Thursday, June 02, 2011

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

1 comment:

Josh Hopping said...

I think it is good to share both parts - otherwise folks get an unbalanced view of things.

Personally, I enjoyed your last post about Sudan's struggles as it was real. Thank you for sharing that. =)

As for the calendar...well, I don't have one so I don't know what May looked like. But I can tell you that I see way too many smiling babies in missionary/church publications. I think we could use a wake up call - not everything is happy happy. There are times when we need to look at guns and tanks and fall on our knees in tears before the Lord.

Be blessed and may the Lord continue to direct you and your families path. In Christ.