Motorcycles and Minivans
A lot of amazing stuff has been happening.
It all started when someone tried to give me a motorcycle. They were feeling compelled to give away some of their material possessions and they wanted to bless a missionary. Now, I’m not offended by free motorcycles but it wasn’t my particular kind of motorcycle. It was a rather large touring bike. Don’t get me wrong, all motorcycles are cool but the thing is that I don’t like large, heavy bikes that much. Besides, I already have a motorcycle although it is true that it’s currently sitting in various pieces around the garage…again. This time, though, I know what’s wrong with it. Janice is quick to remind me that I said the same thing last time it was in pieces. I’ve been told that motorcycles are like wives – more than one and it’s just trouble. But the thing is, I know someone who really loves those types of motorcycles. In fact, he already owned a weathered, beat up, older version of the same model with a lot of miles on it. My friend was a missionary as well, so he fit the criteria to be blessed with this gift more than I did. So I suggested to the motorcycle benefactor that he should redirect his generosity to my friend who would really, truly appreciate it. Besides, the puddles of drool that would’ve dripped from my friend’s mouth every time he saw the motorcycle would have been really embarrassing for both of us. So I got the satisfaction of feeling generous without it costing me anything and my friend got a really nice, low mileage bike that he really appreciates.
Still, as I was replacing the alternator on my tired old Dodge Caravan a few days later, I found myself questioning God’s choice in gifts.
“God, why did you try to give me a motorcycle? Of all impractical things! What I really need is a new van.” It was showing its age recently. The jack broke through the pinch weld on the bottom due to rust. We had a semi-truck sideswipe us. But still, it has been good to us and I can’t complain about it much. My mother-in-law prays for the van regularly and it shows because there’s no reason it should be reliable as it is. It did strike me as ironic that I was complaining to God about people giving me motorcycles and not minivans. I guess being a dad changes you.
So, two weeks later, God gave us a minivan. I’m not joking. Now the thing is, this person was threatening to buy us a minivan for awhile but I kept shrugging him off. That was far too generous and besides, our van was still running. Far be it from a missionary to get rid of a vehicle that still moves under its own power! I struggled with accepting the gift for a week. God reminded me that I had asked for a new one. “Yea, but give me a break. I didn’t expect you to actually do something about it. Who am I to get something like that?”
Ah, pride. It does strange things to us. There I was complaining to God about a problem. Shucks, it wasn’t even much of a problem when it comes down to it. Many people have far worse problems than driving an old van. Then I turn around and complain when He fulfills my faithless request. Finally I shrugged my shoulders, swallowed my pride, and got the keys to a 2008 Honda Odyssey with 100,000 fewer miles than our Dodge Caravan. It’s nice and quiet, and doesn’t have any Band-Aids painted on it. It has a nice leather interior and so the seats are easy to clean. I love it!
While all this van and motorcycle business was going on, I was also scheming up ways to afford better photography equipment. I used to have good gear, then I sold it all so I could afford to go on a honeymoon. I thought I was done with photography anyway. Then I volunteered to keep MMS Aviation’s Facebook page updated and the photography bug bit me again. I also wanted to dabble in videography. The problem is that the equipment is pricey. I made do with an older Canon body (that didn’t do video very well) and a few practical prime lenses. And, again, when it comes to problems, not having great camera equipment isn’t a big one.
Then, the other week, Rex “Tex” O’Keefe (not his real name) and I started discussing cameras. He told me stories of the glory days of his first, entirely manual, spring operated 35mm film camera. We started discussing photography. Then one day he emailed me a link to a Nikon D800. “What do you think of this?” He asked. Even though it was an earlier generation model, it was still a better camera than anything I’ve owned.
“Yea, nice camera,” I said, still unsure why I was supposed to be interested in it.
“Would it take video like you want?”
“Yea, it would work better than what I’ve got. And I do love full frame cameras, it’s just that they’re so expensive.”
Rex “Tex” O’Keefe kept bringing up the camera. I would find him lurking around corners at work, whispering statistics about the Nikon as I walked past. I nodded and gave him a thumbs up. “Good for you, Tex. That’s a great camera.” I was used to Tex being a little strange, so I tried not to be alarmed. Then Tex informed me that he actually had in his possession a Nikon D800 and if I wanted the camera, I could have it! I still wasn’t sold. “Well, Tex, that’s a fine offer and I’m much obliged, but I would have to buy different lenses because it’s a Nikon and so I’m not sure it would get me anywhere as far as my budget is concerned.”
Tex smiled, leaned in so close that the brim of his five gallon cowboy hat cast a shadow on my face, and whispered, “But wait, there’s more.”
I was a little taken aback but was invested in this conversation now that I had spittle on my face. “Go on…”
Tex gleefully whipped out a lens. A really nice one. “Wow!” I said. He looked happy that I was impressed.
He grinned. “But wait, there’s more.” He whipped four more lenses out of his five gallon cowboy hat and arranged all the gear on the desk in front of him. “I want you to have all of this!”
I was resistant, but Tex wasn’t backing down. “Oh, and I have some flashes here too.” He pulled a few more items out of his hat. It turns out that someone had given the gear to Tex but Tex wasn’t convinced that he needed to carry around 25 lbs of glass and aluminum to take pictures. “I know you’ll use it more than I will.” He preferred his old camera. At least, that’s what he said. I think he was just being humble about his generosity. I gratefully received the camera. That was one of two days in my life that my face hurt from smiling. I guess God wants me to have a Nikon.
Zambia Rapid Response Trip
Last year Mr. Hinklemyer (not his real name) paid for plane tickets so that my wife and kids could come along to Zambia on a Rapid Response trip. Now a Rapid Response trip is what MMS Aviation calls it when they send a work team somewhere to help mission aviation organizations tackle big or expensive projects. Typically a mission organization has the manpower to run day to day operations but don’t have enough people to accomplish unusually large inspections or upgrades. This is when MMS Aviation sends out a team to help. Spouses and families don’t typically get to go along so it was a rare treat that last year God worked it out so that Janice and the kids could come with the Rapid Response trip to Zambia. Then it all fell through due to COVID.
So now this year we’re trying the same trip again. Flying Mission in Zambia helps solve logistical challenges for missionaries in the area. They need to put autopilots in two of their airplanes: a Cessna 206 and a Cessna 210. It’s a pretty big job and so MMS is sending a team over to help them do it. And just like last year, I thought Janice and the children would have to stay at home. For one, Janice is pregnant and has been dealing with morning sickness. Oh, didn’t I mention that yet? Yes, we’re expecting our third child! For another, the price of tickets has went up about $1,500 from last year. I wasn’t sure I wanted to spend the money, especially with a new baby on the way. Third, the missionary family we knew in Zambia wasn’t going to be there, removing most of the incentive for Janice and the children to go along.
Then two weeks ago the government gave us a large stimulus check, Janice suddenly began feeling a lot better, and we found out that the family we know is going to be in Zambia in time for our visit after all. Before it could work though, I needed to see if I could get tickets on the same flight last minute. I could! Then I had to check with the mission over there to see if they could house the extra people. They could! So the entire family is going to Zambia! My rejoicing was cut short by my engine shop supervisor, Josh. “You’re taking your whole family! Are you crazy! That’s like fifteen hours on an airplane!”
Seventeen hours actually. Two flights totaling seventeen hours. A layover in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia which has a reputation of being a truly crazy airport packed with people. Trying to contain Elliot for an hour sermon is hard. That’s surrounded by people filled with the grace of God who think Elliot is cute and give him a lot of patience. What’s it going to be like on a plane full of tired, sleep deprived sinners kept awake by his tractor noises?!
Oh, we’ll survive. I think it’s a great opportunity for the family and I’m thankful to have it. Pray for us as we travel. We need to have grace with each other and we need to get negative COVID tests in a timely manner.
You shouldn’t become a missionary so people give you stuff but God does provide in the most unusual and unexpected ways. And I’ve never been so thankful in my life for the people in my life. I’m really blown away that we’re even here at MMS Aviation. I never thought that was going to happen, honestly. God is up to something and I’m thankful for everyone who is involved in his shenanigans!
Stay tuned for an April Newsletter coming soon. Also a short video about Rapid Response trips will be posted (Lord willing) on MMS Aviation’s Facebook page if you want to learn more about them.