It was Saturday morning the 19th of March. It had been a long week with many very early mornings and late nights. Connie and I were moving a bit slowly on this particular morning. I had just stepped out of the shower and was headed to the kitchen to make some coffee for the two of us (I try to give Connie a break and handle the weekend coffee.) It’s a ritual we have each morning, sitting together in our chairs in the living room, reading our bibles and spending quiet time with the Lord, gathering the strength for another day.
The ringing of my phone interrupted my thoughts. I glanced at the Caller ID, Dr. Ben Radcliffe from Kudjip Nazarene Hospital. With Dr. Ben calling at this hour on a Saturday morning, I had a fairly strong feeling that this day was going to be quite different from what I was expecting. But then, that is our motto for PNG. The Land of the Unexpected! And that is why we are here…to serve!!!
And so it was. Dr. Ben quickly relayed to me the situation, that of a national team member suffering a life-threatening emergency during the night, necessitating a medical evacuation to the capital city as quickly as possible. There are no roads between Mt. Hagen and the Capital City. It is a one hour jet ride or two hour flight by MAF aircraft across the tropical rainforest of this rugged island nation.
And so…plans were put in motion! I would like to now transition to a post by our PNG National Pilot, Joseph Tua (Initials JET), and let him describe the day…
TuaFlyingForLife: Woke up at 7am and had a cup of coffee and the weather was absolutely beautiful outside and we thought “What a nice day to fly!”😍
And then the phone rings and it’s our Country Director… “Joseph, are you checked out on the Hagen – Moresby Route?”
“Yes sir, I am”
“How soon can you get the plane ready? We have a medevac patient who suffered a heart attack at Kudjip hospital and needs to go to Moresby right away”
“I’ll have the plane ready to go by 8.30am sir”
“Good. They’ll be here at 9am”
And boom! We scrabble into the shower, grab our overnight gear just incase… Headset… Water… EFB… Phone… Etc etc and off we went to the airport! 🏃♂️
We were ready to go by 8.30am…Patient and Doctor arrived at around 9am. Loaded them all up, strapped the patient down as comfortable as we could. And off to Moresby we went. It’s a 2-hour flight and the weather was great the whole way😍
PIH ambulance was already there waiting. We transferred the patient from the plane onto the stretcher/bed that PIH had brought and basically handed over everything to them. We returned to Hagen with no issues. Weather was absolutely beautiful! Thank you to whoever was praying for this flight! ❤️
Totally Worth It!!
We got a message just around 6.30pm that the patient received whatever care and attention he needed and was stabilized at the PIH ICU in Moresby. Totally worth it! 🤩
Thank you for the continued prayer and support fam! Have a great weekend! 🤩🤙
This was an awesome day. I had the opportunity to fly with Joseph on this flight and work side-by-side with this incredibly capable and competent young pilot. It’s hard for me to explain how proud I am of this young man who willingly forgoes the lure of greater money and fame to pursue the the call of the Lord to serve his people here in Papua New Guinea, flying with MAF.
JET (as we affectionately call him) is also a great writer and frequently posts of his experiences “Flying for Life” here in PNG. If you would like to live life through the eyes of one of our pilots, I would encourage you to follow him on Instagram.
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!
To share God’s love through aviation and technology; seeing isolated people physically and spiritually transformed in Christ’s name.