On Christmas eve we received confirmation that the Lord has responded to your prayers by awarding us a US government contract. Thank you Lord! andthank you for praying last month! Now for our latest requests 🙂 …

As you know, all churches are broken. That shouldn’t be surprising given that we, broken people, are the ingredients. As you’ve been praying for grace in our relationships, God has been answering by blessing us with opportunity to encourage the leadership of our local (and also imperfect) church.

– At their request, Slick led them through a two day seminar to help them determine a solid plan for 2014, but past hurts reared their ugly heads. Please pray with us that healing and reconciliation of people in the church would continue and bring the glory to God in the way only such events can.

– Also, at their individual invitations, Slick now meets weekly with the pastor and Donna meets with his wife. Please pray with us for the wisdom and insight to strengthen and encourage our brother and sister in Christ who lead our church.

Finally, please bathe in prayer the wives and young children of two men lost at sea when their boat capsized on the night of Dec 29th. After three fights and many boat trips of searching, only the lost boat has been found. Though sea search is one of our missions, words can’t capture the gamut of emotions at working so close to such a tragedy, especially when one of the lost is a friend. Gino Henry and Jesse Abrahams.

THANK YOU for enabling us to be here!

A beach on Kayangel, the typhoon ravaged northern-most inhabited island of Palau. More pictures are on our Flickr site. Ironically, we have yet to find a local locale like this. Beaches on the main islands are either man-made or private, and always prohibitively pricy. But there is a great nearby pool with a semblance of beach with sand, lap swimming, water slides and other fun activities. It offers a welcome break from the heat and the girls love it.

It has been said that all creation and its workings contain metaphors for spiritual truth – what we see and experience is but shadows of a greater reality. For example, we can testify that in life – and in ministry – there are storms, calm after the storms, quiet times of recovery and preparation before the storm returns. For us, Africa was a storm, South Carolina where Matti was born was the calm after the storm and Germany has been a wonderfully sunny period of refreshment, recovery and preparation. It was so good that it makes us suspicious of the coming storm…

We praise God for His response from your petitions last month for smooth logistics (down to the last checked bag that weighed exactly 50 pounds J ), consolation in the farewells and encouragement from many teammates, both old and new, committing to walk beside us in prayer over the next year.

Trust entwines with trepidation as we depart clear skies, arriving in Palau on 6 September (assuming stand-by seats are available). The pilot/missionary we will replace warned us about some complex circumstances that await us there and the importance of prayer paving the path with patience and grace. Will you echo these requests with us as we cross the pond to the South Pacific?

When Zoe turned 2 we moved to France. Just after turning 3 we took her to Africa. She just turned 4. Off we go to Palau. It’s a tradition we’re hoping to discontinue…

PS: The last of our pictures from Germany… http://www.flickr.com/photos/donnadouglass/sets

We were looking west, but not far enough. When Western Seminary in Oregon accepted Slick for doctoral studies and his boss opted to release him in August, we understood that God wanted us to move again. And we thought it would be to Portland, but apparently we weren’t looking far enough west.

When friends forwarded us an email about the need for a twin-rated pilot to fill in for one year on the South Pacific island of Palau with Pacific Mission Aviation (www.pmapacific.org), starting in September, we raised an eyebrow. At first that was all, but over several weeks other events began a crescendo of cooperation.

This past Monday God led us to decline an offer here in Germany. On Tuesday we received notice that we were approved to be PMA missionaries. On Wednesday, the church that “sent” us to Africa welcomed us back to active missionary status. Another church remains committed, whenever we should return to the classic “mission field”. Today is Thursday and as we reflect on the many “fits” and coincidences and many details falling together all at once, we cannot ignore the evidence of God’s unseen hand.

The telling factors? God previously arranged that we should have theological training for mission work. He had already provided flying training for mission aviation, including sea plane ratings (which might be rather useful on a series of islands!) and multi-engine ratings (which are required for this particular post, but rare among available mission aviators). He determined that we would be available to move at the end of August and armed us with plenty of experience at moving ourselves overseas. Zoe is one year out from being “school age” and this post is for one year – until two pilots who are in the PMA “pipeline” are fully trained and ready. And finally, it just so happens that the folks who need to step away from PMA due to the challenges of age (67!) are friends whom we highly respect.

Thus, after much prayer and discussion with our pastor and several mentors over the last few months, we believe Palau is where God is leading this next step of our lives. Our only concern is that our one year in the tropics might stretch into a much longer season of our lives. Should that happen, we are certain there is no better place for our family – none other than the center of our Creator’s will.

That being said, we’d love to invite you to join our journey once again, either through prayer or financially – or both. For those who have continued to pray for us and drop us emails of encouragement, we cannot thank you enough: those tangible glimpses of the body of Christ at work have nourished us deeply. We will be re-energizing our “prayer calendar” so let us know if you want back in the gameor if you want to pick your day to pray for us and join the team (for more info, see http://donnadouglass.wordpress.com/ministry/prayer/). To support us financially, please see http://donnadouglass.wordpress.com/ministry/donate/. We need to raise $4300/month and $10,300 for outbound expenses. Thank you for investing!

And thank you for considering being on the team that will work with us as we go forth. We look forward to sharing with all of you “back home” how God moves in answer to your prayers.

Funny how you never know how much one email will change the course of your life :).

Behind the border
Approaching the village of Wadaga, the missionaries’ hearts sank as silence greeted them. The entire town, even the church they’d labored to plant among the Jum Jum tribe, had been abandoned. Confounded as to how they might find any remaining believers, they stopped and prayed.

 

Joe Jones (CFNet Missions), Dr Atar (SP) and Tim Dillard at Doro.

Background
In 2011, South Sudan split from Sudan along an arbitrary line in the sand drawn by the British government in 1959. Falling south on its eastern end, the line left a 12-mile wide strip of land wedged between South Sudan and Ethiopia but attached to Sudan. The collection of frail structures called Wadaga lies in this narrow peninsula inhabited primarily by tribes loyal to South Sudan. Many, like the Jum Jum, have found themselves the target of their own new government’s army, or worse, the heartless militia and pilots it has hired. Rather than negotiate, Sudan seeks to simply eradicate and replace the indigenous tribes, potentially with shepherds from the western province of Darfur who are in search of more pasture land.

After enduring aerial bombings and deadly attacks from helicopter gunships, many residents of the peninsula fled toward the border rather than await the arrival of the Janjaweed Militia, a group of ruthless killers who are credited with murdering hundreds of thousands of Sudanese in Darfur at the government’s command. With danger growing and people leaving, Sudan Inland Mission (SIM), Christian Family Network (CFNet) and Samaritan’s Purse (SP) personnel, aided by the airplanes of AIM AIR and Mission Aviation Fellowship (MAF), made the difficult decision to evacuate from the few nearby airstrips. Ten minutes after one plane took off with six adults and an infant, bombs began to fall around the airstrip, causing two more missionaries to request rides. AIM AIR returned, braving the battle zone. By evening, the pilots had evacuated ten missionaries. (See note 1: Evacuations)

Mirroring events in nearby towns, Wadaga residents also fled into the brush when hostile planes bombed their village and surrounding farm fields. Among them were Pastor Ayoub Wahab and his 6-year-old church of 70 Muslim-background believers. While they mourned the deaths of friends and family and comforted the injured, they also thanked God that they had been spared lethal helicopter attacks and the Janjaweed.

Miraculous Connection
Six weeks after the Jum Jum abandoned their homes, the group of CFNet missionaries arrived in the vacant village. They were not the only ones praying, however, and God had already responded. A single set of footsteps broke the silence while the missionaries stood outside. From around a corner, Pastor Ayoub Wahab appeared. Surprise registered on the missionaries’ faces, but the pastor welcomed them as expected guests. As greetings and questions flew, the story began to emerge: the night before, God had shown the pastor in a dream that he would meet the missionaries here on this day. God had reached where technology could not.

Flight
Pastor Ayoub Wahab gathered his entire church in several days and together they began the long walk southwest across the infamous line in the sand. Slowed by malnourished children and plodding livestock, many kept to a dry river bed, opting for treacherous footing in favor of encountering police and militia on the rutted, dirt road. Dr. Atar of SP joined them in time to drive some of the leadership and children to the border in a Landcruiser, significantly speeding their escape from imminent danger.

Appreciating the 24-hour trailer ride from Guffa to Doro.

Walking into Guffa, just south of the border at the end of the second day, the refugees set down their loads with a sigh of relief. Their rest, however, was short-lived. Not long after they arrived, the familiar sound of Russian-built cargo planes scattered panicked children in every direction. Adult believers stood still, silently praying and watching the plane drive straight for them, dropping bombs as it flew. Inexplicably, in the face of such apparent peril, the tangible peace of Jesus overshadowed them, surpassing all understanding. When the children noticed, they too calmed and stood still to watch the plane harmlessly fly directly overhead. While the sound of propellers faded, they paused to worship God again for sparing their lives. But they also realized that Guffa was not far enough from the border.

Thus the decision was made to set out for Doro, another day’s walk southwest. This time, hired tractors and trailers quickened the journey. They bounced over the rough terrain packed with tired, bewildered children clinging to their mothers, mothers struggling to protect their children from injury and rampant illness, and fathers who’d abandoned their farms and livelihoods miles away. Bracing against the jolts, fathers silently wondered how they might protect and provide for their families wherever they might find themselves at the end of this journey. Here in South Sudan, they had no rights and no land to grow crops or graze livestock.

Some Jum Jum load onto a tractor for quicker transport from Guffa to Doro. Pastor Ayoub Wahab of the Wadaga church sits on above the tractor’s right wheel. In a country where the authorities and militia are known to kill and rape, a man must make some hard decisions about how to protect his family.

A light dawns
Arriving in Doro, they joined a growing population of refugees who had also chosen this spot to rest their weary feet. Yet even here, danger remained. Few positive results arise from crowds of people with no food, little water, insufficient shelter and no employment. It is also uncertain how far across the border Sudan’s violence will reach. If that weren’t enough, substandard sanitary conditions and exposure to the elements have left many ill. Dr Kelly of CFNet treated every child he examined for some degree of pneumonia. Every child, that is, except one.

Uduk women from the Sudanese province of Blue Nile wait to be seen by Dr Kelley at the Doro refugee camp. Every child except little Marsha (above) was treated for some degree of pneumonia.

 The daughter of Pastor Ayoub Wahab and his wife Mary, born in the bush outside of Wadaga just before the journey, has remained healthy and strong. Doubtless in answer to many prayers, little Marsha Naomi not only survived to reach the day of her naming, her 40th day – she thrived. And she has become a wonderful little evangelist. She causes conversations and relationships that would not happen aside from the sweetness and wonder of a healthy little baby in such harsh conditions, a vibrant testimony of a living, loving God who is involved in His people’s lives.

As the new residents of Doro peer into an earthly future with little hope, the believers and missionaries recognize a huge opportunity. There is hope even here for true life, life that extends far beyond the only existence these people know to a life that counts for eternity. Many of these refugees have never heard the name of Jesus and know no option besides Islam. Many are from places nearly impossible for missionaries to reach. At home, it is doubtful they would ever learn the Good News. But in South Sudan, the Light has dawned and thirsty hearts hear the Name of Jesus proclaimed. People groups once considered “unreachable” have suddenly become accessible. In the midst of a seemingly dark situation, God has moved and now there is great opportunity.

A glimpse at the camp in Doro.

Looking forward
Along with supplies and food brought in with the assistance of AIM AIR, SP and MAF, Pastor Ayoub Wahab and missionaries on the ground in Doro hope to acquire a copy of the Jesus Film and means to show it. In the meantime, they serve Jesus by serving the people, because that’s what Jesus came to do (to paraphrase Korea’s Pastor Cho). And with the assistance of their two month old evangelist, Marsha, they announce the truth that offers hope. [See note 2: Opportunity, Challenge and Reward]

The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; those who dwelt in a land of deep darkness, on them has light shined. Isaiah 9:2

Tim Dillard, husband of Marsha Dillard, cradles the little evangelist Marsha Naomi.

Note 1: Evacuations. Evacuations are an important, though gut wrenching, service AIM AIR provides for missionaries in areas like South Sudan. The presence of a nearby airstrip and an available airplane enables many to serve in areas otherwise too remote or dangerous.. Whether for political, medical or other reasons, the decision to evacuate is a very intricate, difficult one. At what point do you leave close friends and people you’ve worked hard to establish relationships with, to preserve your own safety and/or health, or that of your family? And how will that decision affect those relationships? Nevertheless, having the option to evacuate from volatile situations enables missionaries to reach further into remote and/or dangerous places. On the flip side, once the situation has resolved, air transport also allows workers to return more quickly. This incident in the Blue Nile region reminded pilots Jay Mundy and Jon Hildebrandt how important a service they and their airplanes provide in advancing the Kingdom of God to all peoples and nations.

Note 2: Opportunity, Challenge and Reward. For us who work with AIM AIR, this opportunity, like many, comes with challenges. Excitement accompanies the chance to offer logistical support to the Christians serving in Doro. But resources are already stretched thin from supporting a similar refugee situation further west in Unity state. More than ever we depend on God for wisdom on when, where and how to engage, and for the provision to support the work in Doro. For now our team and our partners have focused on meeting physical needs. But the truly rewarding part of our work is hearing how missionaries are able to introduce these shepherds, keepers of livestock and workers of the soil to the Good Shepherd and the Lord of the harvest. That is the reason AIM AIR exists.

Additional notes and credits:
– Photos by Steve Shelton and Medical teams worldwide team pictures, 2011, Doro and Bounj, Sudan. Stevesheltonimages.Com
– Stories and information courtesy of Joe Jones of CFNet Missions, and Jerry Hurd and Jay Mundy of AIM AIR
– CFNet operates in N. Kenya, South Ethiopia and Somali border area ministering to Moslems. Also operates and has missionaries in South Africa (their headquarters), Zimbabwe, Rwanda, Burundi, DRC Congo, Tanzania, Uganda, Kenya, and has ‘African’ churches in Germany and France.

“Next week” finally arrived the night before we left to celebrate Christmas at Sunrise Acres (a group of AIM-owned cabins on a small farm in rural Kenya). 201 boxes, trunks and other items made their way into our home in the hands of many helpers in just over an hour. Many, many thanks for interceding on our behalf! 🙂

Now about 8 weeks into the 12 of maintenance orientation, we slid out to Entebbe, Uganda for a few days after Christmas to scout out where we may live next year. Much more peaceful and beautiful than Nairobi, we eagerly look forward to the chance to serve there.

However, we continue to search out where God would lead us and we would greatly appreciate your prayers to that end: that God would clearly direct us and we would accurately discern what He desires. As everyone knows, there is much work to be done, here in Africa…like elseshere… We just desire to be where He wants us and do the good works He’s prepared in advance for us (1).

(1) Ephesians 2:10

Enjoy pictures from Christmas…and from our trip to Entebbe.

Some of you have asked for pictures of things with wings and props… Here is Slick on the ground after his first flight in Africa: a medical evacuation of a gal from Kasese, a town outside of Entebbe, Uganda. As of now, we’re planning to move to Entebbe later this year (2012), after Slick is done with training. Entebbe hosts the airport that serves Uganda’s capital, Kampala. The airport sits on a peninsula in Lake Victoria, the largest lake in Africa.

With unexplainable peace and endurance this past month, we’ve experienced God’s response to your intercession – thank you for praying! Please continue to let us know how we can pray for and praise with you.

From the vantage point atop a steep airstrip we watched a second little airplane set up for landing. It turned and descended, lining up with the runway, then disappeared below the hill’s crown. Pregnant silence followed as sagebrush and grasses muffled the quiet engine noise. Suddenly the red-tipped wings reappeared, rising smoothly up the flattening slope and rolling to a stop abeam our airplane. My instructor, Scott, spoke briefly with the plane’s occupants, shouting through the open window, before they pushed the throttle forward and rolled back down the hill. Again they disappeared over the hill, but flew gracefully into view a moment later, skimming along the lush Idaho valley below us. That was the entertainment during our lunch break at Moriah Airstrip, which starts at a ten degree slope and levels off to just two degrees at the top.

Even more thrilling was the lunch we had a few days later, when God moved one of Slick’s sisters to begin a relationship with Jesus! “Lord, thank You for drawing Kim to Yourself. Please help her to become firmly grounded in knowledge and experience of You!”

With flying training complete, we embark on the last block of our support-raising journey which will traverse roughly 17 states in the next two months. Knowing the effectiveness of your prayers, please join us in petitioning for safe travels, productivity on the road as we begin our final seminary classes, and the ability to encourage the people we visit.

See you in the “throne room” 🙂 !

In His grip –
Slick & Donna

Where are we now? View the map.

 Fellow trainee and mission pilot from New Guinea, Tim prepares to drop a package toward the “drop zone” on the dry lake bed (can you see the open window?).

 Here are more pictures from our training and travels.

“Why do you guys need additional training after thousands of hours of military flying?” people ask us frequently. While flying fighters is demanding and specialized, mission aviation is not really any less so. It is just different. We have trained to use aircraft as weapons, both offensive and defensive. Now we’re training to guide them safely into and out of very challenging airstrips and terrain.

For example, here are some of the problems we trained for in and near Nampa, ID:
– Moriah – landing zone slopes 10% then levels off to 2%. On take-off, you start on a 2% slope that rapidly increases to ~6% before lift-off.
– Johnstone – only a 2% avg slope, but has a nice curve on south end and the whole runway curves slightly.
– Steiner – about a 10deg turn halfway down and about 1.5% slope.
– Murphy – about 2% slope; nice greasy burger place across the street
– Holdout – 4% average slope, one way in, one way out because its up against the foot of a mountain
– One Way – runs along a ridge, ~5% slope; one way in and out
– Owyhee Res State (28u) – had a crashed plane next to it when I was there. The visible strip was only as wide as our wheel-base.
– ZX Ranch (pvt) – 4% slope, slightly curved; must take off toward the valley but can land either way
– Loomis (pvt – this is where we want to live!!) – 1700’ long w/500+ drop on east end! And views of snow-capped peaks and moutains all around.
– Garden Valley (u88) – WOW. Gorgeous! Nice wide, 3% sloped grass strip beside mountain stream… Camping anyone?
– Idaho City (u98) – paved, gravel, dirt, grass, fades into forest on SW end
– Graham – 2900’ long with about an average 4% upslope that varied over the length. Too wet to use the south 1/3. A forest service cabin on the strip can be reserved & rented. Any takers?
– Weatherby – 2200’ w/trees on both ends & no go-around capability from below about 100 feet when landing to the east (uphill). In a narrow valley – beautiful!
– Atlanta – right up against steep slopes on 2 sides. One way in and one way out. We opted not to land there because the departure goes down a narrow canyon and the winds were getting squirrely.
– Pine – short, wide, fun strip on the north end of a lake. Side slope towards the water. Crooked final approach to the south due to terrain.

So now we have sort of “advanced flying degrees” in two different specific fields within aviation. Can’t wait to use these skills for things that matter!