We just want to start out by saying thanks to our Lord for His amazing protection over our family. We are safe in Sentani to decompress and rest after being a part of a pretty incredible story of God blessing the socks off us almost literally through a somewhat traumatic experience. The timing of the earthquake in Lombok for our family was such that we were able to evacuate the house almost immediately all expect for Franklin. There was some tense moments of not knowing if we had just lost our oldest son as the rest of us huddled outside in the small courtyard. He did finally respond and was able to get out between the initial shakers not sure if it was between #1 and #2 or #2 and #3 after it all started. I don’t know if this is my imagination creating this or not, but I have a mental picture of him exiting the building as the ceiling fell on the stairs behind him. In all of this we all had managed to get out of the house barefoot with broken glass everywhere with only some possible glass slivers in the feet.
After the dust settled from the first main round I started to make quick trips into the first floor area to retrieve our belongings. We spent the rest of the night on the mattress we pulled out of the master bedroom on the main floor. In the morning I was able to do work similar on the second floor with quick trips gathering the children’s belongings. The end result was we were able to recover almost everything with only a few minor things that were not located or in a location not accessible in a reasonable safe manner. The family did well watching my back while I was inside and would very quickly let me know when things would start shaking again with the aftershocks. Just when we got the timing down of the aftershocks or so we thought their frequency would change. They seemed to hit every ten to twenty minutes all night long with a short hour window in the early morning were we had only minor movement. And when we left the area at nine that morning we were still have pretty strong aftershocks happening.
Please continue to pray for the locals. As we were able to connect in a small way with them through this. It was hard to leave knowing what struggles and destruction they have in front of them. We also recognized that we were not able to help in our position there and would create more of a burden being 5 more mouths that would need food, water and shelter. Thankfully, we were able to share with them some extra food and water that we had left. With heavy hearts we departed praying that God would be glorified through this. I don’t know the extent of the testimony we left behind only knowing that the local neighbors took note that God had protected us as we left with most all our stuff and no significate injuries. Initially before we left we were told that there were injuries but no deaths in the neighborhood however this afternoon I did receive word from the local manager for the villa that a 7 month old in the community had perished and the aftershocks are still continuing to shake things.
I see this as a clear display of God’s loving protection for our family. I pray that by no action of ours but just simple display of His protection for our family will bring Glory to Christ’s name.
Below is a link to a A short landing clip taken during some recent checkout training in Saman (-6.179338 138.456869) google earth/map location for those interested in seeing the location.
These past months down here in Merauke have been a challenge when it comes to getting blogs and newsletters out. As since the month of February we have had three different times when we have lost internet. And each time seems to last about three to four weeks at a time. On the bright side our children are learning that life can go on just fine without having a WiFi hook up. And they are all learning how to become masters in the card game called Dutch Blitz through this last round of having no internet. So now that we have internet let us try to get you caught up with how we have being doing before we lose connection again. And if you find that we are being silent again please know that we have most likely lost internet again and that we are still thinking about you all!
Greg has spent his time doing a mix of things through out the past months. He has found himself doing a lot of IT work and getting things connected and working with our Sentani office. We are trying to install a v-sat at the office so that we can still have internet when the town losses its. This is very important as most of our office work, flight information, and other things are all done on line. So it has caused some problems when we have lost internet for two whole months down here. He has also been able to land on some new runways/rivers over the past few months which have been exciting and challenging. As one river they discovered had a very powerful current which found Greg along with our national helper in the river as they tried to tie it off to the shore without letting the river carry the plane away or damage it. There have also been a lot of over night trips to our MAF base in Nabira as we have seen a need for the use of the float plane grow in certain areas out there as well. This is neat to see but it does mean time away from our families which is not always easy on the kids.
The children have been faithfully working on trying to finish up their school year and in the next up and coming weeks should have most completed. We also made a trip up to Sentani in April that allowed Isaac and Jaclynn the opportunity to take some testing along side their peers at the international school. The purpose of this was to make sure that they are staying up with what other kids in there grade. And even though it meant having to get up earlier to be apart of this testing they really enjoyed being with their classmates once again. The testing also just happened to be the same week as the high school basketball tournament which allowed us to be apart of that and connect with people in the community that we normally do not get to see all the time. Besides school Franklin has developed a interest in gardening and loves harvesting our banana crops. Jaclynn and Isaac have found that they like to help out with baking in the evening especially if it gets them out of dish duty. Then in May Jaclynn celebrated her 12th birthday with a household of people to celebrate with her. Another highlight for us all is that we have enter into cool season here which has been such a wonderful relief for us all.
I (Julie) have been seeing a steady improvement in my health since my surgery back in February. I am finally back to eating most things now that were starting to make me sick. Though lately I have been having problems with continual urine infections. The doctor here believes that the cause could be from them using a catheter while I had surgery. So I am on something for a little over a month to see if we can get that to clear up all the way. I am grateful that the end of our school year is in sight finally as we are all ready for a break. With my teaching load getting lighter I have found more time to study language more as well. Which has been really helpful as these past weeks I have been able to met a few new people in our neighborhood as well.
The celebration of Idul Fitri is in mid swing. Yesterday we spent time with four different families that we know and eat way to much food. As it is custom to eat at every house that you go to. This year we did a better job spreading the visiting throughout the day but still found ourselves stuffed at the end. Please pray that God will keep opening doors for us to reach out and become part of their lives.
Well shortly after my return from Nabire the Lord answered Julie’s prayer while I was away. She was praying that she would stay healthy until I returned, and she did. But not 2 days after my return Julie was spending her first night in a local Merauke hospital. She woke up Saturday morning with stomach pain. Thinking it was something she ate we didn’t think to much of it. However, Sunday morning rolled around and the pain was still there and possibly worse. Fearing it could be as bad as a ruptured appendix we went to the emergency. The doctor there did their checks but it being Sunday and the following day was a holiday there was no one to run the ultrasound machine. So they admitted her and started her on some antibiotics and pain meds for the night. The next day the ultrasound revealed gallbladder stones which came as a relief as surgery was still likely, but no longer emergency like a ruptured appendix would be. So after one more night to finish the antibiotic treatment we went home to start looking into the next step to bringing health back to Julie. Indonesian local hospitals are set up a bit different in that someone stays with the patience. So the kids had two nights at home without mom and dad. Thankfully the house was still standing and we still had 3 kids when we got home. As we started to work through the process of getting pre approval for the next step, the next challenge arose. Thursday evening the fiber-optic line that brings life to all of Telkomsel’s forms of communication broke somewhere in the ocean. Cell phones, landline (not that there are many of those anymore), and internet all dead. At first not knowing how long this was going to be we waited until Sunday morning before making further plans. However, in the meantime Julie is not really getting any better. So using our newly installed sat tracker in the airplane (it’s a pretty cool device that can send emails and text messages) I was able to communicate with leadership in Sentani and the plan was made for us to travel to Sentani on Monday morning provided I could get tickets. There is another cellular provider in Merauke but due to the large overload on their system as everyone switched, this also became unreliable a good part of the time. Monday morning came and knowing that communications was difficult I went directly to the airport thinking I could purchase tickets directly from the airline. Yep, no go, the airlines don’t sell tickets direclty. Our usual travel agent doesn’t open until 9:00am and the plane departs at 9:30am so I guess we’ll have to go on Tuesday instead. Well as I was going home to tell the family to stand down we will need to wait another day I noticed a travel agent office open on the side of the road not far from home. So on a whem I whipped in and asked. Lion was full but he was going to check Garuada. So about 20 mins. later he called and confirmed that there were still seats available. I met him out front of the Garuada customer service office and handed him some cash and he texted me our booking number and we were off, well almost. Next came check in which reminded me of days long ago when people would hand write out boarding passes and luggage tags. Yes, that is correct, hand written boarding passes and luggage tags for all the passengers, my hand hurts just thinking about it. Then to top it off the last security check stop’s xray machine was broken so TSA was hand inspecting every piece of carry on? On a slight side note if you tell them someone in your party is ill you have to get examined before boarding the plane. So knowing what Julie had I didn’t want the hassle nor have her poked and probe anymore than needed. Julie did well putting on a good face walking through the airport not to get noticed that she was ill. By the time we got to Sentani however she was done.
In Sentani Julie was seen by Dr Di, she is such a blessing to have here in Papua. After seeing Dr. Di we made plans to get Julie to Jakarta for what most likley would be surgery. And at this point we could continue to communicate with insurance again as Sentani was not effected by our fiber-optic line break. Giving Julie an extra day of rest before travelling again we departed to Jakarta Thursday morning and again Julie did good getting to the gate. The trip however was pretty hard on her especially the taxi ride in Jakarta. From the airport we went directly to the hospital for Julie’s appointment. I think there were some strange looks as this family of bule’s (foreigners) walking into the hospital will all their luggage in tow. The kids did well watching our bags and playing on their tablets while I worked through the paper work and Julie did her best weathering the pain and uncomfortable waiting area chairs. Thankfully the Dr. admitted Julie into the hospital that afternoon so no more taxi rides for her until after the surgery. Friday (another holiday as well) morning Julie had her MRI and at which time the need for surgery was confirmed and scheduled for the following morning. Saturday morning Julie had her surgery which went well. Only a little stress for me as the Dr. tried to connect with us while we were at lunch and upon our return from lunch the Dr. was unavailable leaving me unaware of how the surgery went. And as one sits in a small waiting room for what seems like forever, one’s mind starts thinking unpleasant thoughts of worse case scenarios, or maybe that is just me that does that. Julie was released from the hospital on Monday. She is still doing well, gaining strength and stamina daily. We took advantage of the last two days in Jakarta and tried to take a bit of vacation. It’s interesting on days off how easily the rest of and relaxation can be quickly diminished with news of a stressful event back on base. I’ll leave the details of this out. Now as I finish up writing this blog we are in Sentani for a couple days to break up the trip and also have a few extra hours with internet access before heading back to Merauke. All in all the experience wasn’t too bad, good time of learning too trust more deeply in the One Who loves us more than we can ever image.
Blessings and thanksgiving from the Doles.
Just a quick few pictures of Estronamba from the last couple days of flying out of our Nabire base. Heading back home on Friday.
Last week I had the privilege of landing in an area that possibly never had an airplane before. We heard about a local pastor’s wife that was having labor difficulties. The area where they live has a section of the river that is challenging enough that checkout with an instructor pilot is required. However, using Google earth, we were able to find a section of river that would give enough margin and similar in length to another post that I had recently been checked out in. Poepe (-7.662095, 139.662926) is where they were from. Yawimu where we picked them up (-7.824544, 139.668902) to (-7.821953, 139.661793) landing area (-7.824322, 139.675490) the dock. The coordinates in the parentheses if copied and pasted into Google maps or Google earth should bring you to the locations. The larger pictures below were taken with my phone at the dock where we met the mother and father. Yes, the baby was delivered while they were en-route to Yawimu on the river in a boat or what some people would more likely consider a canoe (likely something similar in the smaller picture or in the webpage header).
Even though the baby had already been born they still requested to be taken to the city for a checkup and since we were there it made sense to do so. There was no cell service once they left Poepe to cancel the plane after the delivery. For my sake I’m glad the baby was delivered safely on the boat/canoe rather than in the back of the airplane. Not sure I’m ready for that yet. For the mothers though reading this, maybe the back of an airplane would be nicer than a small boat on a river? Next week I will be taking them back home or at least far as Yawimu, from there they will take the 3 hour boat/canoe ride back to their home.
During a routine flight to Kepi I recently pickup a young man and his mother from Kepi. I’m not sure what he was suffering from, it may have been Dengue Fever which had is bad enough in normal circumstances. If I understood correctly he had been suffering from it for a month by this time, which I don’t think is normal 1-2 weeks typically I believe. Dengue it’s not fun, just ask my kids (I found out this week that the boy was diagnosed with leukemia, not dengue as was mentioned while picking him up). Anyway I started out at a mid range altitude 7500′. However about mid way back (1hr flight) a lot of noise and commotion erupted from the back. The weather wasn’t the greatest that day either so I needed to keep focused on the flying. Our non-flying crew member Bobby (so thankful for having him on board) was able to communicate with me that a lower altitude would be better so down we go 5500′ or 3500′ I don’t remember which but anyway things started to settle down a bit after leveling off briefly at the lower altitude, before continuing down for arrival. It was also a bit of work for Bobby to get everyone involved back in their seats with seat-belts on for landing, again very thankful for having him on board to help in situations like this. Later I learned that the commotion had started when the boy had stopped breathing. Thankful for God’s grace allowing us to arrive back in Merauke with everyone on board still breathing.
Lots of other routine flights being carried out, serving the south coast communities here in Papua. And a few special flights that were routine in nature but special because of the individuals we were serving. However to keep this blog from getting too long winded I’ll save those stories of the special guests and their flights for another time.
Both Greg and I grew up in places that always turn cold and normally white for Christmas. And if I was being honest that was about the only time that I actually liked having snow. So as we prepared for our first Christmas here in Merauke that was one of the many little things about the holiday that we missed. Thankfully, we started to see a little more rain coming our way as we drew closer to Christmas which after having a time of dryness here it was just as special.
The kids jumped right into helping decorate the house, helped with shopping, and had lots of ideas about things to bake. Since this was our fourth Christmas in Indonesia the kids had lots of different things that they want to do. Somethings that they remember from Canada really came forward this year. And we added some Indonesia traditions as well to our celebration. I will admit that this can sometimes get stressful as we try to celebrate one holiday with two very different cultures wrapped into one day. While the kids and I were busy at the house all the guys at the hanger were trying to keep up with all the flight request that kept coming in. Normally, this is the time of year that the people want to come to the city in order to celebrate with family and friends.
This year our family was able to host our MAF Merauke Christmas party at our house. This is one of the blessings of having a small team of expats and national staff. The kids enjoyed preparing for this time with extra decorations, offering to taste test anything that I was baking, and helped with extra cleaning. The evening of our celebration we were all blessed to hear from one of the missionaries, who we serve here from Merauke. She spoke about her work in the community of Kotiak. Later each family had sometime to share the blessings God had provided to each of our families this past year. And of course there was a variety of food like a selection of chicken, fish and beef too, And it would not be a true Indonesia party without some nasi kunning and nasi putih, (yellow and white rice). Mixed in with some Christmas baking that has been popping up in our kitchen lately.
Christmas Eve found our family laughing at funny skits, singing songs, and enjoying fellowship with our local Indonesia church that we attend. Then after the service their was a tasty meal and a time of photos with people. The kids enjoyed playing with other children and watching fireworks that were going off around town as we waiting to get out of the parking lot. We were one of the first ones there which meant that we were totally boxed in for awhile.
Christmas morning found our family enjoying a time of opening gifts and talking to family through Skype which actually worked really well. Then our family opened our house up for a time of fellowship with any friends and neighbors that wanted to come for a visit. And we were blessed with have some of our new friends stop in and see us in our home for the very first time. And Jaclynn had some of her friends come to our door which lead to a few hours of playing with them. Then the next day we heading to different peoples house and had the chance to visit with them in their homes.
It was a wonderful time of fellowship and way to much eating as it is not polite to not eat things that are laid in front of you. We would always like to thank everyone one of you for all of those amazing Christmas emails that you sent. And our children (especially Isaac) loved seeing all the snow/winter pictures that were including in those emails. We hope that you all have a blessed New Year and looking forward to what God has in store for all of us in this coming year.
Merry Christmas & Happy New Year
Greg, Julie, Franklin, Isaac, & Jaclynn.
Well after a wonderful family vacation, we have returned refreshed and ready to get back to daily living here in Merauke.
For the first time anyone could remember, this past week MAF Indonesia stopped all operations across the country. To gather all the technicians (pilots, mechanics & IT), for 4 days full of meetings and reports. I’m not much of a meeting kind of guy so that part, well let’s just leave it at that regarding how the meetings went. My highlight for the week was the grand reunion with guys I had met at candidacy going back to 2010, others I had gone through A&P, pre-field training with and language studies. I was starting to get into bit of a low as far why were we here, what makes us different, etc. Departing this morning to come home I’m thankful for the renewed vision and excitement for why were are here and what make us different. As we head into December which will be a very busy month of flying I’m looking forward to the privilege and opportunities that my Maker in Heaven will put before me to serve, reflect His Light and show His Love to those I interact with in days to come.