In the Heart of Africa

Easter weekend 2017, I participated in an evacuation of missionaries out of Central African Republic as they were being threatened by an advancing militia. During that evacuation we successfully extracted the missionaries and their families, but the national Christians that they were working with fled from their villages to preserve their lives. While giving our “Shareholder’s Report” to many of you in person over the last year in America, Lesli and I shared this story with you. Over the last year, Voice of the Martyrs and Africa Inland Mission have been working together to provide for these displaced C.A.R. Christians who are unable to return to their homes and communities. It was a joy to be able to return to them recently and help the national church in their time of crisis. Over a four-day period, we flew 22,000 lbs. of soap, salt, mosquito nets, tarps, medicines and various other supplies that they critically need, after being cut off from their communities.

Laoding tarps and mosquito nets for transport.

The Church had a lot of fun helping to off load the supplies we were bringing in. Here they formed a long human chain to unload the hundreds of tarps that we had brought.

The flights were very quick, lasting only 30 minutes to 1 hour one-way, from where the supplies had been staged. This allowed me to fly back and forth multiple times throughout the day. One day I had nine landings!

I ended up using 18 drums of jet fuel, each containing 200 liters. The jet fuel and relief supplies had been trucked in from Uganda, taking a month of travel by road to get to our staging area.

 

The airfield we were flying out of had a significant slope to it, which greatly aided heavy weight takeoffs. It was also a lot of fun to land on!

While completing my post flight inspection one evening, to ensure the aircraft would be ready for flight the next day, I discovered a loose bolt that had fallen into the bottom of the engine nacelle. As you can imagine, loose bolts and flying do not go together. I contacted our maintenance department back in Nairobi with the Satellite phone, and they provided helpful insight of how to begin a thorough search for where the bolt could have come from. We began our search, but being near the equator where twilight turns to black within minutes, darkness was quickly falling on us. Recognizing that flashlights alone would not be adequate for a thorough search, not to mention we had just worked 12 hours straight, I called off the search until daybreak the next morning.

Upon awaking it was drizzling outside, so we dawned our rain gear and again began the search. Because of its shape and design, we knew that the bolt wasn’t used for a critical engine control, like the prop governor or fuel control, but we still had to find the missing hole from which it came to ensure the structural integrity of the engine and to see if any additional bolts might be loose. Inspecting for a missing bolt was extremely rare (I have never done such a thing) so we knew we had to take our time to do this correctly.

After 30 minutes of inspecting I said to our team of three, “I know we have all probably been praying individually about finding where this bolt came from, but let’s pray together about this problem.” We enjoyed a short time of prayer, asking God for direction. Then, no more than 3 minutes later, the other pilot reported, “I think I know where it came from.” Sure enough, he had found that the loose bolt had come from an attachment point where the inertial separator attaches to the engine nacelle flange. Praise God!!! What an answer to prayer. Out in the remote location from where we were operating, in the heart of Africa, God heard our prayers and greatly blessed us!!! We were able to reattach the bolt quickly to the flange and make sure all was in order before resuming our scheduled flying for the day, while only missing an hour of available flying time. What a wonderful answer to prayer!

Once the cargo had been delivered,  it was really fun to transport children back to where they attend school on the return leg of the flight. These girls had the best time laughing with excitement for the opportunity to ride in an airplane. The chicken seemed pretty relaxed too!

The sun rises at 5:00 am and sets at 5:00 pm in our location in Central African Republic, so early 3:45 am wake-ups were required to get a start on the day. We only had 12 hours to make a lot of hay, so we had to farm fast!

After fleeing their homes, the refugees set up a make shift community in the forest.

The UN has several locations throughout C.A.R. to help provide stability. We used two different UN bases to land at and then the UN provided a truck so that we could get the supplies to the people.

At one of the UN bases, I spent the night and enjoyed a feast of Moroccan food for dinner by my gracious hosts. The camp is run by Moroccan soldiers, a very fun group of guys to hang out with!

Mosquito nets, tarps, medicine, seeds, blankets and bedding are off loaded from the plane to begin their next journey by truck and boat to reach their final destination.

C.A.R. has lush vegetation and huge trees, the views are breathtaking! But I wouldn’t want to have engine problems here.

Before these flights began, we asked for specific prayers of safety and wisdom of how to proceed. Thank you for all of you who prayed during this intense 4 days of flying. We dealt with rain, mud, fog, a loose engine bolt, limited sleep and fatigue, not to mention the unknown problems that God took care of that we didn’t even know about. But through all of these challenges we were able to minister to the displaced C.A.R. Christians, our Brothers and Sisters in the Lord, who are in critical need. Thank you for all who prayed over these flights, those who have been praying for our family, and those who have been supporting us financially so that we can be out here ministering. You have blessed us and those who are undergoing persecution for their faith in the heart of Africa.