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Jay | Susan | Alex | Beth | Samantha
April 27, 2014 6:08 pm
Published in: Uncategorized

I spent a week there recently, flying from Arua, Uganda to Obo, Zemio, Rafai and then all the way to Bangui and back. It’s a long way to Bangui, let me say. I thought about doing an encore of the “My Butt Hurts” post, but decided against it. I’m still sitting too carefully to write about such things.

On the map, of course, the trip looks simple. Fly from here to there to there to there. No significant terrain in the way, no air traffic to speak of. When you start planning it out the trip is a bit more complicated. Any emergency landing is going to be a real emergency, as in we’re landing in a clearing in the jungle. There is no fuel available between Zemio, where AIM Air keeps a small amount, and Bangui, over 400 miles away. And with five people in the plane we’re leaving extra clothes and things in Zemio to save weight in the plane for fuel to make it to Bangui.

On the day, the flight was routine except that this was the first AIM Air flight to Bangui in over 10 years. I was excited to get to go, actually. The situation on the ground had me a little nervous ahead of time, but more on that later. The weather was good all the way, and we had a strong tailwind, so the flight was much shorter than predicted. The first real clue we had that things are tense in Bangui was on arrival, the tower directed me to avoid flying over the city. “Follow the river and join a four mile final,” the controller told me. “Do not fly over the city.” I dutifully repeated the instruction and flew along the river, past the hills to the east of Bangui, and turned final. As we landed we could see the refugee camp that had overrun the general aviation portion of the airport, people camping in hangars and under wings of planes in for repair. Heavily armed French soldiers, Sangaris, were on duty at several points along the runway, and more were manning watch posts on the terminal building and around the ramp area. Nope, we’re not in Kansas.

Pastor Daniel and several other members of the church were there at the airport to meet us. I’m not sure how to describe the meeting. One of our missionaries knew several of them already and I had been in regular email contact with Pastor Daniel for some time. Joyous is the best word I can think of, but that doesn’t really capture the excitement and interest of meeting a Christian brother you’ve only known via email. With help from one of the church members who spoke english, Desire’, I got the airplane fueled and tied down while the others headed for our accommodations in Bangui.

We had a tour around Bangui, and visited the AIM affiliated churches there the next day. The city seemed normal except for numerous piles of rubble where shops or churches or mosques once stood, but are now casualties of the fighting. There were lots of Sangaris and AU troops along the main streets, all heavily armed. Mostly, though, Bangui looked pretty normal. Shops were open, people were out and and about and life was going on.

The reaction of the church in Bangui was particularly encouraging. “Anti-Balaka are not Christians,” we were told. The follow traditional beliefs, witchcraft and spirits. “The purpose of the church in Bangui is to work for peace,” we were told. “We’re trying to provide food, clothes and medicine for people made homeless by the fighting.” The church is having workshops for leaders on forgiveness, and they’ve held at least two public concerts with themes of forgiveness.

Pray for CAR. John 16:33 “These things I have spoken to you, that in Me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation, but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world.”   Pray for good cheer for the church, and for Christ and His love to overcome the forces of darkness dragging CAR down and drowning it in violence.