I had the opportunity to do a training flight this past Monday. MAF has a few days each week where we fly a set schedule. We call this Jadwal Tetap. We take-off from Tarakan and fly to a number of villages, then reverse the order all the way back to Tarakan. This is very helpful to the people who live in the villages because they know we will be coming three times a week and they should be able to get to their destination when they want to go. Well, the day started off with a minor change in the schedule. We got a call just before 8 am. There was a jenazah (body) that needed to be transported to our first destination so he could be buried in his home village. We have an organizational chart that places importance on the types of requests we receive. Needless to say, medical situations are pretty high on that list. So, we cancelled our other passengers and loaded the plane with the jenazah. Traveling with us were two of the man’s family members who were taking care of him in the hospital. I love how we are able to meet all kinds of needs for the local people here in northeast Borneo. We serve the government, the local church, families, and every day people. We transport goods, medical patients, food, motorcycles, building materials, government officials, pastors, and people from all walks of life. We are here to support the people and help them live a better life. What more could I ask to spend my life doing?
We had an uneventful flight for 40 minutes. Then, just before we were about to start maneuvering around some clouds (an everyday occurrence here in Tarakan), we saw a “low volt” light and the ammeter revealed our battery was discharging. We checked the alternator circuit breaker and it had popped. We tried to reset it but it kept popping. So, we had to return to Tarakan.
After landing, one of the mechanics was able to swap out the regulator and we were back in the air 20 minutes later. We made it to our destination and were met with a delegation of the man’s family and friends. The man’s daughter was weeping loudly and crying out, “Bapak. Bapak.”(“Daddy. Daddy.”) It was heart-wrenching. I was so sad for these people but I was grateful that we could serve them in this way. I tried to fade into the background so the family and friends could grieve and unload their precious cargo. This may be a less talked about service that we provide, but it is no less important.
We finished our day of flying and I didn’t get home until after 5:30 pm. My primary job while flying is learning to communicate on the radio. I have to use Bahasa Indonesia to communicate with the MAF flight followers in Tarakan. Then, I switch to English to communicate with other airplanes and the air traffic controllers. I can’t tell you how many times I just start speaking in English to our Indonesian flight followers and then I realize they don’t understand what I am saying. Some of the terminology is different than what I am used to and it takes a little practice to understand what the controllers are requesting, especially with various degrees of accents. After some more practice doing paperwork and radios, I hope to start flying and getting checked out on various airstrips.
Another thing that I am learning about are the weather patterns here in Indonesia. It may go without saying, but learning to fly in AZ where there are over 300 good flying days with barely a cloud in the sky is a little different than flying in the tropics. Every day starts with fog and low-level clouds. It often rains overnight. As the day wears on, there is plenty of convective activity. The sun heats the ground which heats the air. The hot air rises bringing with it all the moisture near the surface. The air cools as it rises and the moisture condenses and makes clouds. Clouds mean rain and sometimes thunderstorms. I am learning quickly where the clouds are likely to form and how to avoid the clouds but still arrive at my destination. It is kind of like a game or traveling through a maze. I love it.
It has been such a blessing to see the many different facets of what MAF does here on the field. Each day I become more excited about this work and adventure we are on. I wake anew each morning with a feeling of gratefulness and joy. It reminds me of Psalm 37:4, “Take delight in the Lord, and he will give you your heart’s desires.” We have sought the Lord, asked Him to guide us and work out His plans for our life, and He has giving us the desire to serve here and brought it to fruition. What a good God!