Thursday, July 13, 2017

Gabon Airstrip Construction- PK-27 Project

Ground Breaking- June 2016
The national church in Gabon that we partner with, EACMG, is embarking on the construction of a social works campus on 65 acres of property, just outside of the capital city of Libreville.  There desire is that the various elements of the campus will be a way for them to demonstrate God's love to the country's largest population area.  There will be a hospital, schools, career training, homes for widows and at-risk children, as well as agriculture and fish-pond training.

The church has also asked that our aviation program get involved with assisting with the construction of a runway and then involving nationals in our work, which involves training.  Last year, I was contacted by a friend, Chase, who told me that the Lord had laid this project on his heart- even before I was really promoting it.  So, I contacted Pastor Jacob, my Gabonese friend as well as the national church liaison for international partnerships, to see how it would work.  It turned out that a team from a Pennsylvania church (Grove City Alliance) was coming this spring, in concert with E4 Project, to work at the site.  So, we would coordinate our team to dovetail with their visit, which was more focused on the construction of a bunk house for volunteer teams (national and international), as well as the first medical clinic building.

The vision is for the airstrip to be a complementing piece of the campus- to support transportation logistics that connect the people and resources to come into this campus as well as when they need to go out (ie. medical evacuation to a larger facility).  Engineering Missions International were kind enough to partner with the national church in assisting with the site design.  Two teams of volunteer engineers conducted short term trips to the site to do extensive work on elevations, setting perimeters, soil study, water source investigation, and more.  One of their many documents is here- the general site plan:

Things were starting to move into place for the first phase of work- the national church was ready to partner up, Grove City Alliance was coming to build the bunk house, Chase and friends were coming to pitch in on the airstrip... Here we go!

The Gabon national church teams got us off to a great start!  The clinic (the smaller of the two blue buildings on the plan) already has its' foundation done and it's ready for the floor.  In the distance, you can see the Grove City team was joining church members to build the bunk house.

Prior to the team of international volunteers arriving to start work on clearing the property for the airstrip, I set out, with my new friend Mikolo, to check how the perimeter lines, adjacent to the proposed runway site, were being maintained.

As you can see, we were in very thick Jungle!

Six years ago, when the property was purchased, church leaders and their families were given access to the property to have their own garden.  They knew that it would be a project that would happen in phases, over a number of years, so having people coming and going would help prevent squatters as well as bless people with food!  Little did we know whose garden stood in the way of the runway!  Keep reading!

(l to r)  Mike, Tom, and Chase.  The expertise needed for the job!

The team arrived to the international airport in Libreville, we spent a Sunday at church and meeting new friends, tried to get over jet lag, then made our way out to the work site first thing Monday morning.

From our guest house to the site would take anywhere from 50 minutes to 2 hours depending on traffic.  You can see why having a bunk house on site is such a big need!

Clearing the perimeter and staking out the lines to guide the dozer!
We started at the East end and walked Westward.

Marking the highest elevation spot near the middle of the runway.

We made it to the West end marker and added our marker to it with the help of
our friend, Davis.

Then it was off, to town, to try and find equipment to rent.
We found out that, due to an economic crisis, due to low oil
prices, the cost of renting equipment had sky-rocketed!  Here
at this equipment dealer, they had no bulldozers for us. Even
if they did, we only had enough funding to rent it for about a
day and a half!

We found another equipment renter and were able to negotiate a deal for three days of work!
... a much better deal!  It came with an operator, so our team was able to focus on directing
the driver and then marking the runway ends and sides as he went.

I got to ride on the dozer and give our driver directions!
Re-living child hood fantasies!!!

Local Alliance church members showed up throughout our time there to join in the work.
Between the airstrip, the medical clinic, and the bunk house, there was plenty to do.

We also had a nice visit from the church president's wife (most colorful dress), and his son, Anat, and new bride of just one week!  We reviewed the site plan and they were very happy to find out
that their family's garden, situated in the middle of the Eastern end of the runway, would not be
destroyed with the bull dozer just yet.  Our three days of clearing was focused on the thickly-
forested Western end of the landing strip.  It would be months before their bananas and cassava
plants were ready for harvesting so, needless to say, they were very pleased!

Our local engineer, Mister PEME, came by to check out the work
and teach me some new French lingo related to GPS and elevation
terminology!  My friend, Mikolo, also learned how to photo-bomb!

By the end of three days of work, the dozer had cleared the entire rear perimeter, then started to
clear the width of the runway (over 150') starting at the West end, East-bound.  We estimate
that we'll need another 3 days to entirely clear the West half of the runway and another day
or two to clear the East half.  This work will be done on pace with the medical clinic.
We've done the lion's share of the work, thanks to many generous donors!  

Thank you to all that prayed and donated.  There were no injuries and we accomplished so much.  It was not without logistical challenges and moments of frustration, but over all, we developed many relationships with many old and new friends...

As always, it's great to hang out and listen Pastor-President Victor
talk about all that God is doing in Gabon and beyond!

For more info, here is a video overview, taken 6 years ago, when the project was still on the drawing board!  In the video you will actually see some of the initial site planning work that resulted in the plans that we used to set our markers for the land clearing that we were able to accomplish.

PK27 from E4 Project on Vimeo.


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