Thursday, December 22, 2011

December Update

I wish I could write an update that said: Normal. Life is normal. We eat, go to work, exercise, read and sleep...and everyday is the same.
But alas, it is not so. Welcome to the last 2 1/2 months...

October often found us at the local airport doing the annual inspection and repairs for the Cessna 182 that GAMAS operates here in Guyana.  For many suns and a few moons, DJ (and sometimes I) were inspecting, recording, researching, ordering parts, receiving, repairing, exchanging, assembling, writing, and finally gluing.  And if you're not sure what all that means, maybe someday you'll become an airplane mechanic's wife too and have to figure it all out.  At last, though sleepy-eyed and less than bushy-tailed, we finished just minutes before heading to the international airport to catch our flight to the States.

Other October activities included working on the van... yes the same van that is pictured in the previous post with a note saying that it was almost done.  The engine has been completely torn apart three times, and halfway torn apart another 7 or 8 times.  Poor thing hasn't been to the doctor in about 5 years and it was re-tired the last time it went.  Doctor plans to prescribe re-tirement again as baldness comes with age.  So the van's still being worked on.  Welcome to the mission field.  Why so long, you ask?  Well, what do you expect from a bird doctor trying to diagnose a hippopotamus with a heart problem?

Scattered between van fix-its and airplane fix-its were Guyanese visa fix-its.  We had to resolve previous visa confusion, overhaul the letterhead to be used, mend the letter content, patch up relationships, and come up with a solution that makes us and the government happy.

November brought a little bit of change.  We received a tough email near the beginning of the month that DJ's grandmother had just passed away.  The next few days were filled with preparations to go home for the memorial service.  A kind relative wanted all the family to be able to be there and graciously helped with tickets.  We busily finished the necessary projects here in Guyana and headed North.  We are truly grateful for the chance to be with family and loved ones during this time.

Though we seemed to bring plenty of work with us, we often scampered into the snow-dusted woods for quiet walks and scrambled up nearby mountains to capture breathtaking views.  The New England forests and the crisp, cool air brought us a much needed rejuvenation after several months in the humid, trash-filled city of Georgetown.  Applesauce, family meals, and visits with church members cherry-topped our visit and were as delightful to the heart as a batch of homemade preserves.

After nine days in New England, we traversed across Canada bound for Yooperland with the intent of visiting Miss Knott, her dear pickle-ball playing, flash-drive flushing students, and her dear Mr. Gibbs.  An all too brief visit and then back in the car.  Eight hours to Andrews, a car shuffle, and another 10 to Collegedale.

The next 12 days brought more travel and bustle.  I did the routine chores, ran errands, visited friends, and made several trips to town gathering precious goods to take South for us and the other missionaries, like almonds, yeast flakes, kids Christmas presents, and nursing scrubs.  DJ worked with Jeff Sutton doing "Jeff and DJ airplane things" (which include, but are not limited to: Routine checks on the Aerostar, maintenance on the white 172, organizational meetings, yacking on the telephone, researching future options for GMI's fleet, and coming home late for lunch - but not too often ;).  Those two cronies also decided that the three of us should take a trip out to Oklahoma to look at an airplane (for Guyana).  Thirty-five hours and 1,700 miles later we arrived back in Collegedale. 

Before we knew it was 3 a.m. and we were sweating again, riding in a taxi driving lighting speeds down the left side of the road.  A 'Welcome home' sign was taped on the front door of the missionaries' apartment.

The last two weeks have found us busy once again with the duties of mission life and work.  The airplane needed a little maintenance, the hippopotamous heart continues to be a dilemma for the bird doctor, one of our volunteers needed lice treatment and a haircut, clothes get dirty and our tummies continue to ask for food.  So we have plenty to do in one way or another.  Two new members were added to the missionaries' apartment while we were gone: a kitten named Tiger and a CD/DVD Replicator.  Under the direction of James Ash (pastor/pilot) and with copy permission, hundreds of thin, circular shaped objects have slid through this replicator and been distributed to local Adventist pastors and Bible workers throughout Guyana.

It's too hot and rainy here to think much about Christmas, so please enjoy the holiday cheer for us :) Don't forget to tell the weatherman we'd like some snow!

- Jodi

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Promises and praises

A Bible promise claimed many times since we've been here in Guyana is Habakkuk 3:17-19.

Though the fig tree does not bud and there are no grapes on the vines,
Though the olive crop fails and the fields produce no food,
Though there are no sheep in the pen and no cattle in the stalls,
Yet I will rejoice in the Lord,
I will be joyful in God my Savior.
The Sovereign Lord is my strength;...

In looking daily for reasons to praise Him, we've noted a few of them to share. May these examples encourage you to look daily for reasons to rejoice and be joyful.



A good working airplane and the ability to use automotive gasoline, which is less than half the price of AvGas.







The first Adventist secondary school in the deep Guyanese interior began on Sept. 19, 2011. This is only the 4th Adventist secondary school in Guyana, 2 others of which are run by GMI mission projects.








A temporary roof is on the GAMAS container at the local airport to begin solving water leaking problems.






Volunteers arrive! A Russian family (2 children pictured), a girl from Germany, a guy from the States, a lady from Canada, and soon to come...the Brooks family.








Oranges from our neighbor, handed to Jodi "to help her skin" when really, we just needed some fruit.








GAMAS' Toyota Hiace "bus" is very close to running... after many hours of undoing local mechanic's work and redoing it properly.








Trips to the zoo. A Guyanese "Tiger" (ocelot).










The chance to leave the city for a week and spend time eating soursop and doing airplane maintenance at the GAMAS hangar in Bethany, a 20 minute flight from Town.












So at the end of every day we should look back and remember what the Lord has done for us in that day, count our blessings, and be reminded again of His great love for us.

Monday, September 5, 2011

Maule Miracle

The Baby Moses of Guyana Adventist Medical Aviation Services (GAMAS).This spring one of the GAMAS airplanes had an unfortunate bath in the waters of the Kamarang River at one of the villages in the interior of Guyana. A wet runway and a sudden tail wind on the last part of the decent to land resulted in a Maule aircraft and the pilot/passengers 10+ feet down over the river bank and into the river. Thankfully, no one was hurt and the villagers came out and helped turn the plane around and pull it out of the water. The plane then became part of the runway scenery for the next few months, waiting for a mechanic.

We believe that this Maule project was part of the reason that God wanted us to spend some time in Guyana. Gary Roberts came from his GMI project in Africa to help, and his 6 years of experience as a pilot/mechanic in Guyana were invaluable. Cliff Brooks also came to help and investigate the idea of being a long term missionary with GAMAS. His prior mission experience showed and we enjoyed his help for the last two weeks of the job. DJ, Gary, and Cliff spent many long days in their little "shop" that they set up with the GAMAS C182 wing and some hammocks and boards. With parts that came down with Gary from the States, borrowed instruments, and some patchwork, the little airplane soon began to revive. New struts, a partial engine teardown, new magnetos, a patched cowling, a new nose wheel support structure, and clean wheel barings made it a mighty fine looking gent.


***(left) A break for lunch with the family by the river.


*******
To get to Paruima, the little village in the beautiful Guyanese interior where the Maule airplane was located, we flew 1.5 hours over lots of broccoli heads. Paruima is a special village due to its heritage (more below). Radio communication is the only form of modern communication technology found in the village and we used it a lot to talk to the other GAMAS projects and to the airplane when it was flying. Many villages in the interior such as this one are only accessible by aircraft and by foot.
Transportation within the village happens by foot or by boat. Here's a picture of one of many trips up/down the river that we made in the dugout canoe that often serves as a pick-up truck. The villagers do a lot of subsistence farming. We were priviledged to share in the blessings of the land, including an abundance of bananas, bokchoy, and green onions.Here is a picture of the Adventist church in this village. It's set up on a hill in the middle of the village where almost everyone can see it. The village of Paruima has a very interesting history that has resulted in most of the villagers following the Adventist faith. They became known as the "Davis Indians" about 100 years ago because of a missionary, Elder Davis. A few years later, they fled from Venezuela into Guyana because of religious persecution. Their story can be read at http://medicalaviation.org/site/venezuela/the-davis-indian-story . Missionaries that came after Elder Davis wrote books about the Indians that are very good including "The Davis Indians," "Destination: Green Hell," and "Jewels from Green Hell" by Betty Cott.
*******
So while DJ, Gary, and co. worked on the airplane and made a few flights in the 182 for parts or checkouts, etc., the ladies stayed on the Davis Indian Industrial College campus working on various cleaning projects. Many hours were spent washing mosquito nets and sheets in the river, organizing medical supplies, and working in the library.



The library was of particular interest and importance because of its chaotic state. All the books had been removed from their shelves in order to spray for termites. While at first the job seemed easy enough - put the books back on their proper shelves - it turned into a two and a half week project. It was actually quite fun.

*******
And back to the Maule mission... After 3 weeks of work we ferried the airplane out of Paruima back to Georgetown - Gary flying the Maule, and the rest of us in the 182. God is good. There were no problems with the airplane during the entire flight.

The plan was then to fly the Maule to the States to sell it as this airplane is not very good for the needs in Guyana. It does not haul very much weight with the quantity of fuel needed to make trips into the interior. We are now looking for another Cessna 182 which has similar fuel consumption to the Maule but hauls much larger loads. However, God had his hand in this Maule project and saved us the trouble of flying it to the States. The day that Gary and his family were going to leave for the States flying the Maule, through a series of God-planned events, a prospective buyer here in Georgetown showed interest in the plane. Less than a week later, the paperwork was signed and the plane was moved a few hangars down at the local airport. We are so thankful and were again reminded that we are working for the Lord and that He has special plans for GAMAS and His children in Guyana. Thank you for your prayers and support in our mission projects.

Friday, August 26, 2011

Trip from Bolivia to Guyana



One week after our arrival in Bolivia, we began to feel strongly that God was calling us to take a few months and go help the projects out in Guyana. We plan to return to Bolivia whenever God is finished with us in Guyana, but we are not sure when that will be. The last few days in Bolivia were filled with a scurry of paperwork, waiting at the Immigration office to get our passports, processing our Brazilian visas, and preparing for the trip. God paved the way for us and we were ready to go within 3 days.

Our trip from Bolivia to Guyana went something like this...

Bus from Santa Cruz, Bolivia to Trinidad, Bolivia (overnight Wednesday). Taxi to airport in Trinidad, commercial flight to Guayaramerin, Bolivia (Thursday morning). Arrived in the North part of the country and met up with Tara Swanepoole who runs the school in Guayara. She helped us stamp out of Bolivia/into Brazil and cross the border. We then took a 4 hour taxi ride to Porto Velho, Brazil, arriving at about 10 pm. We bummed around the airport there for a while, DJ ordering a Sub sandwich in Portuguese, and napping in a corner. We checked in Friday morning at 3 am and were boarding by about 4:30 am. We flew to Manaus where Cleber, a missionary who has been working with the Luzeiro Amazon medical launch picked us up. We then spent a lovely Friday and Sabbath at the Lightbearers Mission Station on the Amazon. It was really wonderful! Saturday night we headed back into town where we caught a bus headed to Boa Vista. The bus stopped at about 11 pm and sat on the road for 3 hours, waiting for another bus to come. I guess the air conditioning didn't work...don't really understand Portuguese! We unloaded and switched buses and continued on. At about 7 am Sunday morning we made another stop and for some reason switched buses again. We finally arrived in Boa Vista at about 2 pm and were delighted to see familiar faces in the bus terminal - David and Becky Gates. They had just arrived from Venezuela. We traveled together in a taxi to Bom Fin (the border with Guyana), stamped out of Brazil/into Guyana and caught a taxi into Lethem, a small border town, where with met Gary Roberts with the Twin Comanche. God helped everything work out so that we could leave that night. We took off 3 minutes before sunset (a Guyanese regulation prohibits the use of unlit runways after sunset, but allows twin engine aircraft to fly at night). Phew! We made it to Georgetown and to bed by 11 pm Sunday night.

We're very thankful that God gave us safe travels and really enjoyed the trip!

Monday, July 25, 2011

Here´s a picture of the Aerostar that DJ worked on during the time that we were in Tennessee. He got checked out to fly it last week. He hasn´t piloted a plane in Bolivia for over two years so it was good to get back in the cockpit speaking Spanish.







When we arrived in Santa Cruz, we found machines in need of some TLC. The Backhoe had two flat tires and a dead battery. We took care of those and installed a new mechanical fuel pump. The Bobcat got and oil change and the dumptruck got a wash, new axle seals and a clean diesel filter.















More travels around the States


We have been doing more traveling in the last 3 months than I can imagine. We´re not sure how it all happened, but with family graduations to be at and mission projects to do, we´ve set foot in about 35 to 40 of the 50 United States.

Our latest adventures have taken us to Northern New England where we visited our home church in St. Johnsbury, VT and visited DJ´s side of the family.








We went on a kayak camping trip in Maine with the Knott family and enjoyed a few days of serenity away from the business of life. We had fun hiking Mt. Avery, paddling down the lake, and spending time with family.

We also flew up to Michigan Campmeeting with Jeff, Fawna and their kids in the 182 that you see in the picture above. We did mission demos for the kids in Primary and Juniors. They especially liked the bag drop demonstration that DJ and Jeff did. During the middle of campmeeting week, Jeff, DJ, and I flew down to Andrews for DJ and Jeff to get some additional bush flying training and renew their certifications with Mr. Lloyd. God held off the rain every time they went out to fly. We returned to campmeeting for the last weekend and then flew back to Tennessee.



We are now back in Bolivia for a few days or weeks preparing to head North to Guyana for a few months to help with a project up there before returning to Bolivia. Keep posted.

Monday, June 13, 2011

6 weeks, 6 days, 6 hours

6 weeks, 6 days, and 6 hours ago DJ and I were sitting on an airliner somewhere over the jungles of Brazil headed North to Miami, FL. We had spent exactly 3 months in Bolivia and were headed back to the States for a series of family graduations and for the annual inspection, repairs, and a weight loss campaign on GMI's Piper Aerostar Twin.

We spent portions of our first day back in the basement waiting out the tornadoes which were forming in the Tennessee area. The next day as we headed out the door to drive to Michigan, my dad informed us that a few of our friends' houses had been hit by a tornado that touched down about 6 miles from our house the evening before. We are very thankful that our friends are okay and since then we've been over to help them in the long cleaning/clearing process.
Our first weekend back in the States, we spent at Andrews University in Michigan. Though I had finished my degree in Elementary Education in December, I wanted to attend the education department's special pinning ceremony and march for graduation. Also graduating were DJ's younger sister, Emily (English, secondary education) and my cousin, Sara (animal science, pre-vet). We had a lovely long weekend at Andrews visiting with friends and family and spending some time with our old church family at the Eau Claire Spanish Church.

From there we drove back to Tennessee so that DJ could begin the Aerostar annual. DJ and Jeff Sutton spent about a week on it and then split ways for other trips. Jeff went to Belize for a week to work on a GMI project that he is helping get started there and DJ and I drove out to Colorado for DJ's older sister, Rachel's, graduation from CSU with her Doctorate of Veterinary Medicine. We had a great time with family, hiking in the Rockies, and seeing a little bit of Rachel's life. We stayed with my aunt and uncle nearby and enjoyed seeing them again too.

After the flurry of another graduation weekend was over, DJ flew up to Spokane, WA, where Stephen Lingenfelter, a fellow mission volunteer mechanic, picked him up and drove him to Coeur d'Alene, ID. There DJ spent a few days removing a long-range fuel tank system from a mission Cessna 182 that had headed to Mongolia, but had been unable to go. We understand that the Chinese government set high restrictions and would not allow the plane to fly over the country to get to Mongolia. The 182 and the accompanying missionaries, Beaver & Rebecca Eller, are in the States waiting/working on the process of obtaining permission while getting further medical training. The Ellers had offered to lend their project's airplane for a few months to the GMI project in Guyana because the Guyana project is currently down a plane. The 182 would be used in place of the other plane in its daily duties as well as to transport mechanics to the jungle to remedy the situation with the other plane. The plan was to bring the 182 down to Collegedale, TN to have it available to go down to Guyana. DJ flew the plane to Wyoming, where I had driven to meet him and dropped off a car, and together we continued flying to TN.
We thought about making a stop by Andrews for DJ to get some additional flight training but bad weather kept us from making it there. Instead, we headed back to TN because we wanted to be there for Jodi's brother, Ivan's, 8th grade graduation. One particular highlight of this flight from ID to TN was the stop we made in Illinois to re-fuel. We arrived at the airport after the FBO had close and were unable to reach anyone to help us pump gas (not a self-serve pump). Through an error on the fuel guages ... We didn't have enough fuel to make it to the nearby airport which had fuel and still have DJ's required minimum reserve. God sent us a wonderful Christian family who took us to their house, picked up their gas can, drove us to a bunch of different gas stations looking for non-ethanol car gas (this particular airplane can handle this type of gas), and drove us back to the airport where we were able to put in enough fuel to make it to the next airport safely.


We arrived in TN the next afternoon, went to Ivan's evening graduation, and got me unpacked and re-packed in order to take off the next morning with my parents and brother on their road trip to California. We were headed to CA to go to my sister, Noelle's, graduation from Loma Linda's dental hygiene program.



The next week I spent with my family driving West, looking at dinosaur tracks in Texas, 'caving' at Carlsbad in New Mexico, visiting my grandparents in Arizona, and finally arriving in California. We spent the weekend attending Noelle's pinning ceremony and graduation events and seeing family who I hadn't seen in many years.

The following week I spent driving East with my family, visiting Zion & Bryce, dropping my dad and brother off in Wyoming to dig dinosaur bones, picking up our car, and driving to TN with my mom, super excited to see DJ.

Meanwhile, DJ was and continues to be very busy working in TN on various aiplane projects, the biggest of which is the Aerostar. DJ, Jeff Sutton, and Steve Wilson worked together on the annual as well as on the airplane's "weight loss campaign." The goal of the campaign? you ask: To increase the amount of weight the airplane can legally carry. Long days were spent removing wires, pieces of broken equipment, antennas that no longer belonged to anything, and the left-overs from the air conditioning and propeller de-ice systems. The guys still talk excitedly about the box of removed junk that now weighs nearly 60 lbs. They also are re-weighing the airplane and doing the paperwork for installing extended wing-tips.

DJ has also spent lots of time working with other GMI missionaries in finding solutions to the plane situation in Guyana.

We are now both in Tennessee looking forward to whatever may come next. We have a few weeks left before the Aerostar is completely finished. At this point we are not sure how soon we'll return to Bolivia, but we know that at the latest, it will be by the middle of July. In the meantime, we are doing the projects that we have at hand and waiting to see what God has in mind next.

Thanks for your support and prayers!

Jodi (& DJ)