a mysterious illness. Can you say "bird flu?" I think I'm beginning to cough. Oh, man was it fun!

Each of the kids got to throw at least one chicken into the crocs. Good wholesome family fun!

Then I asked one of the dudes selling us the chickens, if it'd be possible to hold a croc and take some pics with it. Not one of the big ones, just a baby (though if Joy weren't along, Britton and I might just have succumbed to the temptation to try a Steve Irwin tackle on one of the green, slime-covered beasts!) Keep in mind, this is not the U.S. where everyone is scared of being sued. People figure if you're dumb enough to do something, go ahead...but you're on your own if things go bad. So the guy saw our white skin and thought, "now here's an opportunity to make some dough."

"Sure," he says. "But it'll cost RP 50,000." That's a little less than five bucks. Knowing how much stuff costs around here, I knew that this price was WAY high--basically a "western" price for gullible tourists. I like to "help" people out, but I don't like to get ripped off either. So I offered him half that, to which he immediately said yes. Oops, guess we were still getting ripped off. But come on, two bucks total for all the kids to hold a croc and take their picture with it. Seemed worth it.

Poor little guy got handed around from kid to kid, each of whom had to touch and feel it all over, and ooh and awe over it. It was great fun.

At some point after Joy got done with her turn (I was a bit jealous of that little bloke!), she told me to take a look around. We're quite used to being stared at here, but this was hilarious. An entire group of young school kids had come with their teachers--presumably for a field trip to see crocs, not white kids. However, the Indonesian kids were far more interested in watching us, than they were of seeing the crocs. Indeed, everyone there was getting their money's by watching crocs, and everyone else by watching us watching the crocs. What fun!

And then, it happened. The inevitable cell phone picture-taking paperazzi! Everyone has a cell phone, and nothing is as cool as having pictures of yourself with the "bule" (white) kids on your cell phone. So the chicken dude that had just "sold" me the chance to photograph my kids with a croc, asked if he could take some pictures of himself with my kids. He was already down there snapping away as he touched and pulled and oohed and awed and generally gawked at these critters. I couldn't believe the irony! And I just couldn't help myself. I said, "Sure, but it'll cost you RP 50,000."
Suddenly, it all sank in...for him, and for everyone else watching the spectacle. He was doing the exact same thing to my kids, that my kids were doing to the baby croc. After playing the joke out for a few more seconds--telling him that maybe I could let him have the pics for half price today since he'd gone half price for me, I finally told him I was joking. But we weren't the only ones that thought it was funny. The whole place was laughing--even croc dude himself. Below, he's checking out his new pics on his cell phone.

I'm not exactly sure how or why they go together, but the croc farm was also home to two elephants. The kids got to hang with the baby elephant for a bit, and were all to amused as the little guy kept trying to spray them from his drinking water bucket.

Of course, not to be outdone again, Joy had to get in close and personal with the "wildlife." But this time she got more than she bargained for. Turns out baby elephant was pretty fond of Joy and wasn't about to let her get away.

It took a minute or two for the elephant dude to pry the elephant's trunk away from his loving embrace of Joy. Of course, Britton was right in the thick of it as well, telling both mom and the elephant to calm down. Everything would be o.k. And it was o.k. It was a great day at the alligator farm, and a great couple of days of vacation.

Monday, December 8, 2008

Idul Adha

Today is the Muslim holiday of Idul Adha (or Eid al-Adha in some parts of the Muslim world.) This is a holiday in which they celebrate Abraham's obedience to God in the willingness to sacrifice his son, and God's provision of a lamb in his stead. It's one of the biggest holidays in the Islamic world. Hundreds of millions of Muslims around the world could be found meeting at their local Mosques this morning for a special prayer service. After that, the festival continued back at their homes. Depending on their wealth (or lack there of,) each family (or groups of families) sacrificed an animal. They ranged from small to large, but the most common were goats and cattle.

I had the chance to wander around a bit with the camera this morning. Here's some shots from right around our part of town.

The women and children are always behind the men. They are always completely seperated in the religious settings.

There are hundreds of mosques throughout our small town of Tarakan. Each and every mosque was literally overflowing this morning. In many cases the streets were blocked off so that hundreds or thousands of people could throw down their prayer mats right out on the roads.

I must admit it did feel a bit awkward at times--being the only westerner AND non-Muslim in a crowd of tens of thousands. However, as is almost always the case here, folks were overly friendly and very polite. It wasn't hard to take pictures, because most people asked me to take their picture before I even had the chance to look their way.

At the largest mosque in town, there were tens of thousands of people--in the mosque, the courtyard, and filling up the streets in all directions from the mosque. Loud speakers blaring the prayers could be heard from anywhere in town.

Later in the morning, Joy and the kids and I went around the Muslim communities in our neighborhood to visit with people. Again, folks were so nice and polite. It was a great opportunity to continue to build relationships.

Of course, there was much slaughtering going on.

Later today this meat will be divided up among all the people of that neighborhood. Even those too poor to have a sacrifice will be given meat from those that could afford it. Then they will feast together.

If anything this should be a stark reminder to you and I about why we're here. Please continue to pray for our friends and neighbors, that they may know the joy and peace that we have and are about to celebrate on December 25th. Also, continue to pray for wisdom for us as we continue to build and strengthen relationships with our neighbors, that we might know when, how and what to say. In the meantime, we're just living as a light for HIM!

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Random Pictures

I don't have time to write a lot, but figured I'd throw up a few random pics from happenings in the last week or so. It's been busy here! When I first got here we had eight pilots, two full-time maintenance specialists, and five airplanes. As of today, we have just four pilots (plus one temporary fill-in pilot--my good friend Isaac Rogers from an MAF Papua program,) and six planes. We've also been without any maintenance specialists for most of the time since May!

Don't worry. Everyone is accounted's just that two guys were transferred to other programs, several others are on furlough, and one just got married. Another has had to deal with major surgery for his wife, and a recent death in the family. All that to say, we covet your continued prayers for our program, as we strive to meet the many flight requests each day, while maintaining our high level of safety on a skeleton crew.

Despite our small numbers we have much to be thankful for. We are so blessed to have such an awesome team that works so well together here, and the best ministry support team out there--that's YOU! We really count it a privilege to be here ministering through MAF. Thanks for being a part of it!

If you'd like to see what we did for Thanksgiving, and a few of our traditions for Christmas, take a moment to go to Joy's blog at:

Above: Several days ago I had the chance to capture a shot of Isaac as he flew below me on the same route. Isaac and Amber and their two young boys were willing to come over here from Papua to help out with our flying for a few months until we can start to get some of our furlough guys back. We're sure glad for their help!

Above and below, a few shots from typical days of flying and serving the people here in Northeast Kalimantan.

The mangrove area around Tarakan and throughout East Kalimantan is home to some pretty weird animals. These are just two of them. The proboscis monkey has a huge nose.

The mud skipper is a fish can live both in AND out of the water. It loves to come up out of the water at low tide and "walk" or skip around on the mud. They are weird creatures indeed!