Sunday, February 27, 2011


If this picture doesn’t make sense to you (note padlock on car door), you obviously need a bit more adventure in your life ☺ If it does make sense to you, then you probably need a bit less. And that’s where I stand, though I’m not complaining. I’d rather be nowhere else in my life right now than where I am, doing what I’m doing.

But I have to tell you about my little adventure last week. We were in Nelspruit, South Africa, getting business done (check previous blog post). There’s usually nothing riveting about business-errands because they involve a lot of city driving, parking, going into buildings, asking questions, sourcing supplies (boring stuff, like water pipes and pieces of metal for construction), paying bills, driving some more, etc.

(Dwight and Ron Wayner poring over Training Centre plans last week. Hanging out with Ron and Barb added some fun to last week's business errands.)

Anyway, at one of our stops I decided to stay in the vehicle while the guys ran inside. Within about 5 minutes, I heard a thump on my car door. A guy had pulled the handle trying to open it but since it was locked, the handle just snapped back down. I glowered at him while I tried to size up what exactly was afoot. I could see his buddies in my side mirror, hovering like vultures around the back of the vehicle. I’ve been through this before so will summarize more or less how this type of thieving routine goes (this is the least violent version):

Plan A:
Guy 1- Open passenger door and grab stuff.
Guys 2, 3, etc. – Take stuff from Guy 1, and while passenger is distracted, defending her/himself, open other doors and grab whatever else there is to be grabbed.
Plan B (if door is locked):
Guy 1 – Point below vehicle to indicate something is seriously wrong.
When unsuspecting victim opens door, grab!
Guy 2, 3, etc. – Hover and wait. Otherwise, same as Plan A.

As I stared at the nearest guy, he started pointing below my vehicle. I’ve been robbed before by falling for that one and it wasn't about to happen again too easily, so I just leaned over and honked the horn to alert the whole world. At this, the little mob shrunk considerably in size. Thankfully, Dwight came out to see what the matter was and immediately moved the vehicle to a safer spot in the loading bay. The guys still lurked in the parking lot but weren’t brave enough to come close to the building. And thus ended my little adventure for the day. Phew. (Very thankful Someone was looking out for me!)

That was my most memorable moment, but there were other noteworthy moments too.

Dwight, Andy and Paul flew the Cessna to Joburg to have a peto-tube?-something-or-other checked or calibrated. To me, it was just more boring machine/pipe/metal business, so I stayed home and studied for an upcoming exam. I guess one man's boredom is another man's adventure. Good thing because it's very important that these things get done!

The trip also gave Andy a chance to fly a bit in Joburg airspace. And from a look at these photos of Dwight’s, I'm not sure it was such a boring trip after all.

Coal-powered electricity generation

Andy and Paul

(Not sure how best to label this one...)

By Thursday we were ready to head home with the Cessna.

Packing up.

The flight went well and while Dwight and Andy manned the controls, I studied some more.

We landed in Chimoio to discover that while the Cessna was on its mini-summer-holiday at Mercy Air, the grass in the surrounding area had grown to 6 feet high making it impossible to taxi through to the hangar. There was only one option: push!

Keep pushing...

I'm thinking it was pretty tough going. I don't know for sure though...I was guarding the car. (Ok, that's an excuse. I wasn't feeling well and was tired. :))

The next 2 days were a blur as we unpacked, got caught up on things at home, and I wrote my exam. Saturday came around soon enough and we welcomed some guests by "touring" some of the mission's sites.

Left to right: Rick Cogbill, Shephen and Caitlin Mbewe, Dwight, and Bob.

We welcome Rick and Bob who are here for a month to help specifically with their skills in construction and mechanics. (You can check Rick's blog by clicking here.)

There has been good progress on the Training Centre with walls going up on another wing. We now have an "L" shaped building.

And with that, I will close.

Remember to lock your doors. Unless you want a little more adventure, that is :)

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Cleared and going home.

These days it seems like we are always either just about to leave on a trip, just got back from one, or currently on one. Right now, we’re currently on one. Again.

Andy, Dwight, Joao, and me

Andy came along and shared driving duty with Dwight on this trip, and Joao came along as far as Maputo where he had to go defend his thesis to wrap up his degree and to source some school textbooks. It was pretty smooth sailing as far as trips through Mozambique go, and we were thankful for that.

There have been some fairly big changes made in Mozambique’s Civil Aviation Department in terms of aircraft operators, and they wanted to update our file and reissue permission to fly in country. This has been in the works for a few months already, which is why the mission’s Cessna 182 has been on an extended vacation at Mercy Air.

I hope it’s well rested though ‘cause things are about to change.

A 2-day trip down, 1 day to get paperwork sorted, and then it was time for the guys to fly to Maputo to pick up the official to conduct the inspection. Apparently there were quite a few pages that had quite a few boxes to tick, but it all got done and we have the green light to bring the Cessna home again.

The inspection in progress.

:) (I always imagine a plane blushing when laid open like this.)

Processing legal paperwork is never fun, but it’s all a part of what must be done. It’s rather like climbing a staircase--you do it a step at a time!

Next in relation to flying is finalizing the details for the mission’s landing strip. A tractor and back-hoe are currently on a ship somewhere on the ocean, and once it docks, we will have a few important tools to help finish the runway. A donated hangar is being loaded into another container and all going well it should be here by October and set up in November. Then there is planting grass and getting the strip covered with that, and last but not least, the final legal paperwork so the strip can become operational. So yes, there are still several steps to go. One at a time.

This week also marks a sad event for us, the passing of a dear and well-loved friend and member of our extended family who had a heart for people, and for flying as well. (Check Royden & Ruth's blog.)

Ed Lepp will be remembered by all those who knew him for his kind and gracious spirit. He overcame many difficult steps to recovery after an aircraft accident, and regained his pilot license and flew right up until this past year. Ed’s family has set up the “Ed Lepp Aviation Memorial Fund” for those who would like to honor his life in this way and help us with some of the steps we still need to take. If you are interested in participating click here, then select “The Ed Lepp Aviation Memorial” on the fund selection list. Click here to see the project that the memorial fund will be assisting.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Health and Patient Week

One of the beauties of language is that one word can have 2 or more meanings. Like, say, the word "patient". Used as a noun it means you are a patient. This often involves waiting, somewhere or other, to receive care. Used as a verb, it means you are being patient. This means that you can somehow keep your mind occupied while you waiting indefinitely.

I'd say that the people below, waiting patiently for their turn in the dentist's chair, are being both!

This week, we along with the entire local community rejoiced at the arrival of Swiss dentist, Roland, and his wife, Anna Marie. They, along with 2 other visitors, came up on a Mercy Air flight.

Fly-over and aerial view of the mission's landing strip.
(The plane did not land here since the strip isn't ready yet. Photo by Paul Middleton)

I think before they'd even had a chance to unpack their suitcases, Roland and Anna Marie got down to business.

Dental care in this community is non-existent, so imagine what a blessing it was to have this top-notch service pitch up on the doorstep! And...they had the needed material to do fillings--white fillings at that!

They brought portable equipment for doing their work, we provided a small generator (red machine in foreground below), and thus started a very busy week for them of pulling, cleaning, drilling and filling teeth!
While the dentists kept busy at the task of dental health, we introduced Rob and Dr. Roger Pacholka (In His Name Ministries) to the different mission projects.

(Left to right: Paul, Mercy Air Pilot, and first time visitors, Rob and
Roger, interacting with kids at the mission's school)

Dr. Pacholka is a medical doctor who is involved in health work in Mozambique, but he is interested in contributing even further. So part of our week was dedicated to showing him the health needs and facilities in our area. We set up a meeting with the District Director of Health in Manica to discuss plans that hold good potential, then off we went to said meeting. It's a good hour's drive one way, but it's a scenic drive, so that helps.

On the way, we passed our up-and-coming training centre. It's great to see progress!

But when we got all the way to Manica, we were informed that there had been an emergency and the director would be out for the entire day. We tentatively rescheduled a meeting for the next day.

On the way home, we decided to stop and pay the Vanduzi Hospital a visit and to meet the new director there.

He took us on a quick tour of the place.

The lab

The little house where expectant moms from remote areas
can come wait for the birth of their baby.

Inside the expectant mother's house.
(Above photos by Paul Middleton)

The next day, we went to Manica again in hopes that we could meet with the district director. Drove past the training centre, again. Still looking good!

Off we went, again, on our long but scenic drive. The guys in the back seat killed time by playing cell phone games...

We arrived in Manica to learn that the director had been delayed in a meeting. So, we had a wait on our hands. We decided to tour of the town's deserted catholic church that stands proud on top of a hill.

I love old buildings, and I had my camera along, so this seemed like a splendid idea to me.

Once we'd circled the outside, it was time to check the inside. Judging from the wall posters and bulletin boards full of simple English sentences, it seems the place is being used as a schoolroom of sorts.

"Father" Paul Middleton :D

The remains of a stained glass window.

Unique view of a beautiful part of this country.

We braved the rickety old staircase that led up to the bell tower.

Steps leading down from the church to the village.

While we were interested in the church,
neighborhood kids were interested in us.

I guess we do sort of stand out.

(Photo credit: Paul Middleton)

A visit to the above church, an hour or so in a restaurant and several cokes, coffees and sandwiches later, we were finally able to see the director. He was still in meetings but was able to excuse himself for enough time to pop out and talk with us, and we were very grateful for that. And so, our trip was a success :)

(Photo credit: Paul Middleton)

And that, my friends, pretty much wraps our health and patient focused week!

And a heartfelt thank you from all the patients who are now pain and cavity free :)

Sunday, February 06, 2011

Ready? Set?

“Say Che-e-e-e-e-ese”

Ok, ham it up just a bit too if need be, especially if you just sat through an AGM (annual general meeting) that lasted several hours!

But that wasn't the only "ready, set...che-e-ese" time this week. This next photo doesn't begin to do justice to everyone's work in preparing their respective department's reports and budgets for the AGM. But this is the culmination of those efforts as Joao, Dwight and I put the reports into binders.

One of the great things about annual reports and a budget is that it very neatly lays out on a page where we were a year ago, where we are now, and where we want to be a year from now.

I love a good report. Especially looking back and seeing what was done, because that's what helps us get set for the next step(s) that lay ahead.

In other news, orphan kids are still busy getting ready for the new school year. One of the joys of going back to school is getting brand spanking new backpacks and school supplies.

“Che-e-e-e-e-se everyone!”


Tito, the little one, smiling big as always!

Ah, caught someone else hamming it up, I see. Love it :)

I had to make a trip to the school and one of the health posts last week. On my way there, I came across a tree that had fallen straight across the road. I stopped and got out so I could calculate my chances of squeezing past, beneath it. I decided to take a photo and for the sake of perspective, put my first aid kit on the branch. No hamming it up in this photo.

A bit further down the road, I came across the new bridge (photo as promised last week)

That was built to replace this one...oops.

Thankfully, I made it safe and sound to my destination with the health class supplies and medicine kit. I also checked on progress at the health post. Here, Gabriel and Marco are hard at work hanging doors. Too busy to ham it up, I guess :)

And I'll end this post with someone else who was also too busy to ham it up. Too busy eating pages of reports anywhere he could find them, that is!

I guess he loves a good report too.