Captain’s Log-March 11, 2018 – Violence In Our Province.


Thousands come to the IDP camp by the hospital in Bunia. MAF brings food to help. Every day the camp grows. Last week it was 7000, By Friday it was 82,000 and more coming.

As I write it is raining and, after the dry season, it is so wonderful to see the whole area turning green again.  Then I remember the refugee camp in Bunia, only 14 miles away, and know that there thousands of people are sleeping under tarp tents and more in the rain with no cover.  This has been an interesting week.  The news of violence escalating in Djugu, tens of thousands of IDP’s (Internally Displaced People) coming into Bunia, and a rapidly growing refugee camp sparked us into immediate action.  On visiting the camp and seeing the need for myself, we requested Disaster Response funds from MAF Headquarters and were able to bring food in within a few days.


First loads of rice for the camp. Lary Strietzel and I flew for supplies. Our MAF ground crew loaded and unloaded, purchased and trucked it, and generally made it all work.


A load of cooking oil for the many meals to be prepared by hard working volunteers from the Bunia Christian community.

By that time the local Christian groups of volunteers who were trying to supply food were down to their last bag of rice, a few bags of beans, and only had 6  bags of Maize meal for porridge for young kids.  We were able to fly in 50 bags of rice, 760 kgs of beans, 40 x 20 liter containers of oil and 30 more bags of maize meal.  We also got 1200 plates and cups so people would have something to eat out of.


Eight family members in this little tarp tent with all their worldly belongings. Asked when they plan to go back, they said,”to what? Our homes are burnt”.


Supplies are short. Even though some of the big humanitarian groups have helped with water, sanitation, and shelter, as you can see there are not enough tarps to cover the frames and keep the rain and sun off. The rains have come and people are suffering.

Even though it is a drop in the bucket compared to the great need, the people were incredibly grateful and we felt like we were able to tide them over till more supplies could come.

IMG_9585 2

This man I talked to was putting his tent together for his family of 8. But there were no more tarps. There are many stories of the violence, and people had machete and bullet wounds to prove it.

It seems violence all up and down the eastern part of Congo is on the rise.  We appreciate your prayers for safety but, even more, we want to be able to help in the community.

Posted in Gunshot wounds, IDP Camp Bunia, Life in Africa | Tagged | 4 Comments

Captain’s Log-January 1 2018-Burnt Little Girl


Happy is her name, but she was not very happy the day I prepared to spread the Aloe gel all over her burnt leg.  But it was cool and she seemed to feel comforted that something good might come of this.

One morning at our prayer time before we start work Muno told us that his young daughter had spilled boiling water all over her leg the night before as she was helping her mother cook supper.  This is one of the most common accidents around the home in an African village, as the women cook over an open fire and there are always children around and helping with chores.  I often walk up the mountain behind our house and Muno’s was on the way, so I stopped by.  I met Happy, his little girl of about 10 years old, and I could immediately see that she had 1st to 3rd degree burns up and down her leg.  The surgeons were all gone and no one could do anything for her at the hospital at this time, so they had given her some Panadol (paracetemol) for pain and sent her home.  The leg looked terrible!  There were two spots especially where the meat of her leg was showing through, looking like what we see hanging on a hook at the local open market, and I was really concerned that it would get infected and there would be complications.


You can see how deep the burn is here, and other burns down the side and on the back were also bad. No bandage or medicine had been put on it and it was just raw flesh.  Anyone ID the type of Aloe Gel?

I know Aloe Vera is good for burns and we have some growing outside our kitchen door, so I went to get some.  When I returned to the house Cher said that we had a bottle of Aloe gel from the States that one of the visiting teams of volunteers had left for us.  She brought it out and I took it down to Muno’s house.  I spread the aloe liberally on the burns and told them to keep doing this each day till the gel was gone. Then we all gathered around and prayed for Happy’s healing.  We showed the pictures I took of her burns to Warren, the missionary surgeon here, and he said she would need a couple of skin graft operations.

But that’s not what transpired. Look how it turned out, without another visit to a doctor, in the before and after pictures. It is quite amazing.


Almost a month later I was passing by and was amazed to see how great the healing process had gone. Way better than I would have thought possible.

I have been thinking about this for a while now and have wondered what category to put it into. Happy’s speedy healing was a truly miraculous thing.  But was it the prayers to a healing God, or the aloe, or what?

Here is what I have been thinking.  My man, Matt Chandler, often talks about the “common graces” of God that are available to everyone, whether you believe in God or not.  A beautiful sunset,  a great steak and Cabernet, doctors and medicines, love and sex, the healing properties of the human body.  They are all gifts from our creator God. “Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above and comes down from the Father of lights,..” James 1:7.    I put the aloe in that category.

But, my goodness, this was truly amazing!  The chance of infection in such a big, deep wound, open to the air and dirt, with no bandage, is so great! And, in our area, the norm would have been for things to go horribly wrong. Why was this case so startlingly different?

What if we had not prayed?  What if some generous friends from the States had not left us the aloe? What if I had not stopped to visit? Believe me, I am not trying to toot my own horn here. I pass up so many opportunities to make a difference, I could feel like a total failure, (if I had any feelings at all).

The thing is, little things do make all the difference. I keep thinking of the boy who had 5 rolls of bread and 2 fish and gave them to Jesus, who turned them into enough food to feed 5000 people and still have leftovers! Did Jesus really need the boy’s stuff? I don’t think so. Yet still Jesus asked for it. And the boy got to be a part of the miracle.

I really want to be more “in the game”, to do the little bit that falls to me whether it is to go visit, or pray, or give the gel, or whatever. I want to be all in.

Posted in Going Deeper, Medical, Mission | Tagged , , | 2 Comments

Captain’s Log-Dec. 26, 2017- Okapi Reserve Aerial Survey


The team of reserve staff and others who will be flying on the survey.  New guys and old.  Kisongo, (second from right) organizes the survey. 

We were recently asked to do the annual aerial survey of The Okapi Reserve and just got it in before the end of the year.  This was a real training time as we changed observer crews each flight to test the guys abilities to see things well and work without throwing up.  I was also checking out Chad Dimon on the subtleties of aerial survey flying.  It is later than we usually do the survey and smoke restricted long range visibility but it was great to get back over the forest low level, and both Chad and I were excited to be there.


Looking out over the forest for smoke indicating poachers drying meat or illegal miners.  Sick-sack close at hand.  


Along with all the new people we also used some new technology, ForeFlight, on our iPads. it is a brilliant app that I can highly recommend for an operation like this where finding hard to find things in the forest is made so much easier.


Helping to fuel up for another circuit with a new crew. It was good to get the next generation of guys ready as they learn their jobs on the team.

We fly the reserve at about 500 feet looking for poachers, mining incursions, illegal cutting of trees, and settlements inside the park.  There are some outstandingly beautiful areas which very few people ever get to see, and it is a privilege to actually start to know the landmarks after the years of flying here.  The forest is so thick, with a triple layer of vegetation, that seeing animals is very rare. But every once in a while there is an opening in the forest, an edo, where animals will come and eat grass and just be in the open for a bit.  They are somethings still out when we fly over early in the day, or at least we can see the elephant “spoor”, or footprints, across the grass.  Sometimes there are also bits of grass along the rivers.  We saw few elephants but quite a bit of spoor, as well as some of the forest buffalo.  They are very reddish brown, unlike the black Cape buffalo I am used to from the savannah.


Boeya Edo, at the junction of  beautiful  rivers and many cascading water falls, is a place we often see elephant or forest buffalo.  If you look closely you can see some buff in the river.  There were 6 before we startled them. I think they are used to being shot at.  


The lovely Epulu river as the sun rises.  There is a little falls which make a continual restful white noise that never stops all the time we are at the station.

When I was not flying I tried to spend as much time as I could with my Mbuti pygmy friends.  Although I have about 50 poison arrows, I have given away all my Mbuti bows.  I was glad to be able to get a few more, as well as a spear.  I took a walk in the forest and was able to get some of the huge bean pods called “njamba”.  Most had been eaten by squirrels but I was able to get enough to make Christmas decorations for our friends from the seeds.


Chad with Mangubo, who sold him his bow and arrows.  He also demonstrated how to shoot.  It is a joy for me to watch the skill of generations of knowledge distilled into the draw of a bow string.  Mangubo is 56.


Chad Dimon finishes up his first aerial survey doing a great job.  He loved it so much I think I will struggle to hold my place as the survey pilot.  



Joyful reunion for the Dimon family after a week of maintenance in Uganda and then more days in the forest.  The life of a mission bush pilot.

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Captain’s Log-Dec. 16, 2017-Wedding Day with the King.


King Rutahaba Albert Ibanda Kituku II of Mitego Kingdom, DRC.  A regal man, dressed to receive the family of the bride.  And me.

Last week all the MAF pilots were handed a very beautiful red invitation to a wedding.  It turned out to be for the son of the Traditional King  on the border of Congo and Uganda.  King Rutahaba Albert Ibanda Kituku II of Mitego Kingdom, DRC is a wonderfully regal man who I throughly enjoy.  Royalty fits him like a glove. I was excited to attend, as it is a great honor to be invited and promised to be an interesting cultural experience.   A group of us went down to represent MAF. We flew the plane over the troubled Geti area, past a magnificent waterfall over the escarpment into the Semliki valley, to the dusty little Burasi airstrip beside the river which marks the border.  The Kings palace is a few Kilometers away so we were very happy that two of the three vehicles in the village were sent for us.  We had called earlier to try to get a reality check on the start time.  The invitation said 10:00 a.m. but we were told by Asante, the man who looks after the airstrip, that 12:00 should be fine.  A bit later he called back and said we better make it 2:00.  We got to the gate of the “palace” at 2:30, hoping we had not missed much.

Dave and Ashley Petersen, Kazi, Cher and myself, as well as our niece, Megan, were treated like attending heads of state.  We were taken past the crowd of 100’s of people waiting patiently, to a special government room where we sat with a number of Congolese Army officers and were given drinks.  Not long afterwards the King came in and greeted us all, sat down, and told us all that was going to happen.  The bride’s family  lives across the river in Uganda and the wedding actually took place there.  They would then come over to the Congo side and do a traditional family ceremony where they bring milk from their family cows and the bride kneels before the King and gives him a drink of milk from a gourd. After he is finished drinking she gives milk to each member of the kings family.   At some point in the ceremony the bride and groom sit on the kings lap, at different times I assume, and are blessed.  He told us that they would pay 10 cows for the Bride.  Four cows have been paid in advance and another one would be given today.  The King has hundreds of cattle and I don’t know why they spread out the process.  We would just get it over with and pay them all right now.  I think they purposely drag it out a bit as it binds the families together under a contract for a longer time.  Maybe the balance is paid after it is proven that the bride can actually have children.  After the wonderful explanation of the traditions involved I looked at my watch and realized all this wouldn’t fit into the next hour and a half and explained to the king that we would have to leave at 5:00 P.M. because the plane would have to get back to Nyankunde before sunset. He very graciously said he would have a special meal prepared for us right then and that he had duties to take care of, but would be back later.


As we waited, talking to the Army officers, I was offered  my highest price to date for the hand of Megan. I think the wedding inspired them. After asking her what her name was they asked how old she was and scoffed at the answer, immediately reducing it by ten years.  I said American women were too much trouble, it was not a good idea, and anyway my beautiful Cher had cost 100 cattle. One colonel offered 200 cattle for Meg. I said it sounded good, but I would have to see them first, I was not taking any babies and they would have to be in very good shape. The friendly banter at Megan’s expense passed the time.

We were brought to a table set just for us in his personal dining room, with wonderful local beef, chicken, rice, potatoes, plantain, matoke, chapati’s, pineapple and watermelon.  We were watched over by a very pleasant Ugandan Colonel who regaled us with stories of his world travels and his herd of Ankole Cattle. Everything was delicious, but even after eating our fill we had hardly put a dent in the food.  We felt very spoiled.  After the meal we were led out to take our places in front row seats where the rest of the crowd had been waiting. We listened to music thinking we would love to see the rest of the wedding celebration, but the Bride and Groom never showed up.  As our time was running out, we had to go.


Others were served as we anticipated the arrival of the bride and groom, Douglas an Priscilar. Everything was “Ntamo Sana”, very sweet!


The King escorts dignitaries from Uganda past the ten layer wedding cake as we wait for the bride and groom to arrive.

I had a last audience with the king and gave him the gift we had brought for the newlyweds.  The master of ceremonies made an announcement to the crowd explaining why we were leaving before things got started and people nodded and waved their goodbyes. We told the MC we would fly by as a salute to say a goodbye blessing and wish the couple all the best for a happy life together.  As we drove back on the dusty trail to the airstrip, we could see the wedding party just arriving by barge on the Congo side of the river.  But we could not wait.  The sun was rapidly setting.


Flying by the king’s palace to say goodbye and salute the newlyweds.

It was a beautiful flight back from a wedding without a couple.  There is landscape so wonderful it really needs to be walked but alas, the militia group in the area make it a hike that will have to wait.  All in all it was a lovely day.


A river I want to walk someday in more peaceful times. There are so many waterfalls on its course, each needing time to explore. I hope I will get a chance.

Posted in Amazing Africa, Cuture, Life in Africa | Tagged , | 3 Comments

A Mix of New Tech and Old School


My lovely wife, Cher, still flight following.  She is very good and her calm voice through the storm is a wonderful thing to me.

Things are always changing, and much of them for the better.  I was just watching Cher flight follow this afternoon and, although some things are the same, with an HF radio, and talking to the pilots, taking takeoff and landing calls, she can actually see exactly where they are and what they are doing all the time on the computer.  It is quite amazing.  Ever since we did a search for a downed aircraft over the Ituri rainforest I have been pushing to get this V2track installed in all of our aircraft.  It took a while and MAF has been working to choose the best system for our organization, but looking at our V2 screen this morning it was a pleasure to see all our planes in East Congo up and flying and  exactly where they should be.  The safety factor has gone up radically for our pilots and if the plane were ever to go down we have basically turned a search and rescue into just a rescue.  That is very cool to me.


This is what the flight follower can see.  The pink planes are East Congo while the green ones are MAF Uganda’s planes.  We can also see South Sudan’s and Kenya’s planes.  If you put the curser over the red dots it tells you about the airport, if you put it on the plane, it says how high it is, how fast it is going, where you are from the closest airport, and what your track is.  That is quite a change from the days I would fly off to Mozambique and be out of radio contact for days because of atmospheric conditions.  

Posted in Aircraft, Pilot stuff, Pilot-Aircraft | Tagged | 20 Comments

Captain’s Log-January 8 2017- Return Service


Took 3 trips to South Africa to take planes for paint and bring them back to return to service. Each trip is about 15 hours of flying over beautiful country. More on this later, but got to see a lot of our old stomping grounds as well as see many good friends. Cher even got to go along a couple times. That was a treat!

It is hard to believe it has been 7 months since I have written. Since it has been such a long time between blogs I will just catch you up with a few pix and then give you lots of fun stories over the next few weeks to bring you up to speed. It is not that nothing has been happening, but more too much has been happening to have time to write. But as Christmas has wound down and I have a chance to breathe, it seems more fun to get going again telling some of the fascinating things that happen around us in Congo. I may even get the bush pilots wife to tell a few stories. That would be fun. So, here are some pix.


While I was gone on one trip, Cher was brought a snake in a sack. She didn’t know what it was till she dumped it out into a bucket and found a very poisonous Puff adder. They are beautiful and fast striking but slow moving across the ground and will often wait along paths to catch rats. So people step on them in the dark and get bit. Puff adders probably kill more people than any other snake in Africa. The snake was so beautiful that she kept it to show me upon my return. Although we love snakes and always have them around, we do not usually keep deadly snakes.


Very ingenious home made bicycle in the village of Tchabi where we landed to drop off a doctor for his work and pick up a pastor and patient for the hospital in Nyankunde. Kids will be creative to have fun all over the world. This is great.


Dave Jacobsson had his appendix out in the Nykankunde Hospital under a local anesthetic. His wife Donna assisted and Dr. Warren Cooper did the deed. He shows us the offending part as Dave gives the thumbs up in the background. I took the pictures. Ya can’t do that in America.


Kids in Epulu love to come to the plane to welcome me. They will chant, “Mazhee, Mazhee, Mazhee” (Magic), to get me to do some tricks. When we leave they all run to the end of the airstrip and stand behind the plane to get blown away by the prop blast as I power up to take off. There was only a small group this time.


Weighing out gold at Bungamuzi’s store. It is a serious process and men will work for days for $5, if they are lucky. Well, if they are really lucky they might find a nugget, but that is really rare. Bungamuzi, the shop keeper, was shot in a robbery months ago. It sparked more violence and four more people were killed before it was all over. This is the biggest store in our village, and you can see most of it in this picture. We shop here for much of our everyday things but get vegetables, beans, rice, meat etc. at an open air market.


Shiny new MAF paint scheme on the day I returned from the ferry flight from South Africa.


Posted in Amazing Africa, Life in Africa, Pilot | 10 Comments

Captain’s Log-28 May 2016- Searching for Downed Aircraft

The calls started coming in on Tuesday morning saying that a plane was lost and suspected down in the huge Ituri rain forest about 130 nautical miles west of Kisangani. Would we send a plane to the area to look for the downed plane? Of course, we will start getting ready but it will take a while and even we are so far away. Lots of calls to our brothers in Kinshasa to see if they are closer but, we are definitely willing to go.

Imagine looking for an aircraft in this kind of forest for and area of 850 square nautical miles.  It is a daunting task.

Imagine looking for an aircraft in this kind of forest for an area of 850 square nautical miles. It is a daunting task.

It is a Turbo Thrush, crop duster on a ferry flight from Kenya to Cameroon. The pilot had just fueled up in Kisangani and had over 2000 liters of Jet fuel on board for the 8 hour flight. The plane had just installed spider tracks, which is a satellite tracking system that shows where the plane is every 2 minutes. It also has a feature where the pilot can push a button alerting that there is an emergency but this had not been done. Along with the tracking stopping, the Emergency Locater Transmitter (ELT) was not sending a signal. This radio is set off by a sudden stop and transmits an alarm that other pilots can hear on the emergency frequency, 121.5. These signs were not hopeful but the MAF guys got our 206 fueled and loaded with survival stuff to drop to the pilot and our search and rescue kit ready. With all this done, Dave Jacobsson and I flew off to find the missing plane. It was over 3 hours just to get into the search area from where we were, but we took some extra fuel so we could do as much searching as possible and for the trip back.

Kids at the Lokutu airstrip happy to play with me as we waited to get permission to leave after landing.

Kids at the Lokutu airstrip happy to play with me as we waited to get permission to leave after landing.

As we got into the area we descended down to a good search altitude, about 1000 feet due to the thickness of the trees. It was a bit high, (800 might have been better), but we only had the two of us and I had to fly the plane first. I have done a bunch of game counting and 300 feet is best for that, but that is in clearer areas without 100 foot high trees and thick undergrowth. We went to the last known co-ordinates and set up an expanding square search pattern. We were asked to search out to 5 miles, which we did with nothing seen. We spaced out 1 mile squares which is normal but doesn’t take into account the thickness of this forest. We finished the first run and then went back to the last transmitted site and started again. This time we slanted the transects 45 degrees with the hope of covering any gaps we might have had on our first search pattern and to give us different light and angles of looking.   Still we found nothing. There was an airstrip for a palm nut plantation about 27 miles away, so we headed there to refuel and see what we should do from there. We fueled but it was getting late, so Dave went to town while I looked after the plane. He didn’t come back for 2 hours. And it was all due to the bureaucracy of Congo, with immigration, police, security, chiefs and all the people hoping to make a buck from someone else’s bad fortune. We finally stayed the night at the Catholic mission guesthouse and hoped to get started early in the morning. People were there before 6:30 to “help us with paperwork…and payment”. First we had to check into the country just as if we had come internationally, pay for a first entry information form and then go to meet with the all other government offices to pay. We finally got in the air at 9:00 a.m. to start the search again. The night before we had gotten word of an unconfirmed report that villagers had seen the plane on the ground about 29 miles from us, almost 10 miles from the last spider track site. It didn’t make sense but we went there to start the second day’s search. We were told the plane was close to a river south of the village of Yahuma. We flew up and down the two streams south of town and then flew patterns across the streams. Then we flew over the village and people in front of the government building all pointed in the direction of the area we had flown. The forest is so thick all around but in this area people were clearing fields, cutting down trees and burning, which really threw us off as we had to check each clearing and fire to see if it was the plane. We were running out of fuel for searching but thought we would fly the route between this new area and the last sited coordinates again so headed off in that direction. It was just a tenth of a mile short of 10 miles and we searched in river areas as we went with no joy. We circled the last sited coordinates one more time but were thinking that since the people had already found the plane on the ground it was a waste of time and fuel to continue. As we were now running short of fuel, we flew the 3+ hours back to Nyankunde with a huge respect for the size of the forest and the thickness of the trees.

Trees for as far as the eye can see, right off the horizon.  and one little airplane is somewhere out there.  And what if we had no idea where to start.  But we had a last known position and that make all the difference.

An ocean of trees for as far as the eye can see, right off the horizon, and one little airplane is somewhere out there. What if we had no idea where to start looking. But we had a last known position and that make all the difference. I know it is a boring picture but that is what we were seeing for hours as we searched.

The team from Kenya was coming in by Caravan and would be in Kisangani by noon to walk in to the crash. Emmanuel was also flying up from Virunga in his Cessna 182. That was great because he should have better results with the government people because of his position with parks. We wished we could be a part and finish what we started, but we were out of fuel and it appeared that the situation was under control. As it turned out, it was not. There was still much government red tape to work through for the Kenya team and when they got to Lokutu and drove to the area where people had supposedly seen the plane they were told that people had heard it increase in pitch and then go quickly silent. They only had a general direction of the sound!

So the Caravan that had brought the people from Kenya got in the air and went to the initial area where contact was lost and started a search. They worked a very tight segment search and after 2 hours saw something. They could see an area of burn and a hole in the ground. A few scraps of stainless steel and that was about it. As they circled and the light changed, they made the comment that it would have been difficult to see the area from any other angle. The plane had gone almost straight in and exploded on impact. So no ELT, no more sat tracker and no more aircraft. All was lost, most tragically the pilot.

It is very sad to think that a husband and father will not come back to his wife and kids ever.   We want to learn from this and hopefully we can be safer at the end of the day.   The first thing is that we need to get Satellite trackers in ALL our aircraft as soon as we can. Not next year!   They had just installed the Spider Tracks unit in this plane for this flight. This was the first trip it had been on and if it had not been in the plane the company said they probably wouldn’t have even done a search. The search area would have been somewhere between Kisangani and Cameroon, a search area of almost 850 nautical miles. The fact that we were right over the sight of the crash at least twice but did not find it highlights the impossible task of an 850 square mile search area of thick forest like this. Because of the speed a Caravan goes, even with our standard HF radio calls done twice an hour, in a situation like this if our last call was a half hour ago we could have a search area of 75 nautical miles. That is a huge area. If we can get these trackers in all our aircraft we could be turning a search and rescue into a rescue.

The second thing we learned is that in thick forest the search patterns need to be very tight and we need to have more observers in the plane, at least 2 besides the pilots. This is in our SAR manual but we were going such a long distance to the search area and needed to take as much fuel as we could that we were limited to 2 people. We could not take our guys from Nyankunde all the way for the search. And stopping to pick up others in Lokutu would have, as we found out, stopped or put off the search.

We pray for the family of the pilot and plan to do all in our power to not need to use the experience we have gained from this event.

Posted in Aircraft, Pilot Technique | Tagged , | 7 Comments