Big news on the flight line this week in Wamena as we’re trying to start an inspection on my plane:  2 of the cylinders have failed the compression check that will indicate the health of the engine and so after a day or so in consultation, it was decided to retire my trusty little PK-MPO and get a waiver for a ferry flight to park in Sentani.  Putting it out to pasture so to speak.  They’ll be putting it and another 206 in a container, shipping them back to Nampa and probably sell them.  They are a desirable work-horse of a plane, so I hear the market’s good for that.  Although mine (built in 1979) is possibly one of the oldest 206s in the MAF world – at 15,750 hours of operation, it’s almost 6,000 hours past the retirement point – but still in good shape.  That’s been my plane for this term so far, so after 2.5 years, I think I know it inside and out.  I’ll move to flying PK-MAR, a newer 206, but still 31 years old..unfortunately for the interior posts, this one does NOT have the extended wing length and thus I’ll be cutting back 87kg per flight for these next few months.

To put this news in perspective, we need to acknowledge that this plane has served well and long here – arriving in late 80s with about 500 hrs on it (practically NEW in airplane life times).  MAF has put 15,252 hours on it over the jungles, in and out of rough mountain strips, with unpredictable weather in order to bring the saving Message of Jesus Christ to some of the “last and the least”.  If she could talk, I think the stories would be worth hearing.  I’m thanking the Lord for safety and for the prayers and support of so many of you out there who keep these planes flying.

One happy thing that happened last week while I was in Sentani to have the plane inspected for it’s annual Certificate of Airworthiness.  Beth decided to see if Zendy (local repairman who runs an electrical repair shop) could come look at the generator and figure why it won’t produce electricity for the house.  I had gotten it back down here to the house and running well, but no output.  He found a loose wire and cleaned a few connections and VOILA! It works!  Beth and girls used it that night when PLN decided to shut our neighborhood off for a few hours!!  We feel like we’re no longer at the mercy of whatever entity decides whose turn it is to be darkened for a few hours.  When the listrik goes off, we can decide if we need to start the generator and finish whatever we were doing.  Case in point, power went off Sunday morning while Beth had bread in bread maker and a casserole in the oven, I started genset and we were able to get both finished w/o losing either.  Last night after all our guests went home, girls and Beth were mid-dishes/cleanup and suddenly we were in darkness,…started it up and they were able to finish cleanup, showers and get ready – then, when we were ready, shut genset off.  So freeing!!

And all because my wife thought to try and have Zendy come.  Bless her, I think we’ll have to add “Genset Repair” to the list of possible tasks a missionary wife may have to try to accomplish during homeschool one day…

Last week, I flew to Ipdehik (IPD) and arrived early to get in and out before the weather became an issue. Was really trying to make sure I wasn’t delayed getting to my 2nd strip which has a wind curfew not to be messed with. On the way in I had to work under an overcast to get up the valley, but it was clear below and I had every expectation that it would continue to brighten and clear the valley as I departed.
Had a reasonably quick turnaround and was headed back to Wamena w/in 20 minutes of landing. “…Off, climbing, post-takeoff checklist and working south toward the main valley…hmm, where did all those clouds come from?” The South Gap was closing and as I turned the corner into the Baliem, I could see it was a long, grey, darkening corridor which narrowed in the distance. As I watched and settled into a cautious cruise, I saw the walls narrowing quickly and made my decision. Turn around and get back on the ground in Ipdehik right now!
The strip agent and villagers in Ipdehik were surprised to see us again, so I explained we were here to wait out the weather and they understood as rain drops began to pelt us and the valley off the end of the strip started turning white and foggy. Overhead the clouds lowered and spat as we hiked up to their agent shack on the ridge. Turns out they have a little bathroom in there w/ running water and a squat-pot.
So, we sat for a little over an hour and just talked. Talked about the weather, about the schedule, about their rain capes (“ilit”? in Yali) which I thought looked like large envelopes they place over their heads. The agent told me how they pick the leaves, heat/preserve them and then fold and sew them – to fit!! What an ingenious solution to a rainy day at a cold, wet altitude!! They reminded me that the Lord probably showed them how to make them and I agreed – that led us to talking about things the Lord has taught us.
There in front of all these men, some little boys and the curious, we talked about God’s view of marriage and how a man should treat his wife like part of himself. Somehow, we got on the topic of my previous career and how I ended up in Papua flying with MAF. They all listened intently as I shared how God called me out of the Navy to come serve here in Wamena. And there, in the middle of that rainy, delayed morning, I realized this is something God wants them to hear. So, I thanked Him for the slowing me and the flight schedule down to be able to sit and talk.

Frequently, our flight schedule has us going pretty intentionally to get our flights done before the wind comes up somewhere or the weather shuts a strip/village down… but I was glad I had time for the guys in IPD that day. Thanks for praying that not only would my flying proceed safely, but that there would be time to bring the presence of Christ with me to each place I fly to. Beth would appreciate the same prayers here in the our home, the girls’ homeschool, and as she goes around Wamena.

Our family was invited to Pamek for their baptism celebrations with our new daughter-in-law, Bethany. The weather was good for the flight in and we spent a happy few hours sharing with the villagers, giving our testimonies, encouraging them and then were offered some roast pig and ubi (sweet potato) before flying home to Wamena.
It was really enjoyable to introduce them to my family – I had opened this airstrip as a single man in May 2009 (see the trek blog entry from that timeframe). They have really grown in the LORD and were celebrating some 19 baptisms and also wanted to share with me their vision and evangelical plans for the surrounding mountains.
God is good to let us be here to represent Him in this way. It was also very sweet to be able to share this day with Judah and his young wife who were honeymooning here in Wamena.

So, we’re back in Papua and assigned to Wamena and have been busy:
1. bein’ sick (3 out of 5 of us)
2. unpacking/sorting (combining my single guy stuff w/ household of Beth and girls..their stuff is nicer!)
3. stretching dormant Indonesian language muscles
4. learning again how to live in the Third World (“groceries”, preptime, cleanliness)
5. driving again on the lefthand side.. w/in INCHES of oncoming traffic!!
6. night happens promptly at 6pm, day happens promptly at 550am
7. warmup flights, airwork practice and 2 days of checkrides (for Kevin)
8. homeschool has started for Natalie and Victoria, HIS here in Wamena for Jasmine
9. cleaning all clothes, linens, furniture, kitchenwares stored for over a year in tropical climes
10.getting car running (still, not), bike tires pumped up (2 out of 5 so far), motorcycle (running)…and getting Judah and Tirzah’s tickets ordered for Christmas visit!!

So, we’re getting back in our stride. Beth’s busily making our house on the MAF base into a home and it’s gorgeous and comfortable. The link above is our houses’ lat/long on google.com/maps if you want to see where we’ve gone to. It’s nice and we’ve really enjoyed the welcome from our MAF team here in Wamena as well as the larger Wamena community (Swiss, Dani, Yali, our street food lady, Dutch friends, MAF employees, etc). Enjoying the multicultural fellowship and being blended back into God’s Grand Design to serve Wamena and Papua through our giftings. All for now, we’ll post again soon (I see I never did finish the story of Beth and I, lol)

Dear Praying Friends and Co-Laborers in His Kingdom,
We are exceptionally grateful this year for His gifts toward us this furlough. The wedding was beautiful, the honeymoon as well. We are settling in as a family here in Manheim, while eagerly looking forward to a Christmas Season full of family, fellowship and all the fun things that this holiday brings in the US. Sure, the cold weather is also part of the deal, but we’re coping with oil heating, workouts and plenty of calories as well. Here in Lancaster County, we’re surrounded by Beth’s family and plenty of fellowship as well. The girls are all busy wrapping up this semester and are all doing well in their classes and on the Honor Roll — we are praising God for the Christian schools they can attend while we’re here.
In January, Beth and I will attend the MAF candidacy class in Nampa, ID—applying now as a family at a slightly increased support level and praying to be sent back to Papua to serve. We would really appreciate your prayers as we seek His leading and provision as a family. We all just want to be used by Him. May His Peace be in your hearts and homes as you celebrate the coming of the King in the form of a child. “…a Savior has been born to you; He is Christ the King.” (Lk 2:11) Good News for all men! What a high privilege to be called His messengers and deliver this Gift.
Shalom from all of us,
Kevin and Beth
(for Victoria, Natalie, Tirzah, Judah and Jasmine, as well)

Our friendship deepened and grew into a meaningful, long-distance courtship (over the phone mostly). I would occasionally find a chance to stop in Wamena midday while out flying and she would sometimes come to the hangar and bring a lunch. We would talk and I wished I could do that more frequently. I was able to do a few of my airplane inspections in our hangar there in Wamena – that allowed me to spend a few days in a row in lovely, cool Wamena (a nice break from the hangar heat in coastal Sentani) as well as visiting Beth (she’s a fanTAStic cook and homemaker) and getting to know her girls as well. As we wondered and prayed over our future, I prayed. A LOT!! My heart wanted to find a partner to do ministry with and I have always wanted to be a husband and a father, but was not sure where she would come from after all these years – so, my decision to just keep serving in Papua as best I could.

As we discussed our futures and more importantly, asked God to direct us, we saw Him “bending” our paths toward each other. I don’t know any better way to describe it, but HE did lead each of us through our questions, doubts, fears, hopes and give us direct and specific Blessing on our relationship.

So, to cut to the chase, I asked her to marry me one night in early May 2010 just before I was to return to the US for my furlough. She said “yes” – actually, she asked “does this mean we’re engaged now?” and so, technically, I said “yes”. She extended her term another 7 weeks to finish a house she was building (another story of God’s provision) in Wamena. When she came home in late July, I had already met her parents and some siblings in Manheim, PA and we were ready to plan the next step of our lives – specifically, a wedding!