Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Close To Danger, Far From Harm

Tim Harold

We crossed the abrupt drop-off at the beginning of the airstrip a few feet above the ground doing something like 65 mph.  For some reason, on this day, the thought flashed through my mind that if, in that critical second, we bumped the power back ever so slightly, we'd land short of the airstrip and strew expensive aluminum all over the place.

Most of the time I don't think about stuff like that.

But occasionally I have one of those hyper-aware moments when the reality of what you're doing snaps into uncomfortable the fact that you're taking a 5000 pound projectile freight-training along at 100 feet per second and attempting to slide it into a 100 foot box at the business end of a patch of ground carved out of no-nonsense jungle.  Successfully pull that off and you find that your real fun is only now have to figure out how to corral the hurtling beast to a stop on a surface with the same consistency as the stuff coming out of a two-year-old's nose...and this needs to be done with some dispatch lest you exhaust the snotty--but mercifully treeless--surface, slide off the far end of the airstrip into the no-nonsense jungle...and strew expensive aluminum all over the place.

Draconian rules require that you keep your eyes open through the entire process.

Life's a bit like that too...except, you are allowed to close your eyes.  And most of us do, creating the warm illusion of a safe and secure world where danger resides far, far away...somewhere on a CNN homepage.

The reality is, that once sin broke this incredible, used-to-be-perfect place we live in, death and danger became our constant companions.  They are just a bump of the throttle away.

But what if... 

What if that which is most real, most valuable and most desirable to me is also totally secure and absolutely untouchable?  What if no one, no event, no circumstance, no illness...nothing can take away what is most important to me?

Ah, now danger still surrounds me, but harm?  

I'm far from harm.

No matter what happens.

Even if the throttle gets bumped.

For I am convinced
that neither death nor life,
neither angels nor demons,
neither height nor depth
nor anything else in all creation,
will be able to separate us 
from the love of God
that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Isn't This Worshiping God?

Klaus & Jerry busted up our pilot meeting the other day.  Two old guys with a long history in Papua.  They just walked in and gave us all a magical moment.  Jerry was a pilot, Klaus a missionary among the Fayu, one of the most remote and primitive people groups out here. Jerry pokes his video camera in each of our faces and asks us about ourselves.  He gets to the end and says,

You guys are the next generation.  
Keep fighting the fight. 

Klaus points at me and says, "I knew this guy when he was just a kid in Nepal."

He gets teary.  "His Dad checked the first translation I ever did, the Gospel of Luke."

I get teary.

With Klaus
Klaus and Jerry have just come from Nepal, where the small body of believers that Klaus knew when he left in 1976 has done what followers of Jesus always do when they are persecuted: they blossomed.    Jerry tells us there are 100 congregations in the people group now.

A few days after they crashed our meeting, Brad flew Klaus and Jerry out to Fayu territory.  The reception was enormous, Fayu raucousness.

A week later, it's Saturday evening, and my phone is ringing.  Jerry is desperately ill, can we pull him out on Sunday?  Fayu land is so far from Sentani that we can't round trip it without refueling...but I don't want to have to stop for fuel if Jerry is as bad as I'm being told.

Yajasi makes a difference out here only because we're a team.  Tonight, the team comes through.  Sony and Jason give up a chunk of their Saturday evening to install the extra fuel tanks under the Porter's wings.  In the dark.

It's still dark the next morning when my beat up Landcruiser and I head to the hangar.  I'm the last one there.  The team is already in high gear.  Iput is finishing fueling the under wing tanks. Bekah is on the radio, checking the weather at our destination and will stay and flight follow us all morning.  Yafet and Eko are tying down the load and getting the stretcher for me.  The team is gung-ho, moving fast and really kicking it getting the airplane ready.  I thank the guys profusely for working on a Sunday morning.  Quizzical, Yafet looks up from putting away extra cargo straps and asks, earnestly,

Isn't this worshiping God?

These brothers of mine get it much more than I do at times.

An hour and forty-five minutes of seemingly endless rain forest puts me over the village of Dirouw.  Moments after landing Klaus is standing at my open cockpit door.  His face is wan and strained.  I can tell he's been through a tough 24.

"Nate, I am so glad to see you.  I am so glad to see you.  Yesterday, I thought I lost him.  He was totally unresponsive."

We get Jerry on the stretcher.  The Fayu chief prays for him.

Four days later I saw Jerry again.  This time he was 100% vertical.

Apparently God listens to Fayu chiefs.

Monday, February 4, 2013

Lost Man

Through gray tendrils of rain, fellow pilot Zach Osterloo and I had enough visibility to see the distinctive outline of the sharp cliff that stands as the sentinel landmark at the mouth of the Bime valley...but it was obvious that the weather was telling us to stay away.  We turned towards the east and set down in the community of Borme to wait for Bime's weather to improve.

As per usual, there was soon a small throng of people around the airplane, some of them friends I've known for a very long time.  We were chatting about how bad weather for a pilot is a bit like the warnings God has communicated to us in His Word: for your own good and safety, don't cross that leads to disaster.  

After a while a church leader approached me and said, "There's a guy here who is actually from Bime, but he's lost.  He's been wandering in the jungle like an animal for months and nearly drowned in the river the other day.  He doesn't have a mind.  He's not really like a human anymore.  He has no family here, they are all in Bime...can you take him back there?"

I asked if he'd ever been violent and they told me that he was docile.  "He's just not there anymore," they said.  I asked to see him and they brought him over.  His blank, expressionless features were simply heart-rending.

None of our Bime-bound passengers were willing to give up their seat for the lost man, so I was trying to figure out how we were going to make this work when Zach said,

Leave me here.  He can have my seat.

And so, when the rain stopped in Bime we were able to return the lost man to his family.

I can easily imagine Zach as the one in Mathew 25 asking his Master, 

When were you sick and I helped you?

And I can hear the Master's reply, 

I had a brother in Borme.  
He was at the bottom of the refuse pile.
People said he wasn't human anymore.
You gave up your seat for him.

Makes one wonder why it was raining in Bime that morning.  Maybe for the sweet potato crop. Maybe because it's a rain forest and, well, there's a reason it's called that.  Maybe for a lost man named Arin.

Whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, 
you did for me.

Lost man.
Jesus calls him brother.

photo: Zach Osterloo