Friday, November 22, 2013

What is a Pothole?

Wow, it's been a while since I sat down and hammered out a post for this blog.  The last few months have been crazy busy.  At one point the MAF Uganda program was down to only two operational pilots (one of which was me) for about three weeks.  This meant that every day saw me flying hither and yon across Congo, Uganda and South Sudan.  This didn't leave me feeling much like sitting down in front of my blog, but the last few weeks have slowed down a tiny bit and here I am!  One day in the past blur of months, I came home from a South Sudan flight and had the opportunity to bring one of my passengers (I'll call him "Joe") along with me in the car as I drove back into Kampala.  Along the way we were talking, and he shared a story with me that I thought would be good to pass on, so here goes...

The organization that this particular gentleman works for is a non-Christian NGO that is working up in South Sudan.  Part of what they do involves trucking freight from where they work further east to a point where it can be exported and shipped to other countries.  This means that on a regular basis they are sending trucks with shipping containers full of freight overland by roads.  On one particular day, things were happening and normal life was passing by when two men walked up to the yard.  Joe recognized these two men as the drivers of a truck that they had sent off about two weeks previously.  Now, in this particular part of the world it is not unusual for these trucks to go "missing", as things like theft, corruption and other things play out on a day to day basis, and it often becomes more lucrative for the truck drivers to sell off their freight rather than actually taking it to the destination.  As several weeks had gone by without hearing from these two men, they had assumed that something like that had gone down, and was actually surprised to see them walking into the yard.  The story that they told was even more surprising.

They had been driving down the road with their load and had ended up going into a pothole that ended up being "just a tad" bigger than they expected it to be.  As one of the drivers said, "We almost drowned in the pothole before we were able to escape from the truck.  We have been making our way back to you since then."  The two drivers piled into a vehicle with Joe, and they headed out to find the truck and unstick it from the pothole in which it was stuck.  They gave rough directions about where the truck was, and  as they got closer to the site, Joe could tell that they were close and asked them again, "Where is it stuck?"  They said, "You can see it from here.  Can't you see it?"  Joe looked down the road but could see nothing.  As they approached the site, he suddenly realized that he could see it, but hadn't been aware of what he was seeing.  He realized that what he had been seeing was the exhaust stack from the truck, poking up from the mud.  Nothing else was visible above the mud of the pothole.  Now that's a pothole!  They had literally been trapped in the cab of the truck below the surface of the mud and had almost perished as they attempted escape! 

It took them them better part of a week to unstick the truck, clean everything off, and get it running again.  Then the drivers piled in and continued on their way to the destination.  No big deal, that's just the way it is here, especially during the rainy season. 

You may be wondering how they came to drive into such a big hole (and it was a big hole.  This is an exceptional story, even for around here).  Well, often there is no way to drive around, and from the top it is impossible to see if it is 1 inch deep or (in this case) about 3 meters deep.  The only way to find out is by experiencing it first hand, and hoping that if it is deep you will be able to make your way through it before becoming stuck.

So.  Potholes.  A little different than the ones that come to mind as I think of the little divots in the road that we call potholes back home in Canada.  Is MAF making a difference here in East Africa?  For people who would otherwise have to drive on those roads, we are.  Missionaries are able to spend days or even weeks taking part in their ministry when they would otherwise have to be putting in days and hours on roads with real potholes in them.  Medical flights can be accomplished in hours rather than trying to send a critically ill patient on the nasty roads, or in places by boat.  Essential cargo is transported to where it is needed without the risk of loss or theft that accompany travel by road.  The planes and pilots of MAF allow the Word of God to go forward much more effectively than it may otherwise go.  Thanks once again for your support and prayers.

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