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;

No comments:

Post a Comment