We have just released our March 2019 Newsletter. Many of you have probably received it, but if not, you will find it linked here.
Five 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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?
Todd and Connie Lou
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..
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.
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.
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
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.
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
Down Under in Australia still:
Learning a new language is always an adventure! We are learning Tok Pisin which, is the trade language used by Papua New Guineans as there are some 800 +/- different languages in PNG! Luckily for us, Tok Pisin uses quite a lot of English and German words that are spelled slightly different but have very similar meanings to the English and German words they came from.
Here is Genesis 1:1 in Tok Pisin
(Read it out-loud as the sound of it helps you understand the words.)
Bipo bipo tru God i mekim kamap skai na graun na olgeta samting i stap long en.
A few years ago, Gary and Eleanor Zweigle, from Tumwater CotN in Olympia Washington, introduced us to the Gideon Bible App that has many of the different translations of the Bible in one very easy to use App. The App has the entire Bible in Tok Pisin as well as an audio version of the New Testament. What a great help that has been to hear the language spoken and read along with it!
Although there are many familiar or similar words, there is a tendency to “Pidginize” English words to make them sound like Tok Pisin which, does not work! Tok Pisin is an independent creole language that originated as a Pidgin. There are some words that we have been advised not to use! Some words that in English are very common and do not have a negative connotation, and yet their Tok Pisin equivalent can be offensive. We need to really watch our language!
Friday, August 18th was a Staff Development Day that we were blessed to attend along with the MAF Staff in Cairns and also the folks from Mareeba.
Dr. David Riddell of Living Wisdom, Nelson, NZ, was the presenter and we worked through a lot of helpful information on leadership and making friends with your mind. He explained what that means and how it helps each of us deal with all the different things we deal with. He wrote a book on this and once the dust settles a bit for us, I will have to see if I can download this book!
- Connie Lou’s new passport with more pages came back this week!
- VP and Nirmala’s (our colleagues) Visa/Entry Permits were granted this week!
- Our Visa/Entry Permit process. We are still waiting for the paperwork to be approved so that we can obtain our visas.
- Please continue to pray for our language acquisition.
- Pray for VP and our Regional Director as they will be going to PNG for meetings Monday, August 28th to Thursday, August 31st.
We are only able to be here because of the prayers and financial partnership of you, our friends and family! If you are interested in partnering with us financially, please visit the MAF US Website – Be sure to mark your gift – Aebischer #8214
Thank you so very much!
Todd and Connie Lou
As we finish up our first week Down Under, our heads are full with all the information that has been given to us in the meetings with various leaders and department heads.
We are thankful for jet-lag that has helped us to wake early in the mornings so that we can get a lot more reading done before we head to the MAF Cairns Office for each day’s meetings.
On Monday we met our colleagues VP and Nirmala on our trip to visit the Mareeba site. We are so excited to be working with them in this capacity.
We have a nice apartment in a complex owned jointly by MAF and SIL missions. It is located just north of Cairns by a few miles. We are doing training here while we await the finalization of our entry permits and visas. It is a 3-step process. 1) Work permit, 2) Entry Permit, 3) Visa.
- Our Work permit was granted last week (we had applied in June) and we immediately made application for the Entry Permit.
- Connie’s passport was getting low on pages so we also had to apply for a new passport through the embassy in Sydney, and it should be back the last week of August.
- Also for the finalization of the Visas / Entry Permit process.
- We start language school on Monday and this last through about the 3rd week of September.
Thank you for partnering with us in prayer! We know that God hears and answers your prayers and we so appreciate your willingness to lift us and this new ministry in which He has placed us to the Father.
MAF has just added a new profile bio for us! You can view it here:
According to the dim glow emanating from the LCD screen in front of me, I am writing to you from 34,000 feet approximately 500 miles off the eastern coast of Australia.
What a whirlwind of activity the last few months have been. Packing up our home in the Philippines, preparing for the quadrennial General Assembly in Indianapolis (June), arriving in the States on May 5th, speaking across the nation from the West Coast to Ohio, officiating our Niece’s wedding in Central California, a family reunion in Idaho, a mission open house at Mission Aviation Headquarters in Nampa, taking EVERY opportunity to love on our kids and grand baby, and now…preparing to descend to a new chapter south of the equator!
We’re glad that the Lord has promised us, “He knows the plans He has for us,” because a year ago and even as late a today, I certainly wouldn’t have anticipated this plan!
On Thursday morning, we met at a local restaurant with our kids and parents for a late brunch and then headed to the Boise Airport to say our good byes. At the airport we were informed of a baggage embargo (limiting the number of checked bags allowed during this period of the year) and so we began the process of unpacking our action packers to turn 6 packers into 4.
Our prayer is always that we represent Christ well, regardless of the circumstances faced, and so thanking the counter agent for her understanding (as she processed our passports and tickets and gave us time to go and re-pack all of our bags) we started unloading in the lobby of the airport. The young counter agent was from Guam and we had shared our connection of living in Micronesia back in the 90s and how much we had loved Guam and the people there. There was a connection and I think she was amazed that we weren’t having a typical “passenger meltdown.”
About 25 minutes later, as we were repacking, the counter agent came up to us and said that she had worked with her supervisor, had pulled some strings, and that we were going to be able to send all 6 bags, and be charged no luggage fees for the extra two pieces! Connie was in tears of joy! So we re-packed a third time and sent the bags through. (Thank you to our girls and parents for helping us navigate this small hurdle!)
And then our flight was delayed…. Before we even said goodbye to family, we were informed that the smoke on the West Coast had snarled traffic in Seattle and that our flight was pushed back an hour, giving us just 9 minutes connection time in Seattle. Then pushed back again, and now we would be arriving after our connecting flight was to have departed.
I’ll tell you, technology is great! While we were sitting at the gate, we received an email from Delta alerting us that they had gone ahead and cancelled our reservations for today and re-booked us for Saturday, getting us into Cairns late Sunday night. Not what we wanted to hear…but at least we were informed (thank you Delta for doing a good job of keeping us informed!)
And so… quick keyboarding by desk agents, some more “strings pulled” a reroute through Salt Lake City, and rather than having to go home, come back and repeat the checkin, security, wait game a day later, we made it to LAX and are flying on our original international flight and will be landing in 57 minutes in Sydney. What did we gain? New friends and new connections with more people who will hear about what God is doing!
“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. Then you will call on me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you.” Jeremiah 29:11-12
Connie and I rest in the assurance that He does have our plans in His hand. Our job is to remain patient and to look for the opportunities to be “Salt and Light” and to respond in a counter-cultural way…to respond with grace and peace regardless of what we are facing.
Then God can use us wherever we go. I just smiled in amazement once again as the desk agents came up and gave Connie a hug after closing the gate and leaving (while we stayed waiting patiently for our re-booked flight).
Thank you Lord for another day to serve! And thanks to each one of you who continue to pray and encourage us along this journey.
Todd and Connie Lou – from Cairns to you!
It is truly amazing how the Lord works. If you had told Connie and I that we would once again be serving on the front lines of missions through mission aviation, we would have smiled and told you, “that chapter in our lives has passed.” We so truly believed that it had…and then…
You know…that is one of the greatest statements when we are serving the Lord, “and then.” And then something that we never imagined happening…happens!
In October of 2016, we were contacted and asked to consider the Country Director position with Mission Aviation Fellowship in Papua New Guinea (follow this link for a more detailed review of the assignment). We turned down the idea as a “distraction.” We were very happy with our ministry on the Asia-Pacific Region and in Manila, and we didn’t see any need for change.
And then…a contact in December, and then again in January of 2017, finally got us to really thinking and praying about whether the Lord could be in this request. After discussions with our Regional Director and the Global Mission Director (Nazarene Missions) we were given the green light to pursue additional discussions with Mission Aviation Fellowship.
In February we travelled to visit the Mission Aviation Fellowship operations base in Mount Hagen, Papua New Guinea, met with the PNG National Board for MAF, and then visited the leadership / support team, office and facilities in Cairns and Mareeba, Australia. The trip was very enlightening and the Lord’s hand was evident.
The rest has now become history! We returned to the U.S. and had a very heavy speaking schedule through May and June, finishing with the quadrennial General Assembly in Indianapolis, Indiana, the last two weeks of June.
Now it has been meetings, orientation, paperwork, finalizing details with the Nazarene Missions and working through the transition with our World Mission Communications Team.
The days are short! I (Todd) had the incredible opportunity of officiating my Niece’s wedding in Central California last week – what an honor and privilege. This next week we are spending a few days with family for a family reunion, having an open house / reception on Sunday, July 30th, (see this link for details) packing up our bags and heading to the new assignment on August 3rd.
Your prayers are greatly appreciated! Please pray for:
- Wisdom as we make the necessary arrangements prior to our departure.
- Family relationships and time together. It’s challenging when we spend so many months away from our biological family. We dearly love them and miss them greatly when we are apart.
- The transition as we learn a new culture, language, and mission team. That God would give us sensitivity and wisdom way beyond ourselves as we learn our new roles and understand the ministry that He has called us to.
- Resourcing. This is a partner-funded mission assignment. We truly believe that what God calls us to He will provision. This has been our experience for all of the years that we have been serving in missions. We just need to be faithful in praying for connections with those whom God is leading to partner with us in the very tangible area of finances.
So many of you have travelled this mission journey with us for many years, for than 26 now. We are so very thankful for your words of encouragement, prayers, and financial partnership. We couldn’t be on the field, crossing borders and barriers with the gospel, without you here praying and paying the price. THANK YOU!
We had a favorite verse that we shared in our publications back in 1991 when we first started our journey into Mission Aviation. We are proclaiming it once again as we close:
12 I thank Christ Jesus our Lord, who has strengthened me, because He considered me faithful, putting me into service. 1 Timothy 1:12
Rest assured that we will be sending out more updates as we begin this new chapter….and be prepared for hearing the incredible stories of…. And Then God Showed Up!!!!