Thursday, June 12, 2014

Holding On


This word only sort of begins to describe what our life has been like for the last few months.  One only has to look at the date of my last post to see that things have indeed been a little busier here.  For the last while, there has been more airplanes than pilots here in the program in Uganda.  That's not the kind of ratio that we like to see.  Thankfully, new pilots are beginning to arrive and the light at the end of the tunnel is getting closer and closer.  As I look back on several months of flying, family life and more, it's hard to believe what has all happened.  In April we moved to a different house here in Kampala.  That was something that we are very thankful for, but it created a lot of work for us and added a little stress into our lives.  During that whole time I was flying a full flight schedule every day, then coming home in the evening to try and prepare for the move.  After we moved, I would come home and help Karen out with the unpacking and setting up of our new place.  As all of this happened, the kids continued their daily routine of school, homework and playtime.  To top things off, even our church moved location during that time.  As a church we outgrew our old location and moved into a bigger facility that will allow for continued growth.  Now in just a few days we are headed back to Canada for a few weeks for our mid-term break.  To say that there is much excitement in our household right now is an understatement, as kids count down to "D-Day" (departure day) and Karen and I continue to stare in horror at our list of things to do before we leave, which actually seems to grow longer as we check things off of it.

But we're holding on.  To everything there is a season, right?

Yeah, it's been busy.  Super busy.  Several times in the past month my body has given me strong indications that I need to allow for some rest, or it's going to bail on me.  Thankfully I have been able to get some rest when I have really needed it, and I'm feeling quite healthy at the moment.  There are other things to be thankful for as well.  The "newbie's" are coming online and are beginning to fly as they get their licenses sorted out and their program training completed.  Only this week one more pilot received his Ugandan license after months of waiting and has started his flight training.  He should be flying with passengers within another week or so.  One of our pilots who was home for an extended furlough has just returned and is back on line and carrying out daily flights.  For those of use who have been here for this last year of craziness, it's like a balm to our souls to see these guys coming on line.  It wouldn't be too difficult to pick us out of a lineup of MAF Uganda pilots.  We would be the ones with that slightly wild, eyes glazed over, upper lip curled, scraggly haired, drooling, asleep on our feet look to us. 

Ok, it's not that bad... not at all.  But we are wearing down.  And that's one more item of thankfulness.  Summer is furlough season, and this summer all of us who have been pushing so hard for the last few months are headed to our respective homes for a while.  We leave early next Wednesday morning and will touch down back in Calgary that evening.  We are able to take this time because of these new guys who have come into the program and are now starting to ease the workload.  So... pray!  Pray for us as we head back to Canada.  Two and a half years is a long time, and we know that the people and places that we left behind in Canada have not magically frozen in time, but have also moved on and changed without us, and it won't be the easiest thing for us to just slide back into our home.  Please also pray for the "newbie's" here in Uganda, who will continue the work here while we are gone.  It's a heavy load for them to carry as "new to the program" pilots, and our unique brand of international flying (Uganda, DR Congo & South Sudan) and varying security issues at different locations does not make it easy for these guys to just jump in.  They need our prayers as they fly this summer.

I leave you now with one small way that I have felt blessed in the last while, as the weariness has become more of a daily battle. 

I was flying one of our shuttle flights up in South Sudan last week, and on my last stop I had a medivac patient to pick up.  The patient was one of the local leaders of the church in that area, and he had suffered a stroke.  He was unable to move or talk, and I would be taking him to Kampala on a stretcher for treatment.  Yambio is one of the most distant locations that we regularly fly to, and it is a two and a half hour flight in a straight line back to Entebbe.  Because it is so distant, we are always flying home from there in the afternoon, when the clouds have had ample opportunity to form and convective air often makes for a slightly turbulent ride.  As we loaded this man into the plane and I secured him and the stretcher in place on the floor, I could see weather (pilot speak for "bad weather") forming in our direction of flight.  We loaded up and I took off, turning directly toward the thunderstorm in our path.  I don't know a lot about strokes, but my limited understanding is that it is often (maybe always???) due to a blood clot in or near the brain.  The last thing that I wanted to do was to bounce around in turbulent air for several hours and dislodge the clot, only to have him have a secondary stroke and die while we flew him for medical help.  The problem with that is that smooth air is only found as you climb higher, away from the convection generated by the warm ground.  In this case, higher is not better as there is also less oxygen at higher altitudes and this gentleman needed all of the oxygen that he could get. 

As I climbed away from Yambio, my mind was in constant prayer, asking (almost begging) God to make the air smooth for us at a low altitude for the safety of this man.  As I looked at my weather radar and lightning-strike finder, I have to admit that I was not optimistic.  The thunder cell was quite widespread and lightning strikes were lighting up my screen, but there was a little area about 20 miles left of my intended flight path that seemed to be a way out.  I pointed the nose in that direction and continued to beseech God to grant us smooth flying.  After only a small amount of slight turbulence, we poked out the other side of the storm and into clear air.  The rest of the flight was smooth sailing all the way to Entebbe.  Now, this happens some times, but on that day I sure felt that God had done us a small favor and had opened up a smooth airway in the sky for me to safely transport one of His precious servants to needed medical care.

This is only one of the ways that I have felt God's care and protection over me as I have flown in the past months.  Little things that aren't always issues when you are well rested and ready to go become bigger issues when we are tired, and I have on several occasions felt as though God was answering prayers in ways that made those issues fade and made the flying more enjoyable, even in a slightly weary state.  Isaiah 40:28-31 is always a favorite of aviators for obvious reasons, but as God has granted strength to the weary in these past few months it has caused me to love Him even more, as we fly to continue to spread the news of His love with the people of East Africa.  It is for His glory that we fly and we give Him the glory for the strength that He has given us to serve Him.

Isaiah 40:28-30 (NIV)
Do you not know?
    Have you not heard?
The Lord is the everlasting God,
    the Creator of the ends of the earth.
He will not grow tired or weary,
    and his understanding no one can fathom.
He gives strength to the weary
    and increases the power of the weak.
Even youths grow tired and weary,
    and young men stumble and fall; 
But those who hope in the Lord
    will renew their strength.
They will soar on wings like eagles;
    they will run and not grow weary,
    they will walk and not be faint.

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