Saturday, December 8, 2012

Jesus At The Door

We were awoken once again to the bitter reality of this current life's fragility this past Thursday morning. I had my helmet in my hand, ready to walk out to the airplane to fly when we learned that our good friend and colleague Zeth Nabyal had lost his short, terrible battle with tetanus.

Zeth leaves behind his wife Selina and their three beautiful children, Windy, Timothy and Angely. 

Through tears, Selina told Sheri and I that in the early morning, Zeth had sensed it was time and told those with him,

I feel like this is the end. 
Please pray for me. 

One of the men in his hospital room began to pray. After a bit, Zeth interrupted him a bit gruffly and said,

When are you going to get to 'Amen?'
Jesus is at the door, waiting for me. 
I need to go. 

The man abbreviated his prayer.  Zeth breathed his last...and didn't keep his King waiting any longer.

Henry Moore invested many years in mentoring Zeth in the field of avionics (aircraft electronics) and Zeth served on our team in that capacity for more than 15 years.  But Zeth was so much more than a technician in the service of Bible Translation.  A pillar of his church, the chairman of the committee for translating the Old Testament into his native Una language and a respected leader among the Una community, Zeth's presence here on this earth will be dearly, dearly missed by many.

Zeth is in heaven now.  I think he may find it familiar.  I will never forget the day when I sensed heaven come down and envelope Zeth and the other Una with him on a remote Papuan mountainside.

I wrote the following in September 2007:

I’ve known Zeth for a long time.  Ten years in fact.  An easygoing guy, we’ve frequently shared light moments.  Seen a lot of laughter on Zeth’s face.  Never seen him cry.  That changed a few weeks ago.

The day started at 5:30 in the morning as a lot of my flying days do.  The preflight inspection on the Pilatus Porter went fine but we weren’t able to contact our destination on the HF radio for a weather report.  Four of us huddled for prayer in our dusty cargo warehouse.  Zeth, Dick, Paul and myself asked the Lord to give us good weather in Langda.

Without a weather report, we launched in faith for Langda just after 6:00 am.  An hour later, crossing the spine of Papua’s high ranges at 13,000 feet, we held our breath waiting for the valley beyond to come into view.  What a feeling to see the Langda valley open before us without a cloud in sight.  Thank you Lord.

Soon the Porter’s turbine engine was spooling down on Langda’s aircraft-carrier-like runway--at 6,200 feet above sea level, this 450 meter shelf of land juts out from the otherwise near-vertical terrain around it… almost like God put it there thousands of years ago to serve as an airstrip.  I swung out of my seat and dropped to the ground.  Zeth was already out of his seat, untying the cargo net that secured a pile of non-descript boxes in the cabin behind his seat.

Wow, Zeth, wasn’t that incredible how God opened the weather to make it in here today? 

Zeth tried to respond, but the words stuck in his throat.  Hands trembling with the ropes holding the cargo net, Zeth lost the battle to control his emotions and the tears flowed freely down his cheeks.  Working through his tears, Zeth began to unload the Word of God in the Una language…a twenty-year labor of love.  Dick & Margreet Kroneman and a team of committed Una men and women had given their life’s work for this moment.

Born in a simple hut with a grass roof, Zeth joined the first generation of Una to emerge from the Stone Age.  Around the time of his birth, the light of the Gospel had reached into the Langda valley and brought freedom from oppressive spiritual powers that bound the Una people in an endless cycle of killing and witchcraft.  That freedom led to opportunities never before seen for the Una. Given a chance to get an education on the coast, Zeth made the most of his opportunities and pursued an education in electronics. He ended up becoming part of the Yajasi team in our Avionics Department.  From a grass hut to aircraft avionics…an incredible journey.

At the airplane, the people formed a festive procession to the church, the boxes reverently cradled on bow-and-arrow racks.  I noted that Zeth was by no means alone in being unable to keep his joy from overflowing into tears.  Dancing, whooping and rejoicing were followed by a time of quiet reverence as we were led in prayer by the Una Pastor.  I cannot remember when I’ve been so moved.

A few days later I was again landing in Langda.  This time the airplane was full of guests coming to attend the formal celebration and dedication of the Langda New Testament.

The Una people staged an elaborate drama depicting the cycle of violence and fear that once held them firmly in its grip. They celebrated the freedom that the Gospel of Jesus Christ brought them and now the wonder of having His words speak to them from these pages in their own language.  For many of them, it was as if this were far beyond what they could ask or imagine.

The Una dramatized their prior lives of violence.
At one point during the festivities, the organizers had thirty or so key members of the translation team line up on the uneven hillside.  As the clouds swirled around us and light misty droplets fell, each member was given their own copy of the Una New Testament.  When the church leader distributing the Bibles got to Zeth they were both beaming great wide smiles.  Then their eyes met. I saw a deep connection between these two Una men, a profound understanding as to what this book really meant.  The smiles melted away and they locked each other in an embrace and wept with abandon.

I was trying to photograph the moment but it will have to live only in my memory because I had to turn and walk away.

I returned moments later, my composure regained, to see Zeth and the others, clutching these books to their chests as though someone had just given them a gift they hadn’t dared to hope was even possible.

Then, in unison, they raised the Evidence that God speaks and understands Una high in the air.  Zeth’s face said it all: triumph, defiance, relief…YES!

I glimpsed heaven in the Langda valley that day and I will remember those moments for as long as I live.  It is unspeakable privilege to be a part of this.

We have given away nothing and gained everything.

Until we meet again Zeth.  Say hi to Paul for me.

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Only One Rock Star

Read something recently that referred to an apparently famous pastor as "something of a rock star in evangelical circles."  Been pondering that a bit over the last couple of days.

As I've pondered, I've started into the stories of the book of Acts.  Haven't gotten very far.  Still stuck in verse three of the first chapter.

Jesus, having defeated death, appears to his disciples over a period of forty days and conducts the first seminary ever.  Can you imagine the cred that Jesus has at this point?  They watched death take this guy.  Must've been human after all.  They watched this guy pry death's fingers off his own throat.  Must be, well, God!  And now, he's going to give us some pointers?  I'm thinking this was a pin-drop zone.

So what does he talk about?

He appeared to them over a period of forty days
and spoke about the kingdom of God.

The first time I heard our Papuan pastor preach he was in this verse.  He did a full stop and asked himself and the congregation, "If this is what Jesus focused on during those forty days, why on earth do we spend so much time focusing on chasing the blessings of God instead of pursuing the kingdom of God?"

The guy can flat out preach.

As I came upon those same words in my own study, following the pastor's lead, I decided to spend some time trying to figure out what this kingdom is all about.

I suppose one should always start these kinds of things with the obvious.  It could have been a democracy of God, or a republic of God, but it's a kingdom. And a kingdom, for better or for worse, has a king.  And only one king.  He's a good king, to be sure, but he is the king.

If we want to be rock stars, we're fooling ourselves if we think we can be rock stars in the kingdom of God.

There's only one rock star.

To have a rock star pulling the spotlight to his or her self  in 'evangelical circles' would seem to indicate that those circles must lie outside the kingdom of God circle.  Only room for one in that circle.  If I'm pulling the spotlight off the king towards myself I am a usurper.  You can't be a rock star and loyal to the king.  You can't promote the king and yourself at the same time.

The problem is, we all want to be rock stars.  It's what we got infected with at the Fall.  The biblical account tells us that the first one to want to be a rock star in God's kingdom got himself and his fan base thrown out.  Ever since, he's done a stand up job of convincing the rest of us to chase after that same goal, with equally devastating results.

Unchecked, our hunger to be rock stars within the kingdom of God results in much ugly, non-kingdom-of-God behavior.  Besides, a lot of rock stars die young, lonely, empty and chemically-altered deaths.  In other words, it ain't what its cracked up to be.

May we be content to serve the king, obscured from view to the rest of the world, knowing that the king has got his all-seeing eye on us and that rewards come later.

And what's this?  I take it all back, it seems like we can be rock stars after just looks a bit different:

If anyone want to be first,
he must be the very last,
and the servant of all.

Jesus makes it abundantly clear what rock stars (leaders?) look like in his kingdom.  Leadership is getting up and going to the back of the line.  It's nothing but service.  Service to the king and service to his subjects.  This takes character, not charisma.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

At the Foot of the Snows

As I've mentioned before, after leaving Nepal as an eleven year old boy over 30 years ago, the opportunity to go back three times this year was something I could never have scripted.  Simply a gift.

On the heels of that experience, it has been an absolute delight to read David Watter's account of his family's life and work among the Kham people in the mountains of western Nepal.

I've read a pile of missionary books...none quite like this one.  And none any better than this one.  Simply in terms of story, this is a great read.  Highly recommend it.

Click on the book cover here if you're interested in the hard copy--for the Kindle version click here.

Monday, September 24, 2012

Bats, Cockroaches, Justice and Mercy

This has absolutely nothing to do with what I'm thinking about writing in this post, but sometimes the fact that we live in the tropics kind of comes home...I'm sitting in our living room listening to the drumming wing beats of a fruit bat in full hover outside our window...while the cat chases a cockroach around the room for sport.  Life is good. (The cockroach may differ on that.)

I assume that Micah 6:8 was as beautiful in Hebrew as it is in English:

...what does the Lord require of you?
To act justly
and to love mercy
and to walk humbly with your God.

The prose can wander around my head for days just because it is so beautiful.

But it seems that it has been wandering around my head without my head getting a clear picture of what the prose actually means.

Justice and mercy are a bit at odds with each other, aren't they?  I mean, justice means making sure that a wrong doesn't go unpunished and mercy means that, well, a wrong goes unpunished.  So how do the two concepts end up right next to each other in Micah 6:8?

Not that these are foreign concepts to me.  I know about justice and mercy, and it goes like this:

When I've done wrong, I want mercy.

When I've been wronged, I want justice.  

Like so much else I learn from the Master, I think that the freedom and beauty lies in finding that my natural instincts are backwards.

The stress in Micah's words seems to be for a one way justice--from me to others.  Act Justly.  I think of Zacchaeus paying back those he'd cheated four times the amount he had taken from them.  This is acting justly.

I think about Jesus having his beard ripped out by the roots while someone else's hot, hate-filled saliva dribbles down his face.  Love Mercy.  He utters not a word...when he could have uttered words to terminate his tormentors' existence on the spot.  This is loving mercy.

Taking the prose to heart then, for me, means that it needs to go like this:

When I've done wrong, I will act justly.

When I've been wronged, I will give mercy.

When I step back and look at the broad strokes of how justice is portrayed throughout the riches of scripture, from Micah to Jesus, it seems safe to say that we are to fight for justice for others and allow God to sort out justice for ourselves.  My exposure to Christian culture often seems to be pushing in the other direction--we fight for justice for us and our own and let God sort everyone else out.

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Becoming Nothing

I've heard myself say that I want to be like Christ.  The way those words roll easily off my tongue is indicative of the fact that, whatever my vague picture of being like Christ might look like, I'm probably thinking it's something I can pull off without breaking much of a sweat.  If I'm honest, my concept of becoming more like Christ probably amounts to not much more than becoming a nicer person.

Put that way, it sounds like an easily forgotten New Years resolution.  And it is.

Poking around in the letter that Paul wrote to the Philippian followers of Jesus, I start to feel like my stated desire to be more like Christ is actually a bit more like Peter's naive assertions that he would never deny his Master.  Words spoken in good faith...he simply did not know what he was talking about.  And when I say that I want to be like Christ, I've not really grasped what is going to be required of me.

But fortunately the Apostle Paul puts the cookies on the lower shelf in Philippians 2.  With words inspired by the Creator, he tells me that my attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus.  He then goes on to describe Jesus' attitude for me very clearly.  And when I look at the description of what will actually be required of me to be like Christ I realize that I've had no clue what I've been talking about.  My words have been empty and hollow.  Like Peter, while my Master is laying down his life, I'm diligently trying to preserve my own, all the while thinking that I'm doing the right thing.

I don't come close to being like Christ because I've underestimated how different this Christ is from me and my culture.

Here's just one item from Paul's description of Christ: he tells us that Jesus

made himself nothing

It's one thing to find yourself in lowly circumstances due to events beyond your control, or to end up in that spot as a consequence of your own actions--both of which most of us have probably experienced.  Having been taken lower, it's not uncommon for Jesus' followers to find the good in the humility of a downgraded place in life.

But if we want to have the same attitude as that of Christ, we are instructed to follow his example and

make ourselves nothing

This is another thing entirely.  This means I am to actively seek the lower state...get there under my own power.  Dude, that's really, really hard.  I can't remember ever doing that.  In a world where doing what's right for yourself is not only the norm, it is a noble and honored virtue, the concept of making intentional choices to go the other direction is beyond foreign.

And yet, there's this glimmer of the hint of tremendous treasure, hidden and waiting for the one who is willing to step off the path and actually try to be like Christ making himself nothing.

Saturday, September 8, 2012

Two Porters In Four Days

It's been almost a year of  watching God work to make this airplane a reality...a long journey.  To see the fruit of that journey today was a wonderful lift to all of our spirits.

Dani and Dominic's journey from Switzerland was also a long one--they left their homeland almost three weeks ago.  After 80 hours of flight time and 10,000 miles, at 4:00 this afternoon they delivered soon-to-be PK-UCJ to Yajasi's doorstep.                                          photos Tim Harold

The whole team was there to meet her and we once again gave thanks for God's provision.

As I reveled in this amazing moment, I heard that little voice in my head--or maybe it was my heart--reminding me again...

Love Me.

Love people. 

Use tools.

Don't ever get that mixed up.

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Kathmandu - Sentani Post 9: Langgur and...Home!

Sorry I wasn't able to get anything off yesterday evening...wasn't able to find WiFi in the immediate environs of our hotel.

The Maumere to Langgur leg was beautiful and uneventful.  On arrival at the airport in the morning, it took a bit of back and forth with the fueling crew to get some gas into our airplane.  Brad used the time to give our bird a much needed bath.

We soon had Jet-A in our tanks, air beneath our wheels...and more gunung api (Indonesian for volcano; literally: fire mountain) filling our horizon.  More than once we wondered whether the Ring of Fire more vividly described the volcanoes passing beneath our wings...or the state of our backsides after 35 hours of sitting in the Porter's seats (a nod here to Barry McFarlane for creative inspiration).

We did most of the route looking like a couple of intensive care patients with oxygen cannulas sticking up our noses.  We maintained 15,000 feet most of the way and climbed to 19,000 for the last 60 mile stretch of volcano-free water.

93% blood oxygen saturation at 19,000 feet.
The hotel in Langgur gave the place in Bangladesh a run for its money in terms of simplicity, but one of the great things about Indonesia is that you are rarely far from a great meal.  A quick wander down the street found us in front of a streetside grilled fish vendor and we soon had platefuls of grilled red snapper in front of us...and Brad introduced me to grilled squid (16 years in Indonesia and I've never tried the stuff).  Both the fish and the squid were fantastic.

Dinner in Langgur.
Grilled really was good. 
After a great night sleep, we were soon airborne again off of Langgur.  The islands between Langgur and the Papuan mainland were stunning in their remoteness, pristine white beaches, clear water and beautiful reefs.

Tailwinds mercifully turned our final day's 4.5 hour leg into an even 4 hours and we were quickly back in our home airspace.  Great fun to be greeted and congratulated by a number of other pilot friends on the frequency.

Thank you so much for praying.  The entire trip was without question held together by the hand of God.  We saw this in ways too numerous to recount, but the fact that we arrived in Sentani exactly on schedule is a huge testimony to how the Lord paved every step of the way for us.

Please continue to pray for Swiss ferry pilot Dani and Porter #4 which is scheduled to arrive here in 3 days...and for final customs clearance on both aircraft which can take some time.  Be great to have these aircraft online and serving as soon as we can.

Thank you, Lord, for bringing this Porter to Papua.

I'll leave you with a number of pictures of the arrival.  

Short final to...home!
photo Tim Harold
The first of what we pray will be
many happy touchdowns on Sentani's runway 12.
photo Tim Harold
The home stretch.
photo Caleb Harold
The final turn...
                                                                                                         photo Caleb Harold 
The first handshakes from Yajasi's faithful Ground Ops crew.
photo Caleb Harold

The hug I'd been waiting for.    
photo Caleb Harold
Brad is welcomed home by fellow pilot and
Yajasi Board Member Darsono Widjatmiko.
photo Tim Harold
Gathering for a prayer of thanksgiving.
photo Tim Harold

Monday, September 3, 2012

Kathmandu - Sentani Post 8: The Ring of Fire

We're in Maumere, on the island of Flores.  Tired after a very long day--seven and half hours of posterior-numbing flying.  The fuel stop in Lombok was very smooth--on and off in one hour.

A real treat to fly along a long section of the ring of fire--the ring of volcanoes that form a long stretch of the southern part of the Indonesian archipelago.

After a dinner of fried rice and fried noodles on the beach, we're heading to bed early.  I'll leave you with more of Brad's great pix (beyond holding the communal camera, he actually does his fair share of the flying :)

Volcanoes just kept emerging out of the undercast...
...another one...
...they're everywhere!
Mount Agung 's cratered summit (Bali)
Over Lombok
Komodo Island looks pre-historic even on the GPS
Maumere on last.
Put to bed for the night.
Day's end on Flores.

Sunday, September 2, 2012

Kathmandu - Sentani Post 7: Crossing the Equator

The early Saturday morning buffet at the hotel spared Brad any more breakfast travails and soon we were zipping through light Singapore traffic to the airport.  Departure went smoothly and we got off very close to our target schedule.

With the morning sun on our left wing, it felt good to be heading south for Jakarta and Indonesian soil.

After a while I saw a funny little line come into view on the iPad display and wondered what kind of airspace it denoted.  Putting my literacy skills to good use, I read the word next to the line: Equator.  We realized that neither Brad nor I had ever crossed the line at the controls of an airplane. Fun to watch it slide by on the map.

A little more than four hours after we left Singapore we landed at Jakarta's Halim airport in a stiff crosswind. Two of Yajasi's Jakarta team, Pak Yoso and Pak Sendy, met us at the airport and walked us through all the formalities and paperwork.  So thankful for their great help (all told it took us six hours to clear everything.)  Praise God, we're through customs (final customs clearance will happen in Sentani) and should be good to go on Monday morning.

Really grateful for the day off to rest today here in Jakarta.

By the Lord's grace, we've got three days of flying to make it home to Sentani.  Tomorrow will be a fairly long day: Jakarta to Mataram on Lombok Island for fuel and then on to Maumere (Wai Oti) on the island of Flores for the night.

Again, you can follow the satellite track of the flight on our Spidertracks Page.  Click on the Public Tracks to see the entire path of the flight...remember that the satellites sometimes take a coffee break and gaps in the track occasionally happen :)

Yesterday's pictures:

On climb out from Singapore's Selatar Airport
Over Singapore's Changi Airport

Setting feet back on Indonesian soil.  Good to be home!

Pak Yoso, Brad, Pak Sendy

For the never-a-dull-moment file: remember the stiff crosswind we landed in?
Just to keep things interesting, while Sendy and I were sorting out landing and parking fees,
Brad and Yoso got to witness a minor landing accident involving a light aircraft doing training.

Things were a bit more self-service at Halim.
We had to borrow wheel chocks from a kind-hearted commercial operator.

Friday, August 31, 2012

Kathmandu - Sentani Post 6: Eggs and the Malay Peninsula.

I knew it was going to be a great day when it started with me holding my sides, bursting with mirth at Brad's attempt at ordering breakfast at 4:00 a.m. After numerous unsuccessful attempts to bridge the language gap, the initial target of ordering breakfast was reduced to:

Do you have eggs?

Can you cook them?

Great to start the day laughing so hard.  (We did get our eggs, by the way) Great to start the day early.  We had a long way to go, traveling the entire length of the Malay Peninsula.  Took us 6.9 hours with the wind at our backs most of the way.

We're doing great.  Airplane is doing really well.  Please pray for our arrival in Jakarta tomorrow, particularly that customs will go well...

No sir, we're not just bringing in our carry-on's, we're importing the whole airplane sir.  

Really do pray that we would get over that hurdle smoothly.  Thanks!

More of Brad's pix:

Bangkok at dawn.

Just South of Bangkok on departure.

Keeping the fuel log.

Air Traffic Control gave us a route directly over Kuala Lumpur.
I asked Brad to look for the Petronas towers...
he looked straight down and there they were.

On the ground at Singapore's Selatar airport we're serviced with
fuel and oxygen at the same time.

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Kathmandu - Sentani Post 5: Chittagong and Bangkok

This will be a quick one from Bangkok.  We are so grateful that the Lord has brought us this far--things are going really well.  Airplane is doing great and the crew are having altogether too much fun (but don't tell anyone). 

A bit of a waiting drama getting out of Nepal...our flight permits finally came out and we got airborne around 12:30.  Great, uneventful flight to Chittagong...hairy one and a half hour ride through rickshaw gridlock to the hotel that was by far the most hazardous part of the mission so far.

Just over six hours from Chittagong to Bangkok and we landed here around 3:30 in the afternoon.  Idyllic views of Southeast Asia the whole way.  Thing almost got interesting when Bangkok's radar went down when we were 60 miles out...they stopped the inbound traffic in our places and gave us all holds and wouldn't give us an idea of how long the hold would be.  Our math showed that we could hold for an hour with the fuel we had so we were in pretty good shape...but began looking at alternates just in case.  They got her fixed in 12 minutes and we were on our way again.

We're off to Singapore tomorrow (not looking forward to the 4:00 a.m. wake up call).  About 7 hours total flying time with a stop in Langkawi, Malaysia for fuel.  Thanks for all your prayers--we really feel them.

Follow the satellite track of the flight here.

More of Brad's pics to enjoy.

Somewhere over Bangladesh
Finishing paperwork after arrival in Chittagong
Morning prayers.  Or a pre-flight inspection.  Or both.
Dwarfed by the big boys in Bangkok