Category Archives: PNG Updates

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 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

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.

Hick-ups with a purpose…a pilot’s journal

Connie and I are so blessed to be leading such a tremendous team of servants.  This is a great story written by one of our pilots about a couple days in the life of MAF!

Story and photos Remi van Wermeskerken

Today was a bit of a mess. My schedule was supposed to have been Madang-Nankina-Madang-Dusin-Madang-Simbai-Madang-Simbai-Madang with the Airvan P2-MEW.

The first Hick-ups: No passengers and bad weather
But… the flight to Nankina couldn’t happen because the truck bringing the passengers and goods had broken down. Fortunately the passengers to Dusin were ready, but as they didn’t have a full load we added 75 kg of goods for Simbai. I landed in Dusin as the low cloud was getting worse I and took off just in time, perhaps by two minutes, or it would have been completely closed in. Simbai, which is only a 7 minute flight from Dusin, was completely closed by low clouds. After trying to get down and trying to find a hole to descend through, I had to return to Madang as my fuel was starting to run low.

More Hick-ups: Cancellations, to many overnights and the plane due for inspection
By the time I got back to Madang, weather in Simbai had improved enough to go there again but the passengers for the second flight to Simbai had cancelled. We had to figure out how to most efficiently get me and the plane to Simbai and to Goroka as there was no loading back home to Madang and the next morning I’d have an empty load to Goroka to get there for training with Sebastian Kurz. With already 3 nights away from home this week, I wasn’t too keen on another night away. When we found out that there were 3 passengers from Simbai to Goroka, it seemed the right thing to do to save MAF a lot of expense and just fly Madang-Simbai-Goroka and overnight there. However we figured out that my plane would be due for an inspection before the end of the week and Sharlene Coker, Flight Operations Coordinator, suggested that I swing by Mt Hagen today to swap planes which changed the routing to Madang-Simbai-Mt Hagen-Goroka.

The Outcome of the Hick-ups: A last minute compassionate flight..

Sebastian flying ‘casual‘ to assist an urgent flight request.

The rest of that flight was quite uneventful and because I was quite high in duty hours, I was looking forward to having a short day, getting to Goroka by 2 pm and calling it a day. But whenever we seem to have a short day (seldom…), something happens. And as my plane was parked and being washed in Goroka and I was ready to go home, Sebastian dropped by and suddenly things got urgent in the office. A man came in asking for a charter to pick up his daughter in Chimbu, who had just given birth to a baby who had died. The clinic in Chimbu did not have formalhydrate so they needed the mom and body of the baby brought to Goroka for burial as soon as possible. It was now 3 pm and the weather didn’t look all that great. Sebastian, who wasn’t even in his flight uniform as he only wanted to check on the next day’s training program, was very keen to help this distressed family. So we quickly got the plane ready, and took off to show Christ’s love to this family.

When boarding the plane it was hard for the mother to let go of her beloved baby for a few seconds so she could climb into the Airvan.

It was very difficult to see the mother constantly kissing her little deceased baby, knowing that she will not have a mother-child relationship with this baby she had carried for 9 months. I can’t imagine the agony she must have been in.

The passengers boarding the Airvan P2-MEW.

It was good to be able to support her and the family during their sad time.   What started out as a very frustrating day with lots of hick-ups, turned into a day where all those circumstances caused this flight to Chimbu to happen. If all had gone according to plan, there wouldn’t have been time to add the Chimbu flight.

Another Last Minute Call: A Medevac

Sebastian calling his Goroka base for a weather update while on the ground at Wabo, he finds out about the Junkaral medevac request

Only a couple of days later, when we were about to leave on our last training flight of the day, there was suddenly another emergency call from Jungkaral. A young teenager had fallen out of a coconut tree and badly broken an arm and a leg and they wanted to know if we could assist.   To pay for the flight, they only had seat fares for two people to Madang. So we had a lot of decisions to make. Madang was out of the question as we’re training in Goroka and I would end up with way too many flight and duty hours at the end of the month. Because we don’t normally fly to Junkaral and could fill up the plane, this medevac would have to be declared as a charter flight.   After discussing this with Sebastian, we decided that this is one of those medical emergencies that MAF has some extra funds for. So we departed towards Jungkaral. Due to the late afternoon, clouds were already up to 10,000ft so we had to climb over those and then start a rapid descent into Jungkaral.

Upon landing we were amazed that the community was carrying the boy without a stretcher or mattress without him crying or complaining, even though he had multiple broken bones. Many of the women were wailing, as if someone had passed away.

We got the young man to Goroka in the late afternoon and our base staff transported him to the hospital. I don’t even want to try and imagine what they would have done if MAF had not been able to help and the community would have had to transport him through the jungles for days or weeks to the nearest hospital.


Your prayers and partnership are what keep our planes “Flying for Life!”

Thank you for partnering with us as together we connect isolated people and see lives physically and spiritually transformed in Christ’s name!

Todd and Connie Lou

Our Partnership Page