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Jay | Susan | Alex | Beth | Samantha
January 5, 2014 3:45 pm
Published in: Uncategorized

My butt hurts.  I’ve been in the airplane for over seven hours, and there’s no room in the 206 to move around.  I can feel the aluminum seat pan through the compressed foam of the seat cushion.  I have five passengers who I’m flying from Entebbe to Central African Republic to meet with a small group of ex-LRA who surrendered recently.  The ter20140103_090521rain beneath the airplane is mostly flat; there are a few gentle slopes, and it’s all covered with thick jungle.

Cabin secure, fuel on fullest tank, gear and brakes checked, mixture set, prop high RPM, go around point and criteria checked.  I flick the last toggle switch on the checklist, flaps, after putting the flaps the rest of the way down and the lights on the checklist all turn green.  I’m lined up on the runway, holding the airplane to 60 knots and managing descent over the jungle with power.  Just above the runway I pull the throttle to idle, ease the yoke back and apply the wheels gently to the runway.

While I’m putting the plane to bed for the night my passengers are meeting with the Ugandan military who are hosting us, and setting up the meeting with the ex-LRA they’ve come to talk with.  We have some tea and then my passengers have their meeting.  I stay out of the way.  For one thing they’re all speaking Acholi, for another I don’t want to accidentally interfere.  Later, over dinner, I ask my passengers how the meeting went. meetsm

The man they mostly spoke with was captured as a young teenager and he’s now about 40.  His entire adult life has been spent in the bush, fighting, robbing, and worse.  And now he’s going home.  It’s not going to be an easy road, and I can’t imagine the courage it takes to do what he’s doing. Many of the LRA are drug addicts. All have psychological issues such as post traumatic stress disorder, or rage issues.  Even the escaped children can fly into sudden, violent rages with no warning. Usually their home villages don’t want to take escapees back.  The villagers often view the escapees as the enemy now.

As big a battle as those worldly issues are, the battle these men, women, and children face is really a spiritual battle.  Remember the story of Jesus healing the man in the Gadarenes (Mark chapter 5)? When Jesus asked for a name the demons in the man said, “Legion for we are many.”  The situation for the ex-LRA is similar. They have many demons to be cast out…drug addictions, violent pasts, other things.  Maybe even, I dare say it in the year 2013, actual demons.  The grace of God is sufficient for the task.  The apostle Paul prayed 3 times for relief from a “thorn in the flesh” and was told “My grace is sufficient for you.”  Our Savior is the One who prayed, “Forgive them, Father, for they know not what they do,” for the men nailing Him to a cross.   Compared to the difficulty of the road the escapees face, my complaints about an aching rump are childish.  I pray that God will cast out their demons, and bring these folks home.

December 11, 2013 7:51 pm
Published in: Family

Kijabe, as many AIMers have noted over the years means place of the winds.  A few days ago was an exception, the winds were calm, which was good. Alex did his physical fitness assessment for ROTC. He was already at a slight handicap since Kijabe is at almost 7000 ft above sea level and a headwind would have complicated the run.

One of Alex’s friends ran with him to pace him, and urge him on during the run.  Before things got going, though, Alex and Chris took a few moments out to pray. The adults were standing talking and the boys, young men really, took it on themselves to pray for each other for the run, and Chris for Alex to do well in the test over all.

Kipling’s Thousandth Man is a bit more frequent than one in a thousand at RVA.  This is a good thing.

Alex did well, by the way.

December 7, 2013 9:45 pm
Published in: Uncategorized

Today I have a plane full of Sudanese pastors who’re going home.  We’re at 13500 ft above sea level and the air is clear and smooth, a brilliant b20131109_175022lue above white clouds.   A couple weeks ago as I was driving to the airport the sky was grey and overcast.  “Cleared flight level 120 to the TMA boundary, statehouse departure, squawk 1074,” I read back to the tower.  On takeoff we fly over the Nairobi game park. “Look for zebras” I tell the passengers.  I’m busy turning back to the airport…crossing overhead runway 7 I turn to 290 and fly 13 miles out from the Nairobi VOR, then turn on course.  As we come over the runway we go into the clouds and the world goes grey.  A few minutes later we break out on top of the clouds and its clear and blue and beautiful.  Like today.

The plane is very full: twelve adult pa20131125_114509ssengers, three lap-babies, and all of their luggage. I have stuff crammed all over the plane.  Passenger briefings take on new meaning when the passengers don’t speak English.  The briefing is more like charades.  I even wave at the doors like cabin staff on an airline.   At the village there’s a big welcome.  Relatives rush up and hug the men and women as they step off the plane.  I have to be a bit of a wet blanket and move people back from the stair so that the passengers aren’t at risk of falling off the plane into the crowd. Crowd surfing must have originated in Africa.

Tomorrow’s flight is a repeat of today.  There are 41 students to get home in the next two days.  AIM Air’s other caravan is coming tomorrow to join in the flights.  The distances are….long.  Today’s flight took me over 930 miles and about five and a half hours of flying.  The alternative for the students would be as much as two weeks of ground travel, maybe more.  I was doing a flight a couple weeks earlier, when I took two ladies back to their village.  They had walked over 60 miles, most of it over flooded roads under as much as three feet of water, to get to the training session I was flying people back from.  They were very grateful for a plane ride home.

There’s a hunger for the gospel and God herein Africa, especially South Sudan it seems to me.  One of the men on the flight today is going to walk back to the Nuba mountains, he told me.  North Sudan bombed those mountains a couple years ago to drive the Christians out.  Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, For they shall be filled. Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, For theirs is the kingdom of heaven.  Matthew 5:6 and 10.

October 27, 2013 3:29 pm
Published in: Flying

20131025_075719At eleven-five the air is smooth and cool.  The Pratt & Whitney PT-6 whirrs contentedly, the big prop pulling the plane through the air at 125 indicated. The GPS says we’re going one sixty two across the ground.  I look back to check on my passengers.  They’re mostly asleep, one is reading, two others are talking. From this altitude the ground is a paisley of greens and browns beneath the plane, spread out in front of us.  Up close, on the ground, I know that the light green is grasses, some scrubby and short, some elephant grass nearly 10 ft tall. The dark green spots are trees, and lines of them wind, snake like, across the green and brown where dry stream beds hold moisture longer.  Most are thorny acacia trees.  The brown is either light tan or red-orange, depending on the type of soil.  We’re on the way to Juba from the north of the Sud, the enormous marsh from which Sudan derives its name.

The last time I was in there it had just rained, and the plane got liberally coated with black cotton mud, looking more like a four wheel drive than a plane.  Today the airstrip is dry and hard. It’s been over a week since they last had rain and landing and take-off are both routine.  I run through the before take-off checks, making sure flaps are set and the transponder is on, condition lever high idle, lights and ignition on…take off briefing, full power, abort point is the funny clump of bushes on the left three hundred meters down range. 20130905_101050 As the plane turns to align with the runway I add power and the caravan lumbers forward, clumsy on the ground but accelerating rapidly.  There’s 45 just short of the abort point, continue the takeoff….67, ease back on the yoke, the wheels break ground and we’re flying. The plane transforms from an ungainly tricycle to a graceful machine. I tap the brakes to stop the main wheels from spinning, ending the vibration they bring.   I call Nairobi on the HF radio, speaking across more than 600 miles with Moses.  He doesn’t part the waters that I know of, but I do ask him to call ahead to Juba to part the red tape by having our linesman and the fuel  truck ready.

The missionaries in the back relax, contemplating a couple weeks’ break in the big city where there is electricity and running water and shops. They’re continuing on to Nairobi for a rest before going back out bush.  Life in the bush is difficult.  Water is hard to get and usually dirty, needing to be filtered or boiled and treated before it’s safe to drink.  The only power is what’s available from a couple solar panels and a pair of batteries. And it’s hot.  On takeoff I looked at the OAT gauge and griDSCF0616maced at the ‘40’ under the needle.  That’s Celsius, so about 104 F, and humid enough to compare well with a sauna.  I keep the plane at maximum climb, leaving the heat and humidity behind, and the sweat that slicks everyone’s skin with water and salt.

AIM Air’s unofficial motto is ‘Hauling Salt.’ Jesus says “You are the salt of the earth,” to his disciples in Matthew chapter 5 verse 13. The people in the back of the airplane make it harder for rot to set in. How often do people apologize for coarse language around a pastor?  They make people thirsty for Jesus just like salt makes us thirsty for water.  Salt brings out the other flavors of the food.  The missionaries I’m flying flavor an otherwise dull village life.  What’s the taste of love?  Love is often described with words like ‘sweet.’  Maybe love is salty.  When we taste it we’re thirsty for more.  “Love suffers long and is kind; love does not envy; love does not parade itself, is not puffed up; does not behave rudely, does not seek its own, is not provoked, thinks no evil; does not rejoice in iniquity, but rejoices in truth; bears all things, believes all things, endures all things.  Love never fails. … And now abide faith, hope, love, these three; but the greatest of these is love.”

August 31, 2013 2:20 pm
Published in: Flying

This would make a really cool pop-up book, I thought. Doro, ROSSDSC_0081









Here’s the fuel service at Doro.  Delivery is occasionally an issue if the donkey goes on strike.



Other fueler in Doro


The next picture down is the other Doro fuel service. We were a bit delayed when the tractor wouldn’t start.  That’s Jerry Hurd pumping gas.






Next is flying from Doro to Nasir.  That huge thunderstorm had clouds right down to the ground. Fortunately it stayed a few miles off to the west and 20130821_160107I was able to get into Nasir.  If the storm had come over , no Nasir, and probably no for about a week so the runway would have turned to goo.  MAF recently had a plane get stuck there for about 3 weeks.  Stuck as in stuck in the mud stuck.  Nasir, when went, turns into the gooiest, stickiest glop you have ever seen.








Of course, the beauty of airplanes is that you get to soar with the eagles sometimes, above the weather and clouds like I did coming back home from South Sudan…..


August 31, 2013 1:45 pm
Published in: Flying

I’d like to say the day (22 August) started smoothly but that would be less than truthful. The primary disaster of the morning was my carefully prepared thermos of hot water springing a leak in my backpack.  The clothes mostly stayed dry (let’s hear it for good packs), the real tragedy being a sudden, unplanned reduction in the my coffee ration.

The first leg of the day’s flying went well enough, Lokichogio Kenya to Keew in South Sudan. Landing at Keew was exciting.  The runway at Keew was still wet from rain the afternoon prior and the mud was slippery as grease.  Taxiing to the parking area after landing was interesting, as the plane wanted to weathervane into the wind, so I ended up going a bit sideways down the runway.   Unloading was fast and I took off for Rumbek, and fuel. The fuel truck was waiting so that stop was brief.

Next was Arua, Uganda, where I picked up a load of freight to take to Banda in DR Congo.  The freight was mostly foam for a radio studio…not much weight but it sure filled the airplane to capacity.  The stop at Arua was also fairly quick, and next was Isiro in Congo. Isiro is a port of entry into Congo so there for customs and immigration.  The stop at Isiro was as fast as I’ve ever had….our helper there had everything ready to go so I was on the ground for less than 10 minutes.  However the weather around Isiro convinced me that the rest of the day was not going to happen.  The plan was to go to Dungu next, pick up people and more freight, take them to Banda, drop the people and cargo off, pick up more people then go to Isiro for immigration and then home to Arua.  It was a bit of a fight getting into Isiro due to weather…storms in the area, with a huge area of weather moving toward the town. So I called the charterer and told them I could do Dungu and Banda, but that was it.

Arriving at Dungu also put paid to any thoughts of getting home to Arua.  The cargo and passengers weren’t all ready.  I’d have needed to be less than 30 minutes on the ground there. As it was, I was an hour..  Much of the confusion was due to the change in plans caused by the weather in Isiro.  Still, it reinforced that the decision to not try for Isiro and Arua was a good one.  I made it to Banda…a half hour on the ground, and back to Dungu just at the limit of my daylight reserves.

I spent the night in Dungu with Yannic, the ASF pilot from Canada.  We talked late. Yannic has been in Dungu about three months, with no visitors and not much contact with the outside world.  He had a lot to say.

The next day we went to Isiro and then to Entebbe, and after I had some lunch, I returned to Arua.  The flight home was uneventful, the weather good, the landing smooth.  I taxied to parking, secured the airplane and went home.

August 7, 2013 5:06 am
Published in: Uncategorized

I’ flew out of Arua last Saturday, the 27th of July, down to Entebbe to pick up the body of a Congolese pastor.  He’d gone to Kampala for medical treatment but in the end succumbed to his illness (I never did learn what it was ).  Sunday I was to fly the body and the brother-in-law to Bunia and then on to Kisangani.  Saturday night, however, I got a call from the brother in Law.  “I am at the mortuary, they will not release the body until we pay the rest of the fees.  We’re getting the money wired on Monday.”

We arranged to do the flight on Tuesday, since on Monday I was flying to  South Sudan.  So, Sunday after church back up to Arua. Monday off to Sudan and back.  I ended up back in Entebbe so we could get an early start on Tuesday (it’s a long way from Entebbe to Kisangani).   Loading the casket took about an hour and a half…it almost didn’t fit in the plane.  We made it to Bunia, and there we stopped.  The weather, as the song goes, “was frightful.”  There was a huge system of thunderstorms across central DR Congo.  No one was flying.  MAF had a plane go from Bunia to Nyankunde (15 miles) and stop there, unable to go on and unable to return.  I parked the airplane.  We made arrangements to meet the following day, and I went to find some where to spend the night.

The weather wasn’t great on Wednesday but it was far far better than the previous day.  The flight to Kisangani went smoothly.  It took an hour and a half on the ground to get through everything…the flight back to Bunia was smooth also, but about an hour on the ground to get the paperwork done.  Then home.  So on Wednesday I finished the flight started on Saturday.

It always takes longer than it takes.

June 27, 2013 5:47 pm
Published in: Uncategorized

Years.   I was along from Lokichogio to Nairobi on Wednesday the 26th with Denny on his finis flight, finishing a 33 year career as a  missionary pilot.   A few weeks ago, very close to the destination of his first flight as a missionary pilot Denny flew his 10,000th hour.  Words fail me in trying to capture the impact of a life of service such as Denny and his wife Sue have had.

We chatted about this and that on the flight, about the weather, about how the particular airplane flew compared to our other caravan.  Denny talked about how he and his wife had over 30 of their informally adopted sons and daughters in their house last Sunday, and how  God has used Denny and Sue to minister to those young men and women.

I wonder what the next 33 years have for Denny and Sue.  One thing is sure , they will serve God.

April 20, 2013 6:16 am
Published in: Uncategorized

“If ye love wealth better than liberty, the tranquility of servitude than the animating contest of freedom, — go from us in peace. We ask not your counsels or arms. Crouch down and lick the hands which feed you. May your chains sit lightly upon you, and may posterity forget that ye were our countrymen!” — Samuel Adams

“I have a perfect horror of words not backed up by deeds.” – Theodore Roosevelt Oyster Bay, NY, July 7, 1915

“It is not the critic who counts: not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles or where the doer of deeds could have done better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood, who strives valiantly, who errs and comes up short again and again, because there is no effort without error or shortcoming, but who knows the great enthusiasms, the great devotions, who spends himself for a worthy cause; who, at the best, knows, in the end, the triumph of high achievement, and who, at the worst, if he fails, at least he fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who knew neither victory nor defeat.” —  Theodore Roosevelt Speech at the Sorbonne, Paris, April 23, 1910

“It is impossible to rightly govern a nation without God and the Bible.” — George Washington

“If freedom of speech is taken away, then dumb and silent we may be led, like sheep to the slaughter.” — George Washington

“Make sure you are doing what God wants you to do–then do it with all your strength.” — George Washington

“There is love in the red letters. There is truth in the red letters.” — DC Talk

“Neither do I condemn you, go and sin no more.” — Jesus

“I am the way, the truth, and the life, no man comes to the Father but through Me.” — Jesus


February 9, 2013 4:16 am
Published in: Uncategorized

You might get it.  AIM Air and Samaritan’s Purse separated their flight programs, SP standing up their own flight department here in East Africa. (The split was friendly, both organizations needed to grow and couldn’t do it while joined.)  Since SP accounted for about 1/2 of our flying we were more than a bit worried what would happen to us financially.  Don’t let the scientists fool you, airplanes fly on money; the physics are totally secondary.  So SP stands up their own flight program, takes three airplanes with them….

So we prayed.

We’ve never been so busy in our lives.  November I flew 50 hours in about 2 1/2 weeks.  December 52 hours in 3 weeks, January was 53 hours…. And that’s just li’l ole me.  The guys in Nairobi have been equally busy, and there’s more of them.  And we’re flying groups that we either had rarely flown in the past or not at all.  It’s very exciting to see more missionaries out there.

Arua was a big mystery as well. Will it work, will it better serve the missionaries and church…

So we prayed.

See two paragraphs above about busy.  But also we’ve gotten some help!  Tim and Deb Carpenter  came over in January. Tim is a pilot mechanic, though he’s not flying any more, and is helping with maintenance and admin and everything else.  He was down in Entebbe week before last arranging a fuel shipment, this week he’s supervising the painting of our container at the airfield.  Plus he and Deb are two of the nicest people you’ll meet anywhere.    And we’re getting more help!  Mike and Ana Palmiter are moving in March or April to Arua.  Mike is our newest pilot/mechanic, and will be helping with the flying.  I can’t wait.  They’re coming out to Arua at the end of February to house hunt.

We’re not done yet though.  So keep praying please!  Pray for:

  • Hangar at Arua
  • Situation in Central African Republic (rebels, unity government, flight permissions, LRA)
  • Situation in DR Congo (flight permissions, stability)
  • LRA (end as a threat, and for individuals to repent and come out of an evil organization and return to their homes)
  • Church in CAR for maturity and growth, and outreach to the Mbororo
  • More pilots and mechanics for AIM Air – we’re still very short staffed
  • Fund raising for a 3rd C-208 Caravan – we have 2 and are in desperate need of a 3rd

And since I can’t finish without at least one picture….Here’s one from a trip in late December in Sudan.  I had a problem with the brakes in Pieri….I heard a

Audience in Pieri

Audience in Pieri

bzzzzzz as I landed. Hmmm.  It’s not supposed to make that sound.  On inspection we (Jim Streit was there with another plane at the same time) found that one of the pins holding the brake caliper in place on the right main gear had sheared off.  On the phone to maintenance while Jim starts re-arranging things to at least get all the people where they need to be, since it’s clear this plane isn’t flying until it’s fixed.  So…our Chief Engineer, John Mosby, puts together a rescue package of brake caliper and a main wheel assembly and sends it up with Chris McMichael on our Cessna 210.  Chris and I swap out the brake caliper and main wheel assembly and I’m on the way.   The picture is after the repairs are complete and we’re getting loaded back up.

And God took care of this too…I spent the night unexpectedly at Pieri.  MSF was there, fortunately, and gave me a place to stay and a meal.  Timing was perfect, they are only in Pieri a week every month and we hit it when they were there.  Likewise we were able to rearrange the schedule so that one caravan and a 210 and a 206 did the work of 2 caravans for just the cost of a flight from Nairobi to Lokichogio in the 210.

God is good.