Nearly twelve years ago when I embarked on my dream of becoming a missionary pilot, it never occurred to me that someday the Lord might lead me to fly an aircraft on and off of the water. In my humble (but narrow minded) opinion, water-based airplanes were plum dangerous and I had zero interest whatsoever of ever piloting a sea plane.
Well... As they always say, "Never say never..."
A year ago, my family and I were privileged to participate on a unique medical missionary outreach up the Berbice River.
It was a mission trip involving about 20 medical students and a sponsor from Southern Adventist University. Originally the team from Southern University was supposed to have an advanced practice faculty member come along to supervise the med students, but at the last minute this individual backed, leaving everyone in a lurch. That's when the team asked my wife Joy (who is a Nurse Practitioner) if she would be willing to step into this role.
I was enthusiastic about this trip from the start. It was a beautiful opportunity for Joy to get out of the house and also acquire some practice hours to maintain her NP license. On the flip side I would get more time with our two girls and could try my hand at home school.
But admittedly there was one nagging concern in the back of my mind. "What if something bad should happen?"
The closest airstrip to our school in Kimbia Village (where we were going to use as a base of operations), was over 30 minutes by speedboat.
This may not seem too far, but let me just say that a life threatening emergency can pop up at any time, and if the missionary pilot can't get to his plane right away, it could be very serious.
But in the end, we decided that the benefits outweighed the drawbacks, so with a prayer on our heart, we took the plunge. We loaded up our missionary airplane with all our family stuff, and flew directly to Dubulay Ranch (the closest airstrip). I parked the plane at the airstrip, and together we rode in a speedboat to our school in Kimbia.
The trip turned out to be a tremendous success, and in the end, the team decided to divide into two separate groups so as to reach even more villages during the two short weeks they were there. On one particular day Joy saw approximately 36 patients within 7 hours.
But during these short weeks, we encountered no less than four emergency situations requiring the use of the airplane.
In one particularly critical situation, a mother brought her sick baby to the clinic to get checked out. Right away, Joy realized that this baby needed to get to be medevac-ed to hospital immediately.
Usually that's when I step forward and offer the use of the airplane, but for once I could do very little to assist. My wife, the health worker, and the mother went through a long, torturesome decision-making process to decide what to do. Without the immediate use of the airplane, the only alternative was to charter a speedboat to take the patient down river to the nearest hospital in New Amsterdam. For most of these river-folk, a private speedboat charter (costing about $200 USD) is an exorbitant price, and most can't afford it.
So in the end this mother (and each of the other critical patients) decided not to go, simply because they couldn't afford the cost of the boat.
This really bothered me.
In between study sessions with my daughter Jenna, I would wander down to our school's dock on the Berbice River and stare up and down the river trying to come up with a good solution. It was then that I determined that we simply must get an amphibious aircraft to meet the medical needs of Guyana's river communities. We could also use the same airplane to supply and support our two river based schools in Kimbia and Siparuta as well.
The more I thought about getting an amphibious airplane, the more excited I became. The river wasn't the problem any more. The river was the solution! It was definitely an "Aha!!" moment - a divine epiphany. I was certain that the Lord was speaking to my heart and calling me to move forward in this. So this last year I began praying earnestly that God would perform a miracle, and provide us an amphib so that we could launch a new phase of our ministry.
Well... A whole year has passed and we saw very little movement in this direction. This seemed very strange to me. I was certain that God had spoken to my heart, and that he was leading us forward. If God was leading us in this direction, why was He so silent?
As I was mulling this over in my mind a few months back, it dawned on me that I hadn't been acting in faith. I was wanting God to miraculously open the way before me (like the parting of the Red Sea), and God was wanting me to put my foot in the waters first, and then he would open up a way (like the parting of the Jordan). Why would God give me a plane that I couldn't even fly? He was waiting for me to make the first move, and only when I had done everything I could, would he do His part.
So I determined then and there that I would move into the unknown, and get off the fence. I would get my sea plane rating.
So... Two weeks ago today I flew from Portland Oregon, over to Orlando Florida and drove a rental car over to Winter Haven to do my Airplane Single Engine Sea Plane Rating. The course lasted two and a half days and I have to admit, it was one of the most fun things I've ever done in aviation!
The airplane that I flew in was a little yellow Piper J3 Cub on Aqua 1500 Floats.
Since Florida is filled with lots of small lakes, we could just pop around from lake to lake as we did our training.
The training was very thorough and my instructor Eric excellent and very patient. Just about the time I was getting the hang of the whole thing, I took my check ride and then I was done! It all happened so quickly.
So where does that leave us now?
In all truth, I've only put one foot in the water. Now the Lord is quietly telling me that it's time to put the other foot in and move forward to seek for the right airplane for our project.
In the next couple days I'll be praying up a storm and searching high and low for the right airplane. Thank you for joining us in this prayer effort.
Our ideas are altogether too narrow. God calls for continual advancement in the work of diffusing light. We must study improved ways and means of reaching the people. We need to hear with ears of faith the mighty Captain of the Lord's host saying, "Go forward." We must act, and God will not fail us. He will do His part when we in faith do ours. Christian Service pg. 110