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

Friday, November 28, 2014

Happy Thanksgiving! And a Look Around Our Yard

Thanksgiving day here was just like any other day--the kids went to school and I flew.  Being part of a multi-national team in a foreign country, it's not really a holiday that's on the local radar.   And it can really sneak up on you without noticing...which is impossible for sure in the U.S.!  A few weeks ago we did have a combined U.S. and Canadian Thanksgiving meal with the relevant families on our team, splitting the difference between the two holiday dates in our home countries.  We had lots of great food and fellowship!  But on Thursday (the actual U.S. Thanksgiving day) Joy and Hannah just cooked up a nice little thanksgiving meal for just our family, complete with two little roasted chickens, mashed potatoes and several other fixins and pumpkin pie.  Now we have to start playing Christmas music around the house all the time, so that Christmas can't sneak up on us. :-)  

This Thanksgiving we're thankful that God has brought us here to Uganda and is allowing us to be a part of His work in East Africa!  We're thankful for YOU, our awesome ministry support team, who make it possible for us to be here through your generous gifts and faithful prayers!  We're thankful that we have all settled in and feel like this is "home" and have made some great friends!  We're thankful for each of our children and for our family back in the U.S.!  We're thankful for the special little foster boy, Gift, who God has placed with us for a time.  And we're thankful for all of the BIG things that Gift has taught our family, through his absolute love of life and his overwhelming joy in even the smallest things that we so often take for granted!  He's deaf, and has cerebral palsy, and has had an unimaginably tough life so far, but he is so overflowing with joy and smiles and laughs that he literally can't contain himself! He quite literally bounces around and squeals and bubbles over with excitement at even the simplest of things!  And he has the biggest, sweetest, most serving heart we've ever seen!  

Most of all, we're thankful for the unfailing, unending, underserving love of Jesus, and that He's chosen to adopt us into His family!  In the same way that our little Gift can't contain his joy at being a special part of a loving family,  we hope that we too will overflow with bubbling joy and excitement--no matter our circumstances--as we contemplate just how blessed we ARE to be children of His, unconditionally loved and accepted by our heavenly Father! 

What are you thankful for this year?

Well, while some of you are having a white Thanksgiving and freezing your tails off, I thought I'd give you a quick look around our yard (or garden as they call it here) in Uganda so you can be jealous of the beautiful greenery, and fine, summer temperatures we're enjoying. :-)

We were super blessed to get a house with a big yard here in Uganda.  During our time in Indonesia the best feature of our house was it's close proximity to great friends, both national and international. The little yard and obstructed views there, however, weren't really the cat's meow.  Nonetheless it was home and so we loved it.  But now this is home, and we certainly won't take things like a big yard for granted!  It's great for the kids, and there's always birds singing, and butterflies passing through, and monkeys steeling our fruit and garbage, and other critters that we enjoy watching.  We also enjoy a pretty descent view over the hills of Kampala, with gorgeous sunrises and beautiful nighttime lightning shows that are even better when the power is out in our part of town...which is pretty often.   We feel so blessed to have the large area for the kids to play, and the green things to look at, and the breeze to cool things off in the afternoons!  (Our big tree has been dropping purple flowers for a few months now, which look quite pretty scattered throughout the yard.)

One of the first things I did after our crates arrived from Indonesia, in July, was to put up a swing.  I've had it for about eight years, but we never had a tree to hang it in when we lived in Indonesia.  Actually, we had the perfect tree for the first few months after we moved there (which is why I had it brought over there from the U.S.) but then the tree blew over in a storm and that was that.  Anyway, we now have a huge tree right out front, and it's got the perfect branch for a swing.  So after several days of looking around Kampala for the appropriate hardware, the boys and I were finally able to put up the long-awaited swing.  Yes, my ladder wasn't long enough to reach the branch, and after trying to attach it from the top, I decided the better of the insane ideas was to attack it as you see below.  With a piece of plywood on the roof rack of our van, it was actually pretty stable.  I kept thinking that this picture that Joy snapped with the iPhone was going to wind up in one of those e-mails about stupid things people do related to safety, or lack thereof.  But honestly, it wasn't as bad as it looks...I'm sure that's what they all say.  Haha.  And now the kids are having a blast with the swing!

Hudson's birthday was in July and my parents bought him some soccer goals (which I found at a South African store in town).  Hudson loves to play soccer but we've never really had any room for him to play, so this has been a blast for him.  Now if we can just keep the balls from popping on the thorn bushes at the edges of our yard.  We've had about a dozen holes so far, and the ball never stays inflated for more than a half hour before it must be refilled again.

Britton's thing is basketball, and when his birthday rolled around in August, my parents got him setup for that.  They paid for it all, but it took a combination of my mother-in-law bringing the attaching equipment when she came over in August, me building the backboard myself, and a massive effort on the part of our day guard and me to find the pole and rim and other stuff.  The rim later broke repeatedly (and was welded several times) and was just not working out, so we finally had one brought over from the U.S. with our friend, Walt, when he visited a few weeks ago.  We also had to pour the pole full of concrete and put some steel in there to reinforce it, b/c it was wobbling so much.  But finally, it's finished and Britton is really enjoying being able to shoot baskets right outside his house whenever he wants.  He just started last week on the school basketball team and is looking forward to a great season!

I mentioned we have a lot of birds in the yard.  There are SO many different kinds that show up, it's amazing!  I did a post a few weeks back about the hawks in our yard.  I think they're actually called Kites, but anyway, those are one of the most frequent flyers here.  A few weeks ago I was working outside when I heard a rustling of wings and looked up just in time to see a half-eaten chicken falling out of the sky, bounce off the roof and land just a few feet from where I stood.  Then, two of those big Kite birds swooped down just behind, a tangle of wings and beaks and talons, and pulled up just before hitting the ground.  The whole thing was very odd--I almost got clocked on the head by a chicken that dropped out of the sky!!!  Obviously they were fighting over it when one of them dropped it--or maybe they were aiming for me on purpose?  Anyway, they spent the next 10 minutes fighting in the air and taking turns swooping in to see who would be brave enough to get it back, since it was now lying just feet from our back door.  It was fun to watch!  

One of the most exciting birds we've seen here recently was a pair of hornbills.  We've only seen them about twice, but boy are great!

These ones look a little awkward in flight, what with the huge beak and all--at least in the picture below--but they're still pretty cool!  (I did a post a while back on some of the other birds here, including one in flight that was a lot more graceful looking.  You can find that post here.)  I remember occasionally looking out the window of my plane in Indonesia and seeing pairs of hornbills flying over the jungles of Borneo.  They were a different type of hornbill, but it was always so magnificent to see them soaring, in black and white, over the wildest, greenest parts of the jungle.  I'd love to fly like a bird!  Someday I'm going to have to try hang gliding and/or para sailing!

There's lots of smaller things in our yard too.  Sometime I'm going to walk around for an hour or so with my macro lens and then do a whole post on the tiny critters in our yard.  I love macro stuff--it's like a whole different world that we often miss as we go about our busy lives!

But this is one of the mall critters that I wish we would miss altogether.  Unfortunately, these mango flies are EVERYWHERE!  We have about a billion of them in our yard, and about half that many in our house.  They're much bigger and slower than the average house fly in the U.S. and they seem to fly around in packs (swarms? schools? flocks? whatever you call it) of hundreds.  Apparently these are the ones that will lay eggs in the undergarments hung outside to dry, which will then get under your skin in "special places" and later form a large "pimple" that will one day pop open with the little wiggling worms crawling out to produce more flies.  Yeah, it's a lovely thought.  (This is why you don't hang the undergarments outside, or if you do, you have to iron them before wearing to kill those critters!)  That, plus the fact that they devour any pile of poo they find from our dog or any other creature, and then always seem to want to land on our food afterwards to relax--yeah, it makes them our most reviled local creature!

Back to the fun stuff--with the blessing of such a big yard we've been able to use it for more than just our family.  We've been able to host an number of MAF events with our very large team here, and we also regularly host the junior high youth group from our church.  There's also a group of local kids that live down the road that like to come over to play "football".  Their regular place to play is a small, rugged patch of dirt, with two sticks at either end for goals.  So this probably feels like a world-class pitch by comparison.  It's not only a lot of fun (Hudson and Tanner and I always join in) but also a great ministry opportunity as we build relationships with them. 

Well, I hope you've enjoyed a quick tour around our yard.  If you ever come visit you can see it first-hand, and maybe join in for a game of football or basketball! :-)

Sunday, November 23, 2014

A Few of the People We Fly

The past few weeks I've been flying more and really enjoying it!  

I certainly don't have the chance to photograph all of our passengers--that would not only take a lot of time but be really awkward too!  But here are just a few of the ones I've flown over the past couple weeks.

This is Jesus Film Ministries team that I picked up in Mbarara after they spent a few days showing films and doing evangelistic meetings in a group of mountain villages in the area.

The Every Village folks are a doing some really great work up in remote areas of South Sudan and Ethiopia.  It's such a privilege to help, in a small way, facilitate what they're doing!   

There was a big conference last week up in South Sudan, where all of the Bishops of the Episcopal Church of South Sudan and Sudan got together for some worship, strategic planning, training, etc.

As you can see from the above picture, and this one, below, it was definitely a dark and stormy day when I flew some of the Bishops up there.  They still had about another 15 miles to drive in the 4x4 Land Cruiser to get to their destination.  I liked the phrase they had painted on the side of their Land Cruiser.

Here's a few more random shots.

Sunday, November 16, 2014

African Wildlife

This past week I had my first chance to see some of East Africa's famous wildlife, and boy was it magnificent!

A few times a year we (MAF Uganda) wind up flying short-term mission teams to one or another of Uganda's national parks, for a quick and scenic ending to a busy mission trip.  It's cheaper for them and MAF if, in a case like this, they just have the plane and pilot accompany them on the overnight trip, rather than have us fly up twice to drop them off and then pick them up again.  Last week was my first chance to be the lucky pilot that got to fly one of these groups.  Below, is a picture of one of our Caravans as it flies about 9,000' above Murchison Falls National Park, the park where I took the mission team.  If you look closely, just in the upper left corner of the picture, in the shadow, you can actually see the airstrip, Pakuba, which is located in the Park.  

The group I flew was a short-term team from a San Francisco church, who was here with Compassion International.  It was a privilege to get to spend some time hanging out with them and getting to hear about their ministry, both back in their home city in the U.S., as well as here in Uganda.

We were only gone 24 hours, but we sure saw a lot in that time.  After arriving just before noon, we had lunch and then went on a riverboat cruise up the Nile to the base of Murchison Falls, from which the park gets it's name.  This stretch of river is full of thousands and thousands of hippos (below).  It was an absolutely beautiful afternoon!

Elephants like to come down to the edge of the river to drink and play in the water, and just enjoy the cooler temperatures and shade.  Bull elephants, like the one below, tend to be off by themselves most of the time.  I thought this was a cool shot with the hippos in the foreground.

About a half mile away from the bull was a family of elephants, probably mostly females and youngsters.  As we passed by, the mama was putting her ears out really big and facing off at us--I think that's supposed to be intimidating.  Hidden in the grass beside her is a tiny, little baby elephant, much smaller than the one standing just to her left.  It was very cute, but we only caught a few glimpses of the baby, as it stayed mostly under its mama's legs.  

And here are the falls themselves.  Almost the entire Nile is forced through a very narrow rock gorge that is just seven meters wide in the narrowest place.  It's quite impressive.

This is just an average, boring, white-dirt cliff at the river's edge, right?  Wrong.  

If you look closer you can see that the cliff is full of holes that are the homes of a whole bunch of very colorful bee eater birds. 

When they take flight, they expose even more of their color from the undersides of their wings.  I wish I had taken my good camera with me, but I left it at home because of it's size and weight (being the pilot who was just getting to ride along, I didn't want to have a big, huge, bulky camera getting in everyone's way.)  So this is as close/good as I could get with my little micro 4/3 camera from the distance we were.  Still, you can get the idea--the birds are beautiful!  We saw many, many other birds as well, but again, it was hard to get good shots with the camera and lenses I had.  

The next morning everyone took a game drive before we flew back to Kampala.  I only got to be part of it for a short time, since they dropped me off at the airstrip by 8:00 to do a pre-flight and get the plane ready for our departure a few hours later.  Even so, I still got to see a bunch of animals on the way.  Below, a huge, old bull giraffe walking alone.  Do you see those light, round, scar-looking marks at the base of his neck?  Those are from fights with other bulls, where they swing their heads and nock each other with frightening force--the horns leaving bloody wounds.  I imagine this guy must have had quite a battle a little while back.

I have to say, that was certainly a very fun, overnight flight, and a lot different than any of the other overnight flights I've done in the past.   I can't wait to one day take my family up to do some camping at that park.  They'll all go nuts over the wide variety of beautiful animals, and the vast, open, gorgeous scenery!

Saturday, November 8, 2014

Rainbows & Other Stuff

Here's a shot of a little rainbow (there's a very light second rainbow up a bit further if you look closely) framing the sun's rays as they pierce a dark and stormy sky about 130nm North of Kampala.  The sun's rays were so focused on that one spot that I found myself subconsciously looking intently there for the secret that was being revealed.  

And this is the River Nile, also on a dark and stormy day, as it flows through Murchison Falls National Park a bit north of the where the picture above was taken.  If you look closely, you can see the falls themselves--the very skinny portion of the river just below the bend in the center of the photo.  At that point, almost the entire volume of the Nile is shoved through a tiny slit in the rocks just 7 meters wide!  Apparently it's quite a site to behold up close.  Some day I'm sure our family will visit.  Below the falls the river is teaming with giant Nile crocs and hippos and all kinds of birds and other wildlife.  You can take a boat ride from a place a few miles downstream, right up to the base of the falls, and see all of the animals in and along the banks of the river.  But I don't think you'd want to swim in this part of the river, unless you intend to help feed the wildlife.  

This is what Murchison Falls National Park looks like on a nice weather day.  This is just a few miles downstream from Murchison Falls, above.  Here, you can see the delta where the White Nile flows into the northern tip of Lake Albert.  It then exits again from the lake, not far away, and continues to flow north, up into South Sudan, and then Sudan where it's joined by the Blue Nile and continues all the long way up through Egypt, finally emptying into the Mediterranean Sea.  In the picture below, just to the right of that delta is a fertile grassy plain, where the giraffes and elephants and buffalos and lions all kinds of other wildlife roam freely.  One day we look forward to getting up there and doing some camping and wildlife viewing!

Back to rainbows--here's one that I saw (the double rainbow is much clearer in this shot) on my way back to our home field of Kajjansi one afternoon.  This is just on the outskirts of Kampala, the capital city.  Everything looks so clean and fresh and colorful in this photo.  Most of the roads are dirt, however, so it only takes a few days without rain before the dust begins to cover everything.  Yet even then, there's a beauty, uniquely African, that can be found in the red-dust that covers everything.

Here's a shot of our Kajjansi Airfield, MAF's little home base airstrip here in Uganda.  You can see the airstrip running across the photo in the center.  Just on the opposite side, in the middle, is the MAF hangar with the white roof.  And if you look closely you can see all the construction underway, to the left of the hangar, where they're building the new MAF office building.  Currently the office is in a small, rented house in Kampala city, a 30 min to 1 1/2 hour drive away depending on traffic.

Since we're on the theme of rainbows, here's one more rainbow, somewhere up in central Uganda.  I love seeing rainbows from the window of my plain!  

I haven't seen any rainbows out in Eastern or Northeastern Uganda yet--the weather up there is generally much more aired.  However, it has a beauty all it's own.  I look forward to spending some time up in that area some day with my family.  We have some good friends from our home church that minister up in that area, and we'd like to get up to visit them at some point.  In fact, we'd love to even see how we might plug in and help with the ministry to kids up there on a regular basis at some point in the future.    My wife and kids really thrive in environments and ministry like that and

Anyway, right now the weather in that area is slowly changing from rainy to dry season.  It doesn't take long at all for the streams and small rivers to run dry, only visible by the bright ,sandy scars they leave through the vast plains.  Yet, right now there's still quite a bit of green visible.  I'm told that by December and January everything will be mostly brown.

Check out all the little villages spread among the fields here.  Each one is comprised of anywhere from a dozen to a few dozen huts, encircled by a thick fence of thorn bushes.  This is the Karamojang area, and the people here are primarily cattle herders.  I often look down and see hundreds or even thousands of cattle, spread in small groups throughout remote areas, far from any village.   No doubt they're being led and protected by a few young boys or men, each wearing long colorful robes and carrying a tall stick.    

Here's a closer shot of a very large village.  Most of them are quite a bit smaller than this, but I thought this one was particularly scenic with the large rocks and fields around it.

Although this area, and the people that live here, tend to fit right into the beautiful, stereotypical images of East Africa, just under the surface are hidden many years of violence, pain and turmoil.  Indeed, that's why many mission and aid organizations are focusing on this area, and that's why we serve them.  Progress is being made, but true change and lasting peace won't occur until they know the Prince of Peace.  And in villages where that has happened, many are indeed experiencing peace for the first time in years.

Saturday, November 1, 2014

Flying Related Odds and Ends

Here's a few random pics from the past few weeks with a few little stories to go along with them.

Each time we fly, our plane is filled with a variety of people from a bunch of different mission organizations and NGO's that are serving people in many remote locations throughout Uganda, S. Sudan, and East DRC.  For example, on one of the flights last week, I took a group of church leaders from Watoto Church up to Gulu (below).

Team leader and founder, Gary Skinner, along with several of the other church leaders were visiting one of their projects upcountry.  They are a huge church here in Kampala, with numerous projects and outreaches helping orphan children, and others throughout Uganda.  Most of our flights have a mix of people from several different organizations going to several different locations on the same flight day.  We pick people up and drop others off throughout the day as we do a sort of "round robin" route to a handful of villages for that given day.

Here's a random shot of the Nile, on the way home from the flight mentioned above.  Just thought you might enjoy seeing seeing that. :-)

Over the past few weeks, Dallas and I have been busy training on a brand new avionics system that our awesome engineering team have been installing in one of our Caravans over the past few months.  It's a fantastic new system--a wonderful upgrade from the old, outdated panel that we had before.  In accordance with MAF International policies, each pilot who will fly it, has to go through an entire course and flight checkout on the new system.  Here, Dallas and I, after completing all of the book work, simulator flights, and exam, are taking turns putting the "new plane" through various flight maneuvers and instrument approaches, with Martin (one of the training captains) in the right seat keeping an eye on things.  (I had just finished my part in the captain's seat, and was now watching Dallas take his turn, so had a chance to take a picture of the beautiful panel.  That's Lake Victoria that you can see through the windows.)

Frankly, in just a few days of flying it, I'm already far more familiar with this new system, and find it much easier to fly, than I did the old panel and radios that it replaced.  The new system has a lot in common with the beautiful G1000 system that I flew in the Kodiak for the past few years in Indonesia.  Once you're familiar with a glass-panel-type system like this, it's hard (or at least frustrating) to fly the old "steam gages" again.  We do have one G1000 equipped Caravan here in our fleet, and I love flying that one too!  It's pictured below during a routine check flight with Simon and Martin, where I got to ride along as photographer.

MAF's plan here in Uganda, is to update all of our old Cessna Caravan instrument panels with the new "glass panel" ones like you see above (2 pictures up).  These are major projects, and we're so thankful to have capable engineers and avionics techs like Martin, below, who not only excel at this stuff, but seem to really enjoy it as well!  They've already started on the next one, and hopefully it will be finished within a few months.  I can't wait!

Anyway, all of this stuff helps us fly better and safer as we serve people in remote places.  Yesterday I got to fly the "new plane" all day on a "Karamoja Shuttle" flight to seven different locations throughout northeastern Uganda.  I really enjoyed flying it, with the wealth of information at my fingertips (literally--since the center screens are touch screens).  It really will enhance our safety, not to mention decrease the workload and stress on the pilots--especially during bad weather days.  Yesterday was not a bad weather day though... check out the beautiful blue sky as seen from the strip in Kaabong, where I dropped off two people who work with a mission there.

One of the stops yesterday was to the village of Matany, in far eastern Uganda, where I delivered a group of four men (below) who will be doing eye surgeries there over the next two weeks.  This is something they've been doing there annually, for over 30 years, and all that time they've been flying with MAF to get there and back!  How cool is that?

There's always a crowd in Matany--it starts small, like this, and quickly grows larger and larger till there are literally hundreds and hundreds of people--mostly kids.  This couldn't have been more than about 90 seconds after engine shutdown--just long enough for me to put the tail stand in, open the back door, and then open the pod for the first bag.  It's pretty exciting, I guess, to see the plane land, unload, and then takeoff again.  I'm sure if I were a kid there, I'd be doing the same thing. :-)

The medical team brought all of their necessary supplies and equipment with them, so there were hundreds of pounds of stuff to unload.  Yep, that one really is that heavy!  I'm not sure what was in it, but it felt like it was loaded with lead. :-)

And these are the people they'll be serving--those who live in and around that far eastern part of Uganda.  They'll come from far and near to gain back their physical sight.  Imagine, seeing the world clearly again for the first time after many years of cataracts or other problems?  In helping to meet very real and tangible physical needs like this, we hope and pray that many will also see the love of Jesus through us, and through those who live and minister there, and in so doing will also gain His spiritual clarity as well!  

Over the next 10 days or so, these guys will perform hundreds of eye surgeries.   Over the 30 plus years they've been doing this, thousands have seen the world again through "new" eyes as a result of their work.  Imagine how many might have also gained a new eternal perspective as a result?