Friday, 28 August 2015

Bitter sweet moments of motherhood

It is so quiet in the house this morning...
Not only have Amy and Joshua started their first day of a new school year but Abigail has joined them for the first time.  She is just starting nursery.

She went into nursery just fine....I think it will be a harder day for me than her.
I am pleased that they are all so happy at school but as I drove home with an empty car it hit me what a year of transition is ahead of us. Letting my youngest head off to nursery for the first time is just the beginning!

Amy and Joshua have only ever been to Rainbow so I feel a bit sad that this will be their last year there, but glad we have so many good memories.  I hope that the next 6 months will be filled with many more good experiences of school that they will carry with them to Liberia.

Here they are... Amy (Year 5) , Joshua (Year 4 ) and Abigail (Nursery)

Friday, 14 August 2015

5X-OPE departs for Liberia.

Praise the Lord for the good news that yesterday we started the 5 day ferry flight of the Liberia aircraft – taking Cessna 208 5X-OPE from Entebbe to Monrovia.

This is exciting news for the Liberia team – who have waited over a year to be able to bring this lifeline to Liberia.

Please find below attached a story written by Jill Vine about the trip following interviews with Liberia Programme Manager Emil Kundig and Liberia pilot Arjan Paas as they prepared to make this flight:

Yet will I rejoice - story by Jill Vine

“Though the fig tree may not blossom, Nor fruit be on the vines;
Though the labour of the olive may fail, And the fields yield no food;
Though the flock may be cut off from the fold, And there be no herd in the stalls—
18 Yet I will rejoice in the Lord, I will joy in the God of my salvation.
 Habbakuk 3vs 17

A landmark voyage for our Liberia programme is underway today (Thursday 13 August 2015) when two of our MAF Liberia team mates, Programme Manager Emil Kundig (Swiss) and Pilot Arjan Paas (Dutch), begin the 5 day trip to ferry the Cessna 208 aircraft, registration 5X-OPE, from Uganda to Liberia.  The aircraft was previously at work in our Tanzania programme and over the last year had undergone a complex overhaul and re-registratirepaint, the interior replaced, the avionics brought up to date, in preparation for deployment to become our lifeline in Liberia.

The ferry journey will take 20 flight hours in total, stopping overnight at Kisangani in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), then onto Brazzaville in the Republic of Congo for another overnight, landing in Yaoundé in Cameroon, then Accra in Ghana finally arriving in Monrovia in Liberia.  They hope to arrive in Liberia on Monday 17 August after passing over 11 countries. There have been challenges over the last few days, especially waiting for countries to grant us the necessary overflight permissions, but Emil and Arjan’s patience and planning paid off and, at last, yesterday they heard the good news: “We have received permission from Liberia, so they are waiting for our arrival on Monday!”

And Liberia has waited for MAF a lot longer than these five days. It’s also no wonder Emil Kundig has learnt to relax about authorisations like these after the last year of waiting for God’s door to open for him in Liberia.  We have had the privilege of getting to know both the Paas and Kundig families here in Uganda in their time of waiting for the Ebola crisis to end in Liberia.  This unforeseen delay led to them both serving a number of months here where they were able to work on various licences, training and accrue further experience ready for the time they could start their mission in Liberia.

From the MAF Uganda perspective, the last year has been quite a gruelling test of patience as we worked to regain our international license after the Ugandan Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) decided to retract all Air Operators Certificates for international flying in June 2014.  All operators like MAF that wished to continue to fly internationally had to undertake a lengthy re-certification process, which for our team in Uganda lead to a year of uncertainty and frustration until we received our permissions again last month (July 2015). When I spoke to our programme manager Steve Forsyth a few months back, I was asking him whether there was anything good that could have come out of our year of waiting.  His answer was very honest, “That’s what I find so discouraging.  I find it very hard to see what good could have possibly come from all of this.”   And yet, it was not only MAF Uganda in this same season of waiting.  The programmes in both Liberia and Uganda were both akin to standing in a holding gate being interrupted half way through a race.    While speaking to Emil and Arjan things seemed to culminate into a clearer picture, like looking at impressionist dots on a painting and standing back to realise what they meant.  They shared with me about their initial call to move to Liberia.

Emil and his wife Margrit were driven by a clear sense of knowing that, one day, they would be called to help open a programme within MAF somewhere.  Their time had come to an end serving in Bangladesh due to age restrictions and they decided to move to Liberia in 2013.  At the same time, Arjan and Artje Paas were happily living in Australia when they heard that MAF hadn’t had any applicants for Liberia.  They too felt a peace about moving to this far distant, West African nation.  Arjan explained, “We wanted to start in a new programme.  We felt at home in Australia after 2 years of living there.  We thought many people would want to apply for Liberia when the positions opened up and were surprised that no one had applied….we thought, ‘Maybe we should go.’”

As Emil and Margrit were preparing to leave for Liberia last year the Ebola crisis erupted.  They were watching the news unravel and could see everyone was being evacuated.  Emil’s initial role as programme manager would have been to work on all the necessary permissions to enable operations to start and that have would have involved a lot of work with government departments. But as Ebola took hold all the day-to-day government business was being shut down.  “In light of everything we needed to do towards setting up the programme, we made the difficult decision to delay going”.  So the Kundigs and Paas families came to Uganda instead – waiting for the right time.

All of the delays we were experiencing both in Liberia and in Uganda brought us all into a common waiting pool.   In this time, I observed the beauty of MAF, being able to adjust to the circumstances, extending and stretching to make things work for our customers and partners. The team worked closely with staff in the MAF programmes in South Sudan and DRC to minimise any disruption to our passengers including pilots meeting at borders to transfer people and cargo.

As an international team, the challenges were met as best we could. It’s difficult to explain the year the programme has waded through.    And yet, here was Emil telling me, “I couldn’t have sat waiting for the plane (OPE) to be registered while in Liberia.   All of these delays with registration, Ebola and the International License in Uganda showed that God’s hand was upon it.  I feel as though everyone in Liberia has lost a year…the children weren’t able to go to school for a whole year, the government wasn’t able to function, MAF was also put on hold.”    The time was certainly not all wasted though as Emil went on to explain, “I have been able to work on getting an engineering license and also a pilot license conversion while in Uganda.”  Arjan also added that he had gained more experience with the 208 throughout this time and was also able to help out in South Sudan for a few months.  “It’s nice to see the different programmes so you can take the best procedure from each and implement them in Liberia…and together we will have to figure out what’s best for Liberia.”

Once the Ebola crisis came under control the Kundigs were able to move to Liberia in February and were joined by the Paas family in June this year. Emil commented, “Things have been falling into place….  Liberia is very different… West Africa is completely different to East Africa.   It’s also had war just 10 years ago, then Ebola…it’s a very broken country.   Liberia needs help.”    When I asked Arjan what advice he would give anyone considering moving to Liberia.   “If you’re thinking of moving to Liberia, then follow your heart and go”. 

Emil mentioned a couple that came from Europe to Liberia for 3 weeks to plant a garden and train the locals how to grow plants in their harsh environment.  They studied how to plant in a salty environment alongside other conditions unique to Liberia.  They changed their methods, laying cardboard and even using seaweed.  The locals loved it and were impacted by their training.   As MAF begins their new venture in this broken country, the garden we plant there will need to suit the environment.  The way the team approach the needs of Liberia, as Arjan so aptly put it, will be most effective as, ‘together we figure out what’s best for Liberia’.     
Emil went on to say something poignant about the wind changing for both Liberia and Uganda in the last few weeks.   “It feels as though we’ve entered into a season of things finally moving.  It reminds me of what our pastor in Liberia was talking about recently.    A time of barrenness doesn’t have to be a curse from God.  It can be a season of reflection or a season of putting things into order.” 

We are having problems uploading pictures to the blog.
If you wish to see a few photos then go to;

Friday, 31 July 2015

AOC update and moving sooner than expected....

No not to Liberia, unfortunately our landlady just gave notice that she wants our (her!) house back!  So that means we have 3 months to vacate....not what we were expecting but we are trying to see the positives that we can clear out and sell off stuff in stages!  The good news is that we have already hopefully found somewhere which will work until March when we plan to head to Liberia.  It is smaller so we are already sorting to sell off furniture etc that we won't move to the new house or Liberia.

We have family arriving this weekend to visit us for a couple of weeks. After their visit we will get serious about researching shipping companies and selling off stuff.
Please pray that we can enjoy a weeks holiday next week and the rest of the time with family without all the arrangements going around and around in our heads!

There have also been wonderful answers to prayer. Last week we received the news that our AOC has been issued and we are now allowed to fly internationally again!!!  It has been a long and arduous process but we are so thankful to be able to serve our partners in S Sudan and EDRC again.
Thank you so much for praying along with us.

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Sunday, 26 July 2015

Back from Liberia

We arrive back home last Monday (20th) after our 9 day trip to Liberia.  The journey there went well although kind of circuitous having to fly via Nairobi and then a stop in Accra, Ghana and then finally to Liberia.

Arriving a Roberts International Airport and entering the small, crowded and somewhat chaotic room that served as the arrivals area immediately reminded Sarah of  her years growing up in Nigeria.
However, word had been sent through to helpful staff who smoothed our way through immigration and baggage collection and ensured that we were paid little attention by customs.

On arrival at the ELWA (Eternal Love Winning Africa) campus it was nice to meet up again with the two MAF families already serving in Liberia. They made us very welcome and looked after us incredibly well all week.
ELWA  campus contains a hospital where several SIM missionaries serve, a radio station, Tearfund offices and is a base for Samaritans Purse.  It is where the MAF staff have their houses ....what a beautiful place it is to live since it is right on the ocean with it's own beach!  Our children did all they could to get to the beach and swim as often as possible during the course of the week.

Sea front and staff homes on the ELWA Campus

Wet view from the guesthouse we stayed in

Kids enjoying the sea

The MAF houses...ours should be built to the left of these

One of the things that we all had to get used to quickly was hand washing before entering any public building.  This is to reduce the chance of spreading the Ebola virus.  Everywhere there are buckets with taps that supply chlorinated water to wash your hands with and some shops even take  your temperature with an infrared thermometer before allowing entry.  Generally handshaking as a greeting is not used which felt very rude to us just because it is such an automatic response and multiple times we found ourselves having to pull our hands back.

During the week we were able to visit the town centre, see what is available in the shops (and at what price!) and eat at one of the many Lebanese owned restaurants. Liberia uses both the $US and its own Liberian dollar. The Liberian dollar is of little value and therefore nearly all goods are sold in $US.
We discovered that almost nothing is produced within Liberia so all goods are imported and come at a price. This includes essentials like  milk, eggs and vegetables.  A few things are locally grown and these include eggplant, cucumbers, bananas and pineapple.

Coming from Uganda we are used to heavy tropical rainstorms but in Liberia we experienced another whole level of wetness!!!  Our visit was during rainy season and being there during that time we can quite believe the annual rainfall of 5 feet which is 50% more than the UK but the bulk of it arrives in a 3 month period.

On Sundays we attended Monrovia Christian Fellowship.  The teaching was excellent and the worship lively.  It reminded us in many ways of the church we attend here in Kampala.

Monrovia Christian Fellowship

We were able to go with the children to visit the American International School of Monrovia.  It is the only international school in the city, and currently has 60 students (Many of the former 130 students have not returned following the Ebola crisis),  The school has excellent facilities although we all had to use our imaginations to picture the school filled with children learning or at play since it is the summer holidays now.  We all decided we would be quite happy for Amy and Joshua to attend AISM.

For Mark there was the opportunity to visit James Spriggs Payne Airfield where MAF will be based. They already have an office which they are sharing with another small Christian NGO.  The office is a 5 minute walk from the airfield.  During Marks visit to the Airfield he was able to see the options for setting up maintenance there until MAF is able to build its own hangar.  He was able to spend time at the Samaritans Purse hangar and talk to their Maintenance Director (mostly about motorbikes but also a little about work!!!).  It was helpful to get an insight into maintaining an aircraft in a hot and humid climate near the coast.  He was also able to see the area airport officials have verbally agreed MAF can build a hangar on...right now it looks like rough, uneven, rubbish strewn swampland but with a little imagination....who am I kidding!

It is hard to put all the thoughts and emotions of  a week full of experiences into words...I think we are all still processing things.  We all came away from the week more aware of those parts of our life in Uganda that we would miss.  However, we also had a wonderful week building new relationships and picturing a new and different life for our family in Liberia.
Therefore, we have decided it is right for us to move and this week Mark formally accepted the position of Chief Engineer for the Liberia Program!  We are currently planning to move direct to Liberia from Uganda in March 2016 in time for Amy and Joshua to join the last term of school before the long summer break.  We would then take Home Assignment over the summer.
Until we move we will be in the interesting situation of being part of two programs.  It maybe necessary for Mark to travel there to help with the maintenance on the aircraft in the interim.
I think it is fair to say that we are all excited to be starting this new adventure in Liberia and seeing what God has in store for us.

Wednesday, 17 June 2015


I guess your first thoughts on reading the title above was either; “where’s that?” (if you don’t read the news) or “Ebola” if you do. 
Here are a few facts about this little known country:
Liberia, at only 43,000sq miles, is smaller than England.  However, violent thunderstorms are frequent and average rainfall is 1,590mm a year (UK is 1,091mm/year)) making it difficult to travel by road as vehicles get stuck in deep thick mud on the country's unpaved roads.
Created to receive freed slaves from North America, the country was christened ‘Liberia’ (land of freedom) in the 1820s by its American colonists.
In recent years, the country has struggled to find the freedom its name implies.
Battered by a 14-year civil war which ended in 2003, claimed more than 250,000 lives and left the country in economic ruin - today, around 80% of the population live below the poverty line.
According to a national census, 85.5% of the population practises Christianity, but the Church is fragile and many believers live in fear and spiritual bondage.
The terrible impact of the 2014 Ebola epidemic on the country is yet to be realised, but its legacy is likely to be felt for many years to come.  

MAF is preparing to begin operations in Liberia to serve around 70 NGOs and mission groups working to bring hope to Liberia’s poorest. NGOs who currently spend long hours and days travelling to reach remote locations, have expressed renewed enthusiasm for an MAF programme in the country.

Currently Emil & Margrit Kundig (Programme Manager) are based in Monrovia, Liberia.

 In June 2015 Arjan (Pilot) and
Aartje Paas with their three children, ( Rachel, Tamar and Ethan)  will also move to

What does all this have to do with us?...
For some months we have been feeling less settled here in Uganda and sensing that it is time for us to move on.  We still believe it is right that we continue to serve with MAF.
At the end of last year we started to enquire about vacancies in other countries.
   The country that has captured and held our interest is……yes you guessed it - Liberia!  
   In recent months Mark formally applied for the role of Senior Engineer in Liberia.  We have had three interviews and references have gone in.
MAF have formally offered Mark the position.
Our acceptance will be decided once we have made a visit to Liberia in July.  The biggest area we need to consider is the children's educational needs.

After 10 years in Uganda It is going to mean a big change.
Going from a 20 family team to a programme with three families in which everyone will juggle several ‘hats’. From an established programme to one just getting started.
From a city with about six good international schools to choose from to a city with one.

While we both have moments of anxiety when we think of all we will leave behind and the challenges ahead there is an underlying sense of peace that this is right.
Please pray with us for clarity of mind and confirmation in our hearts as we visit  Liberia in July.

If we accept, then we plan to move in the first half of 2016.

Friday, 3 April 2015

Easter Greetings

I don't know what Easter means for you.
Do you think of chocolate eggs, hot cross buns, meals with family and a long weekend?

While these are all lovely (although sadly the chocolate eggs are very difficult to find here in Kampala) they are not the reason why we are celebrating.

Here in Kampala our Easter celebrations have altered a little due to an increased risk of a terrorist attack by Al Shabab (the Somali militant group). It has been mentioned in BBC news.
Foreigners have been asked to consider carefully whether they need to go to places with large crowds where larger numbers of internationals may be.
Life carries on, although with a heightened sense of alertness and continual praying for discernment about what activities are necessary and what should be avoided..especially when it comes to keeping three children occupied during the Easter holidays!

Partly, due to this we decided to celebrate Palm Sunday at home as a family.   We had a great time making palm branches and our own donkey masks, singing songs and acting out the story of Jesus entry into Jerusalem as king.

I have been reflecting this week on the situation here in Kampala and on the wider worlds need for a saviour.
The words of an old song have been coming to mind;
"It was for freedom that Christ has set us free,
no longer to be subject to a yolk of slavery,
so we're rejoicing In Christs victory
our hearts responding to his love"
I am so thankful that this weekend I can celebrate Christs Victory on the cross, overcoming death, paying for my sins  and giving me life forever with Him.

As a family we pray you will know the richness of a full life in Jesus Christ this Easter time.
Happy Easter