I’ve never met Grace face-to-face, but she feels like a sister to me. She was in town several months ago, but then I had to go have a baby. By the time I was up and around again, she was back interior.
Grace and her family are missionaries on a small island south of us. They are continuing a church-planting work that was begun almost 40 years ago by other missionaries. Along with their coworkers, Grace and her husband are discipling believers and working on further Bible translation. As circumstances arise, they help with basic medical needs, such as cuts and burns, infections, and skin issues. And of course much of their time is also spent on daily living (missionaries are normal people who need to eat, bathe, clean their houses, and take care of their children). Grace and her family have built lasting relationships with the people in their village and have poured themselves out tirelessly that the Gospel might take root and flourish among this people group.
Without flight service, a two-day trip including an overnight ferry boat ride is the only transportation option to/from the island where Grace’s family lives. From the port, they continue around the island on the boat, then take motorbikes 45 minutes over very bumpy roads to their home in the village (IF it’s not raining and the rivers are flooded). For routine supply runs or medical emergencies, this is out of the question.
Praise God for the Kodiak, which services this ongoing work in central Asia-Pacific. Every 6-8 weeks, the Kodiak delivers supplies to the missionary team so they can continue to function without the stress of searching for their food or going TP-free (it’s the little things that often make a difference). The Kodiak can carry families back and forth when it’s time for a break in town, or when visa paperwork requires a visit to the immigration office. These are the ordinary events in which the aircraft plays a vital role.
One day in June, the need was extra-ordinary. In the evening a team member from the island contacted Jamin (the other pilot–remember: Jared is still flying right-seat) to say that there was a young woman in labor and showing signs of distress. They asked the flight team to be on stand-by for a med-evac. The next morning, the need was confirmed, and everyone sprang into action. Grace and I kept up a running dialogue via text, and she insisted that time was of the essence for the lives of the mother and baby. Supplies were unimportant in light of the many hours this woman had already pushed with no progress.
However, under current flight regulations, we still had a couple of hours to work with. While the pilots got their rapid antigen tests and prepped the plane, the rest of us hurried to find items on the missionaries’ supply lists (shortly after this flight, the plane would be down indefinitely for an inspection). A few supplies were already waiting at the hangar, but most of the food and pantry items were still unpurchased. Hundreds of eggs and kilos of potatoes, garlic, shallots, and cucumbers were to be had at a local warung (food stall). I raided my pantry shelf for a few more items–oatmeal, ketchup, marshmallows (the 4th of July was coming up). Others speed-shopped at the market, then helped transport, weigh, and load the items onto the plane. Working together, we managed to fulfill a large portion of the missionaries’ supply lists in the available time.
When the Kodiak landed, the entire village turned out to accompany the laboring mama to the airstrip. Jared and Jamin quickly unloaded the supplies and helped the passengers into the cabin.
God provided safety in flight and held off a threatening deluge of rain until after the plane returned. The mother was met by health officials and taken immediately to a pre-arranged hospital where she safely delivered her baby girl via c-section.
No one would ever wish for an emergency like this to happen, but with the beautiful outcome that God granted, it was an exhilarating experience–an event that underscored the blessing of having an aircraft to provide essential services for both our missionaries and the dear people among whom they work. After years and years of preparation, we are overjoyed to finally join in the work on the ground and in the air. And I’m looking forward to someday giving Grace a big hug and having a real conversation with this sister-of-the-heart!