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A Saturday that We Didn’t Expect – But Saving a Life – It’s “Totally Worth It”

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!!

JET

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.

https://www.instagram.com/tuaflyingforlife/

From Here to There and Back Again

Life – how does it get so busy? When will I ever find time to just get caught up?

I don’t think we will ever be caught up, life just has a way of moving along at an alarming rate of speed. And then all of a sudden……. as you are speeding along trying to get somewhere……… they close the freeway!

Freeway closed across the Blues

Last November we were working along here in PNG and then were advised that if we wanted to get a break – out of country in the next 12+ months – that we needed to go immediately. So we quickly called our trusted travel agent Journey’s by Jan who once again found an incredible deal – and within a few days we were on an airplane to the USA arriving the night before our only grandchild’s 7th Birthday. What a special time with family and a few local friends.

It was a whirlwind trip which included American Thanksgiving and Christmas with family and then thanks to a last minute flight cancellation due to snow in Boise, Idaho. We found ourselves in a rented 4 wheel drive heading across the mountains in the snow to get to the international airport so as to make it back to PNG in time for the 70th Anniversary Celebration and mini-staff retreat to be held the first weeks of January!

We felt that driving from Boise, Idaho to Seattle, Washington was the only sure way we could reach the airport in time……and then they closed the freeway! Wait – What? Yep! Closed the freeway! We sat waiting for a few hours shivering in the cold then attempted to find a back road to get around…….only to find a Sheriff Deputy’s car parked across the road turning folks around……. He took pity on us and looking at the 4 wheel drive we had rented, decided we could make it across ok, and let us go.

On the Plane headed home to PNG

We made it to Seattle after midnight – found a hotel close to the airport and slept a few hours. After the 12 hours across the snow we needed it. Got to the airport – many travelers were being turned away at the check-in counter for not having the correct paperwork/entry permits/documentation of vaccination etc….but thanks to the great work of our team in PNG – we had everything in order and didn’t have any major hold ups. On to Doha then Singapore then Port Moresby and on to Mount Hagen. Including the 12 hours across the snow, it was 78 hours from leaving Caldwell, Idaho to arriving in Mount Hagen.

Watching Ends of the Earth from near the Ends of the Earth!

We landed and went right into meetings – what a blessed time to have all of our expat staff together in one location for some spiritual nourishment and some good old fashioned fun! One of the highlights was that we purchased a viewing of the Ends of the Earth movie that came out in America a few months ago. Although it is about the work of MAF on the other half of this island, it deeply impacted each one that watched it as we sat together with our teammates that have given so much to be there flying and doing their part to reach the isolated. It was a sacred moment. (Well hour and a half.)

Gluten Free communion option

Another special time was sharing with the entire MAF team from across the country as we gathered to celebrate the 70th Anniversary of MAF’s presence in PNG. We shared communion together as a team and it was a special time as we reflected on what Christ had done for each of us.

National Ladies Conference

With everyone from all of the bases across the country gathering for the 70th Anniversary Celebration – we took advantage of the situation and had several different gatherings including Ground Ops and Pilots Meeting and National Ladies Conference. Fiona Stevenson, who has been our Finance Manager for the past several years, but is moving to the South Sudan Program, was our main speaker and it was a wonderful time of sharing together with these incredible women of Faith! We also took advantage of being together by getting photos albeit with masks.

Things have settled down a bit now, back to just the normal busy schedule. Up before dawn and out the door early, trying to get things accomplished before everyone else gets to the office – and typically not enough time, so staying a little later after everyone else has gone home for the night to get caught up. It is a daily way of life for us.

The Team that God has blessed this program with is incredible! They are so caring and compassionate, helping each other out when needed. Praying together and doing whatever it takes to keep things rolling along. We have had several new staff arrivals so we are all busy helping them get oriented to the program and the country with the unique way of life here. We have hosted several Sunday morning Brunch/Church gatherings as we wait for Covid numbers to go down so we can meet together at our different churches indoors. Such a blessed time as those who come don’t seem to want to leave and a simple brunch turns into a day event where people laugh and story together for hours.

Staff Gathering on our veranda

Will we ever feel caught up? I doubt it – but isn’t it wonderful to know that it is not just up to us to carry this program. We are here to do what God has equipped us to do and to do our best to encourage others as we work alongside them. Thank you for your prayers and encouragement, it really helps! We are so grateful for the way the Lord has laid it on the hearts of so many to pray, encourage, and partners with us through financial support. We are so RICHLY blessed!

Leaving on a jet plane~

I really don’t know when I’ll be back again……. 

What crazy/uncertain times we are living in right now.  Just when we think things are going to start to normalize, Covid 19 shows up and turns life upside down.  And yet God…… (still my favorite saying) along with He Is Able!

In the early morning hours of Saturday, 14 March 2020, amidst the multitude of emails coming in and going out from the CD’s home office (aka bed)  it was decided to send some of our higher risk staff out of PNG along with myself over the following days. Given the fact that there is next to no advanced healthcare support available in the Highlands.  (Big thanks to Journeys by Jan for organizing my tickets!  Always perfect planning!)

Have mask – will travel!

I was due to head to the US on 21 March for Doctors appointments and an upcoming surgery that is not available in PNG (Female stuff) But with the rate at which we were being notified that borders were shutting to different countries, we decided it would be best to get me out immediately rather than risk having to postpone surgery even longer.

After a very long 32 hours of travel, with very tight connections, I arrived in Boise, Idaho minus only one of my two action packers – yes, filled with TP and Peanut Butter J And a little coffee/tea from PNG.

My welcome party – our kids – keeping strict social distancing from me!

My welcome party met me at the curb shortly after midnight, keeping strict social distances from me, giving air hugs and leaving the car running with the heat on high (of course I was freezing in Idaho).  I had to load my own bags to avoid possibly contaminating them after my travels, luckily TP doesn’t weigh too much~ Haha. And soon I was headed down the freeway to MAF US Headquarters and a cozy studio apartment set up and waiting for me for the self-isolation period of at least 14 days.

As I was preparing to hurriedly leave, I was deeply touched by the love and well wishes and send off from the MAF PNG Team – both National and expat!  Bon Voyage parties had been planned and that really means a lot to me.  Todd, along with “Our Boys” and Sonali saw me off at the airport and the guys all stayed airside to wave, and I got a quick hug from Todd, as I walked to the awaiting aircraft.  It really touched my heart that they all took the time and stood in front of the MAF Base to wave good bye as my plane taxied to the runway as well.

As I traveled, I saw some who were fully decked out in anti-virus gear (The woman at the airport in Brisbane speaking with Godfrey about self isolation) while transiting to NZ.  And yet hundreds of people not taking any precautions whatsoever!  I had been supplied with a mask that I saved to wear when the social distance got greatly reduced once I hit US Soil! As I read that prolonged use causes the mask to be less effective as breathing causes moisture and then it becomes somewhat useless – although I will say it was difficult to breath with that mask the way it seals so well!   I wore the mask until I was settled into my little hideaway in Nampa.

I chose to self isolate not just so I don’t get the virus, but to protect those I love, and also those I will come into contact with here in Idaho, as well as those that they will then come into contact with, from possible contamination because of where I have been!  Social distancing is the key to reducing the spread so that health centers can keep up with the sick once they contract it and need intervention.  Most of us may just get nasty flu symptoms, but it is not most of us that I am concerned with – it is the elderly, the pregnant, the premature, those with significant health issues to begin with, like my sweet nephew Ronan that recently received a Kidney transplant at a very young age!

My heart yearns to see may granddaughter Noortje, that I only get to see once every year or so…… She is just 10 minutes away from here….. but I choose to self isolate to keep her safe, and to keep those safe that she will then come into contact with. 

As I sit here in my little hideaway, stocked with food by my daughters Courtney and Jess, and also other family have brought things for me, like fuzzy blankets and books from my Mom.  I am praying for Todd and the team as they make decisions on how to address this virus in an area of the world with very little access to healthcare.  And as they deal with the social issues that will come once it hits the highlands….  I have lots of time on my hands to do so! 

And Surprise! My last action packer showed up on my doorstep! Thanks MAF US, especially, Ruth, Barb, and Gene for your love and support!

I look forward to seeing how God will use this time to grow me spiritually as I spend more time in His word and reading books that will help me be a better person/leader/wife/mother/friend.  I would love to hear what God is teaching you through this time….He is Able! 

Your prayers are greatly appreciate for Todd and the team still in PNG as they continue to serve the remote communities, taking every precaution possible and having continual update meetings to be sure we are doing just that! These are difficult times as we deal with the unknowns, and yet maintain a positive outlook – None of this has caught God by surprise. He is still on the throne and still working things out for our good. When we need wisdom, He gives it. And boy do we need it!

Your prayers especially for the team to keep a positive attitude, to be wise in decisions and safe are very much appreciated! God hears and answers – and He calls us to lift our requests to him, with thanksgiving and praise!

Thank you all so very much,

Connie Lou

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!

Update from Down Under – Meetings, Meetings, and More Meetings!

Some of the Manuals we are working our way through

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.

The team at Mareeba with Nirmala, and VP beside Todd

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.

Our room at Tree Tops with our luggage.

 

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.

Praises:

  • Our Work permit was granted last week (we had applied in June) and we immediately made application for the Entry Permit.

Prayer Requests:

  • 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:

https://www.maf.org/Aebischer