Captain’s Log-September 25-Big Road Trip


Flying down to Goma with my lovely wife, Cher, to pick up our new to MAF vehicle and drive it back to Nyankunde. Friends often tell us of their trials on the road and being utter beat up in body afterwards. I was  eager to find out for myself and gladly volunteered for the trip.  I asked Cher to write the story from her point of view.

Road Trip, Day 1

Tuesday,  Jon and I began an adventurous road trip. I had actually considered calling our kids and grandkids to tell them I loved them, in case we didn’t come back, but alas, we had no internet that morning. I know, it sounds crazy, but, read on. This wasn’t a across country car journey in the USA. Travel on what passes for roads in Africa is a whole ‘nother story.


At Kivu Motors we signed papers and got last minute things finished, pick up the Land Cruiser  and get on our way at about 2:00 p.m.

We were flying with Lary Strietzel to Goma to collect MAF’s newly purchased vehicle and drive it up to our base in Nyankunde. We often hear stories from missionaries and humanitarian workers about how hard and dangerous road travel is and how they couldn’t be here without MAF. Our neighbor told us if MAF wasn’t here their mission wouldn’t allow them to live here, never mind her mother! We knew the Congo roads were difficult and dangerous and Jon wanted to really experience it first hand. This trip literally drove it home to us again. Leaving our base in Nyankunde we flew over Beni, presently a Ebola hot zone, and then over the road to Butembo, also a Ebola site. The Saturday before, the local Islamic militia had killed 23 people on this road. We carried on alongside the beautiful, snow capped Rwenzori mountains and the border of Virunga Natl. Park, where militia attacks against park rangers have taken the lives of dozens of men and women, and armed robberies are common. We arrived in Goma a mere one hour and fifteen minutes after leaving home.


Cher and I felt a bit like country bumpkins with the paved roads and heavy traffic. We hadn’t driven on pavement for a year. There is even a “robot” (Southern African word for traffic lights), but they take it to a whole different level here and actually have a genuine robot!

After waiting 2 or 3 hours for paperwork on the car, we crossed the border into Rwanda, clearing the car and ourselves out of Congo. Rwanda is beautiful! Beautiful little square houses with nice thatch roofs, lovely yards, and fertile gardens with lots of flowers. Clean and green with no garbage visible anywhere! The hills are steep and terraced, like nothing I have ever seen in Africa before. And the main roads were paved! I had heard they were, but sort of thought it was only in the city. With the afternoon sun shining on the slopes the color variations were stunning.

At one point five men on bicycles carrying huge, heavy loads bigger than they were that looked like potatoes, shot down the hill in front of us, expertly taking the curves at car speed without helmets.


I was driving 30-40 kph and just staying with some of these guys. It was a rush just watching.

After a few hours of driving on the paved roads we saw a sign for a certain safari lodge that Jon had heard was nice and wanted to stay at that night. We had a hard time finding the turnoff, as it was just a little parting in the tall grass onto a mud road. It was getting late, but we carried on. The road was very steep and very, very bumpy, some of it just bare rocks. I am still recovering from shoulder reconstruction surgery so we had brought lots of pillows with us to cushion it and the whole arm, but the ride was still awfully jarring and painful. As we continued up the mountain we noticed that there was the name of a high end safari company on the signs above the name of the lodge. I commented to Jon that maybe this was one of those places where they charge you $500 a night, which we would certainly not be willing to pay. The road went on and up and on, falling away steeply on both sides. We finally arrived just before sunset and Jon went in to see about getting us a room. I just sat in the car in a haze of pain and exhaustion. Little did I know that this road trip would continue on for six, much more grueling days. When Jon returned I asked if I was right about the price and he told me I had been wrong; it was $800, per person, per night, and “that’s for the ‘cheap seats’! The rest are $1000.” So, we had to tackle the steep and rough road again, this time in the dark. The people at the lodge had told us there was a nice hotel in the next town for less than $100 total and we proceeded there, not really expecting much. Well, the hotel was really good and the bed in our room was the bed from heaven! I want one just like it! It had some sort of soft ‘topper’ and was like sleeping in a cloud of comfort, something we were really able to appreciate after our long day. If only the rest of this trip had been so nice.


The view of Lake Burera from the top of the hill just at sunset before we headed down to the cheap motel.

Day 2

We hit the road the next morning, continuing north and into Uganda. Crossing borders in Africa can be a real challenge sometimes, and we did have one moment when we thought we might have trouble. The immigration agent asked us for our “next” passports. Since that was a bit confusing we questioned him about it. He kept insisting he needed to see our “next” passports. We explained to him that our passports were brand new and asked him a few more questions. Eventually we figured out that he wanted to see our last passports. That is something that is not required and which we had never been asked for before. I have no idea what it was about. Jon explained to him that we didn’t have them and he decided to let us continue anyway.

After only minute we came to a T in the road and Jon asked the boda-boda drivers on the corner which way to go. They are usually a great source of road knowledge as they are continually on the road and know their area.  They all said left.  We were a bit surprised, but turned left.  About 20 minutes later we arrived back at the Uganda/Congo Border! Did Jon say Katale (which is in Congo) instead of Kabale (in Uganda)? Oh well, it was pretty country.

Leaving Rwanda meant leaving the nice roads. I have never before experienced such terrible roads for so many days in a row. The road went from 1 lane, and having to pull over to let oncoming cars by, to easy, 3-trucks-wide stretches and then to smooth sections with extremely high speed humps. You could drive fast…but only for 50 meters at a time.


Beautiful view from the escarpment overlooking Queen Elizabeth National Park with elephant roaming around below us and Rwenzori’s out in front.  Marvelous!

Our first night in Uganda we stayed in a simple but nice hotel on the escarpment overlooking Queen Elizabeth Natl. Park. It had an amazing view of the park and we enjoyed watching the elephants below with the Rwenzori Mountains in the background.


Additional fun on the road. We saw this snake crossing and stopped to help him. People came out of the woodwork to watch me get bit. Didn’t happen.  Beautiful Olive Sand Snake.   


We crossed the Equator on this day. I crossed it all the time in the air, but it is kind of cool to do it on the ground. You think of it being hot and yet there is snow on the Rwenzori Mountains, which are right on the equator. Almost 17,000 feet though.

Day 3

The next day was even more difficult. The details are lost to me due to the jarring and pain as we drove over even worse roads and through hard rain. We were very happy to arrive at Kluges Guest Farm outside Fort Portal. A birthday party for the owner was being held under a big tent and we were the only non-party guests and were invited to supper, on the house. The gardens at the farm were beautiful with lots of flowers and we were given some Hawaiian White Ginger bulbs to bring home and plant.


It is difficult to explain the road conditions well. I was too busy missing potholes to take pix.  The Chinese are building lots of roads throughout Africa and we were actually quite happy when we came out of teeth jarring bumps into four lanes of beautiful paved road. Of course one couldn’t be trusted to cruise along, so very tall speed bumps were put in place every 50 meters. At least it was smooth in between and you could be ready for them.

Day 4

After our fourth long day of brain rattling roads we were only 75 km from home, as the crow flies, but we still had to drive another 3 days to get there. In Fort Portal we found the Masindi Hotel, a historic, colonial style hotel built in 1923 and the oldest hotel in Uganda. This hotel is where the cast and crew of the movie The African Queen, starring Humphrey Bogart and Katherine Hepburn, stayed during its filming in 1951. In 1954 Ernest Hemingway and his wife were sightseeing over Murchison falls in a small, chartered airplane when its tail wheel caught on an old, disused telephone line and crashed on the bank of the Nile River. After their rescue the next day, the plane sent to medivac them to a Kampala hospital crashed on takeoff. After that they were taken to the Masindi Hotel to recover from burns and injuries. The hotel staff kindly shared with us some starts from their cycad plants.


Quaint Masindi Hotel from the 1920’s was like stepping back in time. Restful and full of history.


Cape buffalo bulls in among the Borassus palm forest were lovely to see.

Day 5

On Day 5 of our road trip we entered the Murchison Falls Natl. Park. The roads were still terrible, but we had the pleasure of toodling along slowly and carefully, having wonderful elephant encounters where we could just turn off the car and sit with them only a few meters away, eating peacefully, not fussed at all that we were there. There were several varieties of antelope, lots of warthogs, hippo, herds of buffalo, and dozens of beautiful Rothschild Giraffe. We arrived at that night’s safari camp at dusk and watched the sun set over the banks of the Nile River.


We were on roads that showed no sign of others having traveled that way in days, but for the odd elephant and other wildlife. Nice to have the right vehicle for these roads.


We had some great close encounters with elephant. We love spending time with these most wonderful of animals. Since I speak their language fluently, we were allowed to be right up in their space. This old gentleman had sadly been shot in the left front leg, his ear caught in a snare and cartilage ripped, leaving him with a drooping ear and big sore cut. His trunk had also been sliced by a snare. Still remarkably friendly. Notice the Piapiac birds on him.


Men fishing in the Nile close to the papyrus and not far from Lake Albert.

Day 6

We had been in contact with multiple security sources and they confirmed to us that it is unwise to travel on the next stretch of road on weekend days because that seems to be the time the militia steps up their attacks. So the morning of Day 6 we used the rest of our 24 hr. pass for the park and then departed for the Uganda/DR Congo border in early afternoon. I think we had to pass through FOUR customs gates on the Congo side before we could get on the road to Mahagi, the nearest town. It was nice that we had a few hours to rest so we found a local guest house we had heard was simple but OK and booked a room there. It was a “we’re not in Kansas anymore” experience, complete with bedbugs. I stayed to rest while Jon went out walking in the busy streets and local market to get us a few supplies and try to find us some food for the evening. He came back with enough snack food and toothpaste to get us home the next day. He had arranged for some supper to be delivered to the guest house later that evening.


Another wounded elephant in Murchison. This one shot just off the spine. If it had been a few inches to the left he would have been paralyzed in his back legs. Very sad.

We had been keeping in touch with our team in Nyankunde and with our chaplain friend, Bisoke, in Bunia for advice and information on our proposed route from Mahagi to our home the next day. We had planned to leave in the early morning since we knew the road was bad and, with the current rains, could be very muddy and slow, but we were told NOT to depart before 8 AM. After that time there would be other cars and lots of big trucks on the road and we would not be an isolated target. What a way to plan a trip; on which route and at which hour are we least likely to be robbed, or worse.

Day 7

The worst dirt and mud main road yet was so poorly signposted that we had to stop more than once to ask people for directions on how to get to Bunia, the provincial capital and town nearest to Nyankunde. We were now driving through Djugu and Fataki in the area the refugees in the camp MAF is helping in Bunia had fled from earlier this year. Sudden and extensive violence between tribes had ignited a storm of fear there and caused the flight of tens of thousands of people south to Bunia and as far as across Lake Albert into Uganda. We saw 4 refugee camps along the road that day. At one point we weren’t sure we had taken the right way, so Jon stopped the car beside a woman with a baby on her back and asked her for directions. The look of terror on her face before she turned and ran up the steep bank and fled into the tall grass told a powerful story, the details of which we will never know. As I write this I can see the scarred face of one little girl in the Bunia refugee camp, slashed by a machete while she was being carried on her mother’s back. Her mother didn’t survive the attack. Since Jon has been going to the camp almost every Tuesday since then it has made this whole situation more personal to him. On this road we were traveling 16 people had been killed in the previous week while we were driving north on the other side of the border.

We arrived back home to Nyankunde in the early evening of Day 7 and emerged from the rough road onto the MAF airstrip, mown and smooth, green and beautiful, with our hangar and planes at the top. Tired and beaten up by the roads, now more than ever we can understand what normal life and travel here are like for the Congolese people. Our road trip was a seven day, fifteen hundred kilometer journey. If not for the increasing violence on the Congo route between Goma and Nyankunde, we would have had to drive only four hundred. It is a joy to be part of this MAF ministry to make their lives and circumstances better, to be able to show them the love of Jesus in the way we work and live our everyday lives, and to help them do their work a bit easier in this challenging place.

An hour and fifteen in an airplane vs. seven difficult and dangerous long days on what passes for roads here. You decide.


Beautiful male Rothschild’s giraffe with buffalo in the background among the Borassus palms


Nice big fresh warm pile of elephant dung. Butterflies and Dung Beetles and crazy mzungus in it.



Posted in Adventure, Amazing Africa, Gunshot wounds, Life in Africa, Wildlife | Tagged , | 6 Comments

Captain’s Log – July 28 2018 – Garamba Celebrates 80 Years as National Park


Garamba National Park celebrates 80 years as a National Park with the burning of some of the ivory they have collected from poachers. 

Last month, Cher and I thought we should take an opportunity to get on one of our flights up to Garamba National Park before friends left at the end of their job contract there, so we went up for a couple nights.  Our friend Erik, the warden, asked us to call as we were took off from Nyankunde, but I couldn’t get through till we were about 10 minutes from the park.  To our surprise, we were greeted by a company of fully kitted out Parks Game Scouts on parade to welcome our passengers.  We hadn’t realized it, but we were carrying the EU Ambassador to Congo, the head of USAID to Congo, the head of ICCN, Congo’s National Parks, and the plane full of other dignitaries.  We also did not realize it was the 80th anniversary of the park and there was a big celebration planned with the governor and even more VIPs to come.  So much for our quiet getaway in the bush!


Our digs at Garamba, East Africa style. We are always falling with our bums in the butter.

But it was very cool. We got to celebrate with our friends. The park has been under harassment from the LRA and South Sudanese poachers, as well as “unknown people” shooting from helicopters, and local poachers. The last of the northern white rhino have disappeared in the time we have been living in Congo and the elephants have suffered greatly. Erik, (who has been shot in the process of protecting the park’s wildlife), was telling us that in the first weeks he was at the park they lost 25 elephants to poachers. In the first 6 months of this year they have lost none!  That is a remarkable change and shows the amount of work that has gone into protecting the elephants here. Part of the celebration was the graduation of 50 new game scouts from their rigorous training program. To be a parks ranger in Congo’s parks is to be a soldier, and these men have been trained by the best; everyone from ex-Mossad, British SAS, Green berets, and French and Belgian special forces. They are putting the poachers on notice that they will not tolerate poaching in their park.


Fifty new Game Rangers trained and ready to protect the park., putting poachers on notice that this is not a place for them.

Another part of the ceremony was the burning of some ivory.  I have mixed feelings about the viability of this. I am glad it will not benefit the poaching of elephants at all, but I’m not really sure how the law of supply and demand is affected. There are millions of Chinese desiring to buy at this point, and that needs to somehow be the focus of effort on the market in my humble opinion.  Ivory sales in Zimbabwe paid for their elephant conservation program, and it wasn’t until they were stopped that elephant poaching went crazy and elephant population numbers dropped radically, with container loads of ivory going out as “diplomatic pouch” with the government’s full knowledge. Things are not as simple as some would like them to be.  The efforts of the team at Garamba are seriously commendable.


A big show that Ivory is not going to end up in China if the Rangers have anything to say about it. The “law of supply and demand”, coupled with millions of people with centuries of tradition that Ivory brings status, fight with the burning of Ivory.  The solution will be in the total changing of mindsets.


Young men and women of Congo ready to take a stand to protect wildlife.

I got to give the Garamba pilot his bi-annual Proficiency Flight Review, so after the celebrations we went out to the airstrip, took the door off the plane, and went out to fly and drop some supplies to the park’s remote outposts from the air. Game viewing from a plane is a wonderful way to see the park and it’s beautiful rolling grasslands.  Especially at 500 feet with the door off.


Cher, my lovely wife, holds the door while we get ready to fly around the park on a multi mission flight to drop some supplies to out-stations, do a flight review, check for poachers, and game view. It was beautiful and we saw herds of buffalo, big pods of hippo, elephant, hartebeest, and warthogs.


Alain gave us a great time with fantastic food, friendship and fun flights.

Posted in Adventure, Wildlife | Tagged , , | 7 Comments

Captain’s Log – 21 July 2018 – Runways, Refugees and Rehab


Chad greets missionaries at Amadi after his first landing there. They had done a lot of work and cut grass after much rain. Still a few puddles and quite a few motorcycles, and the strip is in a different place than the coordinates said it was, but hey, “garbage in garbage out!’

I recently had a great opportunity to fly with one of our pilots to check him out at Amadi, an airstrip he was unfamiliar with. It is on a road and there is always the odd motorcycle on the “runway” that you have to watch out for. We got a chance to practice a few aborts as well, and had a wonderful time of “working with weather” all the way back. The concept of ALWAYS having an “out”, a place to go when you can’t go forward, will keep you alive. Having the GPS programmed with the 9 closest airships to your present position, and the heading and distance to each, is a wonderful advancement in technology from the early days of flying here.


Happy to help unload food, some of these guys were carrying 3 X 25 kg sacks at a time on their heads. My neck was sore just watching. I made them stop and do just two.

So much has happened since we l wrote.  We are still working at the IDP camp (Internally Displaced  People camp), and through a fund that MAF set up we have been able to distribute thousands of pounds of rice, beans, soya, and other foods, soap, clothes, firewood, and other essentials to keep people alive, as well as hundreds of tarps for tent houses.


Dave Jacobsson looks over all the supplies we brought this week.


All these people in one little tarp tent. Can you see the ones inside? Very cozy! We gave them another tarp.

Overwhelmed is a good word. Everyone I have taken to the camp comes away with different feelings, but usually they involve a sense of being overwhelmed by what needs to be done.  Compassion. Hopelessness. Frustrating. Sad. “What can I possibly do with so much need?” These are some of the words I have heard, but they all express the overwhelming nature of the task. It has been a privilege to work with the Christian volunteers from Bunia who are distributing what is being donated to the people at the Hospital IDP’s camp.


Deo, Dave and others unload our supplies for the IDP’s.

Bisoke is our national staff chaplain sho shows the “JESUS” film for us and has a great ministry. He has shown the film three times now in the Bunia area refugee camps and will again this Sunday. As people responded and he heard some of the stories of people there, many girls and some were telling of being raped. Bisoke has a real heart for this ministry and he and his wife, Furaha, have run a school in Bunia for orphans from the Congo war days.


Rachel, a little girl hacked across the face and side of her head with a machete has scars that are healing now. Who knows what is going on in her mind. The man behind us was also hacked.        Who does these kinds of things?

He suggested that we start a sewing class with these women ad use it as a platform for ministry and healing of their traumatic experiences. My heart also goes out to these girls and women and I was more than happy to use $1000 of the refugee camp funds to start a class. This involves a teacher who knows sewing and can counsel as well, materials like needles and thread, scissors, and cloth. I budgeted for three sewing machines as well,  but they want to start with the basics as the ladies have no training any all. We already have 157 ladies who want to be involved. Not all have been raped, but many tell stories of not being able to survive without their husbands when they get in the camp, and feeling that they need to sell their bodies just to stay alive.  There are so many needs and we are only touching a portion of them.


Some of the women who are really excited to come and learn a new skill for life that the come to practice even when no class is going on.

When I visited yesterday, although there was no class in session, there were 10 women there sewing on squares of cloth, practicing various stitching and embroidery techniques.  When I left the classroom, I noticed many women throughout the camp with their pieces of cloth, practicing what they had learned so far.

All of this is a way outside of MAF’s usual focus of ministry, but it is in our back yard and hard to ignore and we must do what we can to help.  I want to thank each of you who have given toward this.

Early this year Cher, my lovely wife, fell while gathering grass for her guinea pig. Injuring her right shoulder. It continued to get worse and worse until, at the end of June, we had to go to Nairobi, Kenya to get it operated on. There is a great specialist there who operated on her and repaired torn tendons and muscles, cleaned out the joint, and cut some bone away.  It was a big deal and has been very painful for a long time. She is just coming out of the worst of that now, but we would appreciate your continuing prayers for her recovery.  While in Kenya, I took the opportunity to get my FAA flight physical renewed.


Cher’s new scar. Doesn’t look quite so much like a centipede now that I took out the stitches. Still painful, so you can pray for a full recovery.


Posted in IDP Camp Bunia, Medical, Pilot stuff, Pilot Technique | Tagged , | 7 Comments

Captain’s Log- 10 April 2018- Bush Pilots HQ interview.

Got interviewed for Bush Pilot HQ blog site, which is a very cool place to get info on getting started in the business and tips on everything from staying alive to how to write a CV for your first job .  If you want to visit the site it is:

Quick Introduction

This Bush Pilot interview is about a man who has seen the most remote places in Africa. From Zimbabwe for 22 years to Congo for 10. Jon Cadd has seen it all. Jon Cadd is another example of a westerner falling in love with Africa and never leaving.

He has flown mainly for Mission Aviation Fellowship in Africa, the Pacific and the States. Here’s what you really want to know, the 5 questions we ask all our Bush Pilots.

Jon Cadd Bush Pilot StatsWhat would be your number one piece of advice for an aspiring bush pilot starting out in the industry?

Enjoy the process.  You never stop learning and it is all good.  Know your limitations and let them grow with great training.

Rookies teach rookies how to be rookies.

There are techniques that will keep you alive. I am continually grateful for superb training in MAF and own a long accident free career to that and the grace of God.  Slowing down gives you a chance to make the best decision.  80/20.  80 miles an hour and 20 of flaps for tight situations in terrain.

What was the route you took to becoming the bush pilot you are today?

I grew up in the Philippines and watched great bush pilots from Mission Aviation Fellowship at work and wanted to be like them.  All my focus was on that. MAF requirements are harsh and I am not the most technical person in the world, but if you are really committed to something, there is usually a way to make it happen.  I did a lot of flying jobs from Flying parachute jumpers to traffic watch over Portland and flew in Micronesia before finally getting to fly with MAF.

Jon Cadd QuoteWhat would you say is the hardest thing about being a bush pilot?

Lots of change.  If you like the same thing all the time get a different job.  Combined challenges of the flying environment of bad airstrips, unusual obstructions, terrain, weather variations and even politics and violence all conspire to distract you from your mission and a safe outcome. But that is also the great fun of it.  I have never been bored in this job.

How did you manage to get the job you’re currently at?

After a few years in Micronesia flying Evangel, Dorniers and Beech 18’s and a few more on the Rogue River in Oregon flying Super Cub and 206’s, I applied with MAF.  I when through their long evaluation and orientation process, (which has saved my bacon more times than I can say).  For the last  35 years I have been flying Africa. Based in Zimbabwe, Mozambique, Lesotho, Uganda, Congo.   It has been a blast.

Jon Cadd with KidsWhat has been your number one memory about flying?

To compress a lifetime into a single memory is a difficult thing.  A Rush of strong images flash in at once so it is more of a tapestry memory.  Bullets hitting the side of the plane hitting one of my passengers, elephants stepping in front of the plane as I was taking off, flying into a wall of weather and riding the up and downdrafts of a typhoon for an hour before popping out in the center of it with the destination little island right in the middle of the storm. A pod full of goats or turkeys or a body.  Fuel gauge knocking on empty and no idea where some land is over the Pacific with no such thing as GPS.  The joy of bringing the food that is keeping refugee kids alive or a medic flight that saves someones life.  Sorry, can’t choose one.



Posted in Life in Africa, Pilot stuff, Pilot Technique, Pilot-Aircraft | Tagged , , , | 7 Comments

Captain’s Log-16 March 2018-Rejoicing Refugees

It has been an interesting week with the IDP camp, organizing supplies and seeing what is most important day by day.   MAF Disaster Response had given us funds to continue helping.  Although we can’t do everything that is needed, we can make a significant difference in the lives of many.


A touch says we are all people together.  Welcoming these folks to Bunia.   Ashley took all the pix with me in them.


Greeting people in the African way. Asking after their family, finding out where they have come from and if they are well helps to make people feel more at ease.

This week Ashley Petersen and my niece Megan went with me to the camp.  Ashley is a good photographer and was able to capture many of the needs of people there. We quickly found out what the local Christian volunteers who are cooking and distributing food lacked.  They were out of rice and were in desperate need of a larger cooking pot as the size of the one they had required cooking many times and pouring the contents into buckets for distribution, again and again.


Megan and Deogratias check out the situation of people as we walk through the camp.


Many women wanted to tell Ashley of their plight. Two of them still didn’t have tarps. Ashley was able to come back and give them both a new tarp by the end of the day.

Ashley interviewed ladies who were in need of many things, including a tarp to keep them out of the rain while they slept.  We visited with people as we walked through the camp, shaking hands and greeting, asking names and making them welcome after their long ordeal.  Many had walked for 4-5 days to get to the camp on little or no food.  We also visited the tent for the wounded.  It was harsh, hot and humid.  Not a healthy place at all.  People of all ages had machete wounds in various places; their backs, sides, arms, or heads.  One 8 or 9 year old girl had a deep wound on her neck, and a little 1 year old had machete wounds across her face and head.  Some said they had not eaten for 4 days.   I felt we had to get some things for them straight away.

We headed off to the market in town and got 30 bags of rice and a huge 300 liter pot for the cooking team.  Then we got plates and cups for the wounded, little local cooking stoves, pots, and some tarps so they could have their own tents.


The women who cook the meals were celebrating over the huge pot we brought. It was fun.

As we unloaded the rice and pot at the supply tent a whoop went up and they started drumming on the pot and dancing.  I went in to join the celebration. People were holding bags of rice over their heads and dancing, while the cooking ladies drummed on the pot and people were shouting “MAF, MAF, MAF”. It was pretty cool.  We really did spread some joy and it was fun to see the first smiles out of wounded people when they received their gifts…in the name of Jesus.   What a privilege to be here for a time like this.


It was good to watch the faces of the wounded change as we handed out plates, cups, cooking stoves and pots. Here I am giving a cup to the little girl who had been cut across the face weeks earlier.

Ashley took tarps to the ladies she had talked to and it made their day.

In spite of all the suffering, people found joy in small things.  We were encouraged, which might seem strange.  Leaving many people without basic needs, it would be easy to be frustrated.  But we did change some lives.

I came home very thankful for the many blessings I so easily take for granted.  A good hot meal, a warm shower, a warm dry bed.   It rained during the night and I couldn’t help thinking of all the people getting wet at the camp.  But then I remembered that there were at least 10 more families that were sleeping dry under tarps. It was good.

If you want to help, MAF has a fund you can give to:

Two days later, a provincial government minister and his retinue went to visit the camp.  The people were very frustrated and didn’t respond well to his speech. Stones were thrown, police weapons were shot into the air, children were trampled, and one was burned when tear gas was fired. Sadly, a policeman was killed when struck on the forehead by a rock.

Posted in IDP Camp Bunia, Mission | Tagged , , | 7 Comments

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.

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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 | 15 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.

Posted in Adventure, Pilot stuff, Pilot Technique, Wildlife | Tagged , | Leave a comment

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