Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Airplane Repairs Complete!?!

Hold onto your seats, people... here's the latest from Dale, the lead mechanic on our aircraft at MMS Aviation in Coshocton, Ohio:

Hi Steve

We are moving ahead, and the wings are going on today.  The horizontal and vertical with the rudder are on.  The panel and all the electrical tests are completed.  The interior is going in and when we get the wings on, we can finish that up. 

I am planing on signing off the work on Friday.  After that it is all Annual (inspection) work.  Install seats and floor covering rigging checks, making sure all the lights , stall warning, heaters, beacon etc work.  I would like to sign the Annual off on the 10th, or when you are here.  

It will be great to see you when you come to MMS.  There should be plenty to do when you come here.  I want to go through all the paper work and repairs with you.  

I will send you a picture on Friday of the plane, hopefully in its completed state.



Saturday, September 24, 2011

Bongolo Hospital Visitors in the News!

This article originally appeared on the "Strongsville Patch" website.

Strongsville Doctor, Family, Make a Difference in Africa

Dr. John, Linda and Ryan Chae in Gabon.
The Chae family traveled to Gabon to heal bodies -- and spirits     By Gina Ragon 
Bongolo Hospital — located in the hot plains of West Africa — is rustic by U.S. standards, but to the poor seeking medical treatment in the country of Gabon, it is a beacon of hope.

To the Chae family of Strongsville, it is a life-affirming place of both medicine and faith.
“Really, the conviction is to service both physical and spiritual,” said Dr. John Chae, a rehabilitative medicine specialist at MetroHealth Medical Center. “Faith in Jesus Christ is what is most important to us.”

The Chae family has long been a part of the hospital’s success. Through Grace Church in Middleburg Heights, the Chaes have helped to support Bongolo for many years.

Two years ago, John and his wife, Linda, spent a week there so Dr. Chae could teach medical residents.

This summer, they returned with their younger son, Ryan, 17, an aspiring physician, to introduce the idea of rehabilitation to a culture that prides itself on stoicism.

Dr. Chae assesses an injured young patient at Bongolo Hospital. 
“In Gabon, they understand surgery and medicine, but the idea of rehab isn’t something they see as treatment,” Chae said.

Culture Shock 
Patients at Bongolo Hospital travel up to two days to be seen by American doctors, arriving with conditions including AIDS, clubbed feet, trauma, malaria, tuberculosis, infected wounds, strokes and chronic pain.

A Christian hospital, Bongolo is staffed entirely by U.S. physicians looking to make a professional and spiritual difference in Africa, like Dr. Keir Thelander, who trains African surgical residents there.
While Thelander's surgical results have been encouraging, Chae said rehabilitative treatment could help patients recover more completely.

“We were able to take patients, including one with a spinal cord injury and one with a pelvic fracture, who had been in bed for months and get them walking again, which was very gratifying," Chae said.
But while the team, including physical and occupational therapists, arrived ready to help, they weren't prepared for the cultural obstacles to rehabilitation.

In the Gabonese culture, it is taboo to draw attention to oneself, so patients rarely speak of their injuries or ailments.

Ryan and Dr. John Chae with a surgical resident and his young son from the Republic of Congo.
“It is not acceptable to say I am in pain, focus on me,” Chae said.

What’s more, because young people are taught to serve infirm family members, it is hard for patients to follow doctors’ orders to improve their mobility and strength.

“In the U.S., if someone had a stroke, we’d say, let’s train them to do things by themselves. In Gabonese culture, they want to help, but that gets in they way,” Chae said.

A Mission of Hope

With the help of MetroHealth, Chae hopes to have rehabilitation services established permanently at the hospital within the next three years.

As for the Chaes, they intend to go back to Gabon every two years, bringing different specialists to provide training in various areas of healthcare.

But the medicine is just part of the mission.

With MetroHealth physical therapist Theresa Fitzgerald, Dr. Chae develops a rehab plan for a Gabonese patient.
“Spiritually, this work helps me expand my view of what God is doing in the world and reminds me that God is just as interested in every person on this planet as He is in us," said Linda Chae, who coordinates the regular shipment of supplies to Bongolo.

Ryan, a senior at Strongsville High School, said the trip solidified his interest in pursuing a medical career.

“Watching what went on the hospital, I thought, this is something I want to do,” he said.

On a more personal level, Ryan was also inspired by the faith of the Gabonese people. “Even in their poverty, seeing how they relied on God, and had so much hope in that, it’s something you don’t see in America, even with all of our prosperity.”

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

VIDEOS- Our City Under Construction!

Here is a video with some sights and sounds of all the construction around our city, Libreville, in preparation for one of the continents biggest sporting events- the Cup of African Nations (CAN).  It starts in January, so the workers are trying to finish things up quickly.  We would like this... maybe Then, traffic can go from a stand still to the next level of "inching along"!  Enjoy the video!

Here's another video from a location just outside of the city.  It's about 1 mile from the large complex that the national church has purchased to develop a social works campus... airstrip included!

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Monday, September 12, 2011

A Different Kind of Caravan

(All you aviation nuts out there know about a great aircraft called the Cessna CARAVAN- it's in use all around the world as one of the best utility aircraft providing service in and out of some of the world's hardest to reach locations.  Below is a bit of an update on our family and a story of a different sort of Caravan... the Mobile Medical Clinic Caravan. Enjoy!)

Hello All:
We’re doing very well.  Just spent Thursday through Saturday in the interior of the country.  We took a team with our two vehicles to set up a “mobile medical clinic” at an Alliance church in the village of “Mitzic”.  There, while the medical clinic was happening, I went with the pastor of the church to visit with the Mayor or the town to talk about giving the local community counsel in how to properly take care of the airport and get it reopened.  He was very happy to greet me and will support our work as long as it gets approval of the country’s civil aviation authority.

On the way to Mitzic, we stopped by another town, “N’djole” where we did our initial consult with the local Alliance church regarding the same thing- taking care of and reopening their local airport.  About 15 people from the church came to the meeting to hear about the idea and ask questions.  They were also very supportive and would like to continue with this program- “Operation Runway Rehab”.  Please pray for the effort to open runways around Gabon and that local communities understand this work to be an expression of God’s great love for them.

The medical clinic, itself, was a great success.  I believe that medical consultations were given to over 300 people and medications were given.  There were many that came to seek help with vision problems, malaria, high blood pressure, diabetes, and joint pain.  Alace was primarily assisting in the counting of pills and other medications into small plastic sacks with the instructions on when to take them.  The first day of the clinic, I was mainly in meetings, but the second day, I helped weigh people in and take blood pressure with a simple cordless machine.  This required having people really hike up their sleeves and get the cuff on their upper arm.  So, I was constantly using the waterless hand sanitizer to clean up.

One younger woman, Adele, saw the result of her blood pressure test and exclaimed, “OH!  That is too high!  I’m going to die!  I’m going to be working in my garden and fall down dead!”  She started to gather her things to leave in despair, but I calmed her down and said, while it is true that her blood pressure is elevated, we have come to help.  With the right medication, a change in diet, and prayer, her blood pressure can be managed better.  She did calm down and, I’m happy to say, stayed around for her consult and received her medicine. Please pray that she, and the others that we saw during the clinic, will put their full faith in the Great Physician!

We did all of this work along side of a health program called “OSPAC”- a work of the national Alliance church.  You probably remember that this is the team that has a base at the large city Alliance church in Libreville where Alace volunteers.  They had a team of 6 that came to run the clinic.  We merely pitched in to help where we could.  They do their job with such joy and care.  It’s impossible for the people of Mitzic to not understand that this is the love of God expressed to them in a practical way!

Each clinic is started off with a time of education where all of those registered sit down in the church pews and the OSPAC team talks to them about how to take care of themselves and the ones they love.  There is also a time for a testimony and prayer.  Stations are set up around the church for vision, weight & blood pressure, eye exams, pharmacy, consultations, and spiritual counseling.

The first night we were there, we projected the Jesus film onto the front side of the church with all the church pews out front for people to sit.  It actually got a bit chilly!  We had the version of the film in the local tribal language- people were quite surprised to see Jesus and hear him talking in their language!  One family came to know the Lord.  It was a privilege to be there and pray with them.  Others came to accept Christ as Savior while the clinic was underway.

Please pray for the fruit of the seeds that were planted through the clinic and the local church pastor, Emory and his wife, Natasha, will lead their church in meaningful and effective follow-up.  Many West-African, Muslim businessmen came and took away literature along with their medication!  Muslim’s are often much more receptive to the gospel outside of their home country and, those that receive Christ become great missionaries when they go back for visits!  Please pray for this reality in these cases.

So, it was a great time.  Very tiring and sometimes frustrating when viewed through Western eyes about what “should” be happening, but everything worked out and the people of Mitzic can’t wait until we come back.  In fact, as we were packing up, people were still showing up in taxis and by foot saying that they had traveled from other smaller villages in the region after they found out about the clinic by word of mouth the day before.  So, we couldn’t help but linger just a bit more to try and care for everyone.  Our departure was much later than we wanted, but it was worth it.  God is good and took care of us as we ended our voyage back to Libreville in the dark of night.

The rainy season is starting now, so the temperatures will start going up and the steam will return to Gabon!  I’m not so excited about that.

Please pray as the kid’s fall break dates have had to change.  There will be a Presidential election during the weekend of their break and they anticipate demonstrations throughout the country.  So, the date change is in everyone’s best interests, however it is going to cause us a major disruption in plans (we have already purchased airfare to the states from Cameroon!).  We need wisdom in how to put together the new schedule.  It will mean changing our airline tickets to a Libreville departure/return ($$$) and most likely having the kids come to Libreville by airline ($$$).  So, we need your prayers to seek the best way to resolve this.

Please pray for our (Alace and I) upcoming trip to the US (Oct. 09-27).  There are three main reasons that we will make this trip.  First, is that our airplane’s repairs are coming to a finale’ and I would like to be there to assist in any way possible as well as the first flights to make the final tweaks.  Secondly, the timing works out great to join the rest of my family in celebrating my father’s 80th birthday!  We miss so many celebrations with family, it will be a great treasure to join in this occasion.  Thirdly, there is growing interest for our work in Gabon in the Indianapolis area.  We will have a fund raising dinner in an aircraft hangar, most likely at the Greenwood airport in the area (I’ll keep you posted).   In the short three weeks that we are home, there will not be time to meet with all those that we would like, but we are praying for fruitful connections with those that we can and that the name of the Lord is glorified as a result of it all.  Please pray with us that this is so. We also covet your prayers for all the logistics that need to be worked out, especially a vehicle to use.

Praise the Lord that our rental aircraft continues to keep our program moving along.  Even though the expense is high, keeping our flights much fewer than desired, we still do get an occasional flight.  If you’d like to see some pictures from the flights and hear about the work that is being accomplished on those flights, please follow my online journal at

The kids are doing pretty well at school.  Joe has been voted as his class rep to the student counsel!  Megan is doing great on the social front- never a problem there.  On the academic side, she continues to be challenged, especially in the test-taking area.  Sam is still “finding his groove” in the switch from the homeschooling environment to classroom.  Again, he is excelling in social aspects, as we knew he would!  We are so blessed to have a great school, like the Rain Forest International School, just one country “up the road” from us.  Please pray for the kids in their studies and RFIS as they constantly battle the need for additional faculty.  We also would ask you to pray for Scott and Lee Pyles, who are the “parents” of the home where they are living with 4 other RFIS students.

Again, as we say every time, we are so blessed to have an army of people who love us and pray for us.  Thank you for interceding on our behalf!
Steve and Alace

N207FD Gets Paint!

Here's an update from the team at MMS Aviation regarding the new paint job for our aircraft!

Hi Steve, today we rolled 207FD out of the paint booth and moved it to the main hangar for the assembly process.
Josh sprayin' away.

In the booth.  Notice the old skins on the ground.

Out of the booth!  Here is Dale tugging N207FD to the next phase.
Today, we pulled the aircraft out of the paint booth.  There is more painting that needs to happen to the horizontal, right aileron, left flap and other smaller parts.  We hang the wings tomorrow, and start rigging those this week.  19-23 Sept we will install interior and finish up on the panel work.  26-30 Sept, I hope to install the horizontal and elevators vertical and rudder, and get those rigged.  install the prop, fill up with fuel and do the engine runs.  3-7 Oct Annual inspection.  Hopefully I will have it up and running for you when you arrive on the 11th.  I would like to get in between 5 -10 hours of RTS (Return To Service flight time) so that we can work out all the rigging details and any other bugs that we find.  Blessings, Dale

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Davy's Story (Guest Blog)

Lisa Nicky is our good friend who recently went on the "Traveling Chuck's" adventure with Alace (read about it:  CLICK HERE).  She is also our teammate, serving as an RN at Bongolo Hospital.  Here's her story about a recent patient of hers:

I could hardly believe it when I heard that a short-term summer team comprised of rehabilitation specialists, including a physical and occupational therapist, was coming to Bongolo! Since their arrival, I’ve been translating for the team (and learning from them!) as they’ve worked to improve the quality of life for our patients who are weakened by disease and trauma.

Davy, who is in his early 20s, suffers from hemophilia (a bleeding disorder in which it takes a long time for the blood to clot). Recently, he came to us completely paralyzed after a fall that caused bleeding to his cervical spine. I remember praying with him and his family often that first week and asking him a question that I typically ask my patients, “Do you believe God can help you recover from this?”

His answer was a determined and heartfelt, “Yes!”

Timing is Everything!

Little by little, Davy regained the use of his arms and his legs. (You can continue to pray for him, as he is still quite weak.) Once again I see God’s perfect timing in that we have rehabilitation specialists to work with him daily during the period in which he is most in need of their expertise.

It was a great joy recently when Davy said, “Madame Lisa, I plan to be a part of the next class of nurses at Bongolo Hospital!” Isn’t it just like God to use a difficult disease and accident to inspire a young man to serve as a nurse for His Kingdom?

"Epic Flight" (Guest Blog)

Dr. David Thompson, left, with Alace and Steve Straw (pilot).
Twenty years ago I dreamed of flying in an ultralight to Libreville from our remote hospital, leaving far below the dust, the ruts, and 8 to 10 hours of stressful driving. In 2007 I even went through flight school and earned a pilot's license. The dream died in 2008 with the crash of a donated ultralight that I never got to fly.  In 2009, pilot Steve Straw began flying a Cessna 207 between Libreville and Bongolo, while Becki and I were home on furlough.  Before we returned to the field, the plane was damaged and had to be shipped back to the U.S. for extensive repairs (they should be completed in early October). In the meantime, Steve has been able to lease a Cessna 206 from a local businessman to provide occasional flights.
Dave, moments prior to liftoff at the Bongolo Hospital's runway.
On Monday, August 29, 2011, I climbed into the copilot's seat next to Steve and lifted off from our dirt airstrip in Lebamba.  As we left the ground I felt my spirit soar in worship and praise to our great Father! The ground dropped away below us, and as we circled the hospital I took more than 20 pictures.  One hour and 45 minutes later we landed in Libreville--still fresh and praising God!

Dave Thompson