The MAF PNG program is finally counting the days for its new Country Director, Todd Aebischer, to arrive in country. However, the following story shows that he is already engaged and driven by what MAF does, even before he gets here! And how we partner with other organisations and put our slogan into action means we truly are: flying for life!
Enjoy Todd‘s story of a miraculous flight.
It was 9am on Wednesday morning, the 7th of September 2017, at the MAF Regional Support Office in Cairns, Australia. The Regional Support Team was just gathering for their morning prayer and devotions, when an urgent message came through from Kudjip Nazarene Hospital, located deep in the Highlands of Papua New Guinea. Regina, a missionary nurse at the hospital, had suddenly come down with a very serious health condition and needed an urgent medical evacuation from Kudjip Nazarene Hospital all the way to the capital city of Port Moresby. This is a distance of 515 kilometers, covering dense tropical rainforest and high mountains. Between Kudjip and Port Moresby,there are no connecting roads. Regina, who for more than 30 years had laid down her life to serve others, now desperately needed someone to fly for hers!
The Cairns support office began the most important of communications – they started to pray. Meanwhile, team members started connecting across the ocean. Flight Coordinator, Sharlene Coker, was reached at the Mt Hagen MAF Flight Operations Center. A quick check of her system revealed that all aircraft were in the air, and nothing was available for a quick re-direction.
At the same time, Greg Falland of Hagen’s Central Aviation (and a former MAF pilot himself) had been contacted by Stephen Charlesworth who had heard the story but was attending meetings in Port Moresby. Greg followed several leads on Stephen’s request, but to no avail. And with the PNG cellphone network giving trouble he could not get back to Stephen with a report. He hurried next door to MAF Headquarters and informed Emma McGeorge, Stephen’s Executive Assistant, of the events so far, asking her to continue chasing options and to get in touch with Stephen accordingly.
But Sharlene Coker had not stopped with MAF’s unavailability. Grabbing her phone, she contacted the SIL (Summer Institute of Linguistics) Aviation base to see if they had an aircraft and pilot available to assist with this medevac. Praise God – they did! Within just a few minutes, the plan was being orchestrated and help was on its way. With relief, Emma finally managed to overcome the network issues and inform Stephen that SIL was coming to the rescue.
But then came another twist to the plan –the road from Kudjip Nazarene Hospital to Mt Hagen’s Airport (a 35 kilometer trip over pot-holed, washboard roads) had been partially closed for months, and now the information came in that it was completely blocked. But wait – the Christian Leaders Training College (CLTC) maintains an airstrip called Giramben that is only 15 kilometers away from Kudjip! What if Giramben is currently well maintained and thereby safe and open for operations? If the SIL pilot can use the CLTC airstrip then this urgent, life-saving flight can still be made.
As events unfolded, this particular morning was, in my mind, a very vivid enactment of what Paul was describing in 1 Corinthians:
“Just as a body, though one, has many parts, but all its many parts form one body,
so it is with Christ. For we were all baptised by one Spirit so as to form one body—
whether Jews or Gentiles, slave or free — and we were all given the one Spirit to drink.
Even so the body is not made up of one part but of many.. So it is with Christ. “
1 Corinthians 12:12-14 NIV
We truly are the Body of Christ, or “Kingdom People”, first. Thanks to the quick action of MAF PNG’s Flight Coordinator and a praying team in Australia, things began to move quickly. SIL Aviation had the plane and pilot available; Christian Leaders Training College had the airstrip ready, and Kudjip Nazarene Hospital had the doctors and nurses assisting. Together, working as the Body, we were able to fly for the life of one precious nurse who had unexpectedly become the patient.
What a joy it was when we received word that the plane, patient, doctor and pilot, had arrived safely in Port Moresby. Thank you for being part of this story of Flying for Life. We couldn’t do it without you! May God receive all of the glory and praise!