Hope & Healing comes on the wings of love…

P2-MAG offloading the team at Debepari.

This past week I had the incredible opportunity to pack a bag, leave the office, and venture out into some of the most remote parts of Western Papua New Guinea. MAF has entered into a partnership with Aerial Health Patrols (AHP), and I was taking the opportunity to see how this very strategic partnership was impacting the people living in the remote communities of the Western Province.

Local villagers meeting the airplane at Mougulu, an interim stop.

Departing Mount Hagen on Wednesday morning, we flew to a couple other remote airstrips delivering passengers and freight before arriving at the “town” of Balimo in the Western Province where I met up with the AHP Team. Balimo is the hub for the AHP initiative.

Balimo Airstrip

The heat and humidity of the lowlands is definitely different from the cool temperatures of the highlands. Shirts are immediately damp (ok – often soaked) with sweat, the buzz of mosquitoes and the cacophony of singing jungle birds permeates the air. It immediately transported my mind back to our very early days (Connie and I) on the island of Yap in Micronesia, nearly 30 years ago. I felt very much at home.

We made our way to our lodging for the night and prepared our supplies and equipment for the next day’s flight to Debepari an airstrip and village deep in the jungle of the Western Province, not too far from the border of West Papua (Indonesia).

Thursday morning we heard the distinct sound of our MAF plane arriving. We made our way to the airstrip, loaded the medical supplies, equipment, sleeping mats, mosquito nets and food on the plane, climbed aboard, and headed from remote….to REALLY remote!

Dr. John Oakley – Medical Director for AHP – meeting village leaders.

Upon landing at Debepari, we were met with a great throng of people, all waiting for the much anticipated arrival of the AHP Medical Team. The team is made up of a doctor, nurses, WASH (Water, Sanitation, Hygiene) personnel and members for family Health / Planning. The AHP initiative partners with the village Community Health Workers, coming along side them in their village, supporting, encouraging, educating, and assisting. The purpose is not to supplant the residing Health Worker, but to work with them on more complicated cases, bring further education, and help to build the respect of the community for their health worker. Each AHP team will only be present in each respective community/village for a few days every quarter. The local village worker is there 24/7. By empowering them, the work of the team can be exponentially multiplied.

As we first met with the community John, the PNG National team leader, opened in prayer for those in attendance and the community as a whole. A couple hundred were present. We outlined the purpose of the visit and what we hoped to see achieved. We then invited them all to an evening video showing that would take place at the health center, prayed a closing prayer and left to the health center to prepare for Friday and to do some training with the local health worker – Michael.

Team Leader John, praying for the village community members.

It just so happens that in Debepari, the village health worker Michael (25) and his wife (who was gone to another village at the time), are both recent graduates of the Nazarene College of Nursing – Kudjip Mission Station. I have seen many health outposts over the years, and this one was exceptional. For his young age, Michael had his health post in top shape. Gravity fed running water from the rain catchment tanks, medicines organised, instruments clean and tidy, solar-powered LED lights and a solar powered-vaccine refrigerator. (The AHP team came with many vaccines to provide vaccinations as well as stock Michael’s refrigerator). Michael’s smile was infectious as he told us of his passion for caring for his people in the village. The health of the children and the village was truly a testimony to Michael’s training, care, concern, and compassion.

Thursday night we found a local creek to rinse off in, removing the dust of the day and sweat of the jungle heat.

A creek to rinse off in at Debepari.

Friday morning we started out early. The AHP team made their way to the health center and I began working with the MAF Agent and airstrip maintenance officer. There were several airstrip marker cones that needed replaced. Making sure that these airstrips are in top condition is a priority. Short of walking for days through the jungle, aviation is the only connection to the outside world for the people of Debepari. The grass must be kept mowed, ant hills addressed, and any holes made by wild pigs or dogs, filled in.

With the help of several young lads and a hearty wheelbarrow, we walked the airstrip, inspected for condition, re-aligned several cones that had been moved by children, and replaced missing threshold marker cones.

Returning to the health center, drenched in sweat, I found the AHP team in full action. At least a hundred children with their moms, dads, or both, were waiting to be seen, weighed, and for many – vaccinated. There were many adult patients waiting to be seen as well. Some had walked for hours and even overnight to be seen. As there was no way that the team doctors could see everyone in the short time, Michael triaged the more complicated cases. Cysts, infections, epigastric pain, suspected cancer, Tuberculosis, and hernias were all concerns that were identified with the patients. Some could be treated with the medicine at hand, several would need referral to one of the larger care centers / hospitals in the Western Province. All could be touched with caring hands, encouraged, and prayed for.

As Debepari is just being added to the regular patrols, it was planned that this first patrol would be shorter. Relationships would be built with the community, surveys of the greatest needs would be conducted, vaccinations would be started, as many patients would be seen as possible, and then the next scheduled patrol would capitalize on what was learned during this trip.

As the blazing tropical sun crossed overhead making its way to the horizon, the team continued seeing patients. Around 2pm in the afternoon the all familiar distant and increasing hum of the MAF airplane could be heard as it approached to pick up the team. With so many still waiting to be seen, we checked the weather and asked our pilot, Israel, to give us as much time as possible. Finally, with the afternoon sun waning, we packed up our bags, completed some final training with Michael and climbed aboard our MAF plane for the return flight to AHP headquarters in Balimo.

Lifting off of the airstrip, my mind was reviewing all that had been seen and accomplished in this short visit. The number of lives touched, those prayed for, and the ones who had diseases that would ultimately take their lives in this remote part of the world where access to curative measures is just not possible. Even if we could get access to the Chemotherapy necessary, the costs and followups would be absolutely out of reach for these precious people of the Jungle.

What we can give them is love, care, compassion and hope of something better to come. I’m so thankful that Michael and his wife not only completed nurses training at Nazarene College of Nursing, but also training to be ministers. We all know that any physical comfort we can bring now, pales in the light of the everlasting comfort of a life transformed by the Great Physician.

And so is the journal of a trip with MAF and the Aerial Health Patrol Team. Thank you to each one who prays for, encourages, financially supports, and advocates for the ministry of our family and MAF around the World!

Hope and Healing truly does come on the wings of love – the wings of MAF – and you are the wind beneath those wings!

Yours and His for the harvest,

Todd and Connie Lou

Listen & Silent…Use the same letters…

I read the above statement this week and it really caused me to reflect. It was in combination with a devotional thought taken from Isaiah.

Behold, I will do something new, now it will spring forth; will you not be aware of it?

Isaiah 41:19 (NASB)

And in just a few hours from now the sun will rise and 2020 will spring forth here in the South Pacific. A new year will be underway. New visions, new projects, new plans, new expectations. But whose will they be? Ours or the Lord’s?

The reason we are here, to help New Guineans understand what Christ did for them on the cross!

I’m praying that this new year we can become SILENT before the Lord so that we can really LISTEN! “We have been conditioned by the religious, cultural, and social values of our time. Attitudes, reactions, goals and thought patterns have been inadvertently ingrained into the fiber of our natures.” – L.J. Ogilvie. It’s time for us to submit to Christ’s scrutinizing renovation and it means that we must spend time listening! May each of us be listening and discerning His voice as we enter into this New Year.

Connie and I want to thank you for your continued prayers, encouragement, support and partnership over this past year. God’s hand of protection has been on our team in countless ways.

  • Five times in December, unknown individuals gained entry under the cover of darkness, and in plain daylight, to steal property from one of our residential compounds, but there were no injuries. Praise God!
  • On 22 December, I (Todd) was out for a bike ride, getting some exercise and meeting and greeting people in the community. Within just five minutes from home a man (for reasons we’ll probably never know) tackled me off my bike and then attempted to hit me in the head with a rock. But God was there and the man fled into the crowd. The Lord’s hand of protection was there, only a sprained wrist and knee…again… it could have been much worse.

Please commit to continue praying for us and the team here in PNG in 2020.

Please Pray For…

  • Safety and protection of our team.
  • Favor with the government as we seek work permits for various new team members.
  • Those the Lord is calling, that they would be sensitive to the call.. Pilots, Engineers, Finance Professionals, Information Technology Professionals, and others who are desperately needed for the ministry here. Click here for International Job Vacancies in Papua New Guinea.
  • Vision, that we would be able to discern who the Lord would have us partner with and which communities of the hundreds with airstrips, all with needs, that are on His agenda for this year.
  • Our Hearts, that we would continue to see the people around us as the Lord sees them. Sometimes it’s so easy to just look at the ones who are challenged by addictions or with propensity to violence and to become “compassion fatigued”. Pray that our hearts would not be hardened.

We do believe as Isaiah proclaimed, that the Lord is going to do something new in 2020! We want to be Listening so that we can discern what it is and how we are to respond!

Yours and His for the harvest,

Todd & Connie Lou

Our Official MAF Biography and Giving Page

Together we can do so much more!

It was late in the afternoon on Tuesday, 11 December when Dr. Erin Meier from Kudjip Nazarene Hospital called my phone, “Todd, what are our options for a medical evacuation to Port Moresby? We have a very critical patient!”

The rugged mountains and rain forest of the highlands of Papua New Guinea do not lend themselves to safe single engine night operations.

Dr. Erin would go on to describe a young man around 25 years of age who had suffered what appeared to be a significant heart attack while playing rugby. As Dr. Erin described the case my mind was weighing the facts. It was already late in the afternoon. The rugged rain forest jungle over which we fly does not allow for safe operations at night, and given the 45 minute drive from Kudjip station to our airstrip, a late afternoon departure for the two hour flight to the capital city was already out of the question. Dr. Matt Woodley (ER Doctor at Kudjip) and his team had already resuscitated the patient four times. Would he be able to survive the high altitude non-pressurized flight that is required to clear the high mountains of the highlands on the way to the coast? We agreed that at this point, the best plan was to see if the patient could remain stabilized through the night at Kudjip and then plan for an early departure on Thursday morning.

The red line denotes the route to be flown by P2-SDP from Mount Hagen to Port Moresby.

Shortly after 0600 on Thursday morning, Dr. Erin called. The young man had stabilized through the night and although still critical, they felt he could survive the flight. They would be on their way shortly. Quick calls to our Flight Operations Manager, Captain Brad Venter and Church and Community Partnership Manager Godfrey Sim put the plan in action. P2-SDP was readied and the base team awaited the arrival of the patient from Kudjip.

At 0850, the ambulance from Kudjip arrived at the MAF Mount Hagen Base with the patient, family members and Doctor Matt Woodley along with Anesthesia Specialist Officer (APO), David Wan. The team quickly went to work to prep the patient for the flight. Simultaneously, our team at MAF headquarters continued to do their part – praying for the patient, family, doctors, and pilot team as they prepared to launch.

At 09:49, pilots Brad Venter (South Africa) and Andy Symmonds (UK) lifted off with their valuable cargo on the wings of P2-SDP and much prayer from both the Kudjip Nazarene and MAF teams. Touching down 1 hour and 59 minutes later in the capital city of Port Moresby, the patient was transferred to the waiting ambulance and rushed to Pacific International Hospital.

On Friday morning our Mount Hagen team met for morning devotions as we do every morning. When it came time to list our praises and prayer requests, Nancy from our operations team said that she had received news from the family. Our patient had successfully undergone surgery, was in the Intensive Care Unit, and it was expected that he would make a good recovery.

“Seeing isolated people physically and spiritually transformed in Christ’s Name.” This is why we do what we do in one of the most remote countries in the world. Accomplishing this Vision requires a team. Doctors, nurses, pilots, ground operations, flight operations, finance, IT, engineers, and on an on. It also requires you!!!

Thank you so very much for praying for and partnering with us as a family, and our greater MAF and Nazarene Team!

Together we can do so much more!

Thank you to Mandy Glass for the photo journalism!

It's Why we do what we do…

It was just after 2 o’clock in the afternoon on the 24th of April 2019, when the call came in.  In the remote village of Kol, a small girl had stumbled into a cooking pot of boiling water outside the haus kuk (separate bush house for cooking).  Pilot Luke Newell immediately launched from Mt. Hagen in one of our new C208s, P2-MAJ.  Arriving at Kol, he was met by the father who had been carrying his small daughter for two days through the jungle to the nearest air strip.  After only one hour forty minutes from the time the call was received, Luke, the child, and her father were landing at Mt. Hagen.  The child was rushed to Kudjip Nazarene Hospital.  How tremendous it was to receive the news that although skin grafts would be needed, the child would survive.

This Saturday morning ,7 December 2019, as I find myself in the office at the airport, capitalizing on the tranquility of an early morning to get a backlog of work accomplished , yet another medical evacuation is underway.  This time Pilot Mathias Glass will launch in just minutes to fly to Maramuni to rescue a man caught in a crossfire hail of bullets. The man’s life hangs in the balance of whether or not MAF can make the flight.

Yesterday I received a photo and story from MAF pilot Paul Woodington.  He is training MAF Pilot Ryan Cole on the new Cessna 208 Caravans.  Flying into Huya at the foot of the O’Malley Peaks, they retrieved a small boy who, the day before, had fallen from a tree breaking his arm.  Paul reports that in this first week of training, Ryan has flown five medical evacuation flights.  That’s just one airplane in one area.  In Papua New Guinea, MAF has nine of the Cessna Caravans flying some 40 flights per day!

Ryan and Paul Medevacing the boy with the broken arm

Each year in Papua New Guinea, MAF airplanes bring, hope, healing, physical and spiritual transformation through compassionate medical evacuation flights that serve the individuals and communities who live around the more than 210 airstrips served.

Papua New Guinea is one of the most geopolitical diverse nations in the world, with some 830 different languages spoken (20% of the world’s languages), hundreds of ethnic groups indigenous to PNG, and many remote Papuan tribes that still have very little contact with the outside world. Thirty percent of the population still lives below the international poverty line of $1.25USD per day.  Most people live on subsistence-based agriculture. The country has the highest incidence of HIV/AIDS in the Pacific and meets the criteria for a generalized HIV/AIDS epidemic.

As in the cases above, many of the medevac patients are flown to mission hospitals such as Kudjip Nazarene Hospital.   Around three quarters of the medevacs are for women experiencing child birth issues. The rest are a wide range of medical needs; serious accidents, victims of violent physical abuse, serious tropical illnesses, etc.

And so…this is just one of the many reasons we do what we do, providing live-saving flights to some of the most isolated people in the world. Physical and Spiritual transformation in Christ’s name.

Thanks for helping us to keep doing what we do! We couldn’t be here without you there!

Are We There Yet?

Kids in back seatOh how I miss hearing this from the back seat as we drive.  Mother’s Day is a perfect day to remember, especially for those with children spread across the world – or having gone before them to heaven…

For Mother’s Day, Todd took me up the mountain to a beautiful little resort to walk around the gardens and get a bite to eat and relax for a couple of hours before heading back down the mountain to the business of another week.  The drive was long and slow – because of the uneven, rocky terrain that they call a road.  Our vehicle works, fairly well, and usually gets us where we want to go.  We made it up and back and once back in our parking spot, it stopped and wouldn’t go any more.  Oh well, a problem to solve on another day.

Ron Don

Despite the vehicle problems, my day was picture perfect.  Talking to my girls, parents, and friends across the world via many forms of communication.  What a blessing to have this level of communication available to us where we can not only talk, but see each other across the world!

Are we there yet?

I still miss hearing that, and now I find myself asking Todd this same question as we work through the many challenges along with the great joys of working here in PNG.

Are we there yet?  Have we arrived at where we set out to go in Missions?

Are we there yet?  Have we accomplished what God has called us to?

Are we there yet?  Is our life reflecting our Lord and Saviour in such a way that it draws others to Jesus?

No, not yet…a little farther still…

I was reminded to enjoy the journey and not just the destination as we meandered slowly up the road to avoid having to replace tie rods and ball joints too soon.  The many different shades of green in the tropical highland foliage and gardens.  The neat and tidy houses along the road that someone has taken much pride in cleaning and weeding.  The gorgeous views as we round the bends along the winding road up the mountain.  I sat and thanked God for each blessing as they came to mind – and I prayed for many with great needs who came to mind.

Partnership TourAs we finished up with Mother’s Day weekend, I have been busy working on preparing our calendar for our time in the US the end of June through July.  We do hope to be able to catch up with many of you as we pass through your area.  We welcome any and all connections!  A coffee date, chat over a meal, or an invitation to speak to your church / group.  You can see our schedule by clicking here. Please let us know if you will be anywhere near where we have a scheduled event and let’s catch up!  J

Please check back often as the schedule will be filling up fast!

Disaster Response in PNG

IMG_7722Five days after returning from my time in the US to say goodbye to my brother @curtlandreth and spend time supporting my family after his loss, we experienced the most severe earthquake PNG has had at 7.6 on the richter scale.  We woke around 3:42am to the bed shaking and soon realized the whole house was shaking severely.  We thought we would ride it out and stayed in bed for a few more seconds.  When we realized it was not ending and the shaking actually intensified, Todd suggested we get out of the house as it is on stilts and perhaps not built to withstand such a force.  I grabbed my cell phone and torch (flashlight for you Americans) put on my robe and headed for the door.  Todd was trying to get the keys into the locks while swaying with the quake as it continued to roll.  One door open, then working on the metal security door, finally getting that open as well and we were outside!  We quickly went down the stairs and away from the house as the earth continued to shake.  It slowly started to quiet down and our pulse rates with it.

Todd headed to the other compounds to check on staff, and called others.  Thankfully we were able to get back to sleep as the power was now out and so an early morning in the office was not going to be very productive, and with that severe of a shake, the possibility of fissures in the road was likely and so traveling in the daylight was deemed to be much more prudent.

IMG_7811

The aftershocks continued and were at a level of 4.0-6.0 and are still occurring three days later as I write this update.

Tuesday morning I was briefed on the need for photos of the area and so Mandy Glass who is the Comms Officer for our Base and I climbed into a Caravan with her husband Mathias flying along with Luke Newell and three Government Disaster Response Team members.

The photos were sent to MAF I Disaster Response and Security to review and issue a press release.  You can see that below, along with a link and directions on how to view the images on a google map so that you can see the exact location where the picture was taken.

Please keep PNG in your prayers! Pray for safety as our pilots continue to do med-evac flights and for those on the ground helping people dig out from the numerous land slides. Pray that MAF will continue to see isolated people physically and spiritually transformed in the name of Jesus as we work with different agencies and organizations in the response to this disaster.

 

173 Earthquake Survey Flight[2]173 Earthquake Survey Flight[3]

The Finish of a Race Faithfully Run….

It was Wednesday morning January 31st here in the Highlands of Papua New Guinea.  I was headed out the door to the mission base when I received the message from Connie’s sister…”Todd…please have Connie call me ASAP.”

Those kinds of early morning messages or phone calls are the ones that you pray you never receive – but they are a part of the process of life…

Curt bringing cheer to those around him, December 2014, with Christmas lights mounted on his IV Pole!

Since 2013, we have been praying for Connie’s brother Curt. The way he handled his diagnosis of cancer and the ensuing journey for the past 5 years have been an inspiration to all that have known him.  He has been an incredible example of what I believe the writer of Hebrews was describing;

“Therefore, since we have so great a cloud of witnesses surrounding us, let us also lay aside every encumbrance and the sin which so easily entangles us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.” Hebrews 12:1-2 (NASB)

Curt has rallied so many times that we just knew he was going to once again, come through and be back on his farm with his family… but this time, the Lord had different plans…

God was in the midst of it all.  I was so praying that we would be able to get Connie home in time to spend some precious moments with Curt before his home going.  God answered our prayers!

So thankful for Jan Bell who has been helping us with travel arrangements for years.  Within just 15 minutes, she had a flight booking arranged for Connie (requiring Connie to be checking in to a flight within 1 hour.)

How we want to remember Curt…full of life and energy!

Some 44 hours later, Connie was at Curt’s bedside and our prayers were answered,  she arrived in time to share some very special moments together before he slipped into sleep and then into the arms of the One upon whom he has been fixing his eyes…Jesus.

Please commit to keep Connie, Curt’s wife Deanne, their kids and grand kids, parents, and the whole family in your prayers.  We are human and separation brings grief, but the faith that comes through a personal relationship with Jesus, brings a peace which absolutely surpasses all human understanding…  A peace because we know that this isn’t “Goodbye,”  it’s simply…  “See you tomorrow.”

More precious memories….

The service for the celebration of Curt’s life will be Saturday, February 10th in Meridian, Idaho at Ten Mile Christian Church at 3 pm.

The Close of 2017…Lands Traveled…Lives Reached

As we look back at 2017, in some ways it seems like an eternity, in other ways it seems like the year has passed by in the blink of an eye.

Half of the year was spent in the Philippines, followed by nearly a coast to coast home assignment speaking tour, then came General Assembly in Indianapolis,  the whirlwind of ending one chapter and starting another with Mission Aviation Fellowship.  Travel, training, orientation in Australia, and arrival in the Highlands of Papua New Guinea. Then came finding our feet, learning the language, a village orientation stay, and now the steep learning curve of discovering all of the aspects of serving as Country Director for one of the most complex Mission Aviation Programs in the world.

October 16, the official transition to Country Director.

There are days when it just makes my head spin.  But in the midst of it all, we feel so humbled that God would allow us to have just a small piece in His plan of reaching some of the most remotely located people in the world with the message of Hope, Healing, and Peace that comes through a personal relationship with Him.

The Tabubil base.

This past week found me visiting several of our remote bases (Madang, Telefomin, Rumginae, Kiunga, Tabubil) visiting with our staff, installing some security locks, fixing the base truck that broke down with us in it and observing the impact of MAF.

Lucy – Base Manager from Telefomin.

Over and over again, as I speak to the people living throughout the country, I hear them say that Mission Aviation Fellowship is their only link to the outside.

 

Medical evacuations (some 500 flown each year), medical supplies, Bibles, educational materials, building supplies, water tanks, village medical officers,  store goods…the list goes on and on.

Pilot Remi Van Wermeskerken delivering Bibles at Ambuluwa.

Here around Mt. Hagen in the Central Highlands there are some roads.  But this week as I flew to the west toward Papua (Indonesia), we passed over the cloud-shrouded peaks of the Muller Range rising from sea level to more than 12,000 feet high, and beyond saw nothing but jungle rain forest and winding rivers as far as the eye could see!

Incredible terrain – impenetrable accept to the strongest!

And yet hidden there, below the jungle canopy, are those whom have yet never heard the Gospel message.  Those who are subject to tropical maladies from which they will die, without the life-giving medicines and resources brought by the MAF planes.

So as we reflect back on the journey of 2017, we say thank you!  Thank you to each of you who has prayed for us, partnered with us, those of you who have in the final hours of 2017, sent in ministry partnership gifts.  We couldn’t be here without you there.  This is truly a team effort.  Together we are working toward and realizing the physical and spiritual transformation of the people of Papua New Guinea – in Christ’s name!  From our hearts to yours – thank you for making a difference!

May the Lord guide and keep you this New Year!

Todd & Connie Lou

To share God’s love through aviation and technology; seeing isolated people physically and spiritually transformed in Christ’s name.