Thursday, February 24, 2011

Real Vision

Here's a closer look at the work of one of our team mates:

Dr. Wendy Hofman sees God’s healing hand at work as she restores sight to people who were blinded by severe cataracts. Dr. Hofman, an ophthalmologist at Bongolo Hospital in Gabon, also is blessed when she sees one of her patients follow the light of the Gospel to saving faith in Jesus Christ.

“At the eye clinic here at Bongolo Hospital, God's free gift of complete forgiveness, through faith in Jesus Christ's substitutionary atonement, is most often shared by national Gabonese pastors in the mornings before clinic begins,” Dr. Hofman said. “But at times, I ask patients about where they are with Jesus, too.”

A man named Eric had to have his left eye removed and his remaining eye needed treatment. When Dr. Hofman asked Eric if he knew Jesus, his face lit up with joy.

“I didn't really know Jesus,” he said. “But since coming here I've discovered that Jesus is not dead. He is not dead! I gave my life to Jesus about two weeks ago for the first time, here at the hospital. Now my wife and child and I pray together every night.”

Medical missionaries help save thousands of lives and lead many to faith in Jesus Christ as they share the Gospel. Through the World Medical Mission Post-Residency Program, Samaritan’s Purse is enabling a new generation of Christian physicians like Dr. Hofman to answer God’s call to serve in the mission field.

The Post-Residency Program has made it possible for 62 Christian physicians and their families to serve in remote mission hospitals in 18 countries. More medical professionals are entering the program every year.

(article by Samaritan's Purse)

We are so blessed to have Wendy and Eric on our team. And soon, their team is growing! They are returning to the US for a few months for maternity leave!

N207FD- Hidden Damage Inspection

It's often said that, "you can't judge a book by it's cover". It's often true (I guess that's why they say it!?!), especially in the case of an accident. There's what you can see, and then there are the things that lurk under the surface.

Dale, at MMS Aviation, is leading the charge on take a look "under the hood" of our aircraft- into every corner to find each and every indication of a "discrepancy"- something out of the ordinary. Much of the noticeable damage was "impact" damage- however, in the final moments of our emergency landing, we made impact with a telephone pole and were violently spun ninety degrees to a stop from about 25 mph. The force of that spin and abrupt stop caused forces to travel throughout the aircraft, leading to much of the hidden damage.

Dale is finding some interesting things- even things that weren't associated with our accident and that were not repaired during last years refurbishment. So, MMS will have none of that! They'll be fixing it all. Here's Dale's latest update (23 FEB 2011):

"I have almost finished the hidden damage inspection except for the rudder pedal area, where I know that there are some broken pieces from the accident, but haven't seen in there yet. there is also some nose damage from a previous accident, so we will have to repair that too, it involves pulling a belly skin forward of the doors to gain access, and replacement of some pieces in there. The engine and propeller are off, and the first skins have been removed. The nose gear is also out and I was pleased that it came out quite easily."

We're blessed to have such thorough and professional work on our aircraft. The team at MMS are pros- N207FD is in great hands! Keep up the great work guys!

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

N207FD Update

As you may know, our one and only aircraft has been sitting in one of the hangars belonging to MMS Aviation in Coshocton, Ohio for a few months, waiting until their workload eased and would allow for repairs to begin.

Actually, I should say that, even though THEY couldn't start the work, they delivered the right wing to a wing repair shop in Indiana to have repaired. Here's the photo of how it was delivered back and forth. Th
e mechanic making the wing delivery, Paul, was one of the three mechanics that were here, in Gabon, in August to put the wing into the shipping container for delivery to the US. He produced a video regarding his work to deliver the wing and his ministry. See the video HERE.

Today we just received the news that the work is starting, full-tilt, in the hangars of MMS Aviation! Here are the words of Dale C., project leader:

"Today, I am getting the aircraft into position so that we can start work. We are pulling the engine so that we can inspect the engine mounts, and do the repair in the tunnel area.
The fuel pump is going in for overhaul. I have the aileron and flap back, and the wing is also complete. I have a team put together for the gear work and that starts next week."

Please keep Paul and the other technicians in your prayers as they seek to do all the work effectively and in a timely manner.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Finding Hope in Gabon

From one of our team mates, Lisa...

"The people of Gabon come to Bongolo Hospital looking for hope. When they receive treatment they are prayed for and exposed to the Gospel. As a result over 1000 people have prayed to receive Christ in 2010. They sense light here. Often they come expecting light, even searching for it. I don't know why God chooses Bongolo as a place that pushes back the darkness, but he does in undeniable ways. There were many little moments in 2010 where God used me to touch hearts for his kingdom, despite myself. My greatest desire in 2011 is to see him continue to do this to an ever-increasing degree. My desire is that I would not let the many distractions of living in community with my fellow international workers and life's many entanglements, especially what I allow my mind to dwell on, take me from those opportunities that can easily be lost in the busyness.

Here's one of those opportunities that was not lost: I remember Fleurette ("little flower"), a woman in her mid 20's, a mother of two little boys that came to our hospital and was admitted with AIDS and TB. I saw her walking into her room one morning, her clothes barely hanging onto her emaciated body. I knocked on Little Flower's bedroom door, not because I am particularly godly or even wanted to, but as so often happens to me, because of the Holy Spirit prompting me to. I asked her about her life and I remember imagining how beautiful she used to be as she beamed talking about her two boys. A local witchdoctor had lied to Fleurette about the cause of her illness and thus she'd wasted precious months in the witch doctor's "care" before coming to Bongolo.

At Bongolo Hospital, Little Flower received the truth that she was actually suffering from AIDS and was in need of anti-retrovirals. I explained who I was and a bit of my testimony of how I came to work at Bongolo. I asked her what she knew about Jesus. She said, "I cannot lie. I've walked into churches before but I don't understand what they are saying." I explained God's plan of salvation for mankind to save us through Jesus. It was apparent that God had prepared her heart. This time, she understood. I asked her if she wanted to accept God's forgiveness and become his child. She said "yes" with great confidence and prayed to receive Christ.

A day or two later I saw her parents carrying her near lifeless body into a bush taxi to bring her home to die. An infection had invaded her skin and lungs, and as is common in rural Gabonese culture, the family had decided that it was the moment to take her home. When I realized what was happening, I ran to her, leaned into the taxi, and looked into her eyes. She was still hanging on to consciousness. I assured her that Jesus was waiting to welcome her. Fleurette did not at all appear afraid . She acknowledged me with as much of a nod as she could muster.

I remember being somewhat taken aback by the peace I found in her face, even though I've seen it over and over watching believers in Christ in their final moments of life. Only thirty minutes later, she arrived in her village. I imagine Fleurette thought to herself, "Why keep Jesus waiting any longer?." Her family later told me that she was dead upon arrival."

You Never Know...

You never know what may happen on any given day, here on the equator. One day I'm looking for a plunger to do... well, you know what you do with a plunger, then the very next day you get a call and you're sitting down with, well... you never know who!

On this particular day, I received a phone call at 10am and, had a 3pm meeting at the Aero Club at the Libreville Int'l aiport with this gentleman...

J. Peter Pham is Senior Vice President of the National Committee on American Foreign Policy in New York City. He also holds academic appointments as Associate Professor of Justice Studies, Political Science, and African Studies at James Madison University in Harrisonburg, Virginia, and non-resident Senior Fellow at the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies in Washington, D.C. He currently serves as Vice President of the Association for the Study of the Middle East and Africa (ASMEA) and Editor-in-Chief of its refereed Journal of the Middle East and Africa.

Dr. Pham has authored, edited, or translated over a dozen books and is the author of over three hundred essays and reviews on a wide variety of subjects in scholarly and opinion journals on both sides of the Atlantic. In addition to the study of terrorism and political violence, his research interests lie at the intersection of international relations, international law, political theory, and ethics, with particular concentrations on the implications for United States foreign policy and African states as well as religion and global politics.

Dr. Pham has testified before the U.S. Congress on numerous occasions and conducted briefings or consulted for the U.S. and foreign governments as well as private firms. He has appeared in various media outlets, including CBS, PBS, CBC, SABC, VOA, CNN, the Fox News Channel, MSNBC, National Public Radio, the BBC, Radio France Internationale, the Associated Press, Reuters, The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, The Washington Post, The Washington Times, USA Today, Le Monde, National Journal, Newsweek, The Weekly Standard, New Statesman, and Maclean's, among others.

So, you never know! I had a great time getting to know Peter and sharing a little about our work here. He's in town to meet with some VIP's in the Gabonese gov't and was gracious to find time to meeting with a fellow American for a coke. Not only that, but he insisted on picking up the tab!

Monday, February 7, 2011

South Africa- Pilot Recertification

As a pilot in Gabon, you must have an annual pilot evaluation for each different Gabonese-registered aircraft you would like to fly. In the US, we'd call this a "type rating". The challenge is that there are no pilots here that are certified to give these evaluation flights, so you have two choices- either have that pilot flown in or go and find the pilot.

Since the aircraft that we normally use (CESSNA 207) is a US registered aircraft, we are happy to not have to do this. However, since our aircraft is down for repairs, we're using a backup aircraft (BEECHCRAFT Baron) that IS Gabonese registered. So...


Our check pilot, Tony S., is a South African pilot of acclaim. He has flown all over the world and the list of aircraft that he is certified to check out pilots in is quite long and includes WWII vintage aircraft up to business jets that cruise along at MACH 0.8- pretty impressive. He has also flown for the CIA during some times of turmoil in places like Angola and also flew for the Rhodesian Air Force (can't find Rhodesia on a map? Check wikipedia).

Hunting Tony down is difficult. The last time we met for a check ride, he happened to be in Libreville and had a free morning for a flight with me a lunch (read about it here). This time, however, he wasn't due to be in Gabon for a few more months, and we ready for our validation flights now. So, it was off to South Africa to find him.


Getting off the red-eye flight early in the morning in Johannesburg, you can still see evidence that the country has recently hosted the World Cup soccer tournament. Posters are everywhere. My traveling companion, Egmont, and I headed through the immigration formalities, picked up our bags, and headed to pickup our rental car. The airport was in stellar condition and so clean. All the spoken and written language were in English! I was feeling very much at home, until... we started driving on the wrong side of the road! Let me tell you, this takes a long time to get used to. Driving down the road, we saw sights that made us wonder, "are we really in Africa?" The infrastructure, the advertising, modern buildings, and cleanliness... we were in a "first world" country, for sure.


Prior to boarding our overnight flight to SA, Egmont informed me that we would be taking our flight check the very day that we arrived! I would have preferred a day to get my feet under me, but Egmont said it was better this way. I didn't question the veteran! So, without delay, we made our way from Joburg (short for Johannesburg) to Randburg, where we checked into a bed and breakfast. Our room wasn't quite ready for us, so we headed down the road to do a little shopping- again, I was amazed at the shopping centers... very American in style. Back at the B&B, I got a shower to get a little revived, and then it was off to the airport in Lanceria for the check ride.

Upon arrival, we couldn't help ourselves and made our way to the pilot shop to check out all the goodies. If you are a person with a particular hobby and you find yourself in a shop that caters to that particular hobby, you know what kind of experience this can be. Basically, if money was no obstacle, you'd want one of everything! I came away unscathed (mainly because I had no money!) and Egmont was able to make some purchases for the company.


We made our way to Gryphon Flight Academy and met our instructor, Anton (with me in the photo). We had some time getting to know one another, discuss some theory on the aircraft, and then jumped in his nice Mercedes to drive to the parking area where the Beechcraft Baron was at.

Egmont was first, and I watched from the back. Then, we switched places and I had my evaluation flight. Both of us did pretty much identical things; touch and go's, single engine operations, steep turns, stalls, etc. We touched back down at Lanceria; both Egmont and I had successfully demonstrated mastery of the aircraft!


So, we had been in Joburg for less than 24 hours and had accomplished our task- getting our evaluation flight successfully accomplished! ...well... almost everything. As with most every job, it's not over 'til the paperwork is done! This would prove challenging.

If you've been paying attention, you remember that the name of our check pilot referenced at the beginning of this post was "Tony", however, we flew with "Anton". Explanation? Sure... Well, Tony was busy doing a seminar and had his colleague, Anton, take care of our flight. Based on Anton's evaluation, Tony would endorse our logbook and fill out the paperwork for us. So, that was the step we now embarked on- finding Tony.

Using a GPS app on Egmont's iPhone 4, we arrived at Solenta Aviation- site of Tony's seminar. After a short wait in the lobby, Tony exited the meeting room and, 10 minutes later, we were out the door with all paperwork signed!


So, now, just a day and a half after arriving in Joburg, we had accomplished our task! Now what!?! A bit of discovery is in order.

Egmont and I ended up touring all the large shopping malls in the area- every floor or every mall! It was excellent exercise as well as a lot of fun to check out the latest and greatest stuff that nobody really needs.

For dinner, it was a tour of the world. Stop off's on the tour included Greece (lamb), Germany (Schnitzel), India (curry), Thailand (pad thai), and basic european! Good eats, I must say. Joburg restaurants are impressive.

Other events included going to one of the areas most famed raceway, Kyalami, and watching high-speed motorcycles speed around the track. Inside the large raceway, was another track for karts where a two hour race was underway. These folks are very serious.

All in all, Joburg is a pretty incredible place. My first visit made me really want to return... this time with the whole family!

Sunday, February 6, 2011



When you live abroad, you don't mind "big brother" so much. In fact, expats tend to look out for one another and people that may not be friends in another setting find themselves at each others' homes and getting together for parties and more. Embassy workers make up a big part of that. There's a sense in which we all are bonded by having a deeper understanding of the "peculiarities" of life in our current setting- it's unspoken. Sometimes you can just see it in each others' eyes.

So, from time to time, the US Embassy issues an email that goes out to the expats here, reminding them of an upcoming event or warning of a situation that they think we need to know about. I have been asked to be the "Warden" for the "faith" community of US citizens serving in Gabon, so I receive these emails and make sure that my "posse" (that's how we say it in the biz) has the "4-1-1" (or "info"... again... vernacular in the biz). No... I do not wear a badge.

The latest email from the Embassy was a warning about thefts. Having been robbed a couple of times, one of them being a mugging, I say to my fellow US citizens living in Gabon- TAKE THIS SERIOUSLY!!!

Here's the email:

Warden Message U.S. Embassy Libreville, Gabon Security Notice - Increase in Crime February 4, 2011 This Warden Message alerts U.S. citizens to the increase in crime throughout Gabon during the past several weeks. Criminals prey upon those they perceive to be affluent, including U.S. citizens. Remain vigilant, stay current with media coverage of local events, and be aware of your surroundings at all times. In light of the increase in burglaries, we remind you to take all security measures such as using locks and setting alarms, limiting access to your residence to trusted individuals, and locking up valuables out of sight. To prevent carjacking and petty theft, you should travel with your car windows up, doors locked, and items of value hidden from view. You should avoid marginal neighborhoods, poorly lit streets, and unfamiliar areas of the city, especially at night. You should not walk, run, or stay on the beach alone or in groups after dusk. When dining in restaurants or visiting markets, you should carry only minimal amounts of cash and avoid wearing excessive amounts of jewelry. If involved in an attempted robbery or carjacking, you are encouraged to comply with the attacker to avoid injury and to report all incidents to the police and the U.S. Embassy. Demonstrations can occur in Gabon with little warning. We remind U.S. citizens that even demonstrations intended to be peaceful can turn confrontational and possibly escalate into violence. U.S. citizens are urged to avoid the areas of demonstrations if possible, and to exercise caution if within the vicinity of any demonstrations.

And the email continues with contact info and about how you should tell people where you're going and keep in touch. All good stuff. My suggestion??? Come and hang out with Alace, Sam and I and our scary looking (but really sweet) HUGE dog, "Tozer".