Sunday, June 16, 2013


Nearing the end of the long voyage from OHIO to the middle of nowhere, central Africa!

Across the last bridge on the "back road" into Bongolo Hospital, Lebamba, Gabon.

Onto the hospital campus and around back to the depot building.

One container was medications and the other a mix of items that included our 15 drums of 100 low-lead aviation fuel.

They're actually there!  The team in the US (MMS Aviation; ARK Transport) did such a great job on their end- it showed!

Barry (in truck) and Paul worked hard to get the first things out of the way and then the wrestling match with each barrel began.  Not easy without a fork lift!

Voila!  One by one they come off.

They'll be stored temporarily at the hospital depot and then make their way out to the airport hangar.

What a HUGE occasion for our program!  We were chained to $23/gallon AvGas, but now we've seen that another source is very possible! 

A BIG "Merci Beaucoup" to all those that have made this possible, especially those in the Indianapolis, IN area- you know who you are!

Saturday, June 15, 2013

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Base Jumping- Part II

Some people take the plunge (base jump) like this...

For us, we're moving our family's base (get it?  "base jumping"?  Har har), from where we've been living the last 5 years (Libreville, Gabon) to Yaounde, Cameroon, in a bit more methodical way.

Why we are moving reason #1: Our aviation program is growing!!!

As you already may know, we have a second pilot/mechanic that has joined our program, whose task is to make us lean and mean for the future growth that we anticipate.  As the program matures, I, as program manager, also need some "lean and mean" treatment by spending time a the SIL-Aviation base in Yaounde to understand their protocols and processes.

Our intention, in Gabon, is to comply with the same operating procedures that guide them.  They are a "subscribing organization" of JAARS Aviation, one of the largest mission aviation organizations with the best safety record.   Pray for us as it will be a long road to learn systems and then work toward program compliance.  So, very often during the week, you will find me at the SIL Aviation hangar in Yaounde.

Rob, our new teammate, will be the chief pilot/mechanic, keeping the Bongolo aviation service alive and kicking.  My title will become "Program Manager" and I will provide the oversight it needs, mostly from Yaounde, with an occasional visit to Gabon throughout the year.

Why we are moving reason #2:  Serving as Dorm Parents!!!

As you know, one challenging (and sad) aspect of our work in Gabon is that our children attend school at The Rain Forest International School- a boarding school.  It has been a wonderful experience for them, however, had you told us, 6 years ago, when we were moving to Gabon that we'd be sending our children to a boarding school, I don't think we could have done it!  However, we came to see, after much praying and investigation, that this would be an environment where they would be nurtured in their faith and educated to a high level of excellence!

So, last school year, the dorm house where our three kids (Joe, Meg, and Sam) live with 9 other students, started asking around for who would be able to be the dorm house "parents" for the next year.  With our
background in working with student ministry, we started to wonder if the Lord would make a way for it to happen.  We informed the committee that we would love to do it, but that we would need to pray and reflect upon how it would all be possible.  Certainly, we shouldn't leave our aircraft parked.

So, with the provision of a second pilot, and the work that I need to do at the aviation base here, we saw that our prayers seem to have been answered. We will return late in July to gear up for the new year that begins on August 7th!  (Alace's Birthday!)

Those were the big reasons, but here are some others...

USE IT OR LOSE IT:  We sense that, although we will be very busy, the dorm home "parenting" will exercise some of our giftings and skills that we haven't in a long time!  It will be something very much shared by Alace and I whereas, in Gabon, our work was somewhat separate.  Mentoring and discipling young people used to be one of the core elements of our work together and now it will be again.

CHILLAX:  Also, being so engrossed in the start up of the aviation work for Bongolo Hospital, I can confidently say that I need to check my perspective and take some inventory of how my personal pace in all of this is going.  I'm not a young whipper-snapper anymore and, if I'm to keep a good pace for the long haul, my times of intensity must be balanced by a change of pace and in variety as well.

FOCUSING THE BIG PICTURE:  Lastly, I plan to have the time to reflect upon some big picture items.  We are moving through the "viability" phase into a "sustainability" phase where we have questions to ponder.  The national church leadership in Gabon is moving forward with plans for a "social works" campus on the outskirts of Libreville that includes an airstrip.  The bulldozers are already moving on the campus!  They are affirming our work in Gabon and asking for it to continue and expand.

So, with the blessing of the local church leaders in Gabon, I'm easing into an investigation on the history of the aviation training efforts at mission aviation bases around the world.  I intend to catalog the information and review it in light of our work in Gabon.  Could aviation training (dispatching, maintenance, logistics, piloting) be a possibility in Gabon leading to an aspect of program viability for the future?  Is this an aspect of what is to happen at this new airport base?  So, yes... big picture stuff!

That would be one of the biggest "base jumping" experiences for us on this journey!  Thanks for your prayers and encouragement.  We can't do this without you.  Thanks for standing with us.

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Gabon Visit by Air Calvary President

This spring, we were so happy to get our first visit from Air Calvary President, Brock Barrett!  Air Calvary is the organization that has sponsored the aviation aspects of our work in Africa (

Sunday morning service at our largest church- AVEA II.  Brock was introduced to the church and took the opportunity to say "merci beaucoup" for their support over the past half decade.

Shirt Swap!  One of our biggest supporters, Pastor Jean Marc Ynguemba, met with Brock over a meal with many friends at our home.  Jean Marc and his team do primary health care in a clinic in Libreville as well as "en brousse" (in the bush) with mobile clinics and they refer many patients to Bongolo via our aviation service.

Here are some of the 2000 or so that gather for worship at AVEA II every Sunday.

Brock was also introduced to some VIP's!  In the middle is a woman that was evacuated on our airplane from the village where she was involved in a bad vehicle accident to Bongolo.  To her left is the president of the C&MA churches of Gabon, Pastor Victor, and next to him, the vice-president, Pastor Samuel.

Then it was "over the river and through the woods" (more like "rivers" and "jungle") on a flight from Libreville to...

...the Bongolo Hospital, in Lebamba.

On our flight, we had the pleasure of giving a ride to Cheryl and Jan (to the left of the photo), a delightful couple coming for a short term visit to serve at Bongolo from the UK.  Dr. Keir Thelander is standing behind Brock (baseball cap) and giving us all a tour of the hospital grounds.

It was a busy 8 days, but we packed a lot into Brock's visit and ended with a bit of a "debrief" at the beach to praise God for all that has been accomplished over the past 5 years and do a bit of dreaming about the years ahead.  Stay tuned!

Thursday, June 6, 2013

Libreville Rotary Visit

A very kind businessman who lives in the capital city of Libreville is from the village where the Bongolo Hospital is located.  This man, Benjamin, invited us to make a presentation at the Rotary club that he is a part of.

Benjamin to the left.

The president of this branch of the Rotary club is a very lively man who is the general director of an insurance company.  He asked that we meet the next day!  I was given time to present our program and answer some questions.  Then, I presented a soapstone carving and t-shirt to the club.

The Rotary club leadership responded by presenting our program with their banner- a Gabonese OKOUME tree- found in much of the worlds plywood.  Rob (middle) was able to join for the meeting, having freshly arrived in country.  It was a great evening of networking and getting the word out to business men and women.

Base Jumping!

YEP!  We're doing it!  BASE JUMPING!!!


Well... what I mean is this....

(moving our base of op's from Libreville to the Bongolo Hospital's airstrip)

Not this....

(setting every bit of intelligence aside and jumping from tall objects)

During the month of May, our new chief pilot/director of maintenance, Rob (on loan from SIL- Cameroon), has been getting settled, along with Binto (wife & doctor), at their new home on the mission at the Bongolo Hospital.  Additionally, we have slowly been shuttling down all of our equipment, tools, and inventory from our "base" in Libreville to our new base at the Bongolo Hospital airstrip hangar.  Here are some photos:
The Bongolo was originally constructed in 2001.  Today, it's one of about 13 public airports that are open in Gabon.  Our airport worker, John, just added a fresh coat of paint on our runway markers to gear up for an upcoming airport inspection.

The hangar is starting to show its' age. As we move in to the hangar full-time, it's clear that some major projects are needed to help it to be a proper home for N207FD.

Speaking of which... You may have noticed the aircraft parked outside of the hangar.  Here is the reason- the plank of wood supporting the hangar door track is completely rotted!  Project #1!

First- remove the track. It came off in two sections.  Rob's Suzuki made a nice platform to work from.  We were thankful for the mostly overcast day that quelled the heat... mostly.

After the track was removed, we pulled out the battery powered chain saw (comes in handy!) and cut down the plank in 3 sections.  Now... off to the mill to search for the new wood planks... 

A 20 minute drive from Bongolo is a nice sized wood mill.  We purchased about $130 in wood planks.  Here is the mill cutting into the large, hardwood we purchased called Okane.  Not sure if OSHA would sign off on this operation.  Notice Rob standing to the left, plugging his ears.

I guess you could say, we had our work cut out for us... (couldn't resist)

Things are slowly getting organized in the hangar, thanks to Rob's hard work.  Once the hangar doors are working again, we'll start to define the other projects which will include storage creation, office construction, sink/wash area, workshop shelves/cabinets, solar panel upgrades, and more. We'll need your help to make it all work, so we'll also communicate how you can join the effort.
Thanks for your continued prayers and generosity to help make a great new home for our aircraft.  "Base Jumping" to the Bongolo hangar opens up new possibilities to better serve the transport needs of the hospital.  Additionally, getting the aircraft away from the harmful sea-side air will assist the health of our airframe and equipment.

Stay in touch for updates on our new base!

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

School Year End Banquet

Alace went to Cameroon a couple weeks back so that she could spend time with the dorm house parents that we'll be replacing next school year.  Another highlight she did not want to miss is the annual banquet event at their school- Rain Forest International School.  Here are some pictures.

My crew!

Joe with some of the guys

Joe with his girlfriend, Jemima (an Aussi!)

I'm so blessed by my kids!

Sam (left) and his buddy Tim talked these two ladies into a double date to the banquet.  I love the Chuck Taylor sneakers!

These are all the students (minus the couple front right) that attended the banquet event who live in the dorm home with our kids.  A great looking bunch!