Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Advice from the Embassy & Water

Yesterday I called a plumber (Karista?). He said he'd be here today at 8am. Well... he showed up around 3:30pm! He said there was an emergency. I decided to give him grace but informed him that I felt it would be a good business practice to let the client know what's up. He agreed.

I had called Karista to help resolve a leak in our home's kitchen sink and then discuss future projects for the guest house that Alace is administrating. However, it turned out that there was another reason that I called. I didn't find this out until about 13 hours after I originally called him...

TODAY, we woke up to find a large puddle in the hallway of our home. We followed it. It led to the bathroom. Apparently, the seal between the toilet and the reservoir is failing. So, I turned off the water to that toilet, and cleaned up the mess. Fun.

3 hours later, I was surprised to find out that another puddle had developed. It turns out the water valve to that toilet doesn't completely close. So... cleaned up another mess and then put small buckets where the water was dripping. More fun. C'est la vie.

It's during those moments, down on my knees, sopping up water, that I find it necessary to remind myself that, someday soon, I will be flying an airplane over this beautiful country. Lord provide.

So, we've hatched a project to add 2 more 1,000 liter reservoirs to the compound- we already have one. We use the reservoir, along with an electric pump, during water "outages" and times of low pressure. What happens when there's a water outage and electrical outage at the same time you ask? Buckets.You can see the current reservoir in the above photo- it's behind the bush/tree thing in the center bottom of the photo. Note the tubing decending from the gutter. This photo is taken from in front of Pastor Sangoye's office, from the terrace that overlooks that backyard. The photo is taken facing South.
Here is a photo of our current reservoir and the pump, currently protected by an umbrella. This installation has apparently held up for some time! The photo is taken from the back yard, looking toward the back of our residence, facing East.

So, the idea is to "stack" 2 of the reservoirs in the backyard in the corner of the house and the wall that borders the South side of the compound. We'll tilt the gutter on the back of the house that direction and have it so that, when the top reservoir fills completely, it will then run off to the one below it. The challenge will be the weight... 1000 liters is 1000 kg. (I looked that up) which is about 2,200 lbs. (I also looked that up) WOW. Will this work? I'll find out. When I say "I", I mean me and Claude- the same Claude that just did some
tile and paint work for us. Perhaps they'll have to be side by side going down the wall away from the house. The idea is to clear up the central part of the back yard (where the current reservoir is) and add a bunch more water just in case we need to lock ourselves inside for an extended period of time. Now... why would we need to do that? Hmmm.... perhaps you can google that one.

Ok.. the 2nd reservoir? We'll tilt the gutter from the annex (the adjoining building) the other direction and have the water routed to a reservoir that will sit in the driveway. The way the current gutter is tilted, the water simply dumps to the rear of the compound into the neighborhood river (also a garbage dump). So, here again, we hope to elevate it and profit from pressure due to gravity. This will, again, be more water reserve for a "just in case" scenario and give Gustave (the mission's employee) all the water he could ask for when it comes to car washing and water battles with the kids. Great for fire fighting to.

Here (above) is a view of the driveway. The photo is taken from the front gate, looking West. The clutter on the right will be slowly disposed of and the reservoir will be put in the corner. The building directly ahead is called the "Annex". The forward portion of the top floor of the annex is a storage room referred to as the "Magasin" (french word for "shop"). The Magasin is in the picture as the double doors up on a small loading dock type surface. Behind the magasin is Pastor Sangoye's office. He is our good friend and serves the team as a business agent. In the middle of the picture, you may be able to pick out a set of stairs and a doorway in the shadow- this serves as the dividing point between the two buildings that make up the guest house campus. The building to the left is known as the "guest house"- visitors stay in the top portion and our family lives in the residence in the bottom portion. If we could turn to the left, you would see another driveway that descends toward the front door of the residence. Back to the reservoir thing... My big brother Dan has plans to bring his family out and elevate the reservoir to the max. This will assist in giving the whole compound water, with or without electricity!

Ok... To the left is a picture taken from the front of the magasin's double doors, looking toward the North wall of the compound. That pile of rubbish is the same one from the previous photo... just a different angle. In this photo, you'll notice the end of a gutter if you look to the top of the photo where the tree meets the roof line. That's where the reservoir will get it's water.

The Purpose of Life

I borrowed the following from Salem Alliance Church who used it as a corporate declaration during each of their 5 services this past weekend.

I was dead.

I let the world, which doesn't know the first thing about living, tell me how to live.

I filled my lungs with polluted unbelief, and then exhaled disobedience.

I deserved God’s rage, but instead I got His mercy.

He took my sin-dead life and made me alive in Jesus Christ.

God, my Father, did all this on His own, with no help from me!

I am His work of art, created on purpose and for purpose.

He has good work for me to do.

I offer my life as worship to Him.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Airstrip Surprise

So, I got an email from Tim K., the director of the NEW Short Term Mission site at the Bongolo Hospital. He said that some visitors were looking for some ways to be a blessing around the hospital, so he directed them to the project at the airstrip! WOW!

Before long, they were swinging machetes and pushing lawn mowers. How cool is the Body of Christ when we share the journey and carry one anothers' burdens!?! Knowing that there are many, many projects that need help at the hospital, I was completely humbled that Tim would chose the project at the airport. And on top of that, I was humbled that the Rouch family would pitch in!

The Roush family had stayed a night previously at the guest house on their way to the hospital. In this picture, they are in the guest house residence (our new home!) getting ready for their return flight to the US. We had a great time with them at the beach, the souvenir village, and even watching the tape delay of the American Idol final.

Thanks to Tim (STMO- Bongolo) and the Roush family, we are getting closer and closer to having the hospital's airstrip open and saving lives!

As many of you know, we need mowing and regrading of several areas of the airstrip before it can be certified by the Gabonese government. We've contacted several road crews, but have gotten no action from any. If there are no definite responses by the end of May, we will put a plan in place to hire a crew of workers to repair washed out areas of the airstrip using hand tools.

Pray that this process goes smoothly and that the airport is open soon.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

One Aircraft Rejected, Another Embraced

So, we bid "a Dieu" to N3728B (in NV)...

... and welcome a new "contender"... N61CQ (in FL).

In the end, despite its' crazy low price, there were too many things that we did not feel comfortable about with the 2-8-Bravo. We would have done about $100,000 in upgrades to it.

Then, at just the right time, N61CQ came on the market with a brand new engine, a nice avionics package, one more seat (total of 8), and a model that is 6 years newer. There are a couple other cool tidbits. Here are some pictures that my brother Dan and my nephew, Jarrod, took during an initial look at the aircraft last week:

A nice STOL (Short takeoff and landing) kit on the wings, along with votex generators...

...good looking paint job from 2006...

...good looking interior (here's my nephew Jarrod)...

...more interior (we'll take out the LORAN & ADF/NDB and replace with a new Garmin 430)...

...and a new IO-520-F (300hp) engine along with new prop.

The seller has asked a reasonable price, so we have put in a bid and will send a follow-up team to do a more invasive inspection prior to purchase.

Friday, May 8, 2009

Mowing Grass... Again!!!

So, I traveled to the Airstrip near the hospital- 9 hours by car. As you remember, our goal is to have this airstrip operational as soon as possible. Even though we don't have our aircraft, there are a couple temporary options. So, it is important for the airport to open soon. For that to happen, 4 or 5 washed out areas need repaired and a lot of grass needs cut.

UPDATE: We were able to get a tractor with a mowing attachment operational after many tries! This will do the work of 3 push mowers at once! We were able to do a lot of mowing in my short visit.

To see my mowing skills in action, check out my YouTube video.

Friday, May 1, 2009

May Day Update

Welcome to "May Day" in Gabon! Here, it's kind of a "Labor Day" thing- so lots of employers have given their employees the day off and school is out.

May Day has me away from Alace and the kids. On Wednesday, I traveled "down-country" to the Bongolo Hospital with a team of people. The team is here for a leadership meeting while I am here to CUT GRASS!!! YIPPEE!

Seriously, I'm here to spruce up the airport a little more. This is my 3rd time to do so. It's important to keep working here and trying everything that I can to assist to get this airstrip open. We've had some interest by road crews from Spain, France, China, and Gabon, however, none of them have responded with anything definite. Our "plan A" is to have a road crew regrade and compact the surface. "Plan B" is for a crew of guys to come in with hand tools.

At issue are drainage problems and a few "wash out" areas. Please pray that we have a solution soon. We have an aircraft that has been made available to us, so the airport is the only thing that is at issue.

Keeping the airport in shape will require me to hire someone to do a day or two of work every other week. It will mainly be mowing. I have met with "Igor" and it seems that he may work out well. I have to train him to use the Kubota tractor with the mower attachment. This is the tractor that I have been using the last two days to cut grass. However, it is a "finish" mower, meaning that it's really not made to take down high grass, which is what the airport has. C'est la vie.

So, we were hoping to take a machete to the high grass and then cut it with the mower. This seemed to work for a while, but the blades kept getting bogged down which caused the belt to slip in the pulleys thereby wearing out the belt. This caused us to need to readjust the belt tension, which we did. Mowing went well for about 10 minutes, then the same problem reared it's ugly head. We finished the day by getting a push mower out to the airport and continuing with the machetes. Our crew were two local guys (Mass and Fred) as well as the teenage son of one of the workers at Bongolo- Zach. We got alot done and the airport is taking shape quite nicely, thank you.

By the way, getting the Kubota to the airport requires driving it- there is no trailer. So, I was given a quick lesson in the ways of the Kubota and set out on my journey, umbrella in hand to protect from the rays of the sun. I thought I was in 4th gear, but later found that I had been in 2nd gear. This low speed enabled many along my route to go in their house and the house of one or two neighbors to tell them to come observe the bizarre white man, holding an umbrella, listening to an iPod, and driving a tractor down their street! There were many smiles, waves, and words of encouragement. Actually, I couldn't hear what people were actually saying, but I'm going with "encouragement".

Airplane news... As many of you know, we have put a bid to purchase a Cessna 207 in Nevada. The pre-purchase agreement has been signed by us and the seller, and the inspection is next week. Oh... by the way... the inspection got bumped to May 4 and 5 from the 5th and 6th. Just an FYI.

It has been reported that a key government leader, here, is gravely ill. It's so serious that the French Embassy has reportedly started to evacuate some of their "non essential" staff. Also, the US Embassy staff is meeting to discuss their plans and advice to US citizens. Things could get a little messy or, perhaps, not. We'll see.

The kids are involved in a musical, next week, with the other kids in their home school group. They have invited many people from the ex-pat community. It's all very exciting! We'll be sure to post some photos.

Also, the family that we have been working with, Solvig's, are leaving for a year of furlough and then, on to another deployment. The kids have grown so close to each other. This will be a very difficult good bye with more to follow as many of the embassy crowd are moving on as well.

Back to airport news... Remember, our goal is to fix up the airstrip at the Bongolo Hospital and get the inspectors from the government to certify it as useable. If we wanted to, we could use the airport without the certification, however, most insurance companies will render their policies void when they find out you are doing this. The main problem at the airport is drainage. There are some washed out areas that have developed as a result. They can be fixed by hand, but we're trying to find a road crew to put down a nice surface and compact it- this will hold for years to come.

I have been pretty frustrated that we've not found a solution to the problem for months. I chatted with Dr. Thompson from the hospital today and we agreed to set the end of May as the time that, should no road crew respond, we will assemble a team of workers to do the work by hand. We made this decision after dropping by the headquarters of the Chinese road crew nearby, and finding only one employee there who could only say "parler, parler" (talk, talk) and "kilometre, kilometre". Dave and I both think that he was saying that the "big boss" went some kilometers away to talk to someone.

Hope you all enjoy your May Day!!! Thanks for praying.