Sunday, August 30, 2009

Hangar Tour

Guests were arriving, and the chief pilot asked if I could give a tour of the hangar. Visitors love to see the variety of planes in the hangar (especially the DC-3...the BIG one).

AIC Runda is a new church in a small slum. However, this slum is in the middle of Runda Estate, a high class gated neighborhood made up of mansions. In a place where wealth and success peer down from above, Musioki and his family faithfully shepherd this church.
It’s fun to introduce visitors to the Kenyan workers in the hangar. Several of the Kenyans working here serve as pastors in addition to their 5 day work week on the hangar floor. Musioki is one of them. From Monday to Friday he works in dispatch keeping our airplanes at a glistening shine and helping us clear customs. He’s usually in dark blue coveralls and a fisherman hat; so when we visited the church he pastors on Sunday, I hardly recognized him in a suit.

Ushers led us to the front bench of honor, as the youth dance team rehearses their “special” to be performed in the service.

Musioki had invited us to see the results of a church fundraiser, mainly a new sound system. The speakers pulsed with upbeat worship songs as the youth perform synchronized hip hop moves. It’s a joy to watch -young kids and teenagers all having fun dancing, singing and praising the Lord in their way, in church.

After church, as they feed us lunch, Musioki shared his passion for the church. His quiet and reserved nature belie his focused vision; encouraging the youth (and adults) to express themselves through dance so they feel valued and an integral part of the congregation.

Meanwhile, back at the airport, and after the hangar visitors meet Musioki, we proceed on our tour. I carefully avoid the paint room with tarps carefully pulled around it to obscure any view of its contents. I’d been instructed to avoid it, “nothing they need to see in there.”

When it was my turn, Musioki translated my words into Swahili. I “borrowed” a message from Erwin McManus on Jesus’ power over death. Death is all too familiar to them. I was out of my league, but I prayed they could embrace the message of hope.

In fact, these days everyone at AIM-AIR gives it a wide berth. Usually enclosed to contain paint fumes and overspray, now it contains the evidence of the pain that’s hiding just under the surface of our controlled emotions- causing a lump in the throat, halting steps and moist eyes. Burned and broken pieces of a Cessna 206 lay scattered, orange tags cataloguing each piece. Each piece has been carefully examined, to determine the “why” we all want to know. Two friends, co-workers, fathers and husbands have gone to their heavenly home much too soon for our understanding. In my head I find myself repeating the words to the song... you give and take away. My heart will choose to say, Lord, blessed be your name!

One day we will be able to ask God why pilot Frank, and mechanic Ryan, both husbands and fathers of four each, had to leave this earth and their ministries here in Africa so soon. Until then, we rejoice in knowing that they are home in God’s presence.


Monday, August 24, 2009

Quick prayer request - Kenya Census

Tonight marks the beginning a nation wide census here in Kenya, the first in about a decade. The hot button issue is the question regarding tribe. A lot of people are very upset about it being included, especially since the post election violence a little over a year ago. Animosity across tribal lines was quite strong then, and several people here would rather that the question was not asked.
Please pray for peace during this upcoming week. Because we live close to a large slum, rioting and protests may not be too far away. Pray for everyone's protection during this time.

Thursday, August 06, 2009

A chance to breathe ... and some links

All thanks to God, Ryan has made it safely to a burn unit in South Africa, and it seems like the whole organization was able to take it's first breath in awhile.

There is a page on AIM AIR's site that covers the accident in detail... LMB accident. Two funds have been started for the Toew's and for Ryan Williams and his family. The costs are always a burden you hate to think about in the wake of this kind of tragedy, but they are a reality.
Also, I had been thinking about an AIM AIR facebook page for a looong time, and decided this would be a good time to kick that off ... the timing seems strange, but I really wanted to offer it as an avenue for the AIM AIR family extended throughout the world to be able to receive news and respond as they like. The link is: AIM AIR facebook

I thought I would share quickly snapshots of the week:
  • High: Almost all the pilots came to Nairobi, and it was nice to have them around and listen to them take digs at each other (especially the old timers - you know the ones that don't know what a blog is ;)
  • Low: I've still got to study for this crazy test next week. Kind of hard to concentrate and find time.
  • Quiet: The hangar floor was eerily quiet as guys worked on some smaller projects / cleaning up.
  • Busy: Bookings was initially full of phones ringing off the hook as the fantastic staff tried to take care of everyone who was depending on an AIM AIR flight, now voluntarily grounded.
  • Frustration: It seems some bystanders took sections of the wreckage, making investigation hard. Some tv footage (from what I was told) showed locals holding the tail of the airplane and shaking it jubilantly, like a trophy. Some said seeing the zoom in on the burned AIM AIR logo was something they will never forget.
  • Admiration: Some of the bystanders, I understand, probably saved Ryan's life, even in the midst of fire. Thinking of that makes the frustration melt away, and my eyes moist.
  • Not awesome: Ryan was supposed to fly out yesterday morning in a medevac, but it was delayed by at least two hours because apparently Nairobi hospital wanted the bill paid before he could go in the ambulance (the figure I heard was enough to buy a brand new Land Cruiser in the US). As one person said: "That's why we are flying him to South Africa! So you don't have to deal with this!!"
  • Awesome: All the letters of support from other operators here in Nairobi, other missionaries and mission groups, all the churches in the US, and all of you! Thanks! Breanna decorated a bulleting board, and all these messages are being stapled on it as a way to encourage and comfort the immediate family of Ryan and Frank, and also the entire AIM AIR family here in Kenya.
  • Grisly: The wreckage is down in our paint booth. It is incredible anybody survived, much less three people.
  • Touching: Everyone is pulling together to help the wives, being with them as they walk through the wreckage: both physical and metaphysical.
1The Spirit of the Lord Jehovah is on me, because Jehovah did anoint me To proclaim tidings to the humble, He sent me to bind the broken of heart, To proclaim to captives liberty, And to bound ones an opening of bands.
2To proclaim the year of the good pleasure of Jehovah, And the day of vengeance of our God, To comfort all mourners.
3To appoint to mourners in Zion, To give to them beauty instead of ashes, The oil of joy instead of mourning, A covering of praise for a spirit of weakness, And He is calling to them, `Trees of righteousness, The planting of Jehovah -- to be beautified.'
-Isaiah 61

Monday, August 03, 2009

When you try so hard to do everything right...

Last Friday I stayed late in the hangar to work on a personal project: repainting a bicycle as a belated present for Isaiah. I stepped out of the bead blast room and Ryan our piston fleet supervisor, motioned for me to come out to the ramp.

“I need you to help me push this Caravan into the hangar.”

Caravans are usually moved by our little tractor tug. But another operator had a DeHavilland Dash 8 idling on the ramp waiting to get past. Hence the urgency.
Ryan grabbed the tow bar and we strained and pushed against the beast. We got it out of the way.

Behind the Dash 8, one of our newer Cessna 206s appeared. Frank was returning from a day of flying.

After shutting down out of the way, he came and asked us, with a smile on his face “Did you guys make that Dash 8 wait?”

Ryan explained how we moved the caravan by hand. He added our other caravan was fully loaded. There was no way we could get that one to budge.

I looked at Frank and said “Now if you had been here, it would have been no problem!”

He laughed. Its a great laugh, one I hear a lot in the pilots room.

Yesterday afternoon I was making pancakes for a late lunch and the power went out. I was annoyed because it seems to be happening more and more. I didn’t think anything of it.

Some AIM-AIR friends knocked on the gate a couple hours later.

“We stopped by to see how you guys are doing.” they said.

“OK” I was a little confused by the strange look on their faces.

“You haven’t heard anything?”

I shook my head.

Then I learned that same airplane that had taxied in Friday afternoon, with Frank and Ryan on board, had crashed through some power lines and into a residential estate less than a mile from our house.

Frank did not make it. Ryan has severe burns and several broken bones. Please remember Ryan and his family and Frank’s family in your prayers.

Right now we have more questions than answers. We just went through an extensive evaluation of our operation, identifying ways to make it as safe as possible. This is a very hard time for the AIM AIR family.

I am not sure if there are aircraft to move around in Heaven or not, but I can imagine whatever God is working on up there, He is probably turning to Frank, with a smile and a twinkle in His eye “Frank, now that you are here, this will be no problem!”