Thursday, December 18, 2014

The Christmas Dress

Since being back in the United States on maternity leave, Kevin and I decided that we needed to put our little girl in a preschool program our church does on Tuesdays and Thursdays. We placed her after Thanksgiving and she loves it! Her vocabulary has shot through the roof, her confidence has increased, and her ability to play with other children has bloomed! But today was the last day of classes before Christmas break. As sad as this moment was for us knowing our little girl might not be able to experience such a wonderful program again, there was a bright side. The teachers put together a musical performance with each of the age groups (2, 3, & 4).

Once I found out that sweet pea would be doing a Christmas music program, I wanted her to have a dress. Not just any dress, but a Christmas dress. I decided to hit Facebook and ask anyone if they had one they could donate for the cause. I received three immediate responses! One dress I was able to pick up two days later. That dress was super cute, but a little too long. Luckily, it will fit her next year in Africa without being too hot. The second dress is super dressy so I was worried about her ruining it at lunch before the program. So it is the third dress I wanted to talk about.

There is a ministry partner family of ours that we have befriended who lives in another city. They are a wonderful couple and when I got a response from them, I was expecting a silly joke (the usual). :-) Instead, I was blessed with the news that a dress for our little girl was in the mail and on its way. When the dress arrived, I was floored at how cute it was and there was a note attached telling me of its story. The family had ordered a dress online but had received the wrong size (2T, girlie's size) by mistake. When they contacted the company to see about getting it returned and a replacement sent, they were told to keep the incorrectly sized dress and use it to bless someone. And not too much longer, they saw on Facebook that I wanted a dress, size 2T. This wonderful family knew it was meant to be for us and blessed us with this dress and we are grateful! Thank you so much Leta and Ron Holland for your blessing this Christmas.

Without further ado...sweet the Christmas dress...

P.S. For those of you curious and want to see girlie in action, here is a link to the video of the program. The program starts around 9:39 with the 2 year old's singing 3 songs. The video continues with the other classes as well and they are all adorable. The school and teachers did an excellent job!!!

Saturday, December 13, 2014

PC-12 Dedication

Three months ago, the DRC-West base received a much awaited donation - a new (to us) airplane! A generous person donated the monies to purchase and refurbish this needed plane.

Source: Jocelyn Frey

The Pilatus PC-12 is an incredibly well-designed airplane manufactured in Switzerland. It is pressurized and fast. It is capable of flying at nearly 30,000 feet and roughly 300 miles per hour. It can also carry more than 2,000 pounds of cargo or 10 passengers.

The DRC is over 905,000 sq. miles
(the same size as the U.S.A. east of the Mississippi River) 

These statistics are nice, but what it really means is more opportunity and capability to advance the Church in Congo. Having an airplane that can hold such a large amount of people and/or supplies is very important, especially when travelling long distances with medical supplies. Before, if someone wanted to take our largest aircraft - the Caravan -  across the country, it would take 8 hours each way, meaning a multiple day trip to go over and back. Now with the Pilatus, we can do it in less than half the time, 4 hours each way!

So, welcome to the newest aircraft in our fleet. It has already proven very useful during the Ebola outbreak. We praise God for this awesome tool and look forward to seeing the adventures we are able to take it on!

Thursday, December 4, 2014

It's a Boy!!!

Source: Kristi Webb Photography
On November 11th, 2014, at 6:10 PM, Kevin and I welcomed into the world a healthy baby boy. Baby Solomon weighed in at a whopping 10 lbs 9 oz and was 22 1/4" long! We feel very blessed to now be a family of four. 

From the first meeting, Sister has adored having a baby in the house. She loves to help change his diaper, she likes to hug and kiss him, she always asks to hold him, she likes to "pet" him, she even sticks her finger in his mouth when he cries to pacify him. For a 2.5 year old, she is such a big help, even if she has yet to realize how delicate most tasks are. 
Source: Kristi Webb Photography
Presently, we are still in Tennessee. As soon as baby boy's birth certificate, passport, and VISA come through, we will head back as a family to the Congo. This is looking like it will be right after Christmas. We are definitely eager to get back to our team. 

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Baby Watch 2014

The other day, Kevin and I had our first OB visit together in the states. The news was good. The baby is officially to term (based on best guesses), and the baby's weight is a healthy one safe for delivery. At this point, we are waiting on nature to take its course and for labor to start. I have already started some minor cramping and irregular contractions, so my body is preparing for its job. We are all very excited to meet the newest Spann to join our family but we want to wait for baby to finish cooking.

In the meantime, we have been quite busy with regular doctor's visits (optometrist, dentist, well visits, etc.), shopping for baby supplies, and spending time with family. Sister-to-be on the other hand has been quite the busy girl herself. She has been to parks, the petting zoo, riding on horses, visiting grandparents, eating lots of different foods, and just being a kid who enjoys all sorts of things!

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Cultural Readjustments

Sweet pea and I have been in the United States for almost a month now, and Kevin has been back almost a week. We have been asked a lot, “what’s it like to be back?” So I thought I would have some fun and share with you some of things that we have noticed are different from Kinshasa and what “struggles” we see in our day to day life.
  1. Knees. For the past year, Kevin and I followed the clothing etiquette for the Congolese. This entails pants for men and long dresses or wraps for women. Once I arrived in Tennessee in 70° temperatures, what do I see? Shorts! I can’t tell you how awkward I felt in the beginning seeing more knees than I would on a beach! Men, women, and children alike all dressing in cool and comfortable clothing to beat the heat. Occasionally, you will see a Congolese “hipster” wearing American styles and you can see a glimpse of a knee, but you definitely don’t stare because you feel uncomfortable for them. I could not believe how long it has taken me to get used to seeing so many knees again.
  2. Sizes (stores, people, portions, etc.). I have heard an expression before saying something like “everything is bigger in Texas.” Well for me, everything is bigger in the United States. Your Walgreens is bigger than my grocery store. Let’s just say that first shopping trip was quite overwhelming.  The average height of a person is much taller here too. Whereas I was taller than most Congolese people, I am now much shorter than every person I come across. Food is much bigger too. I saw a roasted chicken twice the size of what we have, bananas are huge, and so were the boxes of crackers. When I go grocery shopping in Africa, I end up with 4-5 zucchinis because they are so small. When I recently went to the store here and ended up with 1 and it was plenty.
  3. Personal space. Americans love their space. If you walk into a waiting room and see someone sitting in a chair, you will go to the opposite side of the room or will sit quietly a few seats away. Not so in Africa. If you sit down in a waiting room and you are alone in the room, expect the next person who walks in to sit down next to you. Africans are quite social and do not know what “personal space” is about. This is obviously a Western concept. So what did I do when I got here? I sat down next to someone in the spacious waiting room at the doctor’s office. Let’s just say you would have thought I had announced I was sharing head lice. Oops.
  4. Grass. You can see grass in Congo in many places, but we live in the city where people try to maintain the amount of grass to a minimum. Grass is breeding grounds for many parasites like the black fly, mosquitoes, and mango flies. On top of that, the only way to clip your grass is with a long scythe like knife. So our grass is not very long and you can definitely see dirt. And its very coarse. Baby girl’s first experience with grass here was quite humorous. She stepped on it very cautiously, then she sat down, and then she rolled, like a puppy! She began picking it and examining it like it was the most amazing diamond. It made me really appreciate being able to walk barefoot outside again.
  5. Availability of food and other products. While shopping in Africa you occasionally come across a “great deal.” No, I don’t mean a BOGO sale or coupons, but finding a unique product. When you shop and you see something out of the ordinary (Dr. Pepper, cheese other than Goma, a box of cereal for less than $10), you buy it. Even if you don’t need it, you buy it and you buy all of it! You never know when you will see this item in the store again. Fast forward to my first trip to Kroger’s here and I was filling my buggy with items left and right before I stopped to realize that those “amazing items” I was looking at would be there the next time I went shopping. Awkward!
  6. Driving. What can I say about polar opposites? In Africa, there are no speed limits, but realistically, when dealing with pot holes, craters, water pits, pedestrians, and peddlers, your car never reaches 25 mph. Here, the roads are smooth, paved, and there are crosswalks, so speed limits are handy, even if I still feel like I am having a panic attack each time I hit the interstate!  When driving in Kinshasa I am on the edge of my seat, preparing myself for the next obstacle that could come, almost like a video game (think Frogger meets Mario Cart meets Off Road). Here, I can sit back, turn on the radio, and just cruise.
  7. Water. What a beautiful thing clear, filtered water from the faucet is, but I still feel peculiar every time I rinse my toothbrush off using non-bottled water or use a water fountain. I think sweet pea’s reaction is the best example. The first morning here, she brought me her cup and looks at the counter in the kitchen while asking for water. She was looking for our Berkey filter. I took her cup and filled it with water from the faucet and handed it to her. Her eyes immediately lit up and she squeals “WATER!” She was so amazed that water could come from the sink. Oops. I forgot she wasn’t supposed to see that water from the sink could be potable because it will make things harder when returning.
  8. Language. This one is obvious but I am still struggling with not replying in French when someone speaks to me. Sometimes I even hesitate when someone talks to me trying to translate in my head.
  9. Colors. Oh you boring Americans with your bland clothing. You sport blacks, greys, browns, neutrals, and solids…BORING! I miss all the bring colors in African. The brighter the better, the more colorful the more tasteful, the more outlandish the pattern the more in style you become.
  10. Carpet/spotless floors. Living in an environment with lots of dirt means you always have dirty feet and dirty floors. You can sweep and mop your floor and still have dirt stains on the bottom of your feet when you walk on the “clean” floors. When visiting friends here, I have an uncontrollable urge to take the shoes off my, even after I am told it is okay to keep them on. Sorry friends, but I am going to enjoy your nice carpet with my bare feet!

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Have You Heard?

Don’t let the name fool you, this is a blog post filled with updates and travel plans!

Medical care is possible here up to a certain point.  Some basic emergencies can be handled, there are many volunteer and missionary doctors who are quite capable of providing advice, and the hospitals here in Kinshasa have back-up generators! While all of this is great, there are some exceptions and certain situations that are not preferable when it comes to medical care here. Birthing is one of those exceptions.

MAF has a list of things a medical facility must be able to provide in order for it to be considered safe for a mother to give birth. I really appreciate the detail in this list and the time MAF took to realize what is important for a mother’s (and soon-to-be baby’s) health! Unfortunately, the local hospitals here do not meet the standards for giving birth. Our next option for giving birth would be to travel to a closer country with more modern care (South Africa, Kenya, etc.). But with the prior problems I experienced in my previous pregnancy (tachycardia and gestational diabetes), we felt it would be best to give birth with doctors who are already familiar with my situation. After discussing our concerns with MAF, they agreed it would be better to give birth in the US where the medical care would not be a concern.

All that information shared was to lead you up to the news that sister-to-be and I will be departing from Kinshasa on September 22nd for East Tennessee. The week I am traveling is the doctor’s closest guess to my 34th week of pregnancy (plus or minus two weeks). Kevin will remain in Kinshasa until my 38th week and then will travel the great big ocean alone to be with us. We will give birth in TN and will remain until the baby receives his/her passport and VISA before embarking across the ocean to return home to Kinshasa.

While Kevin and I will try to make plans to visit as many of you as possible (our friends, family, ministry partners, etc.), we would like everyone to be understanding when it comes to our time constraints, our active toddler, and her soon-to-be sibling. I personally will be in East Tennessee staying with Kevin’s parents until giving birth. Afterwards, with Kevin’s assistance, we hope to travel to West Tennessee to visit family and friends and possibly visit some relatives in North Carolina. In the meantime, little girl and I are open to play dates, park visits, and tea time! We are looking forward to seeing everyone and talking about our time in Africa.

Monday, August 18, 2014


"And now, dear brothers and sisters, one final thing. Fix your thoughts on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise." Phillipians 4:8 (NLT)
In our culture, customer service is a big deal. But for those in customer service jobs, sometimes it seems you can have a perfect record and have that reputation broken by one complaint. One customer who was not happy goes on your permanent record and you job goes into jeopardy. Soon, every performance review goes back to this one mistake, even if it was years ago. When applying for another job, your one mistake can be mentioned and shared.

I often hear of so many businesses being discredited after one mistake. After 3 years of service, your cable bill was too high this month, you complain to your friends and now everyone knows. You didn't like your hair cut from your normal hair dresser and now you are in the process of getting her fired because she wouldn't give you a refund. Believe me when I say the negative always trumps the positive when it comes to customer service.

In a country with so many issues (poverty, disease, corruption etc.), it is very easy to look in and see all the bad. But if we only focused on the bad things as Christians, we would spend all our time talking about when Jesus lost his temper in the temple or how this person did this sin and this person is sinning right now. If I sat here, in Congo, and focused on only the bad, I would easily burnout. I could become depressed about the man with a permanent limp from polio, the children forced to beg on the street because their parents can’t feed them, or the way the “roulage” hassle me for money because they didn't get paid this month.

No. I can’t and I won’t. We recently had a meeting for our entire program to discuss our ministry plan; in other words, why we are here and what are we trying to accomplish. The word of the day was “glimmer.” We are not medical missionaries and cannot heal the broken man, but we fly in medical missionaries. We are not nutritionists who teach parents how to correctly feed their family with their meager income, but we fly in nutritionists. We don’t go around handing out money to every poor person we see because that often exacerbates the problem, but we share the gospel to feed their hearts. Even though we accomplish these deeds, we don’t always see the rewards or the benefits that occur. But occasionally, God will give us a glimmer of hope. We will meet a person who benefited from one of the medical missionaries and is alive today to share their story. We will visit a small village and see the children with full bellies. We will meet someone of authority who is attending church and is eager to learn about God and how to change the hearts of his coworkers. Much like a match struck in a dark room, God’s light will always shine through the darkness.

Will I chose today to look at the light and be content or will I chose to focus on what little I can see in the dark and be unhappy?

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Vanga Vision Trip

Since I am not a pilot, I don't get to see all the neat things Kevin does. But MAF understands this and wants very much for the spouses to see the places their spouses fly into all the time. This is why they recommend a once a year "vision trip" so we can see MAF's vision for our home country for ourselves.

We chose to go to an old MAF base in Vanga, which is a little village of about 2,000 people. The slow pace of life was what I needed to see and felt at home. We visited the Vanga hospital, went down to the river, and made lots of new friends. I will do a blog post on the hospital another time, but for now, I wanted to show you some of my favorite trip photos.

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Instant Gratification

Right before Kevin left for the United States, I began reading a Christian fiction book set in the late 19th century. A lot of the plot was centered on communication, by letters. It would talk about the long letters written by the characters and then waiting on pins and needles for the reply which would come weeks later.

As Kevin was boarding his flight Friday evening, I sent him a tender note using my phone, to wish him well. I was sitting in bed and then rolled over (that takes some doing being pregnant and all) and I dropped the phone off of the side of the bed. This minor 24” drop should be nothing to an iPhone in a shockproof case, but that proved to not be the case. My screen went out. My heart sank as I heard the little ding of reply from my hubby. I panicked! I went to the computer and searched ways to repair the phone to no avail. I looked for ways to retrieve my messages online, but it was no use.
Waiting two whole days for a reply from Kevin felt like an eternity to me! I am so used to instant everything, instant responses, instant information, instant messages! What can I say - my culture has trained me to live a life of “ease.” In America, if I don’t want to cook, I just pull in a drive-thru.  If I am feeling ill and don’t feel like making an appointment with my regular doctor, I can go to a pharmacy that now offers walk-in options with a physician’s assistant. If I am bored and don’t want to drive to a Redbox machine to rent a movie, I can hit the internet. The world around me is adapting to speed and I have yet to adjust my mind around half the options now offered!

This "blessing in disguise" moment has made me realize that I sometimes apply my need for speed to my prayers with God. How often have we prostrated ourselves humbly for a prayer request with an internal expectation of instant gratification? How often do we find ourselves disappointed with God’s timing? Sure we know to trust in His timing since the Bible is filled with verses about it, but honestly, deep down our culture is telling us we shouldn't have to wait. We are becoming disenchanted with our lack of patience and God gave me a recent reminder to step back and trust His timing!

Has God given you any recent reminders to trust His timing?

Monday, June 23, 2014

Guest Blog by Papa Spann

In a little under a month from now, Kevin's parents (Mimi and Papa Spann) will be making the long trek to Africa to visit us! We are so excited to have them come to our "neck of the woods" and experience what life is like for us in Africa. That being said, wouldn't it be nice to hear an "outsider's" perspective on their first time visiting another continent/culture/third world country? So we asked the parents to write a few posts about their thoughts, their experiences, and overall opinions on stepping outside of their comfort zone. 

Here is the first in our guest blog series...

“I’m just fine right here Mrs. Flood”
The above quote was made by Kevin when his kindergarten teacher was moving all of his classmates to different tables.  Kevin was comfortable where he was and wasn't interested in change.  Since you are reading this on Kevin and Tasha’s blog you probably have a sense for how much change has occurred in their lives in the past five years or so.  Apparently he has learned to at least adapt to change.
In about a month, Debby and I will be getting on a plane to visit Kevin, Tasha, and our granddaughter.  We already know about many of the differences between our lives here and what life is like in Kinshasa.  Unpredictable electrical power (ours was just off for 2 days), water that must be purified before drinking, and the constant crush of life in a different culture are all things we are aware of and are somewhat prepared for.  But, it’s not the change in the daily routine that concerns me.  Up to this point in my life the realities and  struggles of people living in third world countries have come from news clips on TV that  get quickly pushed out of my mind at the end of the six o’clock news.  How will I react to what I am about to encounter?  I have never seen the level of need that exists there.  How will my heart react to what my eyes see?  Could it be that my heart is saying, “I’m just fine right here....God”?

Saturday, June 7, 2014

An African Parasite

So I (Tasha) caught a parasite in Africa. The doctor said symptoms typically last 9 months and then sporadically takes care of itself! The doctor said I might actually even come to enjoy having a parasite...we will see...

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

A Memorable Flight

Sorry for the long delay in posting - there has been quite a lot going on and not much time to write about it. We just got back from a much needed vacation less than a week ago and I have already flown over 10 hours.

Many of my flights are memorable, but the one I took yesterday was even more special. I received my first field PFR (proficiency flight review) since arriving here. We take pride in our safety and professionalism, so every 6 months an instructor pilot joins us to watch us during an operational flight. Once our passengers deplane, we go and do some maneuvers (or manoeuvers, depending on what continent you are in) and simulated emergencies. Here is what my flight path was during some of that review.

It was fun getting to wring the airplane out but that wasn't the best part. About 5 months ago one of our pilots was flying near Kikongo, in the Bandudu province of DRC, and received a call for an emergency medical evacuation. The call came from a missionary at the pastoral training school who had a staff member complaining of a bad headache that had lasted for a week, then became less and less responsive and the local doctors didn't have the equipment needed to help him.

Our pilot was able to pick him up and fly them back to Kinshasa where there are better facilities available. We hadn't heard any follow-up from them until last week when they booked their flight to go back home. The morning of the flight came and as I was preparing the airplane ,I had a short opportunity to talk with my passenger and his wife before we took off. But upon landing, I quickly realized how special this man was to the people of Kikongo. As I taxied up to the parking area, even with the engine running (keep in mind it's an un-muffled turbo-diesel engine, spinning a large propeller... PLUS wearing our helmet with noise cancelling headphones...), I could still hear people singing, beating drums and chanting. 

There is a very eerie death wail that people do here when they mourn the loss of a family member or friend. It is quite loud, and the word "sorrowful" just doesn't do it justice. I have heard that quite a lot with the flights we do taking the deceased and their family members interior. 

But this was the first time I had heard the rejoicing wail. It was beautiful! There were a few men that held back the crowd until I could stop the engine. As soon as I shut down the villagers surrounded the airplane, still wailing, jumping, singing, and playing the drums - nearly yanking the husband and his wife from the airplane and engulfing them. As I unloaded the cargo and prepared for the next leg, the group continued to celebrate. Finally, the man said a few words and someone prayed, and the singing started again as they walked off to the school where the ministers-in-training were taking their end-of-year tests. If a group of 100 can make that kind of sound, I can't wait to hear what a multitude of angels sound like when we join our Lord!


Thursday, April 24, 2014

What Does Tasha Do All Day?...Part 2

In my last post, I had mentioned that I wrote a letter to one of our churches who had asked I speak a little about my personal call to ministry here in Africa. There was such a positive outpouring from what I wrote that I felt it was something that was meant to be shared with everyone. The first part of the letter talked a little about my personal call to ministry and where is stands right now. In the second part of the letter (found below), I wrote down what my day to day life literally looks like. Please feel free to ask questions!
I wake up with baby girl and nurse her. After nursing, I make breakfast. How long this takes depends on if there is any electricity or not. If there is no electricity, I will use the propane stove. Breakfast is usually eggs (from our chickens, or local, or a mix), fresh fruit, and sometimes local bread. If there is no electricity and it is a very hot morning, we will do yogurt and fruit (otherwise, it will spoil).
After breakfast, we must clear the table and wipe the floor down or ants will fill the floor very quickly. All dishes to the sink. Then, baby girl and I will try to do playtime.
If there is electricity, I will sneak out to start washing laundry (which takes about 3 hours to wash), or hang laundry (indoor to keep flies away), or filter water so that we have fresh water available and ready in bottles (which takes a while).
If there is no electricity and it is not too muggy outside (too many mosquitos), sweet pea and I will go outside to walk around the yard. We also feed and water the rabbits and gather eggs (if the guinea fowl is not sitting on them).
Lunch time comes during the hottest part of the day, so lunch becomes less desirable to make in the heat, but I manage. Especially if I have to cook it on a hot propane eye! After lunch is naptime. I make Adah wash her hands and feet and then I will nurse her to sleep. If there is no electricity, this becomes a difficult chore, holding and rocking a sweaty baby. During sweet pea’s naptime, I will try to do some Bible time before napping myself.
After baby girl gets up, we do more chores – sometimes stuffing the cloth diapers, sometimes ironing (things get pretty rough when they are dried indoors), sometimes bleaching and rinsing off fruits and vegetables, sometimes washing and bleaching dishes, sometimes folding laundry, and sometimes prepping our dinner. All of this depends on if there is electricity or not (or water). On the days with no electricity, I get a break from work, but not from the heat.  Some days, baby girl and I just sit in the dark bedroom with a small fan watching Sesame Street trying to stay cooled off.  If there has been no electricity all day, we have to run the generator to keep the refrigerator cool, and we might get to turn on one AC unit!!!
Usually right before daddy gets home, it will be beginning to cool down and we will go walking up and down the street, greeting people. But we always dress up in our skirts because you always go out in your best dressed.
Once daddy is home we talk and play for a while before starting supper. After dinner, we make sure to clean up the floor or roaches will eat the leftovers in the middle of the night. Then we will either have a bath or a thorough hand and feet washing. After we brush our teeth, we do book time, then prayer time, and then nursing (which is pretty miserable with a hot sweat baby and no electricity).
At the end of some days, not much is accomplished, but things take twice as long to do here. Like if I want to boil chicken, I have to use filtered water, which requires filtering, which requires electricity to take from a working faucet. If I want to eat the apple that was just dropped off by the vegetable lady; I have to let it soak in bleach water for 20 minutes. Then I have to scrub them. Then I have to rinse them in filtered water and thoroughly dry them.  Not a quick process.  If I run  low on laundry, it takes at least 3 hours to wash in the European machines (which are half the size of American ones), and then wait for a day for them to dry (inside or flies will lay eggs on them).

So, welcome to Africa! ;-) 

Thursday, April 17, 2014

What Does Tasha Do All Day?...Part 1

I had recently been asked to share a little of what I do everyday. So, I wrote a letter to one of our churches talking about my personal call to ministry in Africa (part 1) and my daily life/chores (part 2). There was such a positive outpouring from what I wrote that I felt that it was something that was meant to be shared with everyone. Below you will find the first part of my letter concerning my ministry in Africa. I will later share with you what I do on a daily basis. Please feel free to comment!
A Summary on the Ministry of Motherhood in the Mission Field of Africa

Before coming to Africa, I had such grand ideas of what sorts of missions I would be involved in. Mission Aviation Fellowship is very open in the different types of ministries the spouses can join. I thought of teaching women to become self-sufficient so that they could take better care of their health; I thought of teaching English to women using the Bible so they can get better jobs; I thought of working with children, feeding those who are hungry. I am many grand ideas, but God had other plans for me.

Once arriving in Africa, I had the opportunity to meet the spouses and share in their ministries. One woman helps with a group called “The Tabitha Project.” They take women who worked on the streets (as current prostitutes or soon-to-be headed in that direction) and they teach them the Bible and forgiveness as well as a local trade (such as sewing or doing hair). Another wife volunteers at a local orphanage, holding the children and providing them with the personal attention they desire and lack due to overcrowding. Yet another wife has become involved with the “Matadi Center” which is similar to the Tabitha Project, taking at-risk women and children and giving them an opportunity to provide for themselves by learning a trade. All of these ministries appealed to me in so many ways. I even had a woman ask me to teach her English. All of the grand ideas I had were laid before me. What does a girl do with so many choices? PRAY!!!

I took it all to the Lord. I began praying in earnest and with eagerness, telling God how much each of these ministries would be a perfect fit for me - the skills I can provide; the testimonies I can share; the joy I have in my heart. Like the pieces to a puzzle all the opportunities were waiting in a box and I asked God if I could begin sorting them.  But God told me very clearly, “no, not yet.” I thought for sure God meant there was another opportunity waiting for me around the corner. So I waited. But nothing happened. I prayed again to God, crying out, “Here I am, Lord. Use me!” But God told me very clearly, “no, not yet.” Why was God denying me my chance to shine?

In the midst of my prayers, I was doing a women’s Bible study called “Discerning the Voice of God.” That Bible study was an absolute God-send for me. Working through this study I was able to more clearly hear God’s voice and discern his desires for me at this time in my life. God has asked me to take time to learn the culture and maybe even learn the local language called Lingala. He feels that my ministry is my daughter. While I was seeking self-gratification through ministries to help others, I was not looking before me at the chance to help my daughter grow closer to the Lord. I understand that there are many seasons in life, and perhaps my time to get involved in a local ministry will be soon, but not now.

While I want to share with everyone all the “great things” I am “accomplishing” by teaching locals all about God, I cannot. But I can tell you how my daughter faithfully bows her head before every meal and waits for me to pray. She even eagerly adds “Amen” to the end. I want to tell you about all the people I have met through local ministries, but I cannot. Instead, I can tell you about all the people I have met by taking walks with my daughter, who shines her little smile and wins the hearts of the locals. She even eagerly greets each person with a hand shake and says, “ça va?” to ask how they are in greeting.  I want to share with you all about people I have begun to teach English using a French Bible, but I cannot. Instead, I can tell you all the new English and French words my daughter has learned.

There was a time when I felt disappointed with the idea that I was not out there, helping people every day. But I have to be honest; God has shown me the error of my ways and taught me an important lesson.  The ministry of motherhood is a very important ministry that God has called me to do and I am eagerly taking this on with as much joy as I would have for any local ministry.

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Forgive Us Our Sins

The other day I was thinking of the passage in Luke 11 where Jesus prayed. When he finished praying, one of his disciples asked for Jesus to teach them how to pray. So Jesus responded, “When you pray, say this,” and he recites the Lord’s Prayer.  I thought it might be fun to come up with my own prayer using the main ideas from each line. So I tried it out, paraphrasing the concepts to learn better how to pray. But I stopped when I came to this line:
“Forgive us our sins, as we forgive those who sin against us” (Luke 11:4, NLT).
A thought suddenly came to me - what if God had not given us the gift of Jesus, who died to forgive us of all of our sins? What if, each day, we were only forgiven as many times as we forgave others? Harsh reality! I am just thankful that the Lord’s forgiveness is not limited to my acts of grace.

Nearly each Saturday, Kevin and I have the same little “spat.” Kevin wakes up bright and early and is ready to tackle his “Honey-Do List.” I wake up and want Kevin to make up for all the hours he missed out with our little girl during the week but was at work. We say the same words, playing the same cards in our pile of trumps, and always conclude the “discussion” the same way, with a frustrating draw. Kevin resenting the fact that at the end of the weekend there will still be things that need to be done, and only he can do them, and me begrudgingly realizing there aren't enough hours in the day to spend together as a family.

But what about forgiveness; what if at the end of the day God only forgave me of my transgressions as long as I had practiced mercy to others? I certainly didn't apologize and neither did Kevin, our stubbornness adding to our pile of stresses (let’s face it, life here isn't easy). There are many adages and sayings about people wishing they had just one more day or if they had just said sorry or if they could have done things differently. Maybe we should practice more clemency and hold less grudges. Maybe we should open our hearts to generosity and let in the Lord’s will for our lives instead of holding onto our own.

“The wisdom that comes from heaven is first of all pure. It is also peace loving, gentle at all times, and willing to yield to others. It is full of mercy and good deeds. It shows no partiality and is always sincere.” (James 3:17, NLT).

Monday, March 17, 2014

Goat + Missing Passenger + Weather = Another Day at the Office

One of the last blogs I wrote, I went to Djolu. I went there again several Saturdays ago.The traffic was very light on the way to the airport, which gave me a bit of time to study the clouds. There was a high, thin overcast with low, scattered rain clouds. Not a problem, and the satellite image looked good too. Here is a link to our only weather resource here, for those interested in how we get our weather.

Because it is such a long flight, the timing is critical or else we cannot make it back before sunset. So I got to the airport early and prepared the airplane. While I was filing the flight plan, I got a call that weather was great at my fuel stop, but my first passenger hadn't showed up yet; nor could he be reached by telephone. The check-in process for passengers can take an hour, or longer, and it was already 7 so this was a problem. He was just going to be along for the ride and the true purpose of the flight was the passengers in Djolu waiting to come back. So we made the decision to leave without him and arrange something in the future.

I was able to get out of Kinshasa in a very timely fashion, breezed through my first fuel stop, and then on to Djolu. After landing, checking the fuel and a few other things, I turned my attention to my 3 passengers and their growing stack of bags. On the way, I was able to find a great tailwind and landed about 20 minutes ahead of schedule. The problem is the engine burned 20 minutes less fuel. Therefore I landed with more fuel than I had originally anticipated and thus had less available weight. Either way, it should not have matter. I had 250 kilograms (550 lbs) available. Unfortunately, they brought 280 kg (620 lbs). An hour later (now 40 minutes behind schedule) we got the weight down and then came the puzzle of where to put it in the airplane.

Finally we were loaded, started it up, finished the checklists and radio calls and proceeded to add power for takeoff. As I continued the takeoff roll, I noticed the goat who was grazing at the edge of the runway was now in the middle of the runway. I hoped he would move when he heard me coming, but nope. As part of our training in Nampa, we spent a whole day practicing takeoff aborts which are trickier than they sound. So I got to do my first aborted takeoff with passengers...fully loaded....on a hot day. We stopped quickly, turned around and taxied back. Someone started to chase after the goat on foot. Then another guy going to help the first guy. Then a guy on a motorcycle...then 50 other guys running down to chase 1 goat off the runway. So 10 minutes later, after the goat was long gone, everyone else finally cleared the runway and we were able to take off (1 hour and 10 minutes behind schedule).

After a long slow climb to 10,000 feet I was able to find another great tailwind and started making up significant time. I noticed some clouds building just on the horizon. The closer we got, the bigger they grew and the darker they became. I began deviating around them hoping they wouldn't put me too far off course, but alas no matter how I weaved, I had to go several miles out of the way to safely navigate around them. Even the most experienced seamstress would have admired at the weaving I had to do for the next 75 miles. Finally with all the clouds and rain behind me, the race to sunset was back on. I called back to base on the HF radio, and we determined a very quick fuel stop in Semendua would get me back with about 30 minutes of sunlight remaining.

After an incredibly quick re-fueling and bathroom break, we were back in the air. Air traffic Control was able to help out, and I actually ended up landing with about 40 minutes to spare. Add up another 9 hours of flying and 1050 miles to the log book.

Did I mention I love my job?

Thursday, February 27, 2014


Pondu is a Congolese dish that is big part of the diet. It is a dish made from the leaves of the cassava plant.
1000 Fc worth of greens (about $1.10 USD)
 First you take the stack of greens and you pick all the leaves off of the stem.
Cassava leaves
After separating the leaves, you need to rinse any dirt off of them.
Slowly adding the boiled water
After cleaning them off, you add an entire tea kettle full of boiled water to scald them.Once they have cooled off enough to touch, you squeeze as much water off of them as possible.
They are then added to a giant mortar and pestle to be ground down into tiny pieces.
Papa Didier begins to "piler" (pound) the leaves by lifting
the heavy pestle and bringing it down repeatedly. 
Sweetpea gets in on the action
Just when you think you are done pounding, you add your raw seasonings (onion, garlic, etc.) and pound some more. Depending on how many hands you have, the whole process takes about 2-3 hours.
Finished product
Now you get to sautée the pounded leaves in palm oil and serve over rice. Don't forget to top with fresh toasted peanuts for protein!
Congolese meal

Monday, February 24, 2014

Dirty Feet

Africa is a dirty place. There is dirt and dust everywhere! The dirt and dust which lives among the streets and by the water banks culminates into mounds that get swept everywhere by the wind. The wind manages to push the dust into every nook and cranny and every crack and crease. It never fails, if you spent a few hours sweeping your home and then moping, you can walk barefooted across the floor and your feet are going to be dark with the dust. The doors and windows don’t have good seals so the dirt just seeps in through all the cracks. All of this worsens right before a storm when the winds fill the air with a cloud of dust. And after the storm, all that remains is mud everywhere. And at the end of each day, before going to bed, you must wash your feet.
But I am learning to not be upset by seeing my own dirty feet or the never-ending task of scrubbing them. They are becoming symbolic to me. I used to read the story about Jesus washing his disciples’ feet and it didn’t mean much at the time. What was the big deal? In America our feet are clean. I would almost be willing to volunteer to wash a stranger’s feet. They usually have socks and shoes on to protect their feet anyway. But in Africa, it is not that way.

Many people don’t own shoes, or if they do, they might just be borrowed. But because feet are the main source of transportation, protecting them are important. They will make their own coverings or find two different colored and sized flip flops and make them work. But as with other customs in many other countries, the Congolese take their shoes off when entering a home as a sign of respect, even if the floor is just as dirty as the outside ground. In fact, our sentinels don’t even wear shoes on our porch!
Bringing all of this around full circle, image washing a stranger’s feet. Not just any feet, but feet that have been wearing open sandals. Open sandals that do not block out the dirt and dust. Feet that have been a person’s livelihood, taking them to and from their destinations. Feet that have become harden by so much walking and dirt. And then image Jesus willingly washing those feet to show us His love. Perhaps the holy ground God was referring to when He asked Moses to remove his sandals, were the feet, and God was getting ready to wash them.

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

A day in the life of...

Happy early Valentines day y'all. First things first, if you venture to the bottom of the page, you will see we've added yet another "gadget" to the blog. My miles flown have started to add up quickly! It doesn't hurt though when you get trips that cover over 1,000 miles in a day.Monday my first passenger was a young lady originally from Great Britain, her family now lives in Canada, but she is studying in Scotland, and would be spending 5 months working along side of a university from Japan studying the Bonobo Monkeys, teaching forest conservation, and generally helping improve the living conditions there.

This trip was about as far into the jungle we take the Cessna 182.
The three tiny "pins" from left to right/south to north are Kinshasa, Semendua and Djolu.
I got to the airport early, had the fuel tanks  topped off, and took off for our first fuel stop in Semendua, about an hour and a half flight. After being on the ground 20 minutes, we were off again for Djolu. The flight was just at three hours, including crossing the equator (but there was some cloud cover so I couldn't see the line on the ground like all the maps show). Once we landed, I off loaded her luggage, and prepared the aircraft for my next passenger. Except we had 3 passengers show up. Once was a researcher headed home to Japan, and the two other were medical patients. Unfortunately with the three of them and all their luggage, it was too much weight and I had to inform them one of them would need to stay behind. Once I payed the landing fee ($50...for a grass airstrip, literally in the middle of the 2nd largest jungle in the world) loaded the bags and briefed the passengers, we were off again. This time however, we were racing the sun.

 As a new pilot on the program I have to be on the ground 1 hour before sunset. In essence, I had to cram 9 hours of flying, roughly 30 minutes at each stop along the way into 11 hours of sunlight. It was going to be tight. Then if you subtract the hour of sunlight we burned getting to the airport and readying the aircraft, we were really cutting it close.

The ridiculously vast jungle. Nothing but trees as far as you can imagine.
Oddly enough, we frequently have a tailwind going out AND coming back from Kinshasa. Going east, we try to stay below 5000 feet, and we typically have a few knots of wind on our tail. Coming back west, we attempt to stay above 6000 feet, and we usually will get 5 to 10 knots of tailwind.

Fuel stop at the old MAF base in  Semendua
So I decided to climb. I went up to 10,000 feet and got a nice twenty knot tailwind. We were able to touch down in Semendua about thirty minutes early. After a quick splash of fuel, we were off again. By the time I leveled back off at 10,000 feet, it was getting later in the day and most of the winds had died down. But, almost exactly one hour before sunset, the wheels gently chirped on the broken asphalt at Ndolo, and after offloading passengers, bags, and a little paperwork I was able to go home and spend the evening with my girls.

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Rich Blessings

Another lovely MAF wife made the statement about having shock over the level of poverty seen around them, but her shock came from the realization that she was wealthy. And with her realization came the reality that she has always been wealthy and never realized it.

Did you know I was richly blessed? I don’t mean I am sitting on a nest egg ready to retire or that I own gold tucked away in Fort Knox. And in this context I’m not referring to the number of our wonderful friends and supporters we have blessing us beyond measure. No, I mean I am wealthy and so are you. Don’t believe me?
  • I have never had to go outside with a spoon to eat dirt in an attempt to take away the hunger pains. I know what it feels like to be full, even too full.
  • I have access to enough water to bathe/wash on a frequent basis.
  • We own more than one set of clothing, and are able to clean them.
  • My baby owns at least one toy.
  • I have never had to send my child to bed hungry.
  • I own shoes.
  • Not only do we have plumbing, we have the ability to filter our water and not worry about getting sick from it.
  • I had the luxury of being able to afford to attend and complete (primary) school.
  • I own a bed.
  • I have never watched my child laying sick in a hospital bed while the doctors refuse to treat them until more money comes first.

We have been in Congo for just over three months now; some of the honeymoon period is starting to wear off, and some of the realities and struggles are starting to set in. As we are trying to learn various things to which we can cling to keep us motivated, we have reflected on these things. But sometimes this list is actually discouraging. It’s tough to be inside a house (with a roof) knowing that some people walking down the street outside have to deal with not having some or any of these "blessings".  But take a look at Matthew 5 and what Jesus said:

"…and He began to teach them. 'Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted. Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth. Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled. Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy. Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God. Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God. Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven...'"

In French, and in some English translations, it even says, “happy are those…” In my minds eye, I think of the faces of Congolese Christians I know. I smile when I read these verses, because I know for them there is hope. Their blessings do not rest in material things, or things to make their lives easier. Their hope, many times their only hope, is embedded in these promises of Christ. At first, I must admit, it stung when I thought of it this way. But the more I think about it, they too are blessed. Richly blessed. Lord, reveal yourself to the Congolese who don't know you, so they can learn how great of a reward and  true blessing is found in your love, grace, and righteousness.

Thursday, January 2, 2014

....Ndolo Tower.....Say Again???

As I completed the final items on the before takeoff checklist and prepared to call the flight follower in Vanga, I heard Ndolo Tower come on the radio with a very strong accent. Her voice gave almost no distinction from one word to the next.

"Nine Mike Echo, taxi back runway eight, ATC clearance as follows, clear to Vanga via Ulvas, after departure maintain runway heading, climb two-zero-zero-zero, right turn, pass over Kilo Sierra Alpha three-five-zero-zero minimum, climbing zero-five-zero, intercept zero-four-six degree radial, report passing two-zero-zero-zero right turn, next call ready for departure"


I heard my call sign "Nine Mike Echo," and fortunately I had written down the basic pattern they use and made out enough numbers that I could fill in the blanks.

I repeated the clearance, "Nine Mike Echo, back taxi runway eight, cleared to Vanga via Ulvas, runway heading after departure, climb two thousand feet right turn, pass over Kilo Sierra Alpha three thousand five hundred feet, intercept zero-four-six degree radial, climb to and maintain five thousand feet. Will report passing through two thousand feet right turn, next call ready for departure."

Hey, that sounded good! Then, there was a long pause...I could almost hear her thoughts, almost word for word: Huh? (Except in French, "l'huh.")

She came back on, and repeated her clearance, inferring she did not understand me. This time her transmission was broken, but I was still able to pick out the pieces. The rule of primacy was becoming a problem from all of my time spent in the American Air Traffic Control System. All of the flows, speech patterns and phraseology that I would use stateside, I must forget...or at least shove in the back corner of the hangar in my brain.

I wondered, what could I do differently to help her understand, that I understand the instructions. Oh Yeah! I have to repeat it exactly. I can't say two thousand, or three thousand five hundred. I can't say things in the order I'm used to, I have to repeat it back exactly as I heard it.

Quite frequently, the actual flying-the climbing, turning, descending, and landing- this is the easy part of what we do. It's all the other stuff to get us in the air that proves to be the challenge.

Finally, we were on the same page. A quick check of the time, passengers, hand brake and wind, add the power, a touch of right rudder, and we are airborne, on the way to Vanga to deliver 120 kilos of cargo and two of our national Internet Tech staff to install a new VSAT internet satellite system for a ministry in the middle of the African bush. I love my job.