Friday, December 27, 2013

National Church (Gabon) friends in the News!

Gabon News journalist, Kephren Kanga, reports the following:

"A training seminar was organised for pre-primary and primary education teachers of the Christian Alliance (C&MA) in the school district Ngounié and was centered on various modules: ethical principles and professional ethics, methodologies from different disciplines to produce educational protocols for improved classroom practice.

It is about getting a number of ethical principles and professional ethics on the one hand and the other hand to work on methodologies from different disciplines to produce educational protocols for improved practice class.
The objective of the seminar was to strengthen the capacity of classroom teachers of classes for better performance.

It should be added that at the pre-primary level, a pan on psychomotor was discussed including educators who came from Nyanga.

The seminar was moderated by Wilfried Ibiatsi, Manager of pre-primary, Etienne Etienne Mouele Ndongo, education inspector, director of the first degree and Armand Moussadji, education inspector, chief of inspection and pre primary from Libreville."

The national church in Gabon stays very active in many sectors beyond local faith communities- ministry to orphans, widows, elderly, HIV, primary care clinics, hospital, and many education programs.  They're an inspiration!  

Thursday, December 26, 2013

Merry Christmas from the Jungle!

Merry Christmas from our hostel family to your family!
…yes, there is a Christmas tree behind us somewhere.

Can you guess which picture is more true to "normal" at our house?!?

Meanwhile, in Florida, Joe is having a great time with some family…

Rope course at the Orlando Zoo.

Grandma and Grandpa Straw!

Let Every Heart Prepare HIM Room

Alace, my wife, used to run the front desk at a Days Inn hotel in Longview, Texas on evenings and weekends.  It was an interesting job in which she met a wide variety of people traveling for a wide variety of reasons- business people, families on vacation, and more.  One time our neighbor showed up with her kids- she was leaving her abusive husband in the night.

Alace never remembers a time when the hotel maxed out and she had to send anyone away.  Of course, this is the very thing happened to Mary and Joseph when they were looking for lodging upon arrival in Bethlehem.  No one had "left the light on for them" (shameless Motel 6 advert reference).

The "no-room-in-the-inn" piece of advent is a key aspect highlighted again and again in Christmas celebrations and plays round the world… and in a recent episode of a very popular "guided reality" show.

Rightly so…

What I mean is, what if you got a knock at the door and Jesus was there… right now… asking for a place to stay?  After getting over some initial shock, we might object saying that our place was somewhat inadequate- too messy, old sheets, evidence of a less-than-sacred lifestyle, etc.

I suggest to you that…

Friday, December 20, 2013

Training Nationals Project

Part of the ethos of many international organizations is incorporating the equipping of nationals.  For example:  your organization digs water wells?  Teach locals how to dig them and maintain them.  Your organization does medical work?  Set up a training program to teach first aid, emergency care, nursing, and more.  You get the point, oui?

This is one of my favorite parts of the team that I serve with in Gabon.  Our colleagues are nurses, surgeons, maintenance workers, etc.  Most of us have a program of training and equipping locals, since it's in the DNA of what we do.  

With our maturing aviation work (now in year 5), we are starting to contemplate…

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

My Daughter- Ag Queen of Central Africa

Just got accepted to Nyack College!!!
This past Saturday morning, I had a lovely breakfast in the kitchen with my daughter, Megan.  She's the middle child- our only girl… my princess!  

So, directly after sharing "petit dejeuner" with my princess, she was off to assist the slaughter of almost 100 chickens that her "Ag-Science" class had been raising for the past couple of months! She was mainly involved with gutting the chickens.  Now, I've dubbed her the "Ag Queen" of Central Africa.  What happened to my sweet, innocent princess?!?

Here are some less-gruesome photos of her involvement with planting some crops.  Enjoy!

The whole class… chicken-killers all… don't let their sweet smiles fool you!
More photos…

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Med-Evac Equipment donation

A friend in the US just let us know that a backpack style med-evac bag, called a STATPAK, has been donated to our program!  Here are the photos:

The team that secured this donation is from Harrisburg, Pennsylvania.  They are also proposing a trip to Gabon to do some "flight nurse" basic training in 2014!  Please pray that the logistics of their trip are worked out and that effective training of Gabon nationals becomes a reality.

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Ravi Zacharias on Mandela's passing

(from RZIM's weekly email to me, written by Ravi Zacharias)

"I’m sitting at the airport in Bahrain, about to catch a flight to Jakarta. The television screens are full of coverage for a man of courage, conviction, and influence. Every now and then his picture with his winsome smile is shown with the words under it: Nelson Mandela, 1918-2013.
Looking at the dates, I thought first of my mother. She was born just two years before him but passed away nearly four decades before he did. Yes, she had a short life span. She did not make a world impact but it was because of her that I am a free man today. Her life and example were for me, life-defining. Nelson Mandela, by contrast, changed history for millions, if not for the world. A different role, a different call. So it is that each one of us has a part to play, whether of great influence or of small influence, but equally important.
Yet, as I look at his picture and consider his legacy, I mourn the loss of not just a person, but

Friday, December 6, 2013

Hope House and Nelson Mandela

OCT 2014 UPDATE:  Check out the E4 Project website for the latest on Hope House.  CLICK HERE

AUG 2014 UPDATE: ROOF PROVIDED!!!  Update coming soon.


FEB 2014 UPDATE- A C&MA church in Libreville (AVEA II church) donated $2000 to the urgent construction needs of HOPE HOUSE!  An additional $400 has been donated from international donors!  Please read below to find out how to help with the remaining need ($3600).

DEC 2013-
Today, I am in Libreville "by accident" for a second day.
You see, immigration didn't like my exit visa documentation and held me at the airport while my flight back to my family in Cameroon boarded and then departed.  That was two days ago.

So, while I'm working to fix my airline ticket to the next flight to my destination (Friday) and then getting my passport ship-shape for round two with immigration at the airport, I'm keeping my eyes open for ways to stay engaged, here in a city where I've lived the past 5 years, save for the last 4 months in Cameroon.

Ironically, I'm now a guest in the guest house that Alace, my lovely wife, was director.  My "used-to-be" house (next door) along with all my furnishings are now home to a new family.  I had a wonderful time visiting them and seeing them enjoying those furnishings... in a weird way, however.  ("Hey- that's my couch!")

I asked a colleague if I could help run some errands during this surprise extended stay in LBV and I was happy to be tasked with…

Saturday, November 16, 2013


I'll have more to write about this later, but for now… I have to share these photos with you and simply say that… you have to look far and wide in this world to find free aviation fuel (100 low lead).  In fact, I would love to hear from anyone who has found free aviation fuel.

After trying to raise $37,000 to get a 20 foot shipping container from the US to Africa, someone else had a better idea… FREE FUEL!

Enjoy these photos of 80 barrels of 100LL being delivered to Bongolo Hospital's depot in Libreville- 30 of the drums are purchased for us from the Gabonese minister of health for this year.  The other 50 are ours to keep until we need them.  The Bongolo Hospital's administrative director says that he has complete confidence that the minister of health will include the purchase of the other 50 drums for 2014!

Praise God for this provision!

FUELING PROGRESS Impact-  We still are tracking the fueling progress contributions from the past year or so.  15 of those barrels have been sent out (June 16, 2013) from the US and more will follow until that program's fuel is complete.  Those contributions kept us operational for the past 3 months!  Those that invested in the FP effort gave us the life we needed so that the above pictures were possible!  The minister of health's contribution comes as a response to a flight program that they see as active and effective.

Monday, November 11, 2013

Flight Global Interview

(the following interview will appear inside the back cover of Flight International- an aviation related periodical)

FG:  When did you decide to work in Aviation?
SS:  The aviation "bug" bit me as a teenager during a flight in a '48 Taylorcraft taildragger,
Photo: Trent Bell
piloted by my older brother.  Early, on a clear, crisp fall morning in Pennsylvania, before I had to be at school, we lifted off a grass strip and toured the skies above Happy Valley (State College).  I was hooked!  It was like the world below had come to a complete standstill to make way for this surreal experience. 

FG: Where were you trained and educated?  What degrees or ratings do you hold?
SS: I have a B.S. in Aviation Technology from LeTourneau University (Longview, TX).  There, I received my Airframe and Powerplant maintenance certificate, as well as my flight training as a Commercial, Instrument single engine and flight instructor ratings.  Later, I completed multi-engine training.

FG: What was your first aviation job? What jobs did you have after that?
SS: I was free-lancing as a

Friday, November 8, 2013

Mechanic Geek Talk on the Continental IO-550-F and -N Engines

Since I'm getting SO much great feedback about all the technical aviation stuff (note sarcasm), I thought I'd post some great info regarding how things are going with a modification that we have done to our aircraft (Cessna 207)- installation of a Continental IO-550-F 300 horsepower engine.

Our new pilot-mechanic, Rob, has recently interacted with a couple other pilots, (one in Africa; one in South America) and has come up with some great insights to this engine installation and operation.

The dialogue is representative of how the mission aviation community helps one another out and really sees one another as colleagues in being the hands and feet of God.  Enjoy!

Submitted by Jeremiah Diedrich SIL Aviation Porto Velho, Brazil

I'll share with you what we have learned in 250 hours of IO-550N flying on our 206 and 500 hours of IO-550N on the Asas de Socorro float 206. 

PERFORMANCE TESTS & CHARTS:  One of the things that we have done to measure our performance is to do some test flights with the...

PROJECT: Smooth Ride Modification

Here is a description of a modification to our aircraft that would dampen the harsh forces that our high powered engine imposes on the airframe, components, pilot, and passengers.  We are seeking interested people to sponsor this upgrade.  Please contact me at if interested.
This info comes from the Atlantic Aero website:

Atlantic Aero introduces a revolutionary innovation in engine technology with the SmoothRide Engine Mount System, STC for Cessna 200 series aircraft. Developed and manufactured exclusively by Atlantic Aero, the STC kit includes a newly designed and tested six-point engine mount that provides a dramatic reduction of engine vibration to the cockpit environment. 

The increased stability of the SmoothRide Engine Mount System prevents engine mount sag during engine life and maintains a centered thrust line. Engine vibrations are significantly decreased from takeoff to touchdown, reducing fatigue and stress on both the airplane and the pilot. Additional reductions in vibration can be expected in Cessna 206/207 and Cessna 210 aircraft which have undergone Atlantic Aero’s IO-550 conversion program. 

(More technical aviation stuff continues)...

Engine isolators are increased from four to six, while dual front mounts add strength and...

PROJECT: Aircraft Exhaust Modification

Here is a description of a modification to our aircraft that would increase engine performance and decrease the time spent on repairing or replacing parts.  We are seeking interested people to sponsor this upgrade.  Please contact me at if interested.

This information was taken from the website of Leading Edge Exhaust Systems:

Best Pipes and Warranty in the Business!
How many times have you asked yourself, Why can´t they build exhaust systems that last as long as engine TBO? The long awaited answer you have been searching for is finally here…Leading Edge Exhaust Systems, LLC, (LEES) located in Anchorage Alaska has solved the inherent problems that have plagued the stock OEM exhaust collectors since their inception. 
(Warning!!!  More geeky aircraft technical stuff ahead! )

Sunday, October 27, 2013

Video (in French): Expose on Bongolo's New Insurance Service for Poor

(please be aware that this is on the "Dailymotion" website that is much like Youtube.  There may be some objectionable material in the columns of the webpage)

Near the end of the report, at 38:48, you'll see my smiling face, in slow-motion for 3 seconds, in front of the airplane. There is no aviation coverage- the subject is how the Gabonese state insurance program for the poor, CNAMGS, is doing a great job in partnership with Bongolo Hospital.


Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Family Update from Alace

I hijacked an email that Alace wrote to a friend (with permission, of course!) to serve as a bit of an update on how things are going for us, here in Cameroon.  Enjoy reading about things through her eyes!

We have very active lives these days caring for 12 teens in the dorm house, called "UBAC".
4 of the "UBAC'ers" acting a bit goofy
We have kids from 3 different cultures living together - American missionary kids, Cameroonian UN worker kids and one Korean missionary kid.  We are enjoying hanging out with the dorm parents next door, they are very fun!  They also have 12 students in their home- 2 of which are their kids.

I help with a...

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

REPORT (in French): Dela Viabilité de la Durabilité

(English version to follow)

Aviation Missionnaire au Gabon: Dela Viabilité de la Durabilité

Au milieu des années 1980, l'Hôpital de Bongolo, une mission des Etats-Unis en partenariat avec les églises nationales de l'Alliance Chrétienne et Missionnaire au Gabon (EACMG), identifiés aviation comme un besoin essentiel pour les aider à mieux répondre à l'appel de Dieu pour exprimer son amour pour cette région de l'Afrique grâce à l'outil de soins de santé.

2008 – 2012 : Viabilité

Par la grâce de Dieu, il a rallié ses enfants à travailler ensemble pour concrétiser cette vision! Grâce à un partenariat entre la C&MA(E.U.) et Air Calvaire et aussi avec  l’invitation de l’EACMG et le Ministre de Santé, le programme d'aviation a commencé...

Saturday, October 19, 2013

Modern Day Slavery

Max Fisher, of the Washington Post recently published a very helpful graphic depicting where modern day slavery is happening on the planet.  You'll notice that Gabon, where we've been living these past 5 years, is shaded as one of the countries where it is happening more than others, per capita.

This is not a new problem.  Gabon, being one of the wealthier countries on the continent, attracts many Africans who, unwittingly, step into slavery.  Thinking that they are leaving their poor villages in west Africa to find a better quality of life, they launch out, many on substandard boats, to Gabon.  Many are children, sent from their poor parents who have been cajoled into believing that a relative or friend awaits in Gabon to welcome them, care for them, enroll them in a good school, and have a better life.

The government has taken steps to fight the human trafficking but, as you can imagine, their is an evil system in place to push back.  Pray for these efforts to be effective and these systems to crumble.

Local media also shines a light on the issue:  Gabon News link  Gabon News link2  

Too early for Christmas??? You're invited!

You, your friends, your family and pretty much anyone you know are invited to RSVP for the Air Calvary Christmas Party!!!  It's in Northwest Indiana- Crowne Point.  Here are the details:

Unraveling Religions

This interesting chart just may help you figure out just what it is that you are, in terms of a religious system.  Enjoy unraveling it all!

Religion Cheat Sheet

Saturday, October 12, 2013

Grounds for Research: Java by the numbers

Dunkin Donuts recently supplied some interesting facts and figures:

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Missing Links? Retired Baseball Players and Our Work in Africa

What do retired major league baseball players have in common with our work in Africa???

The answer is, a fundraiser for our work in central Africa in under two weeks!  Below is YOUR INVITATION and details:

Dear Friends, 

Last call! 

Join us at the club! 

Consider it a working vacation/networking event, with friends, and for a good cause.*

Take a break and join us for the day, or feel free to join us for dinner only.

Baseball celebrities Ron Darling and Frank Catalanotto are scheduled to attend! Check out Frank's encouraging memoir, Heart & Hustle.

Tuesday, October 22nd, 2013. Harbor Links Golf Course, Port Washington, NY. 

Guest Post- Chris Oquist

For all you aviation types... here's some great encouragement from a friend, Chris Oquist:

Staying Safe in the Sky

If you are looking for perfect safety, you will do well to sit on a fence and watch the birds; but if you really wish to learn, you must mount a machine and become acquainted with its tricks by actual trial.
— Wilbur Wright

Pilots are adventure and excitement seeking individuals at heart. We tend towards boldness, impatience, competitiveness, and self-reliance. And honestly, though we take our responsibilities in the sky very seriously, we occasionally forget the basics.  It doesn’t matter if you’ve logged over 6000 hours or...

A Prayer for this Next Generation

A meaningful prayer from Nathan D. that was shared with me through's weekly update:

Father of Jesus,

Before whom angels bow and archangels veil their faces,

I commend to You this next generation of Kingdom warriors. Designed to rule, each carries extraordinary potential to influence this world for good. So much uncharted passion, so much life, either it will labor for Your glory or lapse into selfishness in this myopic culture. I want You to receive glory from these priceless image bearers. You have made young men and women in Your likeness, designed...

Thursday, October 3, 2013

Thursday, September 26, 2013

My Sweet Wife... the Writer!

Here is a sampling and link to Alace's (my wife) blog.  She loves comments!  Enjoy her gifted 
way of expressing life events with elegance.

My rain forest house

I've lived in many places: lots of American places, an English place, a French 
Alps place, a Gabon sea-side place and now a rain forest place.  We live in a
 large house with 7 bedrooms, a study room and craft room, 6 bathrooms, 
several screened terraces, a large living/dining room with golden wooded
 ceilings and a kitchen, bright with light and views to the house next door 
and forest beyond.  This house is shared by 14 souls (that's pilot talk for 
people).  14 people from far flung places converging for this year in this 
place.  Some of us were little more than strangers when we moved in just over
 8 weeks ago.

UBAC Dorm House
God has nestled us here in a rainforest filled with wild night sounds.  A chorus 
of singing crickets and deep-throated croaking toads and hyraxes screaming 
like banshees slip in through open windows.  Hyraxes are often mistaken for 
rodents but are actually more closely related to elephants.  It's like something 
out of a Dr. Seuss book.  They scream all through the night with an eerie cry 
that sounds sometimes like a child and sometimes like... (CLICK HERE to 
read more)

Guest Post- Stephen Julian

My friend, Stephen Julian, sent me a great email and I asked him if I could pass it on to my friends.  He was happy to agree.  If you like this, you'll want to check out more at

Life's Journey:
Becoming a mature version of yourself!

Core Principle
Principle: You are not going to change who you are fundamentally.

This principle is one I've staked my entire business on; it is also one that invites a great deal of pushback.

I'm not saying that people cannot change, grow, and mature over time. Obviously they should and most do.

I do believe that...

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Nursing School Spiritual Retreat

One of my favorite things about our work with the Bongolo
Alace (right) with friend Wendy, at Bongolo in 2011.
Hospital is that they believe in equipping others to join in the work!  I think it's a great part of any international effort- empower local people.  

One way they do that at Bongolo is through a nursing school- a 3 year program that graduates some of the most sought after nurses in the central African region!  Recently, the students took time for a spiritual retreat.  Here are some details from one of the nursing school teachers, Carolyn:

Saturday, September 21, 2013

It's a bird! A Plane! A... Mini-Parachute?!?

Expediting Health and Hope is one of our tag lines for what we do with the tool of aviation, here in remote parts of central Africa.  This work is possible, at times, thanks to logging and mining companies who have constructed airstrips that are dotted around the region as well as about a dozen airstrips maintained by the state.  

However, what do we do when there are needs, but no where to land our aircraft?  Answer- mini parachutes!

Small parachutes attached to pouches are already being used in parts of the world for relief and other expressions of God's love.

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Aviation Pioneer George Fisk

So, I'm doing a bit of research and I ran across the story of George Fisk.  Come to find out, George was a pioneer in using the tool of aviation to bring health and hope to a part of the world that was known for cannibalism and head hunting!  Not only that, but his work was sponsored by the same organization that sponsors our work in Gabon, about 9 decades later!

His story is pretty amazing.  Here it is thanks to the archive department of the Christian and Missionary Alliance:
George Fisk


By the C&MA Archives
In 1913, the county fair in Binghampton, N.Y., featured the “wild men of Borneo.” Witnessing the exhibit, eight-year-old George Elba Fisk felt called to be a missionary among the exotic Dyaks. Sixteen years later, George and his wife, Anna, sailed for the island, then called Netherlands East Indies. Upon reaching Borneo, they discovered there were great natural barriers blocking them from reaching the animistic people of the interior. With baby daughter on board, the young couple spent months paddling up treacherous rapids in a small dugout canoe before reaching their destination.

Monday, September 16, 2013

Making An Impact

Flights in Gabon continue to make an impact!

Our pilot's wife, Bintou, speaks to the hard work that Rob has been doing in Gabon:

Rob is working hard in the aviation program. Before marrying Rob, I did not have much understanding of what is involved in maintaining an aviation program. But now I am learning it is a difficult project, especially when you are the only pilot! God is sustaining him and he has made a lot of encouraging progress. 

Saturday, September 7, 2013

August Update from the Flight Deck

Our chief pilot and mechanic on loan from SIL, Rob P., has given us a great report on recent work on
our Cessna 207 aircraft and some of the flights:

Me with Rob (right) and our Cessna 207 at the SIL- Yaounde
Hangar on August 30th.
DOOR POST BULKHEAD SERVICE KIT INSTALLED:  In some Cessna single engines, cracks were being discovered in the area where the wing strut came to meet the fuselage in the area of the door post bulkhead.  This is a critical area where many forces are concentrated, so any anomalies in this area can lead to a catastrophic event. The fix subscribed required some tedious work.  Here is what Rob reported:

"Dan S. (SIL chief mechanic) worked very hard in tight corners to install it and it looks great! It’s great to have that installed!  During the work he found and dealt with some significant corrosion in the floor structure."  

Friday, September 6, 2013

New Roles: Dorm Parents in Africa!

Many of you know that for a few years, our kids have attended high school at Rain Forest International School in Yaounde, Cameroon (3°48’07.04 N, 11°33’15.09 E) while we've been working in the
country to the south, Gabon.  When we first came to Africa, we had made a deal with God that there would be no way we'd send Joe, Meg, or Sam away to a boarding school.  Well, after two years of home schooling in Gabon and becoming good friends with a family with kids at RFIS, it became clear that, for their best, this would be the next step.

What does this say about "making deals with God"?  Hmmm.... it seems that, graciously, the Lord worked with the faith that we had in trusting him for the first step in living and working in Africa.  When the time came to take a bigger step of faith, the Lord graciously, again, took us through that most difficult step.

Thursday, September 5, 2013

Our Firstborn off to College!
"It's a Moody Thing"

At the beginning of 2013, while Joe was entering his last half year of high school, he got the great news that he had been accepted at his first choice for post-secondary eduction- Moody Bible Institute- Chicago campus. 

We were so thankful for the generosity of family & friends who helped Joe start his college career with a new Apple Macbook as well as some pocket money to get him off to a great start at Moody.  Our Gabonese friends surprised us by giving $400 to Joe!  Thank you to all who gave!

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

How to move something very big

A:  Use many, many people and a lot of heavy equipment!

A friend of a friend helped to move the ASIANA Boeing 777 from the end of the runway at San Francisco International airport to the ramp.  He sent along some photos.  Enjoy!

"Wednesday night I was sent to a job at San Francisco Airport which I will probably never have to do again. Our company was tasked with moving one of the largest airplanes in the world across the airport without it breaking apart while crossing the other runways."
I ran the crane on your left the aircraft's Starboard side. A 265ton Liebherr the other crane was a 350ton Grove.  Backing up the truck and trailer. Truck and trailer looks like a 7 axle setup but there are 8 short axles at the back of the trailer. They are only like 4' long allowing for twice the amount of tires. 

My little onboard computer telling me all I need to know 

The tail section was gone and they removed the cabin aft of the wings due to all the damage. Just the wings to nose totaled 185,000 lbs. (84,000 Kilos- 84 tons) 

Under the fuselage at the wings is a beam and dolly set up that is basically four carts tied together with I-beams. Each cart has a hydronic jack to assist with keeping things level and can be adjusted from a central consul. 

All tied down 

Rolling out. This is the widest load I've ever seen with a 185' wingspan. The 777 has a 199'11" wingspan but 15' had to be removed prior to transport. 

Runway 28L

First turn 

Notice it was dark when we started. Took 2:15 min to cross SFO. They shut down the runways so we could move the plane. 

Final stop. Will return next evening to hoist off trailer array 

Well it's sad that this happened but the NTSB said this model plane is a survivable plane. Meaning the landing gear and engines are designed to sheer off and make the plane a "bobsled". The angle of impact is what caused the tail section to fail and rip off. The fact that only 3 of the 300 souls onboard died is amazing. Sad but a blessing in disguise.