Sunday, December 16, 2012

Quebec, Ontario, Uganda then finally...Chad.

Well it has come down to our last week in Quebec. Actually, not even that...more like 4 days! The next 4 months will certainly keep us on the edge of our seats. Many have been asking about our schedule and where we'll be in the next months. I've tried to keep the following itinerary brief but the sheer complexity of the upcoming journey has required some extra explanation in some places. But we take courage from looking back and realizing the things God led us through didn't look any easier than this at the outset.

Back to Ontario – December 20th
We'll spend Christmas and New Years with family sharing our time between London, Kitchener and Meaford.

Phil to Three Hills, Alberta – January 9th to 19th
I need to go out to Three Hills, Alberta to renew my IFR rating which re-qualifies me to fly by instruments only. I could do the renewal in a number of places but I'm in great need of the specialized training that I'll be able to get at Prairie. It has been 2 years since I really used my IFR and MAF's plans for us in the near future require that I get a thorough update of my IFR. See below for more on why this is the case.

Goodbye Canada – January 25th
We depart from Toronto and fly to London, England.

Facts & Friction Course, England – January 27th – February 8th
We'll be taking a course to prepare us for our work in Chad. It covers the day in and day out operations of MAF and focuses on introducing us to cultural differences, security protocols and what to expect in Chad. Grandma (Phil's mom) gets to come over with us to take care of the kids while we're "in school". This beats MAF trying to find a third party caretaker for the kids (in the last few years the UK has beefed up the regulations on paid childcare, bringing Grandma makes way more sense). We're all looking forward to these last couple of weeks together.

A brief pause in London – February 9th & 10th
We have a couple of days in the UK to breathe (and to wait for our next flight) before continuing south and saying goodbye to mom/grandma. Kaitlyn and Lily are looking forward to seeing where the Queen lives.

London to Kampala – February 10th
Mom flys back to Canada and we head down to Uganda. Yup, you read that right. Circumstances are such that it was looking like two pilots would be arriving in Chad to be trained on the same smaller Cessna 182 at the same time. They've asked us to delay going to Chad and instead we'll go to Kampala, Uganda first for 3 months as I get trained on the larger Cessna Grand Caravan.

MAF's Cessna 208B Grand Caravan unloading passengers and supplies at a remote strip in Chad
The Caravan has a turbine engine (not reciprocating), it carries up to 14 people (10 more than I'm typically used to), and it is flown only on an IFR flight plan (IFR means not having to dodge clouds and not needing to be able to see the ground at all times). These are major changes for me but they do make logical sense when the long-term effectiveness of the Chad program is considered. This option gets a new pilot trained on each of the planes currently in Chad. They have been dealing with a chronic shortage of pilots for quite a few years. The program in Uganda is well outfitted for giving me lots of practice – I'll be flying at least 50 hours with their training pilots on actual MAF flights around Uganda, into DRC and up into South Sudan. It will be a very steep learning curve but I relish both the challenge and opportunity to experience such a rich variation of locations, passengers and types of flying. We will be living in a house nearby the other MAF people – one family, the Derksens, happen to be good friends of ours from Three Hills. They've been in Uganda for about a year and are looking forward to showing us the ropes.

Phil in South Africa for two weeks – Late February
If you're still with me, take courage, the ride is almost over. The Uganda program can handle the training of a pilot once he knows the basics of the Caravan but they don't offer the initial ground school there. For that, MAF sends their pilots down to the MAF South Africa program in Johannesburg. They have the facilities to run a 2 week, in depth course on the Caravan which includes plenty of simulator time and several hours in the actual plane. The hiccup in this plan is that I leave for this course after only having been in Uganda for about a week. Merilee and the kids will get to be introduced to Africa by our friends and the many other great people nearby, but it's still going to be a stressful first couple of weeks for her. Pray that she will rely on the One who can sustain her and see those two weeks as a time of stretching and growing for the years ahead in Chad. We are thankful for the great support they'll have from other families around them.

To Chad...finally – Mid May
Two weeks later, I'll return from South Africa and spend a further two and a half months getting really used to the new plane. When the instructors in the Uganda program deem that I am ready we will pack and fly, for the last time in a while, to N'Djamena, Chad. The arrival in Chad will have been a long awaited one and after over 7 years of not being settled we will enjoy the chance to get some roots in the ground.

If you've made it this far, thank you for taking the time and please consider praying for us along the way. We'll try to keep you updated as things progress.

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Home Alone

The house is quieter and dinners will include much less French from now on. Yesterday, at 6am, our friends Michel and Nicole – the owners of this house – began their trip to BC. They'll be there to better their English until December. We all grew very close over the month and a half that we've been here and their absence was noticed right away. They are such kind people who always look for ways to serve others. They'd become surrogate Grandparents to the kids and even Lily had started to open up to them – which usually takes a lot of time.
Living with them has reminded us again of the beauty of community living. Whereas now we are a single small family living in a large house – before we were two families sharing a comfortable amount of space. We shared food and friends. We shared the good times and the frustrations of life. Very little is hidden when you live with others. It becomes easier to walk in another's shoes when they can't hide them from you. And in a month and a half we know these guys better than we know some people we've known for years. Thanks Michel and Nicole for opening your house and your lives to us. We have been blessed to know you this short time. Enjoy the West coast.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

A place in Québec

We've got a place in Québec! God has provided in a fantastic way. Praise Him!

God provided this incredible place for us in Québec

As May was winding down, we found ourselves in the midst of some serious ambiguity as to where we'd be learning French. With MAF looking as far away as France or Switzerland for a solution we are thankful that we will be staying relatively close to home until the end of the year.

Ron Burdock and North Park jumped on their first opportunity to lean their shoulder into us after we were recently commissioned by them. Ron is the guy introducing us in the video from the previous post. Through his plethora of good connections in Québec that we eventually received an email from a newly retired couple in Charlesbourg, toward the outskirts of Québec City. They have offered their house to us to use, fully furnished, for the duration of our time in Québec. They will be there for July and August but then leave for BC to learn English. We will stay on and take care of the house in their absence. We've seen a few photos of the house and it looks great, toward the end of dead end street and if Google maps is to be believed, they have a small pool in the yard. God answers prayers and then piles on extra toppings!

We are arranging French tutors for us and it looks promising that Kaitlyn will be attending a kindergarten class at a school nearby. Not sure about Lily yet.

Tuesday June 26th is our official departure date from Ontario. We'll be in touch from the road. Google tells me it will only be an 11 hour trip. We'll see...

Thursday, May 31, 2012

The Hour That Changes The World

The last post touched on our being commissioned by North Park Community Church. That Sunday evening we had a chance to share about MAF's work in Chad and our involvement in it. Periodically North Park has these missions evenings called "The Hour That Changes The World". I wanted anyone who missed Sunday night to have the chance to see and hear the presentation at your leisure.

Incase you think it might be boring, there is some fun video of flying in there, a couple of jokes and a few things you probably didn't know about Chad.

Part 1

Monday, May 28, 2012

Thank you North Park

This weekend we were honoured and blessed to be sent off so warmly by North Park Community Church, our home church in London, Ontario. This is a church that knows how to get behind a person, a couple, a family and a work in a way that encourages and empowers us to be a healthy and effective extension of the larger body. As we depart for language training and then Chad, we know we will be prayed for, cared for and simply...remembered.

We look forward to nurturing our connection with the body at North Park for we realize that we are, for many of you who remain at home, an avenue through which you can pour your blessing into the suffering and injustice in Chad. We will endeavour to keep that avenue open and uncluttered and look forward to sharing the results of your partnership.

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Bert joins Chad's fleet

This picture was taken this morning when the paint on the 182's tail letters was still tacky.
I just received this photo from Kalvin, the other pilot in N'Djamena. Pictures like this get me excited to get to Chad to start using the tools of mission aviation as we serve God's servants.

On the left is the the Cessna Caravan (TT-BER) that has been the backbone of the Chad program for the last several years. On the right is the brand new Cessna 182 Diesel with it's new Chadian registration: TT-BRT. I think Bert should do for a name.

Although it is relatively small compared to it's hangar mate (4 seats as opposed to 14), the 182's key feature is the diesel engine which burns Jet fuel rather than AvGas. AvGas has become increasingly expensive and in some places, impossible to acquire. I heard that in Congo the price for AvGas had reached $16/gallon. For us Canadians that is about $4/liter.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

The honour of partnership

Our latest newsletter is just out and this good news didn't make the press.
As of a phone call last night our target for monthly financial partnership has been reached! Our one-time amount for out going costs has almost been met as well.

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Mission Aviation sounds like a good way to smuggle drugs

I'm on my way to MAF's ground school in Idaho. This trip got off to an early start when the Checker Limo showed up for me 10 minutes before 0100 in the morning – that's 10 minutes early. Frantic carry-on packing ensued. All the important items had been checked off; change of clothes, no liquids, candy samples left for the girls who earlier had happened to catch a glimpse of the snacks I'd packed for the trip and were promised some, kisses for all three girls (and Grandma). The emptiness of London's streets at oh-dark-hundred resulted in a speedy trip to Robert Q's HQ downtown. By 0145 I was on the mini-bus, heading out of London, just a talkative driver and me in a whole Bob Q bus.

Figurative Textiles 
Fortunately Chatty McDriverson was full of fun topics;

Saturday, February 25, 2012

We're going to Chad...

That's right. We're heading to N'Djamena, Chad at the end of the year. Don't be alarmed if you don't know where that is and have to Google it. Google, Google Earth, Wikipedia and Operation World have been our goto resources over the last few weeks.

For now we'll finish support raising, Phil will do some MAF flight standardization and then we'll move to Québec City, Québec to learn French – it's the main language in Chad but definitely not the only one. After about six months of French we fly to the UK for another two week course and then straight to Chad after that. Knowing the country in which we'll be working has renewed our motivation to push through the remaining steps.

We've started a Chad page where we'll be fleshing out a profile of the country and attempting to show what our work and life will look like there. There are photos and videos of life and MAF's work in Chad.

MAF Training
I (Phil) leave today for Nampa, Idaho and MAF's back-country training grounds. I'll do one week of ground school learning MAF's detailed procedures for everything they do with an airplane. Three weeks later I'll be back, this time with family, to put all of that into practice. It's called flight standardization; it takes about 4 weeks of flying every day with an MAF instructor into some of Idaho's toughest back country terrain and airstrips. Anyone I've talked to who's been through it says it's lots of work, but it's a once-in-a-lifetime experience and it's a blast!

Learning French
We'll move into an apartment in Québec City and begin daily one-on-one lessons with a retired French teacher who has a reputation for being great with missionaries heading to French-speaking countries. She'll work with one of us in the morning and one in the afternoon to accomodate looking after Kaitlyn and Lily. Our girls will probably learn French before we do – maybe they'll help me with my homework.

Moving to Chad
We don't know a lot of the details yet so as they come in we'll do more blog posts. Check out the Chad page.

Friday, January 6, 2012

Another stone on the pile

As we've been preparing to go with MAF, even as far back as 2005 when we left for Alberta, we have experienced important events and circumstances which displayed God's hand in our lives. Most of these, if we chose to, could have been passed off as coincidence or worse, good fortune. Most of them looked, as they were approaching or occurring, like they would be generally negative episodes and things that we'd rather not go through. It is in the retelling that we've seen God's hand most clearly. And it is in the remembering of them that we can turn and face the hurdles ahead.