Category Archives: Current News

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

A Medical Evacuation Every Day…and Then This One!

When I received this message from one of our pilots, Paul Woodington, who serves along with his wife Clare in Wewak, one of our 6 MAF bases, situated on the N. Coast of Papua New Guinea, I had to share it with you!  Be sure to read to the end…you will be blessed!


I send you this email about yesterday’s drama for me and the Wewak team. The Pryors are a very thankful family for the help we provide for their family and ministry…yesterday it was extra special.

Jesse Pryor is a second generation missionary in PNG. They have built a clinic and many times we have helped MEDEVAC seriously ill patients.

Yesterday I received a request to MEDEVAC Jesse’s son out of Samban. It was one of the most difficult and complex decision making tasks I have undertaken. But, we did our utmost to help.

It was late. I was already flying a MEDEVAC from Edwaki to Wewak, a man with a broken leg lying down in the plane in considerable pain. The Caravan was over half full and heavy. Yet, the task was to divert for an hour late in the day. Land in Samban. Pick up the family of four, three of which are large. Think about the weight and tail-wind for takeoff. Factor in a draggy surface penalty and recent rain. How low was the fuel? What reserves did I have?  How close to last light? Could the man with the broken leg manage another hour in the plane?

On the surface, it seems I would not be ticking many boxes so I declined. After a rethink, I found I could tick all the boxes if I diverted direct to Samban not via Wewak. Jacob (base agent) was invaluable acting as intermediary between myself on the radio and the very concerned father.

So, we lifted 10 people out of Samban, one a small baby. The Caravan with a four knot tailwind became airborne half way along the strip passing 200 ft over the fence.

It made me realise how fantastic this plane is and to thank God for His wonderful provision of the Cessna Caravan for the SEPIK area of Papua New Guinea. As I engaged the autopilot and looked back at the load, I felt a pang, a tear jerking sensation. I experienced a real community feeling on board.  Elijah, the Pryor’s son with a burst appendix, was throwing up in a bag comforted by his big sister. Another woman was attending to the man with a broken leg, which was badly swollen. Katie, Jesse’s wife, was showing another lady their newly adopted PNG baby. I shared what was left of my lunch and passed around water, and gave pain killers to the stretcher patient.

I want to share this with you because this plane makes a real difference to people’s lives. The Pryor family needed us for their own family this time. We were able to help in the most difficult of circumstances. Not many planes would have fuel for an hour diversion or the capacity to lift this load out of a marginal airstrip.

When the plane landed at Wewak, it was near dark due to the overcast. When I got home it was dark.

This week I have done a MEDEVAC every day. Despite the difficult times we are all living, the mission community here is pulling together!


Here in Papua New Guinea, on average, we fly 41 flights each day, visit more than 200 airstrips (communities) each month, and provide more than 500 medical evacuations each years.  For many of those living in these communities, we are their only connection to the outside world, short of a several days walk…a walk that in this case… for this missionary family… would have been impossible with a ruptured appendix.

This is only possible because of the MAF Family.  This family is a united team across multiple countries and cultures.  You are part of this team – and we thank you so very much.  Thank you for your continued prayers, partnership (encouragement and financial) and for your commitment to impacting the isolated people of the world with the transformative message of hope and healing through Christ.

Yours and His for the harvest,

Todd & Connie Lou

Our MAF US Profile and Donation Page

Bibles for Ambuluwa!

What does a day in ministry look like for us here in Papua New Guinea?  I don’t think we will ever fully know what to expect…other than to expect the unexpected!

Usually our days involve regulatory meetings, hosting meals, shuttling arriving and departing guests, security issues, or any number of other logistical elements of coordinating a team of some 130+ national and expat team members spread across one of the most geopolitical diverse countries in the world.

I have asked our pilots that we if have any flights with space available going out and returning, to please let me know.  During any given month, we land at an average of 212 airstrips across PNG.   It is truly essential that as Country Director, I develop a good understanding of the villages, people and partners that we are serving.  So grabbing a chance to fly out and back is always a pleasant change to the daily schedule.

All too serious, I’m looking out as we make our way through the mountains to Ambuluwa.

On Thursday morning, I received an unexpected surprise.  A flight was headed out to Ambuluwa, about 35 minutes away from our home base of Mt. Hagen.  I checked my schedule, moved a couple of meetings, grabbed a headset, and climbed aboard one of our 6, GA8 Airvans and headed to Ambuluwa with pilot Remi Van Wermeskerken.

Descending into the mountain valley, the dirt strip is seen out Remi’s window.

The village of Ambuluwa is nestled high up in the mountains at an altitude of 6,150 feet above sea level.   The significantly up-sloping dirt airstrip is surrounded by towering, lush, green, jungle rain forest.   As we circled the airstrip, I was surprised at the numerous waterfalls tumbling down the steep mountain faces hemming in the Ambuluwa valley.

I had the opportunity to meet with residents of Ambuluwa, and ask about the impact of MAF. What does MAF mean to them?

Landing up the airstrip, we came to rest at the top where the airstrip plateaus.  As is normally the case, the village residents came out in great numbers to meet the MAF plane.

This man was showing me the path through the mountains. 1 1/2 days walk to the nearest road.

As I asked the residents about options, they informed me that the closest road was nearly 1 1/2 days walk…for them.   For us…it would probably be closer to 2 or more days.  MAF represents their lifeline for medical evacuations, supplies, and on this day…BIBLES!

As the freight and passengers were unloaded, Remi met with a man who had come to get Bibles.  I was humbled as the man took everything we had and asked if he couldn’t please get more.  More people wanted to have their own copy of the Bible in their language.  We emptied our box and assured the man that more would come on the next plane.

Climbing aboard the plane with more passengers for the return trip to Mt. Hagen, I reflected upon the impact of MAF.  Today, for the village of Ambuluwa, we had brought much more than physical nourishment, but hope, joy, and peace through the delivery of the Word of God.

What other impact does MAF have?  Well in 2016 alone, across the globe, we:

  • Partnered with more than 2,000 organizations such as Samaritan’s Purse, Campus Crusade, Wycliffe Bible Translators, the Nazarenes, and more!
  • Served in 37 countries
  • Flew more than 60,600 flights to remote, isolated locations
  • Daily delivered more than 41,800 pounds of precious mission cargo to build God’s Kingdom

The total impact is difficult to measure.  But as once tribal fighting  villages, are now erecting churches, and  the morning mist is welcomed with praise and worship songs,  it is easy to see that MAF truly is helping to transform isolated communities physically and spiritually in Christ’s name!

Now, sitting once again in my office, looking out on the ramp as Remi is departing with another load of hope for the village of Simbai, I find myself reflecting on how this can happen!  None of this could be possible without the MAF Partners and Families standing behind us!  You are the wind beneath our wings!

I close with this quote, one of my favorites from John Wesley:

“Do all the good you can. By all the means you can. In all the ways you can. In all the places you can. At all the times you can. To all the people you can. As long as ever you can.” 

Each day Connie and I thank the Lord for allowing us to have just a small part in His plan for reaching the ends of the earth.  And we thank the Lord for each of you…who partner alongside of us!  Today it was Bibles for Ambuluwa…how about tomorrow?

Yours and His for the harvest…

Todd and Connie Lou

Our MAF partner page.