We just returned home from a wonderful time in Bali. Our family vacation experience started out with seeing some cool blessings some of which happen in the travaling to and from Bali. We booked our tickets weeks in advance, not knowing that one of the airlines competitor’s was about to add a competing run from Makassar directly to Merauke. Our original tickets gave us a 2 hour layover. We’ve learned in the past anything less than 1.5 hours can create some stress catching the next flight. Still a few weeks before our vacation while I was departing Merauke, listening to the other traffic on the radio I caught on that the plane we were going to be taking to Bali in a couple weeks was no longer going to Makassar (transit airport) like it was originally scheduled. After getting back I asked one of our staff to investigate if our tickets were still good. Turns out what they had done was their Makassar – Merauke – Makassar flight became Makassar – Merauke – Sentani and there Sentani – Merauke – Sentani had become Sentani – Merauke – Makassar. The only problem with this is now we are departing 2 hours later than originally scheduled. And this flight from Sentani is notoriously late. On a side note Merauke is about as close as you can get for the end of the line. There are or were no connecting flights here prior to this switch in scheduling all the planes would return to their point of departure. And by 12:00 all the jet traffic (3-4) had come and gone and left the Merauke airport for us (MAF) and another small operator to enjoy, outside of the occasional military flight. Back to getting to Bali, as we prepared to depart they continued to assure us that we would make the connecting flight in Makassar as they had moved it back 45mins. But as for normal our departing flight was more than 45 mins late which gave us no layover time. Also knowing that our connecting flight was the only Makassar – Bali flight for the day I was preparing myself and family for the high likely hood that we would be trying to find a place in Makassar for the night. Upon arriving the flight attendant assured me all was good, but knowing a bit of the culture here they will tell you what you want to hear rather than to truth a lot of times. So I didn’t get my hopes up until exiting the aircraft and was met at the bottom of the stairs by airline personal. They whisked us into a van which then raced across the tarmac to our connecting flight. During this whisking across the tarmac I inquired about out luggage which I was assured would make it. But again knowing that I’m likely going to hear what I want to hear rather than reality, and the fact we hadn’t finished stowing our carry on luggage and seated before the plane was being pushed back for start. I was thinking there was no way our bags made the connection. After departure I dug out the address of our villa so I would have it ready to give to the baggage claim counter in Bali. The flight went smoothing and we were looking forward to enjoying our first night in Bali as planned, even if it was going to be with our carry on luggage only (which Julie had packed a few extra sets of clothes just in case). Once we arrived in Bali I almost didn’t bother but we stopped at the luggage belt just in case and low and behold it made. Wow, we were stunned and very thankful! So we started our vacation with what started out looking like a lot of inconveniences ahead of us to everything falling into place. Backing up a bit as were waiting for our first flight (late one) Pak Hammi met us in the waiting room telling us that the flight home at the end of our vacation had been cancelled and we needed to find something else. One bright side for the late departure was I had time to go with Pak Hammi to sort out tickets for our trip home. So we ended up on the competitor’s airline for Makassar – Merauke, but choose to stay with our original tickets from Bali – Makassar (portion of the flight not yet cancelled). And yes the day before we are to come home I get a text message that this flight was also cancelled, thankfully Pak Hammi was able to arrange a different flight from Bali – Makassar. And yes we arrived home safely with all our stuff in toe after a great vacation. Being that this post is already getting long I will close with saying there will be more to come on what we did, along with lots of pictures over the next couple days.
The Dole Clan
These first few pictures are from Piramapun, which is just down river from Saman where the NTM missionaries are considering as there location of service. The first picture is the landing area at Piramapun it’s nice and wide with a gentle curve in the landing and takeoff area. The ocean is there as well but we choose not to operate on the ocean for a few reasons so a gentle curved river is our preferred landing zone.
This picture is of Saman from overhead, the curve in the river here is a bit sharper. Hopefully in the next few months I’ll have gained enough experience to be able to up the level of difficulty of my landing and takeoff locations.
A random photo from the trip that Julie wanted me to include.
This next group of photos are from Senggo, which is the place Julie mentioned regarding the book our family is reading together.
They are not standing on water as it may appear in the picture, there is a dock of sorts below their feet and yes below the water.
These next pictures are from Tanah Merah which means red soil. We don’t have a dock here so we just find a good spot along the shoreline to pull up to and secure the plane. The location changes depending on the water levels. The week before these picture was taken, the high area where the people are standing and holding the rope was covered by about a foot of water and we ended up docking up river against a wood dock that during this visit was high and dry. When the water is lower than this (which 2 days later was the case) we beach bit further down stream up against a gravel beach that is visible during low water times. This like many of the places we go to our docking methods/locations vary with conditions. (The flying is the easy part some days)
This picture is of the Boma or Bomakia airport terminal building. This was our last stop before heading home that day. Boma was previously an MAF base for float plane and wheel plane operation for the south coast several years ago.
The MAF hanger just in front of the tower (left side of the picture) as we approach to land back home in Merauke.
Hope you enjoyed seeing some of what we have the privilege of experiencing daily.
As Greg mention in our last post I was able to have my very first ride along in our float plane. MAF allows wives to go along twice a year which allows us to really see what it is like for not only our spouse but for the people that we serve.
For the first stop of the day Greg was able to land at a new place to drop off another missionary who had missed his plane ride the day before. He was hoping to meet up with other missionaries to help them with the process of surveying the area for possible places for three new missionary families to move to. Since this was not a normal place for us to land you can imagine that having a float plane land next to your village would be greatly noticed. There was even a school at the edge of the village that I am hoping was having recess while we were there. For it seemed like all the kids where standing along the river in the white and red uniforms waving to us.
After dropping off our missionary we headed to our next stop to pick up a load of local pastors from a retreat that Greg had dropped off a week before. The cool thing about this stops is that we are actually reading a book about one of the first missionaries to this area with our kids. Since those first few years this village has turned into a large trading post for this area. So right on the edge of the water were small stores where you could park a boat/canoe and find food or clothing as well as bring stuff to sell. My favorite part was watching all the kids swimming off the docks. However, but I had a hard time watching people drive their motorbikes down the boardwalk as I noticed all the boards move and shake a little more then I would be comfortable with!!!
Also, this is were I got to see just how tense it could sometimes be for my husband. As one tries to load passengers and their belonging on a dock that if you step in the wrong place it would start to sink. After watching this for the first time I am very thankful that one of our staff rides along to help him out with this as well as docking the plane. When you are out in the village there is no way for them to weigh belongings so the guys have to do this as the passengers get on, write out their tickets, collect money, and make sure the plane is not over weight. Now remember that this group of guys had already been flown in a week before and knew about all of this. However, through the course of the week they ended up collecting a lot of stuff and most of them had way to much stuff.
After getting that all figured out I was able to see two different places as we started to return all the pastors to their destinations. I loved how it felt landing on the rivers and taxing down them to where they docked (or where they had someone just hold the rope). I loved looking along the banks and watching people appear to see what the noise was or to just watch the plane. And I was really blown away by the different types of boats that I saw on the rivers. I saw those small canoes that barley have room to sit in to larger canoes that they had added a motor to. Then smaller fishing boats to larger ones as most of the rivers do connect to a larger river that would lead to the ocean. And I even saw some very nice looking speed boats especially at our first stop. And I was really surprised for a few minutes when we landed at our second place as one whole side of the river had different types of satellite. Then I remember that was the only way for the people to connect with the outside of the world.
At the end of the day I would have to say that landing on a river is my new favourite thing to do. Even though I enjoyed my time it did open my eyes a little more to what my husband has to do daily. Not only does he fly the plane and deal with passenger but he has to deal with some pretty extreme heat that just drains your body. After I arrived home I could hardly move and he told me that I was feeling this way because of the heat and the continual change in altitude. This would explain while on flight days my guy is falling asleep before seven at night.
I am so thankful for my husband and how he uses his gifts that God has given him daily. Whether he is landing on land or water, dealing with passengers, or dealing with government paperwork he is always trying to honor God in all things.
With grateful hearts we are in the midst of what has become a pretty busy flying month for our base here in Merauke. The September’s calendar was filled very quickly with the hopes of MAO being up and ready to fly. And for the most part we have been able to meet those special flight requests for Church events, missionaries, medivacs and even some general passenger flights. Thank you for all your prayers for us as we worked hard at getting MAO back into the air and for continued prayer as we are now busy flying it again. So much so that next Tuesday it will have 100hrs flight time already and will be ready for a mini inspection. October will also be potentially a busy month for me as I will be the only pilot in Merauke for about 6 weeks.
An up and coming flight, which you can probably expect a post from, will happen this Saturday. As Julie will be joining me on my second outbound which will be taking us through a couple different places. Last week I helped pickup 7 local church leaders for a training/leadership conference in Senggo. And on Saturday I’ll be taking them back to their home villages, or at least close enough they can grab a speedboat or tinktink ride home on the river. Julie is pretty excited as this will be her first ride in the float plane. I’ll make sure she is armed with the camera so we can include some pictures in a following post.
Also happy to report that the rest of the engine that previously was on MAO will be showing up tomorrow, which will allow us to get MPF back in the air serving Papua as well. This will also free up our hanger again and possibly return operations back to normal, maybe ;-). Sometimes I’m not sure what normal is suppose to look like anymore. Keeps us on our toes or better yet our knees this way I suppose.
Thank you for your prayers and support, this summer we have been stretched and challenged in many ways, and through this we couldn’t have done it alone. Thank you for partnering with us through your prayers.
Franklin, Isaac, & Jaclynn
Well since the last blog post I’ve done 2 more medivac flights. Friday night I got my “first” call for a weekend (day off) medivac flight. It’s nice to be able to be in a position now that I can be called upon to do these kinds of flights. Saturday morning I showed up to the airport surprised to hear that we had a full load to Kepi with less than 24 hrs notice, and I would also have a full load coming home. I made sure that I had our stretcher on board this time as I didn’t want to be caught by surprise like I was with the two patients on Thursday’s flight to Kepi. Arriving in Kepi they already had the young girl on a stretcher that I could return the following Monday (today). The stretcher isn’t much more secure then just gently strapping the person to the floor but it is likely a little more comfortable. Off we went with the patient and other passengers filling the other seats. All seemed to go well as we returned to Merauke, where the ambulance took the young lady to the hospital. Monday morning (today) however, shortly after getting to the airport I received news that the young lady had passed away Sunday.
Today I was schedule for a Kepi on my second outbound just like last Thursday with the stretcher and O2 bottle from Saturday all loaded up to return. When I arrived in Kepi again hoping for a quick turn around, (I had some maintenance that I needed to take care of after the flight home) I again received word that there was another patient that needed to get out to Merauke. This time a 10 year old boy, that apparently had the same thing or something similar to the young lady I had picked up on Saturday. So instead of returning the stretcher and O2 bottle it was utilize again. And I pray this time that the outcome is different and that this boy will get a second chance at life and more importantly get an opportunity to hear the Good News of Jesus Christ if he hasn’t already.
Sapi is the word for cow in Indonesian. However, today it also happened to be the name of one of my passengers. His possibly unique name, is not the reason I’m writing and sharing about this flight, but rather how and why he was on board my airplane today. Since June 14th MAO our amphib plane has been down for maintenance issues. So in the meantime we have been operating a wheel plane to a few of the locations here that also have runways. Now many of the locations we typically serve have been without service of the airplane as the river is the only landing option which isn’t conducive to the standard airplane. One of these particular locations called Eci happens to be connected with a road/trail/path to Kepi were there is a runway. The distance between the two towns as the crow flies or caravan in our case is 50km (30miles). The road/trail/path (sometimes passable by car, most times passable by motorcycle) winding around a lot so I’m not sure how far the trip is overland. The construction crews get paid by distance here so the longer the road the bigger the paycheck. Anyway back to Sapi’s story. I showed up to Kepi on my second of my two outbonds for the day excepting to pick up 9 passengers and some baggage with a good chance of a quick turn around. Our agent in Kepi is always on top of things which makes my job a lot easier. Upon arriving to my surprise I was greeting by our agent from Eci not Kepi. I hadn’t seen him since 14th of June when I last flew into Eci with the amphib. Turns out he had brought a couple of patients that needed more medical attention then what the small local clinics could offer. The ambulance brought the two patients around to the cargo door. From what I gathered one patient would need to lie down and be strapped to the floor (something you wouldn’t dare do in Canada or the US). Through conversations as we were getting everyone settled into the plane I come to find out this young man (Sapi) who’s leg is broken (had been splinted up) along with other injuries due to a motorcycle accident had just spent 3.5 hours on the back of a motorcycle to get to Kepi from Eci. I didn’t get the back story on the other patient. He was able to sit but didn’t look overly strong himself to have just made the same trip as well to get to the airport to catch a ride into town so to speak. As I think about what these two men and those that brought them to the Kepi airport had to go through. The service that our amphib is greatly missed, as the amphib could have picked them up in Eci and saved them what was likely a very grueling trip to the airport this morning.
This year we had the privilege of spending a better part of a week in the mountain village of Mamit for family conference. This was the first interior conference that we have been a part and it was a wonderful time, but there was also a lot of work involved from our entire team. Everyone with their belongings, all the food, bathroom supplies, fridges, cooking items, LPG, a water filtration system, and the list goes on and on, was flown in which was quite to undertaking. Some of the guys like Greg who have back grounds in other areas (like electrical and plumbing) besides flying got put to work through out the week. For Greg though it was like coming home a little bit as this was one of his favorite places to fly into before moving to the south coast. So he greatly enjoyed those first minutes after landing as he was able to greet people that he had not see in a while and make that connection with them again.
It took us over two hours to reach Mamit from our location in Meruake. So we had the privilege of flying in a day early so that they could use the plane to help shuttle the rest of the people the next day. It was neat to land and see all the people gathered around the top of the airstrip and have them help carry our things. The people seemed to really enjoying having us there in their village. Our kids loved that they could explore and be out doors with all their friends and loved getting to know the New Heights team that had come from the States to lead our conference. I guess that the best way to describe what conference is like for the kids is to think about VBS and summer camp all happening on the side of a jungle mountain. For the older children like Franklin they got to sleep with the New Heights college members that help run things. He loved hanging out with them and enjoyed the freedom of staying up later playing board games up in the dining hall. During the day Isaac was part of the youth group but at night he bunked with his parents. Isaac loved all the silly games that the youth played and being apart of the youth group for the first time.
I would say that one of the top things that happens for at least the kids is having a snack shop through out the week of conference. And this year Greg and I had the privilege of running that for the first time. Our wonderful New Heights teams brings a lot of fun candy that we can’t get here plus things like beef jerky, wheat thins, mixed nuts, and dried fruit as well. It did mean that we had to work through the conference but it was fun talking with everyone and watching the children enjoy things that they were missing from back home.
I would say for me though the highlight was singing and listening to messages in English as we do not have that privilege where we live. I think that even Isaac was missing it as well as I caught him singing along which I normally do not see very often. And mixed in with the singing and wonderful messages were a lot of silly games especially during the night meetings. This is also the kids favorite time as the team that cames does a wonderful job incorporating wonderful costumes and games that really go along with what the kids are really into. Last year was a Star Wars theme and this year was a Minecraft theme. However, since our children are older this year Greg and I found ourselves volunteered for way more them we ever wanted by our wonderful children. And I will admit that they got me to do somethings that I would never do in front of people but it brought great joy to them to be doing this kind of thing with their parents.
And since this years conference was held in a village our family got to experience things that a lot of the time only pilots like Greg get to see. One morning the village came and did a big traditional presentation of food and a large pig to our group that they were going to cook kind of like what we would call a pig roast. Then one of our team building games for the adults was to see what it took for the people to make a quick meal. It took us over an hour to do it in different teams though. I found myself heading down the path with a group of ladies to dig up some different veggies while the guys got a fire going. Now we could only use what they used so we found ourselves digging up veggies with a pointed stick while the guys tried to start a fire the traditional way. It was a fun team building time. And then during family fun night the New Height team got the joy of trying to learn how to properly tie up a pig in the village before it can go into a plane. The kids really enjoyed watching this in action as they have all seen pictures of the pigs being put in and out of the plane but not this part.
It was a great time interior filled with lots of wonderful memories and a time to reconnect with different teammates that live all over the island. And I will say that we all went home with much stronger leg muscles as you were either walking straight up or down for the entire week.
From the very beginning my husband started to call our life as missionaries an adventure and I can say that is probably the best way to describe my life as a missionary wife. For when people take an adventure there is always excitement and great things that happen while you are on an adventure. And there is also those hard and challenging times mixed in as well.
I can still remember when our plane landed in Jakarta for the very first time and we looked out the window an saw all the palm trees and different types of landscape for the very first time. I remember the excitement on my children’s faces and the sheer thankfulness of being able to finally get off the plane. Little did I know that those first few steps off that plane would be the easiest part of my journey. And that God was about to walk me through times of great joy and that He was going to allow me to see the world through His eyes and forever change who I was as a women, mother, and wife.
I leaned that I could be a strong women in the Lord but still be shaking on the inside. Like that time when I was driving home and a snake dropped out of the tree and almost landed in our laps. Or when my children are struggling with things like homesickness and they looked for encouraging words from me even though I am was also homesick at the same moment. Or when the drunk man was standing in the middle of the road and really did not want to let me pass through at that moment. It is not the circumstances that have made me a strong women but it was learning to rely on God through every one of them that helped me become a strong women.
Then came the joy of entering that terrifying age of having pre-teens and teens in my household. I think that this was the first time I really needed my parents advice daily but now they were clear on the other side of the world. I could no longer just pick up the phone and talk, because now I first needed to figure out the time difference and hope the internet was working good enough before I could talk. However, I have the privilege of having my Lord with me every step of the way. And now being the mother of a teenager and two pre-teens I am beginning to understand that the only way to get through this stage of life is with a direct line to the Lord that never closes or get’s disconnected. God has walked us through some interesting things with our kids here (homesickness, dengue fever, fear of new things) but God always provides for them beyond what I could ever imagine. That does not mean I do not worry about them or wonder if they are missing out on things because they live here instead of being back home. However, there is peace when I remember that God called us here for this season of our lives and He will help me be the mother that my kids need no matter where we live.
I could probably write a book on being married to a missionary pilot in one of the most dangerous places to fly in the world. I have watched while Greg has worked through times of intense training. Which also added a lot of intense stress and doubts to our daily life. I learned the importance of how to be a true helpmate through prayer, encouragement, and helping him through those days of doubt. And now as he continues to move into the routine of a line pilot, I get to support him through the joyous times when the medivac has a happy ending or a missionary needs a special flight request that he can help with. And through the hard times when the medivac doesn’t end well or flights are cancelled or postponed because the plane is down due to maintenance problems or government documents are delayed and people are left stranded somewhere.
Then there were all those fun things that most missionary wives normally get to tackle like learning about going to the local market. For me the hardest was defiantly getting use to the meat market while in language school. Next was learning where to buy things like medicine and of course knowing what it is called in a different language ( I have learned to write it down and take it with me just in case I am not pronouncing it right). I now keep a journal with all the different types of medicine that we have used and what they were for. Since there is not always a doctor around (normally though only a call or text away) it sure saves time getting what we need. I have also learned creative ways to dry clothes while going through rainy season without a dryer. And I have totally picked up some very bad driving habits through these past three years. As the driving here is in itself a whole other world here. I am happy to report that when I was back home last summer for the first time, all those crazy driving skills were left behind, only once did I catch myself driving on the wrong side of the road.
And since arriving in Merauke I have learned to make sure to check for toads when I open the front door as there is a gap between the screen and the main door that they like to hide in. If you leave shoes outside always dump them upside down and bag them for that is another place the toads like to hide. I am happy to report that I can know cut the feet and head off a chicken and not be totally grossed out, but the boys on the other hand are so not there yet. Oh, I never fold up my clothes rack without looking for tree frogs because they love to snooze there through out the day. Surprising though I still find the ants the worst to deal with, they love to get into our damp towels and if they bite me I really react to them. And sadly I will admit that I miss frozen pizza and just having a Wendy’s or MacDonald’s around. I don’t actually miss it for the taste of the food I just miss having the option of that quick meal on those crazy days when there is just no energy left to cook.
However, at the end of the day I am still thankful for everything that I have learned on this adventure that God has been leading our family through. Life as a wife, mother, and a women can become overwhelming no matter where you are but the trick is deciding on whose power you are going to lean on to help you get through. Will it be your own power or will it be God’s?
Here are the two short videos I promised last week.
I haven’t been able to get a lot of footage yet but I was able to put together a couple basic videos with the footage I do have. The first on is some shots while in float plane mode landings and take-offs on the water. The second one is what it’s like when operating the plane on land. I think if you click on “vimeo” in the lower RH corner, it will take you to our vimeo site where the videos are available in HD. Not sure if the embedded version on our blog are in HD or not.
Playing On The Water from Greg on Vimeo.
The Flying Shopping Cart from Greg on Vimeo.
Hope some of you enjoy seeing life from the float’s perspective :).
The Dole Clan