Saturday, September 25, 2010

The value of time

If someone had told me that one day I would be married to a 50 year old woman, I am not sure I would have believed them. Who in their right mind would want to marry a person that old? Clearly the only thing lacking in the above two sentences is “perspective”. That of a 20 year old contemplating marriage compared to that of a 50 year old who has had the honor and privilege to have been married to his beautiful bride for almost 30 years! How do you place a value on this kind of time? I wish my beautiful wife another 50 and trust I can share them with her.

Lynn and Anne on the special evening

John and Anne along with their son Andrew joined us at the last minute for a rushed birthday supper for Lynn on Wednesday evening two weeks back. We had planned to be on the road making our two day trek North, so no birthday plans had been made. And when at the last minute the surgeon wanted to see Bero (who had surgery the week prior) on Wednesday for one last checkup, plans changed. But at my age it took a while for the implications of the plan change to sink in. “Hey we will still be here for Lynn’s birthday!” and “Hey it may be a great idea to get some of our Mercy Air friends to go out to supper with us.” Well by the time these amazing thoughts had penetrated this 50 year olds’ grey matter, it was terribly late and I only had the courage to call up a couple who have known us for a long time, have grown kids, and I was sure would not be offendedJ. At the last minute Andrew, their son, who was supposed to be away doing an instrument check ride and proficiency check, had finished early so he also was able to come for supper. Again the value of time in the building and maturing of relationships can’t be measured! Thank you guys.

At supper we had a chance to talk a little more with Andrew about the aircraft accident he had the week prior (see my last blog) and to thank God that he was safe and now had his license back. Flying is an amazing blessing and as I have mentioned before, has saved us so much time on the road. And I am not referring to international commercial travel; I am referring to the time flying the Cessna 182 has saved us on so many occasions. Driving back to the mission from South Africa after having flown down to South Africa reminded me again of the dramatic difference. Over this time (including my trip to Beira) doing a quick comparison between driving and flying…the same trip that would take 47 hours on the road and the best part of 5 full days, would take almost exactly 10 hours with the Cessna and can be done in only two and a half part days! That is less than half the time! Not only so, but driving on roads that are challenging with traffic and conditions that are even more challenging is pretty tiring. Yes maybe flying a plane is stressful for some of you, but taking off, turning on the auto-pilot, looking for traffic and monitoring the flight (and doing a little reading when there is nothing to see anyway), and then landing the plane is pretty easy in comparison and a whole lot safer. If something could give you more than half your life back, what would it be worth? Now obviously we don’t travel every day of our lives, but hey at my age, every day is worth a lot! And what is more I get to spend them with a 50 year old beauty J.

Bero's 21st birthday celebration

Lynn was not the only one who had a birthday, Bero also had one. He turned 21 just after his surgery and we were able to take him for a good birthday meal. He had the chance to taste his first ever ice-cream sunday. He tasted the chocolate sauce, but made it clear to us very quickly that it would make him sick to eat it! He did seem to enjoy the ice cream though. Bero's Canadian friends and all the others who made his surgery possible have certainly helped to change his future, and only time will tell the full value of this investment in his life.

Lynn attending to Bero's wounds after our long trip

We arrived back on Thursday evening, unpacked, slept and Friday I was off to Beira to pick up a team visiting from Christian Fellowship Assembly in Grande Prairie. This church has been one those that has supported us monthly for just over 22 years now! That kind of faithful commitment has pretty high value and what is more that amount of time investment has allowed us to establish ourselves in a country that experienced 26 odd years of war and be in a position to contribute toward the equipping and empowerment of leaders and their churches and communities. Someone once said, “we overestimate what we can accomplish in one year, but we terribly underestimate what we can accomplish in five years.” How much more can be said of 20+ years. This past week we had the privilege of delivering 3 cattle plows to two associations of farmer/pastors who will use them to improve their food production. The gifts were the result of Unique Christmas gifts given this past year but are just in time for field preparation for the coming season.

Tamara, Steve and Laura Lee visited much of the work here and contributed in some neat ways. Steve, besides helping to source the plows mentioned above with one of our staff members, helped me to survey the runway so we could plot the grading that would be needed. Russell, our son, got the data via email and very quickly had prepared a profile along with details for the work that is needed. The girls helped Lynn to love on lots of sick people, women and orphans.

Time passes quickly and another week has come and gone, but the value of the time spent will impact the days and months to come in important ways!

Saturday, September 11, 2010


Acronyms are great for all those who know what they mean. The thing I find is that even common acronyms end up meaning different things to different people, as in the case of TBO. In aircraft terms it is an expensive word, regardless of how you translate it. Some refer to it as “time before overhaul,” others as “time between overhauls,” and for others I think it means “too busy to overhaul!”
But TBO is hard to ignore…kind of like death and taxes! Because if you do you will be dead and won’t have to worry about taxes :).
It is that time for our trusty old (well 36 years old anyway) Cessna 182 to have her engine overhauled (although we will be getting a factory re-manufactured engine which is like new) and the timing worked out well. Although we had been running the trusty bird “on condition,” meaning that although TBO had come and gone, our specialized engineers had determined that it was safe for her to run a few more hours based on compressions and oil analysis etc. Well a fair amount of liters per flight were being burned up now and it simply made sense to say enough is enough.
Charlie Bravo Kilo awaiting fuel in Vilanculos on the way for a new engine
The mission plane has served us amazingly and really has been a story of faith and God’s faithfulness and provision. Bob Guzak a very good friend of mine called me from Canada in 1996 and said he felt strongly that this aircraft we were able to purchase, needed to be in Africa! I agreed but had no way or resources to do this, so Bob took on the challenge single handedly. He drummed up support from a number of different people and donated a significant amount himself. Then along with the strong support of his wife Sharon(also a dear friend of ours) , he got into the plane with a ferry pilot and flew this plane the 95 hours through 9 odd countries all the way to Zimbabwe.
As I stood alone at the little airstrip in Mutare, I could hardly believe my eyes when the little plane came into sight. There were some tears as we celebrated their safe arrival and the realization of a dream I had for many years (that will wait for another time).
And now C-GCBK or Charlie Bravo Kilo as she is known by those who have flown her, has flown more than 1500 hours on this engine with never an incident (only a little fire on the ground once :), and is ready for a new engine. I have to say however that this last flight down to South Africa did have me thinking some. Andrew Herbert, a good friend of ours and son of John and Ann Herbert who work with Mercy Air (John has worked hard with Gary Hillman of Hillman Air to keep our aircraft in excellent shape), was flying a Cessna 206 owned by Iris Ministries to South Africa last Friday for its engine change. As he passed Quilimane the aircraft was running smoothly and although it was getting dark he had taken all the precautions and the weather was clear, so he pushed on to Beira where he would rest for the night. Thirty miles or so out of Beira as he prepared to descend, his engine gave a shudder. He quickly checked the fuel, changed tanks, turned on fuel pumps etc., but then a sudden jerk and roll as the aircraft propeller tore it-self free and slammed into one of the wings! Andrew could barely get the wings level again and now was speeding toward the ground at 2000 foot per minute in pitch black conditions. “Beira, I have an engine problem and have to do an emergency landing,” says Andew. “Cleared to land runway 12” says Beira tower. “Negative Beira, I have an engine out and going down,” says Andrew. ..hessitation… “Cleared to land runway 30,” says Beira control. “Negative, MAYDAY, MAYDAY, MAYDAY,” says Andrew in desperation, but now with little time to say anymore. “Give your coordinates…” says Beira Tower. Andrew tries to give them to them but they misunderstand. “Too late, going down, “ says Andrew. He only has time to breathe a prayer, “God, thanks for having a chance to be a part of your Kingdom and for the time you have given me. I only now ask for your grace…” He turns on his landing light at the last second only to see trees. He pulls up hard to flair and either try to clear the trees or mush into them. Next thing he knows he is clear of trees and landing in an empty patch of ground. One bounce, lands and then crashes headlong into trees. The next thing he knows he is feeling his face to see if he is okay. Hardly a scratch but a long way from help in the middle of the Mozambican bush. His survival and the next 7 hours waiting to be rescued were traumatic, but God answered his prayer….”grace” That is all we all need right?
As we took off three days later to bring our bird down for the engine change, it was pretty hard to not think of Andrew’s experience. Thankfully we were flying in daylight (albeit instrument conditions), and the new autopilot and GPS made the flight a relaxed enjoyable experience. As I chatted with Andrew and we talked about safety in Mozambique, I mentioned to him how many times I have almost been killed on the highways driving. In fact one of these experiences is told in my last blog! Flying in a light aircraft saves literally days of travel on each trip, it prevents tons of damage to perfectly good vehicles due to the horrific road conditions, and it is certainly safer than the roads in Mozambique. We have been soo blessed to have been able to fly these past 14 years in support of our lives and ministry along with many others we have helped.
The timing worked well as well since Bero had to come down for his second surgery. He has been waiting for a few months for his TBO, “time between operations”. His first surgery was in February and the release of his first arm from burn strictures he got due to being badly burned as a baby during the war has given him a new lease on life. This second one on his right arm has already allowed the arm to stretch out normally! He may yet need a final surgery to get a skin graft on his left arm to fully allow that one to extend normally, but that will be up to the good graces of the surgeon who has offered all of his work for free. Grace :)

Joao and I in front of the University he attends
So yesterday I took the day to drive to Maputo, Mozambique, from Nelspruit, South Africa, to meet with the Civil Aviation authorities. Laws have changed in Mozambique and the license our aircraft was under was lost, so we will now need to try and apply for a private operators license to be able to continue our flying in Mozambique after the engine change and annual inspection. The meeting with the two guys at civil aviation went well (I think I was able to start making friends…an important step). After an ICAO (International Civil Aviation Organization) audit, the entire department in Mozambique was revamped with new people. I guess it was their TBO but that has left us with no one we know there and so the rebuilding of trust and relationship starts. They will study the steps we need to take to be able to get a new operating license so right now we are praying for …you got it…grace.
Since I was visiting Maputo, I called Joao (our sponsored student in university there) and he met me and just spent the day with me. What an awesome time to talk about the vision for the future with him joining the mission later in December after he has completed his university studies. He will have a business degree and his and our dream is for him to work with the pastors and their associations as they work at developing projects to feed the orphans, the widows, the elderly and themselves in very difficult rural conditions. For him this is his “time before overtime!” Knowing him he has put in overtime at school as well, but anyone who has been to the mission knows that Joao spends most nights working in the office until the generator goes off and he is forced to his tent. He is so thankful for the grace he has been given and is living it out. Keep him in your prayers so he can finish well.

Saturday, September 4, 2010

The trip is over, the journey continues

Travel seems to be what characterizes at least one significant part of my life! I guess in most cases that is what defines a missionary…leaving home and going somewhere in obedience to Someone important who said, “Go!”

The purpose of the trip is the story of one’s life I guess and I have become very aware of how every trip I make is so integrally tied to all the other trips I and Lynn have made. And these go back a very long way.

The stories of this past week could likely fill a book, but I will share them over the weeks to come as they relate to the journey we are on out here. This last road trip I was accompanied by Pastor Pires Alberto Williamo (don’t let the name throw you!). He was selected by his peers to be the supervisor of zone 3 which is the area (of our extension schools) I was visiting this past week. His home village is Sinjal (on the banks of the Zambezi River). This is the village we have selected to establish a remote base for the mission because it would facilitate much training close to home for many of the monitors (pastor trainers) who we train.

But besides location, the real reason we have selected Sinjal is Pastor Pires and his proven faithful track record. Someone once referred to something called the “speed of trust” which can be illustrated by how easy it is to drive fast on a two-lane paved highway in good weather conditions, compared to the speed one feels comfortable driving on a pot-hole infested road where every turn you are faced with sharp-edged crevices that threaten to destroy your car or send you careening off the road to miss them.

Let me digress…On my way back this time I came around a corner only to have a big truck bearing down on me on MY side of the road. I had just reminded Pastor Pires to put his seat-belt on, so as I jammed on the breaks and swerved partly into the ditch to miss the truck, he was thankfully held tightly in his seat. Another pastor who was with us said I was a prophet because I knew the truck would be coming and that is why I made sure Pastor Pires put on his belt. I assured him that this was not the case J.

Getting back to the speed of trust…when one builds a relationship of trust with someone as a result of mutually faithful experience, the wheels become greased for a faster pace and effectiveness of work. And this is what we are seeing in the life of this amazing (“little” in the physical sense) man. Let me just add that this faithful pastor serves without a salary and finances himself from a little shop (Banca) he and his wife run along with a small hand powered carpentry business which operates out of grass covered shelter. He had a great opportunity to work for the government and has many family members in key government positions, but he had God’s call on his life, and simply turned them down and keeps turning them down to ensure he has enough time to fulfill “the call”.

This past year was a very hungry year and as some of you may have read from earlier blogs, there were many areas on the Zambezi that simply got NO rain. Not only so, due to that the people planted in the low areas by the river only to have the river come down in flood when the big hydro dam up-stream opened its gates due to heavy rain fall further up in the catchment area. We were able to respond to 16 of our pastors groups who formed associations to enable them to get some emergency food. The condition was that they would work together to “earn” this food so as to try and improve things in their community through various projects. In Pastor Pires home village 60 men and women who are studying with us formed an association and have done amazing things. They were helped with the food aid, but are now working together to “pay” for it. They worked with local government to get a piece of land they could fence and that would have the ability to irrigate from the river. They dug three wells along the one boundary of the land and by hand fenced the entire two hectares! This “fencing” material is not available in their immediate area, so they had to trek into the mountain area, cut the wood, and carry it by hand. Besides that they had to cut thorn bush which they then stacked around the bottom part of the outside of the fence to keep goats out and it works!

They have already planted a variety of crops and are now working to make bricks so that a food storage shed can be built in the years to come to try and keep enough food stocks in the community. It is hard to fully visualize the beauty that can come from people who are willing to faithfully work together for a better future. And the only likely incentive to keep serving together faithfully on this difficult journey is Christ-modeled, Christ-empowered servant-hood.

As mentioned there are many stories to come, but I simply cannot end this blog without talking about the 3 new graduates of our program that graduated in Nyangoma after a full 7 years of study. Pastor Thomas Inacio who was selected to speak on behalf of the graduates shared how he and his colleagues struggled to imagine how they could ever get through this kind of a program since they were already advanced in years. Pastor Ricardo had shared with them the story of Simeon and how that he had the promise that he would hold the messiah before he died, and challenged them that if they could believe, they would hold a diploma one day. Pastor Inacio said that did it. We decided to believe we could do it and now we have. And the blessing of the things we have studied and learned has helped us to now be able to really help and teach others truth.

I honestly could go on at length about all the encouraging words he shared, and the other two graduates shared. The reality is that their lives have been changed and empowered and they are making a significant contribution already to their churches and communities. These are the kinds of moments that make the journey so rewarding!

Pastor Inacio sharing the challenges of the Journey

Pastor Joalinho and his wife (she is happier than she looks since pictures are normally not taken with smiles...there is a reason :)

Pastor Domingues with his wife (took lots of work to get the smiles)

Thank you to those who are on this journey with us including the One who called us and walks with us.