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

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Kathmandu - Sentani Post 4: Permits And Patan

Today was a day of reconnecting with the good people at Tara Airlines and tying up some loose ends with the airplane.  And a day of waiting for all of our permits to come through--as of this evening all the permits have been issued except one and that one is schedule to be delivered tomorrow morning.

While waiting for the flight permits to come through we had some time on our hands and I was able to show a bit of Kathmandu to Brad.  We wandered the ancient labrythine streets of Thamel and Patan (twice the phone rang and we jumped back in our vehicle and asked our long-suffering Tara Airlines driver to zip us off to the Civil Aviation Office, only to get two minutes down the road and have the phone ring again with news that, well, they didn't need us to come after all.)

Lord willing, the next update will be from Chittagong tomorrow night.  In the mean time enjoy some of shots Brad took of the wonderful people who call Kathmandu home.

They tell us that buildings like this one are 500-700 years old
Renewing my acquaintance with the sweets of my childhood

Monday, August 27, 2012

Kathmandu - Sentani Post 3: In Kathmandu

Our flight from Bankok got into Kathmandu at mid-day.  The valley has changed a lot since I was here last in June--the rice paddies that push up to the old cities edge are a lush green from the monsoon rains.  Within an hour of stepping off the airliner, we were on the far side of the airport with Yajasi's new airplane.

We got right to work on a long list of things to prepare for the ferry flight. Oxygen masks, life vests, satellite tracking equipment, setting up our flight plans in the aircraft's GPS equipment.  We did a thorough pre-flight inspection, started the engine and tested all systems.  Praise God, she's good to go.  (Thank you Jason and Brian for getting her ship-shape for us!)

Brad always seems to end up working harder than me.
We worked right until sunset and were able to get through the list we needed so there's only a couple small items to get done today.

All done and put to bed for the night.
Thank you for your continued prayers.  It looks like all the paperwork ducks are getting themselves in a row (thanks Felton, Mary & Brian!) and our scheduled departure tomorrow morning looks good.  We've had a good night sleep and are really looking forward to pointing UCL's nose towards home.

I may not get anything else posted before we leave, so again, here's the link to our Spidertracks tracking page.

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Kathmandu - Sentani Post 2: A Day of Airports

It's early morning in Singapore and we're about to board for Kathmandu.

Yesterday was a day of airports. Sentani, Biak, Makassar, Jakarta and finally Singapore. And contrasts... from the tin-roofed terminal and walk-across-the-tarmac boarding on the small island of Biak to the 1st world glitter and sprawl of Singapore's Changi--it is truly amazing how far, in multiple senses of the word, one can travel in a single day on an airplane.

Of course, which airplane you do it in makes a bit of difference. We'll be doing this route in reverse soon and what took us thirteen hours in a 737 will take us four days in the Porter. 

We're doing great and can't wait to arrive in Kathmandu to sink our teeth into this project. 

Our Jakarta Yajasi Team met us at the Jakarta airport

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Kathmandu - Sentani Post 1: Off We Go

Brad and I head off to Nepal this morning.  We'll get as far as Singapore tonight and then take the morning flight to Kathmandu and arrive mid-day on Monday.  We'll have Monday afternoon and all day Tuesday to get the airplane and paperwork ready before our scheduled departure in PK-UCL on Wednesday morning.

Here's the planned route:

Wednesday, 29 August:    Kathmandu - Chitagong, Bangladesh
Thursday, 30 August:        Chitagong - Bangkok, Thailand
Friday, 31 August:              Bangkok - Singapore (with a stop for fuel in Langkawi Malaysia)
Saturday, 1 September:     Singapore - Jakarta, Indonesia
Sunday, 2 September:       Rest day in Jakarta
Monday, 3 September:       Jakarta - Maumere (Flores Island, with a stop for fuel in Lombok)
Tuesday, 4 September:      Maumere - Langgur (Maluku)
Wednesday, 5 September: Langgur - Sentani, Papua

We're excited to be on our way and excited to see the things that God does to bring this aircraft to Papua to be part of reaching the isolated peoples of this land.

Once we get airborne out of Kathmandu on Wednesday, you'll be able to follow our progress on our Spidertracks page.

Really appreciate your prayers: a couple of last minute paperwork issues need to be cleared before we can launch.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Two Journeys

The threshing floor in Bokraha
I spent a fair bit of time as a child in the village of Bokraha in rural Nepal.  We left Nepal in 1979 and I'd never had the opportunity to return.  After an absence of 33 years, and wondering if I'd ever be privileged to return to the mountain kingdom, next week I'll be heading to Kathmandu for what will be my third visit to Nepal this year.

What gives?

Porter #3 in its former life as a paradrop airplane
A bit of background: the best we can tell, it's going to need five short-field aircraft to meet the needs of the ministries we serve out here in Papua.  We've identified the Pilatus PC-6 Porter as the bird for the job.  God has done some absolutely amazing stuff to provide us with three Porters from three radically disparate sources.  Then, when we lost Paul last year, we also lost the aircraft he was flying.  We were back to two Porters.  It took a fair bit of time and effort, but we have managed to purchase a lightly used Porter in Switzerland with insurance funds from the accident airplane.  On Tuesday morning August 21 that aircraft, Porter #3, is scheduled to leave Switzerland and begin its long journey this direction in the capable hands of Daniel Eicher, a Swiss ferry pilot.  (You can follow Daniel's flight here.   To see his GPS track you'll need a username and password...send me an email and I'll get you those.)

Everest from a Porter
So I've gotten us as far as Switzerland... where does Nepal enter the picture?  As enough funds came in for our fourth airplane, we began scouring the globe for Porter #4.  Globe scouring led us to a Porter being sold by an airline in Nepal and a couple of trips to Kathmandu to evaluate the aircraft and close the deal.  On the first trip, what was to be a 20 minute test flight over the city, morphed into a never-to-be-forgotten flight up to the flanks of Everest.

Porter #4 on the ramp in Kathmandu
I could make this long story even longer by including all the incredible contributions of our entire team to get the airplane ready from a paperwork and airworthiness perspective--but suffice it to say that an amazing amount of teamwork and God's straight out intervention on our behalf means that the aircraft is now ready for my colleague Brad and I to ferry to Papua.  It's a journey of almost 6000 nautical miles, a quarter of the globe's circumference, and it'll take us seven flying days to accomplish.

Brad and I, and the entire team, will definitely appreciate your prayers for the journey...and don't forget Daniel, he'll be a couple days behind us.  If you'd like to follow the flight's progress (we'll be using a satellite based tracking system) again, send me an email and I'll send you the links to do that.  you can do so on our Spidertracks page.

I won't make any promises, but if Brad does all the work and lets me coast, I'll try to keep the blog active as we make the trek across Asia.

We won't make it to Bokraha, but the interesting thing is that our flight path should take us directly over the tiny village.

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Eggs In A Thin Aluminum Basket

A few weeks ago, as I climbed up into the Pilatus Porter, I was warmed by the lighthearted chatter coming from the cabin behind me.  The six guys in the back were ribbing each other with the ease that comes from decades of working together and perhaps from being well acquainted with each other’s foibles.  The easy goodwill and camaraderie were palpable.  I smiled as I went through my pre-start checklists on the airplane.  Andi, Demi, Yuli, Enos…what a group of heroes.

Yapil was my last stop of the day…a day that felt a bit like driving the city bus.  I’d been to the mountain villages of Kosarek, Nipsan, Omban, Okbap, and now finally Yapil.  At these stops I gradually collected the team of guys that has been working on the Ketengban Old Testament translation.  As I started the airplane in Yapil, it dawned on me:  I’ve got all the eggs in this basket.  Lord, we’re always dependent on you for safety, but this would be particularly devastating to lose this group of guys.

As I thought about that flight, bringing the entire OT team out to Sentani for a couple weeks of checking their drafts with their translation consultant, I was struck by how tenuous this whole thing is.  Suspended 10,000 feet up in an empty sky, a single engine pulling a pair of wings over a seemingly endless stretch of impenetrable rain forest…it was easy to feel incredibly vulnerable.  All our eggs in a fragile aluminum basket. 

This endeavor of reaching the remotest parts of the earth with the Good News of Jesus feels just like that most of the time:  ridiculously fragile.  The only way this work will ever succeed is if God undergirds it, protects it, and prospers it.  But it is His work and it will bear fruit.  

The Ketengban Team had a great session of checking and the Old Testament should be finished early next year.

Saturday, August 11, 2012


Was reading in Paul's letter to the Philippians this morning and was convicted again by these words:

Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit,
but in humility consider others better than yourselves.

When is ambition not selfish?

I fear that we have sanctified things that were never meant to be holy.  Within the body of Christ do we even question ambition?  Being upwardly mobile in ministry is an almost universal expectation and gets, at the very least, a complete pass and generally a wholehearted endorsement by the Christian community.

If ambition is selfish, then it is unholy.  And I ask myself again, when is my ambition not self centered?

In the past number of months, coincident with reading Chesterton's Orthodoxy myself, I've seen the following quote of his highlighted on a number of blogs:

Modesty has moved from the organ of ambition. 
Modesty has settled upon the organ of conviction; where it was never meant to be. 
A man was meant to be doubtful about himself, but undoubting about the truth; 
this has been exactly reversed.

The interesting thing is that the emphasis of all the articles using the quote has been on the travesty of Christendom becoming modest about the truth.  Fair enough.  But Chesterton is also making the point that the Apostle Paul made:  modesty and humility are to be what govern us, not ambition.  We now read Chesterton's quote and don't even see this emphasis because self-promotion and the self-evident goodness of moving up in the world are unquestioned givens in our minds.

I remember filling out a form for a Christian leadership seminar I was asked to attend.  One of the first questions on the form was "What is your career goal?"  This really threw me.  Sanctifying the unholy?

As one who fails constantly and battles my pride as much as the next guy, I still saw my life as one of following Jesus down a path of His choosing, not mine.  After scratching my head for a while, I finally put down my 'career goal' on the form as,

To hear 'well done' from my Master.

I wonder how much more powerful our ministries would be should modesty settle back on the organ of ambition and we refused to do its bidding any longer.