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

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Now You See it...Now You Don't! A Miracle?

The past two weeks (and still counting) have been kinda rough on our family.  We've had a stubborn stomach bug that just seems to keep going around through our kids over and over again.  It's still hanging around.  But on Tuesday night, just as we were ready to collapse into bed, Tyler took it to the next level.  He swallowed a coin.  First it got stuck in his lower throat, then as we were calling a doctor, it slid painfully down into his stomach.  It was 8:00pm.  Now what?


After talking to the doctor, Joy began the long process of getting a "professional opinion."  First she took him to the doctor's office, which is not located at the hospital.  The doctor had to give her a note to take to the hospital for an x-ray.  After getting to the hospital she had to wait for quite a while because the person that takes the x-rays was at the police station.  Never did figure out why.  Anyway, she eventually did get the x-ray. (When you get something like an x-ray here, you pay cash, and then they just hand it to you to do with it as you see fit.  It's sort of like buying something from the store in the U.S.  Now it's yours to take home.)  Then she took it back to the doctors office.  He took one look and said, "I hoped it would be smaller.  It looked like a 500 Rupiah piece, which is a little bigger than a quarter.  (Clearly visible in the copy of the x-ray at left.)  Anyway, for the next 48 hours Joy "panned for gold," as she so creatively put it.  I'll spare you the details, but suffice it to say, there's no way she could have missed something like a coin.  And yet, 48 hours later, no sign of it.  We were praying like crazy that it would come out, because the alternatives were not exciting.  If it got lodged in the intestines, or even worse, perforated the intestines, then we'd be looking at surgery--not an exciting prospect here in Tarakan.  Our Program manager began to look into the Medivac options and we were thinking of starting the paperwork process on Friday to leave for Singapore.  But we kept praying.

Joy and Tyler went back for another x-ray on Thursday evening. This time, we all (including the doctor), expected to see it somewhere down low, as it was "working it's way through" his system.  But it was a bit worrisome that it hadn't re-appeared after 48 hours.

When the x-ray was held up to the light, everyone squinted to find the coin.  It was gone!  You don't need to squint to see metal on an x-ray--it shines brightly!  The obvious explanation was that the "gold miner" must have missed it.  But trust me, I saw how that process was was a tight gold-mining operation, without room for error!  And Tyler does not make trips to the bathroom alone, especially under these conditions.  He was afraid he was going to die (that's another story), and he was all to excited to find the coin too.  So where did it go?

We waited another 24 hours and took another x-ray just to be sure.  No sign of the coin!  Of course, us technical, logical-minded aviation guys immediately began thinking through the scientific reasons why this might have happened.  Those coins feel like aluminum.  Is it possible the stomach acid totally dissolved the coin?  Maybe, but do you really think it could have done that in just 48 hours?  And the doctor didn't seem to think that made sense.  Why are we so afraid to give God credit for working miracles in today's day and age?  Couldn't the One that made Tyler, simply have answered our prayers?  We'd like to think so!  Now could you join us in praying that we get over the stomach bug?  It's wearing us down slowly...and right now at least four of us have it.  Let's ask for another miracle!

Here's Tyler, back to his normal mischievous self, earlier this afternoon.  In his hands are his weapons--in this case a wooden sword we made, a stick, and a plastic gun.  I don't know why, but he just absolutely has to have a "weapon" of some kind--usually two or three at a time, in his hands, all the time.  For Hudson it's cars, trucks and planes.  For Britton, it's animals.  But for Tyler, it's weapons.  He like to "defend his brothers and sisters" from anything and everything.  I guess he got a heavy dose of the God-give desire as a boy to protect, provide and defend.  He definitely thrives on that!

While Joy and Tyler were getting the second x-ray, Britton and Tanner and I were hanging out in the front yard.  (The other kids were at their friends house).  I happened to be messing with my macro lens that Alan and Theda brought over, so I snapped a few shots of the boys.  I told Joy to pick one of Tanner, but she refused to narrow it down beyond these three.  I guess that'll make the grandparents happy. :)  These definitely capture Tanner's spirit.  He's a very easy-going, caring little guy...loves hanging out with his dad and working on projects around the house.

And here's Britton.  He's turning into quite the responsible, handsome young man.  His passion is animals, especially reptiles.  He takes good care of his reticulated python and four turtles, as well as various other "guests" that come and go temporarily.  He also helps with the other pets and with his younger siblings, which are probably much more work and less fun than his reptiles. :)

Today has been an overcast and drizzly Saturday.  We enjoy days like this once in a while.  It's a nice break from the hot and humid sunny days.  Anyway, I went out back for a few minutes and took a few shots of some of Joy's tropical flowers.  I like taking time to enjoy the simple beauty of God's creation--weather on the scale of an expansive rainbow spreading across the Borneo jungle as viewed from my "office window", or the simple "macro" beauty that's all around us.  Isn't God amazing?

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Ministry Trip to Kampung Baru

This past weekend Britton, Hudson, and my father-in-law, Alan, and I joined a group of MAFers on a ministry trip interior.  (Joy and the other kids would have loved to come along, but we had been fighting a stomach bug all week so it didn't work out this time.)  Eight of us piled into a 206, while the other 14 flew in the Caravan.  The picturesque village of Kampung Baru (pictured below) is nestled in the highlands of Northeastern Kalimantan, just a few miles from the Malaysian border.

As we were walking from the airstrip to the village an elderly man and woman approached, smiling broadly and greeting us warmly.  After visiting for a few minutes we were saying our goodbyes when our new found friend very casually mentioned that "a while back there were some Americans here...and I had them in my home and we fed them."  We thought that was a bit random, but who knows?  Then he mentioned, "they were pilots too, but they fell out of their airplane."  OK!!??  Now you have our attention!  We asked him when this happened?  "Oh, a while ago," He said.  "Back when the Japanese were here."

Unbelievable!  We've heard the story mentioned by numerous people second hand, we've read the book, "The Airmen And the Headhunters: A True Story of Lost Soldiers, Heroic Tribesmen and the Unlikeliest Rescue of World War II", we've seen the show "The Airmen and the Headhunters" on PBS's "Secrets of the Dead, ...but here was a guy who lived it first hand!  He was seven years old at the time, and his father was one of the men that risked his life keeping a small group of American aviators alive in the jungle against all odds, while the Japanese relentlessly sought to find and kill them.  As a boy, he was tasked with taking rice to the Americans hidden deep in the jungle to keep them alive.  It's a really incredible story and I recommend you read the book, available at Amazon (linked above).  Last year PBS aired a show that originally aired on BBC about the same story. We flew the camera crew around when they were here.  Again, it's a remarkable story, worth seeing...though be aware there are a few graphic images shown of headhunting.  You can view the show online at the link above, or purchase a DVD copy through Amazon here.

Anyway, it was amazing to talk to this guy about his experience, especially when you see how it ties into everything else about the weekend.

Life in the interior is all about community and relationships.

Their generosity is humbling.  These dear ladies came together to cook up a storm for us on their wood fires.  From the stir fried veggies to the boiled pig liver with pineapple, it was all cooked and served out of big, giving, generous hearts.

This is a bit long, but I think you'll find it very fascinating!

Earlier I mentioned that the "Airmen and the Headhunters" story had a connection to what we were doing out in Kampung Baru this past weekend.  Amazingly, it all ties together.  In 1939 John Francis Willfinger, a missionary with the C&MA, left the comforts of America for a remote part of Indonesia--Northeast Kalimantan.  Over the next few years he served tirelessly, learning the language, earning the trust of the Dayak people, and pouring out his heart so the people could know the peace and joy of Christ.  Several years later the Japanese had taken Indonesia, and with it the island of Borneo.  Willfinger, along with a handful of other missionaries scattered throughout Northeast Kalimantan had the chance to flee.  They clearly understood that to stay would mean almost certain death.

Well, John Francis Willfinger decided against fleeing.  He wrote in a letter, "If I hide, naturally the saints will be forced to lie, to disobey orders if they hide me.  In short I would be forced to drag them into sin, whereas my intention upon leaving my country and my family was only to make mankind righteous and not to bring them into sin, even though I pay for it with my life."  He then surrendered himself to the Japanese and was subsequently executed.

Willfinger's willingness to give his life for the Gospel, had a profound impact on the people to whom he ministered.  To this day many strong Christians in the area point back to Willfinger's  ultimate example of faith as the beginning of the the Christian church in that part of Kalimantan.  But suddenly, the Dayaks found themselves without missionaries.  Along with Willfinger, several others were martyred in other areas of Kalimantan or were imprisoned in harsh, Japanese internment camps.  But the seeds had been planted.

Near the end of the war a group of American airmen were shot down over the jungles of Borneo (actually they were hit over Brunei, but their plane made it as far as the highlands of Northeast Kalimantan before going down.)  They bailed out into the jungles of the "headhunters", one of the most feared places in the world for a pilot to be shot down.  Stories abounded of the ruthless headhunting rituals practiced by people in the area...the pilots were sure to face certain death.  But a strange thing happened.  Quickly discovered in the jungle, the Dayaks recognized the american flag patches on the airmen's uniforms and understood that these men were from the same country as the missionaries that had given their lives in the not so distant past.

One thing led to another and in the end they decided to hide and protect the airmen from the ruthless pursuit of the Japanese.  They did it at the risk of death to themselves and their family, and eventually not only plaid a roll in one of the strangest rescues of WWII, but also defeated the Japanese at their own game.  When you talk with local Dayaks about the history of the Christian church in their area, it all ties together.  Because of John Francis Willfinger willingly giving his life for the people he loved, many placed their faith in Christ.  Though young in their faith and not understanding much of the Gospel, it was this faith and their appreciation of Willfinger and other missionaries that had given their lives, that compelled them to help the Americans.

After WWII, the church continued to grow for many years in Kalimantan, with little to no influence from western missionaries.  As the church grew, national Christian believers began to do the preaching, teaching and missionary work that had once been done by foreigners.  An interior Bible School sprang up in the village of Kampung Baru, dedicated to teaching and training these national church leaders.  Last year, an Indonesian church in Jakarta partnered with this Bible School to build a new, large dormitory and classroom facility (pictured below).  The school is named after John Francis Willfinger. In this community and throughout the area, each person is familiar with the story and is eager to talk about the significant impact that Willfinger's life AND death had and continues to have in their community to this very day!

The school is a four-year intensive program that prepares men and women for evangelism, church-planting and pastoring.  They obviously study the Bible extensively, but they are also taught animal husbandry, gardening and other "tools" to be self-sufficient and pass along to their future church members.  There are many exciting stories from students in this school.

One young lady comes from a far away town.  Seven years ago she became a Christian.  Her family are devout followers of a major religion here.  She was disowned by her family and told to never return.  She found her way to the Long Bawan are, and eventually into the Bible School.  When word got to her father that she had enrolled in the Bible School, he was furious and said he would come and find her and deal with the problem.  The threat, though veiled, was real.  Everyone knew what that meant.  The students and faculty prayed fervently, and her father got as far as Tarakan, and then seemingly changed his mind.  Since the day she became a Christian, she has never again seen her family.  You would never know that from her smile--a continuous, contagious smile that tells of a soul that has found true joy and peace in the midst of pain and the real and ongoing threat of suffering.  This year she will graduate from the Bible School.  Her plan:  to return to her village and share the Gospel with her family and community.  She is following in the footsteps of John Francis Willfinger, sharing the Gospel with people she loves, even if the cost may be her life.  Wow!

MAF plays a vital role in this school's ability to function in such a remote location.  We fly students, teachers, supplies, etc into and out of the area.  So recently we were asked to come share at the church services for the beginning of the new semester.  That was the reason for our ministry trip last weekend.  Phew!  Long story, but I thought it was pretty interesting.

The local pastors and faculty were very encouraged to have Alan there.    As pastor of a large church in America, their hope is that Alan's stories and experiences here will compel others in America to pray for them, their school, and their students.

On Saturday night I shared about the life of Nate Saint (one of MAF's first pilots) and his friends that were martyred in Ecuador in 1956.  I shared a brief devotional related to that and then showed the film "End of the Spear" with Indonesian subtitles.  It had a big impact on the students, faculty, and community.  On Sunday morning, our program manager preached, while several wives did a Sunday school and message for the children.  It was a very encouraging time for all of us, and we look forward to continuing to work with this school and others in the future.

Of course, on a lighter note there was some time to enjoy the animals and "easy life" for a bit as well.

If you read my last post, you may be wondering about the situation in Long Alango.  I'm thrilled to say that things have greatly improved!  Yesterday I flew the medical team back out of Alango.  Most of the people are getting better.  Many in the village came to see them off and to thank MAF.  I received many thanks from numerous people for the role that MAF played in that situation.  All said, over 200 people were struck with the violent vomiting and diarrhea last week in a very short amount of time.  By the time I flew the medical team in on Thursday with the first load of IVs and medicine, one child had already died.  The next day, another one of our pilots, Brad, flew nearly 800 pounds of additional IVs and medicine into the village.  Praise the Lord, no one else died.  Today I was in Alango again.  A good friend of mine there told me, "There is no doubt that many would have died if MAF hadn't flown in those IVs and the medical team.  We've never seen anything like this in our villages, and many of the older people and children would have died without the help."  Thanks for your prayers and the role you play in allowing us to be here.  This is why we serve!

Friday, August 20, 2010

Alan Becomes Co-Pilot for a Day!

Yesterday my father in law, Alan, was able to ride along with me on a full flight day in Northeast Kalimantan.  Obviously I've had the privilege of carrying many different people and things over the past few years.  But this was the first time Alan has ever flown with me--and just like last year when my dad had the chance to come along--there's something extra fun and special about showing your family first-hand, what you're out here doing...and why.  Stories, blog posts, and video only go so far.  At some point you have to experience it first hand.  I really enjoyed having Alan along.  As for his opinion...well, I think the smile says it all, but you can ask him directly if you wish.  I don't think I scared him too badly. :)

After flying 30 minutes from Tarakan to Malinau (our major hub-town interior) we loaded up with a group of government workers and flew an hour and a quarter over some of the most rugged and remote jungles on earth, to land in the village of Mahak Baru, pictured below.  It had rained a lot the night before, so Alan got the full feel of water and mud flying up over the windscreen and wings as we were slipping and sliding safely to a stop.

Many of you saw the "All Over the World" video that we shared last year on furlough.  Well, the last Indonesian person to speak at the end of that video was Pak Taman Bang, thanking YOU for making it possible for MAF to serve him and the people of his village.  Yesterday Alan got to meet Taman Bang personally.  I had previously mentioned to him that Alan is the lead pastor of one of the churches that plays a significant role in allowing us to be here.  Because Taman Bang understands how important that role is, he was very excited to to meet and greet my father-in-law.  Taman Bang is a dear Christian man that helps MAF immensely in Mahak Baru--arranging loads, weighing people and stuff, preparing tickets and manifests, helping to fuel/de-fuel the airplane etc. etc.  Taman Bang and his sister Tinan Kule also make it a habit to almost always greet the pilots with hot coffee or tea, and a packet of fried rice and/or fresh, juicy, sweet pineapple (the sweetest, juiciest pineapple in the world!)  Yesterday was no exception as Alan got to experience the love and generosity of a people who don't need to be able to speak his language to communicate clearly their appreciation for him coming along and seeing the ministry of MAF.

From Mahak we hopped 15 minutes over to Long Sule, perched on the top of a small plateau above the village.  To walk between these villages would take about 4 to 6 days.

The people of Long Sule had also heard that Alan was coming, and they were equally excited to see him.

Two of the local pastors were excited to have a picture taken with Alan, hoping that he'll carry the image back to his congregation and thank them for the role that they play in the ministry of MAF.  Most of the pastors that serve in the remote village churches in Kalimantan are essentially national missionaries in their own country.  In most cases, they are from far away places, having been trained and prepared at a Bible School or Seminary, they are then sent out by their congregation for several years at a time to shepherd and/or plant a village church.  They often go many years without seeing their family or hearing their own native tongue spoken by others.  It's humbling to see their heart and dedication to serving people, and how little it takes (speaking of material goods) to keep them going.  They are far more efficient and effective than most western missionaries could ever be in similar circumstances.  However, they make it clear time and again that they would not be able to serve in this capacity without the help of MAF.  And that's why we're here!  Routine flights that we take these pastors on from one village to another--15 minutes, 30 minutes, or an hour--would take weeks or even months to do the old fashioned way.  It's a real privilege to partner with Godly men and women in such a critical way!

On our way back to Malinau we hit a wall of smoke.  Two days ago, people near Malinau started burning their ladangs (fields), making way for a new crop of rice.  It usually begins in August or September.  Every day that we don't get widespread rain, it gets worse.  So yesterday it was already getting pretty bad.   Look at the picture and imagine flying directly into the smoke.  If your instinct is to quickly suck in a gulp of air and hold your breath...well, that's a good instinct.  Just hope you can hold it for the next 20 minutes or so.  Good luck!

Upon arriving in Malinau, we found out our plans had changed.  There was great concern about some sort of quickly spreading sickness in the village of Long Alango.  Earlier in the morning everyone was fine there, but already by 1:30 in the afternoon, over 50 people were sick with severe vomiting and diarrhea.  People in the village had used the HF radio to call out to the hospital for help.  So we loaded up with two doctors and a nurse, along with several hundred pounds of medicine and made our way back through the smoke to the beautiful area of Long Alango, just visible at the bottom of the picture below.  The very short and marginal landing strip is located on the right side of the river, two bends up to the north.

Long Alango is a tight strip!  Any rain or unusual winds can/should cause a pilot to abort a landing here. In fact, a few weeks ago I was turned back four times in one week trying to land at Alango because of wet conditions.  It's just too short and slippery to maintain safe margins under those conditions.  Fortunately the weather cooperated yesterday.  Although there were nearby rain showers, the strip was dry, and the sky was even smoke-free in this area.

Landing from the North makes for a very exciting approach--especially for someone who's never been here before.  The approach path has you following the river in, unable to see the runway till turning onto a very short final, and descending closer and closer to the trees and hills on both sides.  Because of benchmark altitudes and key positions along the path, it's actually very safe, but needs to be flown very precisely, especially if you're landing at gross weight as we were yesterday.

Once again, the local pastor was there to greet Alan--in this case Pendeta (Pastor) Yah Yah.  I can't overemphasize what a Godly and encouraging man Pendata Yah Yah is.  I've had the opportunity to spend the night at his house several times, and I can tell you that he not only cares deeply for the people of Long Alango and surrounding villages, but also for the pilots and their families who serve with MAF. In fact, just last week he came to the airstrip to ask me for a list of prayer requests so that he and his congregation could have a special time of prayer for each MAF family and the ministry of MAF.  It's humbling!

Well, this time Yah Yah showed a concern and worry that I've never seen in him before.  He asked me and the MAF family to pray specifically for his village and the unknown sickness that is sweeping through it.  Many people had gathered in Alango from surrounding villages to celebrate Indonesia's Independence day on August 17th.  They concluded their celebrations on Wednesday night.  Thursday morning people began getting sick.  By the time we got there about 3:00 Thursday afternoon, more than 50 people were sick and the number was quickly increasing.  Already one child had died.  The sick were being quarantined in a large building.  Officially, they do not know what the sickness is, though a friend of mine in the village mentioned Cholera.  It fits the apparent symptoms, but I don't know what the actual diagnosis will be.  The bottom line is, they need prayer.  Please pray for the medical team that we flew into Long Alango, that they would be able to quickly discern the cause for and treat the disease or sickness that has stricken so many.  And pray that somehow through this ordeal, that God's name would be glorified!

This was/is a remarkable example of the reason that MAF is here.  Within hours of a desperate call for help from this remote village, we were able to deliver a medical team with supplies directly to their location.  There is no other operator here that can land in Long Alango.  Without MAF, help would have taken days to reach Alango by river.  Perhaps for many that would be too late.

In other news, our plan was to pack everyone into a 206 and fly to PaUpan to spend the night tonight.  They were really looking forward to us coming.  We were too.  We were going to hang out with our friends there, have a church service tonight, show a film, etc. etc.  Unfortunately, our kids have been taking turns battling a stomach bug all week, so we had to cancel that trip.  We'll re-schedule soon, but it'll be after Alan and Theda are gone.  However, on Saturday, I will be taking Alan, Britton and Hudson out to a village near Long Bawan, where we'll be doing essentially the same thing.  Please pray that we are able to make that happen--that we don't get sick before hand, and that the weather and equipment cooperate.  I'll post more on that after the fact.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Happy Independence Day Indonesia!

Today, August 17th, is Indonesia's Independence day.  Normally, there would be a bunch of activities here in the various neighborhoods, but because of the Ramadan fasting, they've pretty much cancelled everything this year.  So we're simply enjoying a quiet day off.

As promised, here are a few shots from our walk through the water village on Sunday evening.

I cannot overemphasize how friendly the people are in this neighborhood...not unlike all the other neighborhoods in Tarakan.  In fact, they are always soooo glad to see us, that we wind up getting a sort of happy child-mob following us through the narrow walkways, with a loud buzzing sound of enthusiasm preceding and trailing us as moms and dads quickly prepare their kids to ikut (join or follow) the procession, and if they're "lucky" to get their picture taken.

Of course, it's not just the kids that want to have their picture taken.  Every picture on this post that involves people "posing" was the direct result of being asked "please take my picture."  They're hoping that the next time we come, we'll print out the pictures and give them a copy...which of course we will.

Isn't that just so precious?  Hudson and Baca.

The houses in this area are build over the bay using iron wood posts that are sunk into the muck.  They literally have everything they need right here in their village, from little gas stations, to carpenters, a mosque, a market, etc. etc.

And of course, many of these folks make their living from the sea.  If only this was a scratch and sniff photo, then you would truly begin to experience the ambiance. :)

Monday, August 16, 2010

Welcome Baca and Grandma Hlavka!

As usual, this was a busy flight week as I flew to many villages throughout Northeast Kalimantan.  Here's a few random shots from the week...

This was a much anticipated week for the kids and us.  On Friday we welcomed Grandma and Baca Hlavka (the name "Baca"started with Britton when he was a year or two old, and it's stuck every since) to Tarakan.  This is Grandma's third time to Tarakan, but the first time Baca has been to Indonesia.  So of course the kids were very excited to show them the sights and sounds of our island!

We started with a walk through the local mangrove park. 

Of course, we saw the monkeys...this time only the Proboscis.  You may remember the horrific encounter we had here a few months ago with the sadistic Macaque trying to drown a live rat?

Fortunately none of that this time.  Here's the "king" of the group.  Check out that nose!!

Of course, there were plenty of mud skipper fish, skipping around above water and showing off their unique ability to "walk" and breath out of water.

Hannah's been sporting a new hair style lately.  It's the shortest she's had it in years.  Isn't she adorable? 

Here's a few flowers from Joy's flower bed. 

Yesterday evening we took Alan and Theda (Grandma and Baca) for a walk through one of the water villages here.  We just started the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, so things tend to be a little quieter during the daytime, as most people are fasting.  However, the pasar (market) in front of the village was beginning to bustle as people were buying stuff to "buka puasa" (open the fast) an hour or so later.  Anyway, I have some neat pictures from that walk, so I'll do another post on that.

This week will be both fun and busy as we try to cram a bunch of stuff into the two weeks that Baca is here.  On Thursday Alan will be flying along with me for a full day, and this weekend we're all going into the village of PaUpan overnight.  We'll be bringing the film equipment along and having a service there, as well as giving Alan and Theda the opportunity to experience village life.  Stay tuned.  Should be fun!