Thursday, June 02, 2011

Reposted without permission

One of my fellow AIM AIR pilots put this on his blog. It's well written and worth pasting here:

On slight addition I have to throw in, I understand that when the LRA was started, they were told if they followed the ten commandments, they would be invincible. How they justified their barbaric actions in light of this is beyond me. But it's always amazing how any group of people trying to satisfy an old Law can justify their sinful actions and believe they deserve a reward for doing so.

Also, last year, two of our pilots attended the first graduation of seminary students from a Bible school in an Ugandan refugee camp. Because of the LRA presence, citizens have relocated to refugee camps to be protected by the Ugandan defense force. While their lives remain on hold, they decided to start a Bible school, and the first four pastors graduated last year.

(You can read more about the US troops coming here).

OK, here goes. Sit down and enjoy:

In the wake of Rush Limbaugh’s bone-headed characterization of the Lord’s Resistance Army as Christians fighting Muslims, I thought I would present some basic info on the history of this group. AIM AIR (out of our Entebbe base) does a considerable amount of flying for organizations working in areas in northern Uganda, DRC, CAR and South Sudan that are consistently terrorized by the LRA. A while back, I spent three days in Congo as we delivered tons of relief supplies to villages that had just suffered the horrors of LRA attacks.

First and foremost, the LRA is not a Christian organization. It is more correctly a militarized Satanic cult. The group began as a rebel group made up of northern Ugandans fighting oppressive regimes of the main (southern) Ugandan government. The group ended up being led by Alice Lakewenya, best described as a witch doctor, who told her followers  she had cast certain spells that made them invincible, which was shortly proved false as they were utterly defeated by Ugandan forces. The group then became led by the now infamous Joseph Kony in the late 80′s. At best, Kony is insane, but I suspect he is possessed, with some of the defected LRA soldiers still being convinced he has special powers.

The LRA’s technique of gaining foot soldiers by abduction, usually of small boys who are often immediately forced to kill their parents, has been going on for over two decades now. This as well as other horrific things take place routinely to the people in these villages that are completely unprotected by their own governments, which all cannot control these far corners of their countries. The result is a huge area in the heart of Africa where death and horror has become common place. The spiritual oppression in some of the villages I was in was almost palpable.

Obama recently offered the help of military ‘advisers’ to try and capture Kony and shut down these LRA cells (which is why Limbaugh made his ignorant claim). The US has tried to help before (shutting down Kony was a personal goal of the Bush administration). However, the operation was botched by bad weather and bad timing and Kony escaped after potentially being tipped off as he monitored his short-wave radio. It is hard to image just ‘advisers’ can turn the tide against a wild man who has lived in the bush for almost 30 years. The troops of the countries involved are under-trained, under-armed and often ill-motivated to fight such a notorious, and elusive enemy. I’m not sure what prompted Obama to act now or in this way, but I guess we’ll see how effective it is.

Please keep this part of the world in your prayers. Pray that the Church would be a bright light in this overwhelming darkness. Pray that evil will be thwarted and the suffering of all of these people will end.


Below is a tracking map that gives an idea of the scope of these attacks both in time and geographically:

Also here are some links to more info on the history of the LRA:

Great overview by Enough Project (.pdf)

BBC profile on the LRA

BBC FAQ’s about the LRA

Extensive Newsweek article on Kony

Enough Project questions effectiveness of only ‘advisers’

Breaking Free

An apology, but not really, an anecdote, and a confession ... and why not? I can't sleep anyway.

Last week I returned to Nairobi. Two weeks of house projects in Loki came to an end, and I fell back into the warmth of my family, and the normalcy of life that could be anywhere, but it must be with them, together.

I also got back in the saddle: the thinly padded left seat. A first flight that allowed me to remember all I forgot. After all, the past four months I had commanded only a GMC van.

Reine put me through the paces, reassuringly, as he does best. We turned, and slowed, stalled, and climbed.


"Let's see a soft field takeoff on the grass."

The grass runway was new to me. I looked it over from inside the Cessna. The northwest end gently rose from the edge of a ravine. Distance markers every 50 meters lay slightly obscured by long grass, and in the distance a fence ran across the far end.

Soft field technique, as you know, breaks free from the draggy surface the aircraft was slogging through. Once the wheels seperate from the earth, and slowly spin down to rest, the aircraft accelerates easier. It's not ready to fly yet, but if I keep it down near the weeds, it can build speed safely.

Reine wasn't satisfied that I kept it in "ground effect" long enough.

"Don't be afraid of that fence!"

The tall grass below housed a lot of small birds that rose up beneath us. Evidently they weren't alone in the grass. My next departure, I stayed low, slowly milking the flaps up, back into the rear of the wing. In front a gazelle, or was it an antelope, turned down the runway and bolted ahead of us. As we caught up to him, I eased back to clear the fence.

My base check came the next day. They feel more like an exam, but with opportunities to learn. Once I completed the  base check, I could start operational flying again.


We went back to the same airport and the same grass runway. My short field takeoff scared up the same poor grass grazing animal. He looked beautiful running in front of us when I glanced over the cowl.

I told our chief pilot, who conducted the base check, "I hope he doesn't have a heart attack."

This past week gave me a chance to discuss public relations. Living in Loki makes it harder to listen to AIM AIR's heartbeat, and then relay that to the rest of the world.

Last week I looked at the AIM AIR calendar with a manager much much my superior.

"Next year have more smiling babies and less guns!" he advised me. I laughed, thinking of what to say.

"I'm serious. More smiling babies."

I felt a twinge of guilt and a little defiance. When I laid out the calendar, I liked the idea of certain themes for each month. May was about war torn countries. A picture of burned out tanks sat above a close up shot featuring the Caravan throttle quadrant, weather radar, and avionics. Grace took that picture last year on a flight back from Loki to Nairobi. Knowing that makes me smile whenever I see it.

On home assignment I saw the calendar a lot while visiting people. As I looked at it over their dinner table, I realized a theme of instability and war was probably not the best thing to look at for a whole month. Maybe smiling babies would be better. The previous calendar, which was really great, had a lot of kids in it. That was before I took the helm.


I will always struggle with what to share as a person, and also what to share as AIM AIR. The gritty truth involves guns, but I don't see them as often as I think about them. In the same vein, not all babies out here are smiling. I wrote an article last year during a tough week. In two sentences, it boiled down to: "Are we making a difference? Doesn't look like it, but we must be and I can't wait to see it." The funny thing is I thought the group asking for it scrapped it completely. When I showed up at their office this last furlough, they showed me their newsletter, with the article on front and back pages.

"It's basically your newsletter!" They told me. I guess it did make it in after all.

I love to think of us as swift messengers to speed the Gospel. Surely the hope from the Good News needs to be reflected back home. But I also think the Gospel contrasts better against a human reality.

So my half hearted apology is for the month of May on the calendar. I hope it wasn't a depressing month for anyone, and for my last post talking about Sudan's struggles. I find I paint the dark grey backgrounds much more than I paint the shimmer of hope in the foreground.

I sit up high quite a bit, usually just under the clouds, and well above the trees. From above, when I spot the smiling kids, the rejoicing mothers, the passionate missionaries, and the soulful pastors, I promise to point them out. If I can just get these wheels out of the mire and break free

Southern Discomfort

Sudan. The name brings strong feelings to many people. For fellow Christians in North America, images and stories of persecution and hardship for fellow Christians come to mind. Sudan has ranked among the highest countries for persecution according to several lists. For those who live in Europe or the Middle East, the memories of Sudan's struggle revolve around oil, resources, and moving the southerners out of the way.

Many missionaries received a wonderful surprise this January when a historic vote did not turn into bloodshed or signal a resumption of civil war. For AIM AIR, it meant a busier schedule as we support renewed and additional thrusts into what will soon be the Republic of South Sudan.

But, the honeymoon may be soon over.

When sharing with many people over the last four months about why we do what we do, I typically mentioned Sudan's bad roads during the rainy season, and Kenya's bone jarring and robber strewn roads in the north. However, highway robbery has hit south Sudan in a big way recently. One tribe in particular reigns with terror over a section of highway from Lokichoggio to Torit. At least two mission agencies do not allow their workers to drive that route now.

A friend tells me there is increased crime in the cities, like Torit and Juba. Most of the criminals, in a bizarre twist, are educated, most likely educated abroad as refugees, and have returned to Sudan. Perhaps their taste of western culture leaves an empty taste for materials and possessions now that they are back home, and they choose crime to obtain them.

He told me about a mechanic who used to work in Loki, and now opened up a shop in Eastern Equatoria. While driving, he picked up another Sudanese man. As they drove, the passenger brags to the mechanic that he killed a woman. Not only that, he has a tongue in his back pocket as a trophy. When he pulled it out, the driver stopped the car and beat him within an inch of his life. He hauled him off to the police.Through several days of turture, the murderer told them that government officials in Khartoum had sent 120 people down to the south with instructions to kill randomly any southerners. Unfortunately, most of the victims end up being women.

Finally, corruption continues to flourish, and finances remain mismanaged, misappropriated, and mysterious. Most government workers are paid weeks late. One government worker clocks in, then rides his motorcycle taxi around all day collecting fares. He returns to the office and clocks out. Eventually he will be paid, but today he needs the fares to make ends meet.

Other people not even living in Sudan are on the government payroll. Cousins, nephews, and uncles of policemen, government officials, etc. come to visit from abroad, and ask to be paid a salary. The payroll grows to include their names, and they return home to the US, Australia, or wherever.

My friend jokes, "South Sudan doesn't have social security. You don't need it. They'll pay you for not even working."

Our fellow missionaries and pastors face unusual and tough challenges. The days of direct oppression and opposition from the north may be over, but new and strange hurdles emerge. Please keep all of us who work for the Good News in this soon to be new country. We need creativity to work around these challenges, wisdom, a sense of humor, and constant reminder that God knows and has a plan.

Also, the border areas between north and south are flaring up. Certain towns have been bombed, and tension continues to escalate. This month AIM AIR's flights, in partnership with other Christian organizations, included surveying internally displaced people along soon to be border, and delivering relief supplies. Please keep those areas in your prayers, too!