Friday, October 23, 2009

Heaven's value increases

Today was another sobering day. I found out a mentor to many missionary pilots died in a training crash. I imagine, today, pilot rooms in every corner of the globe fell silent.

Ron put me through his paces in January 2008 to help me get to where I am now. He was a gifted pilot and extraordinary instructor. He started by giving a lot of his energy and wisdom at Moody Bible's flight program in Tennessee, then recently focused on prepping soon to be missionary aviators with what they needed before taking the tough technical evaluations of the ministries they were called to serve.

The pilot he was with was probably at the same place I was one and a half years ago... eager to get the evaluation behind him, eager to get out to the field, and appreciative of the knowledge he was soaking up from Ron in the right seat. I can even picture the flight they must have been doing when the accident happened.

I doubt we will know what happened, but I do know Ron knew that C 206 like an old friend. For my training we drilled and drilled on emergencies I had previously only wondered about. I felt confident with both what I learned and his ability. That's the shocker that guys in jungle stained pilot shirts all over the world are wrestling with. Even the best ... even the best.

A friend told me on the phone today "Jerry, you should think about doing something else. This aviation stuff is dangerous." I told him "It always has been."

In our candidate training in New York before coming out we watched a sermon on video for a missionary's funeral. The African pastor talked about the story of a man who sold everything so he could buy the field which had hidden in it a priceless treasure. To that man, the value of the field was everything. We can say that with the sacrifice of Frank, Ryan, and now Ron, the value of Heaven is so much more. They gave everything to have that treasure.

Mission aviation is not the best job for anyone's health ... but the chance to give it all for God's kingdom is something I would not trade, even for the world.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Now, what is going on?

Editor's warning: This post has zero pictures. I know, I know. We are saving up for a new camera. Any suggestions?
Now, what is going on?

Much. Breanna is:
tutoring some kids from Kenya off and on,
teaching drama at a new homeschool gathering which several missionary families participate in every week,
as well as homeschooling all THREE kids now (Isaiah has to do his math, too :).

On Wednesday's there is horseback riding for Olivia around noon, then in the afternoon its monkeynastix (motor skill developing exercises) for Grace and Isaiah. Because it takes almost an hour to go to these events in traffic, Breanna is one tired lady on Wednesday's when I get home.

As for me? I am flying a desk a lot. Logged probably a couple hundred hours since my last blog post - of desk time. As one of the other pilots puts we, we hit a perfect storm when it comes to starting our flying duties here at AIM AIR. We have one Kenyan registered 206 that we can fly, but it only has single controls, so it isn't suited for training. I need to do one more thing for my Kenyan commercial license, but AIM AIR would like me to do a couple training flights so I can familiarize myself with the area first. HOWEVER, our two brand new 206's are US registered and the Kenya governing body for civil aviation has not been desirous of us operating those beautiful birds inside the country. That will hopefully change next week, maybe TOMORROW! That would be great news for me.

For myself and the other new guy, this is not what we envisioned our first year at all. But God's ways rock, and they are not our ways, which are usually lame. So I am taking this time to get into the PR job a little more, help out with desk stuff, make coffee (just kidding, not my job - well OK I could make a pot occasionally), remind people to order their AIM AIR calendar, write letters for AIM AIR, and continue to prepare myself with Nairobi airspace and AIM AIR procedures. When we do get to strap into the new birds, it will be nice. They are our strongest, lightest, quietest, and smoothest 206's in the fleet (can you say - about to be really spoiled).

There is another thing that really gets my heart pumping related to PR. I can't share much now, but it is a direction I hope AIM AIR pursues that I am really excited about. In fact, I will boldly say that I think God brought us out here and now to be a part of this.

AIM AIR, you said? Yeah, it's on its feet. A little shaken, but not destroyed. In fact it feels like business as usual most of the time. Until the International Director came by just to share his sorrow with us, and today we had a nyama choma (goat roast) together in the hangar as a way to acknowledge life does move on and it's OK. Both times I realized how close tears were to the surface. When the accident is brought up it puts a lump in everyone's throat. It will probably be like that for awhile.

We do miss the convenient life of the US, but we love the work that God is doing out here. Clinics, churches, schools are going like crazy in Sudan, exciting things are happing in northern Kenya (32 Samburu warriors and wives accepted Jesus a couple weeks ago), and the Tanzanian Africa Inland Church just celebrated its 100th anniversary. It is great to be a part. And THAT'S what is going on!

P.S. If anyone has creative input regarding or our calendar and movie, please shoot me an e-mail. I would love to read it!

Thursday, October 01, 2009

Socks and shoes

"I asked him: 'Dude, why are you wearing two pairs of socks?'
"He told me: 'Well, someone gave me these shoes, and I really like them. They're just a little too big...'"

Dale, one AIM AIR's seasoned pilots, recounted the story in a completely wry manner. Many of the guys normally based outside of Nairobi were now here at the hangar to help out in any way possible because of the crash. Dale was talking about Jim, one of the other "old timers". Dale took it upon himself to introduce me to Jim. Only Jim wasn't around. I guess that's what made it so much fun.

I love being around the pilots here at AIM AIR. I truly feel blessed. They are a great bunch of siblings to hang out with, and sharp professionals that challenge me inside the cockpit.

Now I am watching a slideshow from another pilot, Mike. It is jaw dropping to view these images snatched from the depth of central Africa. His talent has been a very real force to help many people get to know AIM AIR from across the globe. I read his blog post before the slideshow, and I felt the goosebumps slowly rise.

Mike is taking his talents forward again, this time to be our flight operations manager, a position I am sure he will excel at. Two months ago he had me cornered on a boat off the Kenyan coast and said (not asked) "You need to be the next public relations officer for AIM AIR"

I was torn, but not too much. I am still trying to get used to being a part of AIM AIR, I am not sure how I can even think of being the voice for the organization. I still have a lot to do before I can be a fully operational pilot here. Yet, I loved the idea of being able to communicate for this ministry I love so much.

Since Mike didn't really ask a question, he didn't wait for an answer...

I think a lot about this new challenge, and what I want to do, but mainly what I don't want to mess up. As I watch the photos stream by and the words of the essays fade in my head, I realize I have some big shoes to fill.

Better wear some more socks.