Warmest greetings to you from Tarangau 2 (our house) in Mt. Hagen! I was telling Connie, “Wow…this quarantine time has just ‘flown by’ hasn’t it!! Seems like just yesterday we arrived and started the fourteen days, now only three days left to go!” From the look on her face, I immediately understood that our perceptions of quarantine have been a bit different 🙂 . We do both agree that we are very ready to get out and about with our team and to have guests in for coffee and fellowship. We’re definitely counting the days!
Thanks to modern technology, I have been able to be pretty much fully connected from the confines of quarantine. Within an hour of arrival I had my desk and computer screens set up and was able to be engaged with the activity on the ground.
Due to the pending arrival of new families with various housing needs, Connie and I shifted to a different home. The missionaries who were living in the home before, left quite abruptly due to the concerns related to Covid and our lack of supportive healthcare here in the highlands. This meant that they had no time to pack up their belongings in preparation for their departure. So Connie has been very busy connecting with the couple (who live in New Zealand) getting instructions on what gets packed and how, and then working through the process of making it happen.
I (Todd) have been very busy with end-of-the-year tasks. Writing funding proposals, preparing for leadership team meetings, annual review to come, and catching up on things we’ve missed while being out of the country. On the weekends I’ve been helping Connie with the heavier lifting and house maintenance that needed to be done. We’re slowly getting things whipped into shape!
We should be out of quarantine on the 16th and will hit the ground running with a flight to the north coast town of Lae on the 17th for a survey trip to look at options for re-opening work into the Morobe Province.
Thank you for your continued prayers and encouragement! So greatly appreciated!
The Lord’s blessings never cease to amaze us! Literally traveling almost around the world under Covid-19 conditions has proven to be an experience we won’t soon forget. And neither will we forget how the Lord was with us each step. From transfers, baggage checks, paperwork clearances, Covid test results (in 6 hours versus the advised 24-48 hours) and right up to arrival in PNG. The gate agent in Kuala Lumpur asked us if we would like to move forward in the plane a bit. Sure – why not – this would allow us to process quicker on arrival in PNG…it did…and we were so grateful!!
The weather in the highlands usually deteriorates rapidly each afternoon around 3pm. Due to quarantine restrictions, Connie and I along with another family from World Gospel Mission, were to be traveling from Port Moresby to Mt. Hagen on a MAF airplane, a 2-hour trip. We needed to be airborne by 1pm. Arriving to Port Moresby after 11:00am on the flight from Kuala Lumpur, we would definitely be racing against the clock to clear the health controls, immigration, collect bags, go through customs, and get to the MAF Hangar, the aircraft loaded, and be on our way!
Again, the Lord cleared the way. The first bags off the conveyor belt were ours! As we approached the health desk to work through all of the paperwork to confirm our approvals and quarantine requirements, the lady looked at our passports and MAF shirt and said, “Oh, I’ve been expecting you. I received an email just a little while ago – you’re all cleared!!” (Thank you Sonali – our HR Manager – she was really putting in the overtime). The other family was shortly behind us.
We arrived at the MAF Hangar in Port Moresby and MAF Senior Pilot Mathias Glass had just landed in our C208 Caravan. We were also met by our Port Moresby office team, Leah and Sandra, and by our MAF Administrative Officer, Eric Eribiang, who also happened to be in POM. Together we all were able to get the plane packed and ready to go. As we taxied out I looked down at my watch, 12:45pm, we were well on our way and on time. Thanks team for your TREMENDOUS efforts.
And so, as I write this we are at 10,000 feet, flying northwest, paralleling the southern coast of Papua New Guinea. We will very shortly turn to the North and head across the lush rain forest and high mountains to our Mt. Hagen base. Looking down, I am beginning to see the winding rivers, muddy but bright, reflecting the broken clouds in the sky, as they make their way through the rainforest, remote villages nestled along their shores. There are no roads down there, only rainforest, foot trails, villages of people, and the rivers. Dengue Fever, Malaria, Typhoid, Tuberculosis, and deadly snakes make their home down there as well.
And that is why we are once again here in Papua New Guinea. To be the wings of hope, the “life line” to the millions of people who make their home in the jungles. Bringing not just medical relief, but the message of God’s love to some of the most remote peoples of the world. Thank you for being part of the team that makes up this vital link!
A final note: Upon landing, we were greeted by our incredible team. We are so very humbled to be loved in this way and in many other ways (groceries in our home, furniture set up, a hot meal delivered in the evening, so many welcoming messages, and much more). It makes us want to serve and love our team even more! May the Lord continue to grant us the grace, wisdom, and perseverance to continue in the task that He has called us to.
And the journey continues. We are now at gate 33 along with probably 50+ other people from several different missions, all waiting to board the World Food Programme, special Malaysia Air Charter Flight 8796. This flight has been arranged so that there is a reliable way of reaching Papua New Guinea.
We arrived shortly after 8am local time here in Kuala Lumpur, some 35 hours after departing Boise. We have been so blessed as the flights have been smooth and we have had minimal issues at the transfers. So very thankful to Jan Bell (Journey’s by Jan), Sonali Ghosh (MAF PNG HR Manager) and Rachel Green (MAF Ashford Admin) who have been working tickets and paperwork all along the way. We are also so thankful for the many others who have been praying and paying the price for this return trip to PNG.
In about five minutes, we will be boarding for the final day (Lord Willing) of the trip. This will take us from Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, to Kuching, Malaysia, to Port Moresby where we will be arriving sometime around 11 in the morning, Port Moresby time. We will then board a MAF plane (if the weather holds) for the flight from Port Moresby to our main base in the Highlands, Mount Hagen.
There are still some unknowns: 1) The weather has been very marginal in the highlands lately. If it is bad, we will need to quarantine for one night in Port Moresby before continuing to Mt. Hagen. 2) A new order has been issued by the Government of PNG, requiring GPS tracking devices to be worn by all persons arriving internationally for the duration of the required 14 day quarantine. This is something totally new and it is unknown if it will allow us to quarantine at our base in the Highlands as was the original plan. The alternative is to quarantine at a hotel in Port Moresby for the 14 days at a significant cost. Please continue to pray.
And for those who love aviation – here are some pictures taken from the flight cameras on the plane as we arrived to Kuala Lumpur.
Sunday morning started early at the Boise airport as we began the check-in process shortly after 05:00. Things seemed fairly normal at that point – but that would change quickly. The only way to describe it…surreal.
We had a small farewell with our transport team (Dad & Mom Aebischer, and Todd’s brother Jeff) and then it was down to the gate and onto the plane.
The flight to Los Angeles was uneventful – at least I believe it was. I (Todd) was sound asleep before the plane even pushed back from the gate. It has been a full-court press the last few days, getting everything ready for today’s departure.
Upon arrival at LAX, that is where things were very unusual. Hallways that are normally full of passengers moving between terminals…were empty. Store after store were empty – signs in the windows – this location closed. The normally bustling ticketing and security area at the LAX International Terminal…was markedly empty.
As I write this short post, we are now waiting at Gate 131. Our Visas, quarantine paperwork, Covid test result documents, and World Food Programme (WFP) charter flight documents (Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia [KUL] to Port Moresby, Papua New Guinea [POM]) were all closely scrutinized. Finally we were given the green light and issued the boarding passes, along with our face shields and instructions for boarding. Yes…these are surely different days.
But…while surreal, we serve a God that truly is REAL and has once again paved the way for us. The gate agent at LAX was wonderful, putting everything together so that our bags and boarding passes were all set to continue on the WFP Charter flight from KUL to POM. No having to negotiate a transit desk at KUL. And so…boarding should begin in about 5 minutes…for the next leg of the journey – 15hours 45 minutes.
It is Thanksgiving evening here in the US. Connie and I have been reflecting on how much we have to be thankful for – the Lord’s blessings have been beyond abundant.
This year has not been without its challenges. Connie arrived in the States for her surgery in March and then…COVID. She would remain until her surgery was finally scheduled for the 26th of August. I would arrive in August in time for the surgery, only to become quite ill and we would spend many more days separated while I isolated…I quit counting at 150 days… We were scheduled to return to PNG on the 25th of October…the airline cancelled the route. The next option was to depart on the 8th of November. With bags packed and ready to go, I was diagnosed with Covid on the 7th.
It would be easy to become discouraged, but truly the Lord is in control. Nothing of this surprised Him. He had a plan.
Consider it all joy, my brothers and sisters, when you encounter various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance. And let endurance have its perfect result, so that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.
James 1:2-4 NASB
Connie has recovered so very well from her major surgery!
I (Todd) have recovered well from my encounter with Covid.
We were able to get our “negative” Covid tests just in time to purchase airline tickets and make all of the required submissions for travel to PNG.
We have been able to spend some tremendous time with our family.
The Lord has been providing financially to-date for all of the added expenses of flights, cancelled flights, Covid tests and medical bills.
Technology has allowed us to remain engaged and continue to fulfill many of our requirements from a distance.
We had a chance to experience some cold and snow…something I (Todd) have missed greatly. (Connie is just as happy in the warmer climates!!)
Too many more blessing to list.
Lord willing, we will be departing Boise, Idaho on Sunday the 29th of November at shortly after 7am. We would so greatly appreciate your prayers as the journey is long. It will take us from Boise to Los Angeles, to Qatar, to Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, where we will wait for approximately 16 hours and then continue on to Port Moresby on 2-December. We will quarantine one night in Port Moresby and then travel on a MAF flight from Port Moresby to Mt. Hagen, where we will then quarantine for 13 more days.
Thank you so very much for your continued prayers and encouragement. We echo the feelings of Timothy, thanking the Lord that He has strengthened us and considered us faithful, placing us into His service in PNG. (1 Tim 2:12)
We are looking forward to getting back to our team in Papua New Guinea!!
We will post updates along the journey as we are able.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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!
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?
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 tosubmit 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.
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!
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!”
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.
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!
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!
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!