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A few weeks ago I almost died in West Virginia. Don’t get worried, I almost die every time I go hiking with my friends. Come to think of it, I’m not sure why I keep going hiking every year. Maybe someday I’ll resist this peer pressure and be able to sleep on the couch in peace.
Several miles into the hike I was dismayed to find that my friends were leaping up the trail like a herd of gazelles. Why, they weren’t even enjoying the scenery! I, on the other hand, was lingering at the back of the pack held in breathless wonder by the beauty of the North Fork Trail as it meandered through the Monongahela National Forest, deep in West Virginia. I was experiencing so much breathless wonderment that I was sucking the leaves off of the trail in front of me and blowing them around the forest. I had to stop frequently along the trail because the beauty was taking too much air from my lungs.
All this got me thinking. I barely made it out of the woods alive but imagine hiking that far while you’re injured just to reach medical treatment. This is the reality in parts of the world. I’ve been learning about a ministry called Samaritan Aviation which is located in Wewak, Papua New Guinea.
Samaritan Aviation operates float planes (which can land on water) up and down the 700 mile long Sepik River. This is an area the size of Mississippi and has 240,000 people living in it. There’s no doctors in the area and the people only have access to one hospital. And when I say “access” I mean they have to spend three to five days in a canoe navigating dangerous waters to reach the hospital. By that time, most critical injuries have already claimed their victims.
The awesome thing is that, since Samaritan has airplanes that can land on water, suddenly the 700 mile river turns into 700 miles of opportunity.
They can land almost anywhere, pick up a soon-to-be-mother experiencing labor complications, a child who fell from a tree, or a man suffering from malaria and can deliver them to the hospital in Wewak in mere hours instead of days. And here’s the kicker, Samaritan Aviation doesn’t charge anything for their life flights. Zero.
But the opportunities don’t end there. Samaritan also offers food, trauma healing, counseling, and a friendly face to the patients. Remember, many of these patients come from villages in the bush and have never experienced cars, TVs, or even electricity. They are scared, lonely, and just have come face to face with their own mortality. They have never been in a better position to hear about the eternal joy and salvation that a relationship with Jesus Christ can bring.
Take Sulkan and his father Jeffrey for instance. Sulkan is 9 years old and recently suffered a fall from a tree that shattered his femur. Thank God Sulkan didn’t have to spend three days on a canoe to reach the hospital. Instead he received a free life flight from Samaritan that took only several hours and he was able to receive surgery promptly. But the best news is that after witnessing the love of Christ in action, both Sulkan and his father Jeffrey put their trust in Christ!
Pray that God would continue to give me good learning experiences while I’m here at MMS Aviation so I can be an asset to an organization like Samaritan Aviation.
In October we went camping with Andrew and Stephanie (Janice’s brother and sister-in-law who live in South Carolina) and Erleen (Janice’s sister who lives in Pennsylvania). The camping trip had two purposes. One was to toughen up our spoiled children and to teach them the ways of the wilderness; skills like starting a campfire with only half a gallon of starting fluid or eating hot bacon right off of a pointy tree limb are important to learn. The other was to say goodbye to Erleen who was leaving that week for a three year term serving in Southeast Asia. It’s likely that we’ll move overseas before she gets back so it may be awhile before we see her again! This life is bittersweet, isn’t it?
Pray for provision and safety for Erleen as she learns a strange language and serves in a bustling metropolis far from home.
Thank you again for praying for us, for financially supporting us, for allowing us to share our journey with you. You make our story possible!