Several years ago I was doing a preflight when I noticed to my dismay that some wasps were hovering about the tail of my aircraft. This went on for a couple weeks, making my preflights more than a little interesting. But eventually they flew off in search of "greener pastures", and I quickly dismissed it from my mind. Not long ago when I removed the rudder fairing this is what I saw! I can only imagine what would happen in flight when they tried to exit the tail at 115 knots. No wonder they moved on!!!
A Change of Heart
The heart of an airplane is the engine… This is what carries you over 150 foot tall jungle trees, and returns us to Georgetown in time for supper. In these pictures we're removing the old engine and putting on the new one. It's amazing how much work goes into replacing an aircraft engine. It took us nearly three weeks to get the old engine safely removed, and the new one hooked back up. In Ezekiel 36:26, God has promised to remove the old heart from us and install a new one. Fortunately for us, the new heart doesn't cost $26,200 and require three weeks of work!
The irony in mission aviation is that "down time", is rarely "down time". Many times when the airplane isn't flying, these end up being some of our busiest times. As we've been waiting for the engine to come, and for it to clear customs, we've been steadily working the airplane to repair the "squawks". We've also been fortunate to have friendly help from time to time. In the hanger next to where we work, there is a maintenance training school, and frequently their students come over and hang out with us. While Todd Anderson is performing the critical maintenance work, these students are helping in other ways. In the picture below we're reinstalling the wing flaps after they were freshly repainted. I'm discussing the best way for them to get their fingers into the tight spaces, in between the flaps, in order to reconnect the bolts.
Bicycling to Bible Studies
Praise God, our branch sabbath school outreach is growing! We have about 10 active bible studies that we're involved with, and already two persons have been baptized and are actively participating in church. This last Sunday the weather was fantastic, so Derek Lindie and I rode on bicycles to two bible studies in the poor neighbourhood of Sophia. God is opening many doors of opportunity (almost too many!). At every location we find scores of people interested in studying the bible, but ironically we're having more difficulty finding church members willing to go out and give the bible studies. Please pray for our little evangelistic group that we would continue to move forward in faith, and that God would send out more workers into His harvest.
Prayer & Praise
PRAISE: The airplane engine and engine mount are on the airplane!
REQUEST: Please pray as we begin the break-in process on the new engine. This is one of the most critical phases of an engine's life, and we ask that you would pray for a special hedge of protection about us as we fire up this new engine.
Never a Dull Moment in the Ash Family!
When the President Calls
Everyone knows that it's not "what you know", but "who you know" that makes the real difference.
For over a year now, we've been faced with an ominous challenge: Come up with $26,000 for a newly overhauled Continental O470-L32B airplane engine.
The engine in our missionary Cessna 182 had been showing signs of age. It was nearly 23 years since it was factory overhauled. Although the FAA doesn't regulate when private aircraft owners are to replace their engines, this is about twice the age typically recommended. On the other side of the coin, we've also been flying the airplane heavily since it's arrival in Guyana, and it's also gone over the allotted hours recommended by the manufacturer. Up until our last flight, the engine was still producing excellent power, but little signs were beginning to show, and we realized that for safety sake, we needed to pull the plug.
The Lord answered many prayers, and through a partial donation, and a partial loan, we were able to order a new, factory-overhauled engine and have it shipped directly to Georgetown.
It was then that we faced our biggest challenge. How do we import an airplane engine into Guyana without paying a huge amount of importation taxes? Big dollar items like this would most certainly incur a 5% -10% duty fee, and a whopping 16% Value Added Tax. Put together the taxes alone would be close to $6000 U.S. Dollars!
I had anticipated this, and my original plan was to request one of the government ministries to request a tax waiver in our behalf. But the first government ministry that I approached didn't respond to my letters and phone calls, so I contacted another ministry, and started a letter writing campaign. I also took a trip down to the Guyana Revenue Authority (GRA) to get some more answers. After explaining my dilemma, the employees eventually directed me to the top floor, to the office of Mr. Low, who was one of the senior managers. Mr. Low listened carefully to my story, but very nicely explained that the only tax that could be waived was the 5% duty. The VAT was required by the Guyana constitution, and there was no way around it.
I had heard through the grapevine that the president's office intervenes in certain cases that they consider worthy. So I began praying in earnest, and requesting everyone that I knew who was influential to call and writing letters of petition to the presidential secretariat. I never saw the correspondence, but the result was swift and breathtaking.
Almost exactly a week later I was driving in Georgetown when my cell phone rang. I dug around in my pocket and finally fished it out on the last ring. I noticed that it was a "blocked" number, which didn't strike me as strange, because our flight base has a blocked phone number.
The gentleman on the other end of the phone said, "Is this James Ash, the pilot with the 'Seven-days church?'"
"Uh… Yes, this is James"
"This is President Donald Ramotar, and I have received your request, and have approved it. I just got off the phone with Mr. Sattaur the commissioner at the GRA, and if you call him right now, he'll help you to get through…" "Thank you!!! Thank you so much!!"
I hung up the phone the phone in utter shock. I remember thinking, "Am I dreaming, or did the president of Guyana just call me on the phone?!" A few seconds later when the full impact hit home, I clenched my fist in victory and fairly shouted out "YESSSS!!!" Two weeks later I had the privilege of driving to Timehri International Airport with all my paperwork in hand, to get the engine released from customs. At this very moment the new engine is installed on the airplane, and Todd Anderson (one of our GAMAS mechanics), and I are working feverishly to finish up the annual inspection so we can get back in the air to continue this life saving work.
This experience was humbling for me, because it showed me how utterly helpless I was to solve this problem. The Lord also gently reminded me that it's not "what we know", but "who we know" (Jesus) that will ultimately save us in His eternal kingdom.
If you would like to help the missionary work go forward, you can send a tax deductible donation to: Gospel Ministry International, PO Box 506, Collegedale Tennessee 37315. Kindly write on a separate note that it is for Guyana Aviation Evangelism project (GAVE)