My flashlight aimed steadily at the mirror I maneuvered back and forth, deep in the air intake of the engine. My hand awkwardly tried to get the mirror to move into just the right position to see the reverse angle of the engine inlet screen. With the mirror finally finding the correct spot, I was at last able to examine the compressor inlet cover on the engine for any damage. My final approach into the village dirt airstrip that day had been unintentionally dramatic. I was carrying a seasoned missionary family back to their remote village. To get there, we had entered the country earlier that morning at one of the allowed immigration airstrips, cleared our Ebola screening, courtesy of the UN health workers, and then proceeded on to a second airstrip, so the family could bring greetings to the local governor, and finally, flew the last 30 minutes to the local village to complete our journey.
By this time, it was late in the day and a large crowd had gathered to welcome the missionaries back from America. Soaring gracefully on the hot afternoon thermals that radiated from the 100+ degree red clay soil, hawks flew with their wings majestically extended. Their prey quivered in the shadows far below. The wind was howling, making only one approach direction to the airstrip viable for the airplane, and apparently for the hawks too, as they soared below, obstructing the final approach corridor. The hawks and I both worked to avoid each other as they gracefully maneuvered this way and that, and I clumsily worked my big blue and white bird to the ground. Unfortunately, one hawk was oblivious to my maneuvering, until it was too late. He impacted the nose of the airplane just below the propeller spinner.
Now it wasn’t the bird strike that was the most interesting part of the day, and it wasn’t the Ebola screening that I underwent to get into the country that was so unusual. The most important and interesting part of the day was learning about the ‘20 to 30’.
With the airplane now safely on the ground, the crowd excitedly welcomed the missionaries and me. With blood and feathers splattered against the airframe and engine air inlet, I began my inspection to make sure the bird’s impact had not damaged the plane. Small birds can do great damage to an airplane, and a big hawk, such as this one, can cause catastrophic results. By God’s grace, the airframe had not been damaged, but I still needed to thoroughly examine inside the engine inlet to see if any debris had somehow penetrated the compressor inlet screen of the engine. With my flashlight and mirror I was able to examine the reverse angle, much like a dentist would illuminate the hidden areas of a patient’s mouth. Praise God…nothing was damaged. No hole was found in the engine inlet screen, giving me peace of mind that the bird had not entered the engine.
Many South Sudanese in this region are finally receiving Christ as their Savior, bringing hope where there was only despair.
Now it wasn’t the bird strike that was the most interesting part of the day, and it wasn’t the Ebola screening that I underwent to get into the country that was so unusual. The most important and interesting part of the day was learning about the ’20 to 30′. Twenty to thirty South Sudanese are changing the landscape of this region. You see, during my journey that day, long before the bird and I met in the sky, the father of the missionary family told me of their many years of ministry work in South Sudan. As we flew along, he shared how difficult the work was the first 10 years. Back then, as a young married couple, long before kids, their ministry work was hard and discouraging. Very few people received the Good News of Jesus Christ in the area. The missionaries faithfully taught the Word of God, yet few accepted the message of Peace with God through Jesus Christ. Back then, seeing someone profess Christ in baptism was rare, and the ill reception received while sharing the Gospel message was quite discouraging. But now, God is moving in a most visible way, as night has turned to day. Many South Sudanese in the area are finally receiving Christ as their Savior, bringing hope where there was only despair.
The missionary family is not out directly leading all of these people to Christ. Instead, they are pouring into 20 to 30 South Sudanese believers. These 20 to 30 followers of Christ are being discipled by them, as the missionaries are sharing the teachings of Christ seen in the Bible. In turn, these 20 to 30 are going out to share this Good News with their families, cousins, friends and local communities. The impact is overwhelming, as the teaching about our wonderful Lord expands throughout the region and many are receiving the joyful news of God’s love for us and His plan for redemption. The missionaries are focused on sharing what they know about Christ with the 20 to 30 South Sudanese who are available at various times, and God has multiplied that teaching to bless many with the Good News of salvation. Praise God for how He uses His servants to share the Good News of Jesus Christ, one by one, and how He multiplies that work to bring hope to His precious children.