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

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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.

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

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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.

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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.

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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.  

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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.

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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.

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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.  

 

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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.

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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.

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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.

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

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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.

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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.

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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.

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A Mix of New Tech and Old School

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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.

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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

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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

 

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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.

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Captain’s Log-May 15, 2016-Chimp Rescue-More Fun Than A Plane Full of Chimpanzees

Chimps all tied down....just before the great escape.

Chimps all tied down….just before the great escape.

It is always interesting to be reminded of things that I should have written down, but didn’t, so when an NBC crew recently reminded me of a very interesting day I had back in 2009 I decided it was worth relating. We were called to pick up a load of cargo in the middle of the forest, five chimpanzees that had been rescued from the pot by some very nice people, and we were to take them to the ICCN (Congo government national parks) sanctuary in Bukavu. It meant a lot of flying with no real place to fuel along the way, so Joey Lincoln and I filled the Caravan as full of fuel as we could and then put a couple more drums in the plane to refuel from when we got to Akethi.

A little dazed but ready for the big safari to the sactuary.

A little dazed but ready for the big safari to the sanctuary.

We landed to find a bit of a battle going on between a local “official” and the people we were picking up. He wanted thousands of dollars from them for the right to move the chimps. All their paperwork was already in order, but it was from the capital and we were not in the capital.   Some might wonder why our mission is flying wild animals, but MAF looks for opportunities to work with the country in ways that promote stability so we will fly teachers’ salaries and medical people and sometimes ballots for elections and even do wildlife conservation flying. I love this part of the work and meet many interesting people who I get to interact with.

Adam and Laura very happy to be up and away from the struggle. You can see the net over all the crates in the background.

Laura and Adam, very happy to be up and away from the struggle. You can see the net over all the crates in the background.

Anyway, we had a very long day and could not waste a lot of time so I told Joey to fill the plane with fuel while I loaded the chimps. We require animals to be in cages in the plane, and these were in cages, but they were hand made out of small boards and local materials from the bush so, even as we were loading, chimps were getting out. It was pretty hectic and the biggest chimp was very strong. It was a mission to get it back in the box even though the chimp was partially sedated. When she was finally back inside, I secured the cargo net over the whole lot and got everything else ready. While I was wrapping up, the “official” was “discussing” the movement permit validity closely with Laura, one of the rescuers. Like at a 2 inch distance from her nose. We decided to just leave our empty fuel drums there to be collected at a later time and, when the arguing seemed fairly finished we loaded the people and the last baby chimp. But just as we started to close the last door the officious man came back to say we were actually not done because he still wanted money. Joey told him we had to go due to time limitations, turned the master on and yelled, “Clear Prop”, hitting the starter for just a second. The men quickly got out of the way and we then truly started up and left. It was great to break ground and be on our way and Laura and Adam were visibly relieved to be out of there.

crowd of people with ICCN rangers greet the new arrivals for the sanctuary at Luero in Bukavu.

Crowd of curious people with ICCN rangers greet the new arrivals for the sanctuary at Luero in Bukavu.

The rest of the trip was relatively uneventful. We were greeted by the ICCN Parks people at the destination airport and the chimps were safe. It was good to help these animals and be a part of helping Congo to succeed. The story is supposed to air on the early morning Sunday edition of the NBC Today show for those who would like to have a look. I have not seen it so I hope it is accurate. Check it out.    http://www.today.com/money/mission-love-meet-couple-who-found-love-while-rescuing-chimps-t92611  There are some beautiful shots of Congo in there and of our plane landing over the camera crew. It was an interesting and unusual day at the office.

I say goodbye to our new little friends  and wish them a great life.

I say goodbye to our new little friends and wish them a great life.

Posted in Adventure, Amazing Africa, Wildlife | Tagged , , | 3 Comments

Captain’s Log-20 March 2016-Ndruna New Testament Dedication in Geti

The crowd was amazing. Over a thousand people packed together. Hard to get a good count in the churning mass but the chanting was wonderful to hear. They were very excited to receive the New Testament in their heart language.

The crowd was amazing. Over a thousand people packed together. Hard to get a good count in the churning mass but the chanting was wonderful to hear. They were very excited to receive the New Testament in their heart language.

It was an exciting day! We pilots are usually in the plane and see things from that perspective, so it was great to be on the dusty dirt road and on our way to Geti where the big celebration to dedicate the brand new Ndruna New Testament was scheduled to start at 9:00 AM. Dave, Donna and Andrew Jacobsson, as well as Drs. Warren and Lindsey Cooper and their little son Emmanuel, were in the Land Cruiser as we drove to meet up with the big bus load of SIL workers and translators along with other special guests. We were to meet at the intersection out of Bunia and join up for a UN escort into the area, as only Monday there had been a bandit attack on the road and 2 people had been killed. As we bumped down the road at 6:00 I got a call from Maryanne saying that the bus had not showed up yet. The driver had a hard Saturday and the bus company was looking for a new one. So we carried on past our planned rendezvous point enroute to Bogoro. It is a lovely, climbing road into the mountains that fall away into the Albertine Rift and we slowed to enjoy all the sights. Someone had put up a new cement signpost marking a place where Stanley had camped in his trek across the continent. We got to Bogoro and went to the old German Daguna mission station, which is now the UN camp, where we were to pick up our escort. We walked around the camp to the old mission guesthouse overlooking the valley below and then were invited in to the Bangaladeshi officers’ hut for some coffee and biscuits while we waited for the escort to assemble themselves. By that time the bus had showed up and we set off. We were only 2 hours and a bit late by the time we got there and the crowd was huge. They began chanting out a song for the occasion as we were carried away by the throng to the front. People were dancing and singing and celebrating wonderfully.

Unpacking the new boxes and presenting the first Ndruna Bibles to the people.

Unpacking the new boxes and presenting the first Ndruna Bibles to the people.

There was special singing and preaching and then the first box of Ndruna New Testaments was brought up to be dedicated. All the pastors prayed over them and then the first box was opened with great ceremony. People groups were called forward to receive a copy; a representative of the women, the youth, the police, politicians and so on, and they went away celebrating. After these presentations different people would read a portion of scripture and, with great excitement, hear the words in their heart language. It was a fine moment to be a part of.

groups who received the first New Testaments read from them with great joy.

Groups who received the first New Testaments read from them with great joy.

It doesn’t take much time under plastic tarps before one is way too hot!   I could feel myself becoming dehydrated so I slipped out for a bit and went to our vehicle where I had some water in a cooler box. Dr. Warren and Emmanuel followed with the idea of getting Emmanuel a bit of rest. But that was out of the question with 100’s of kids crowding around the car to see the little blonde boy who was unafraid and willing to jump into the pile of them.

Emmanuel Cooper enjoys playing with a hundred kids. He is fearless, so everyone has a good time.

Emmanuel Cooper enjoys playing with a hundred kids. He is fearless, so everyone has a good time.

There was also a group beside the car with traditional drums, animal horn bugles, spears and sticks. Most were the elders of the community. One of the SIL people had told us to bring our dancing shoes as the WanGiti love to dance. And dance they did, all wanting their picture taken. I had thought this was to be part of the dedication, but it was not. I love African drums and their dancing reminded me of the Tonga people along the lake shore of Kariba in Zimbabwe.

Old women from the village wanted their picture as they rushed at me with their sticks held like spears pointed at my chest.

Old women from the village wanted their picture as they rushed at me with their sticks held like spears pointed at my chest.

A huge swirling mass of people stomping up dust as they chant with their spears and sticks in the air. I imagine in the old days it would have all been spears and very intimidating warriors instead of the elders. But it was still a bit spooky to watch the old women come at me with their sticks held like spears aimed at my chest and them back away into the crowd to be followed by another group coming up with spears poised to puncture me. The present day “warriors” were still in the hills around us and we had to get home through their area before dark.

The elders from the village performing traditional dances in the dust. Incredible.

The elders from the village performing traditional dances in the dust. Incredible.  A step back in time.

We had a nice meal and, as we all know, “Everything takes longer than it takes,” so the UN convoy vehicles were late and we started out without them, passing them on the road about 15 minutes outside of the village. We told them to go there to get the bus that was still loading up and we carried on in the Land Cruiser. As we got back over the hills to Bogoro it was as if we could breathe freely again, being safely out of the most dangerous area. We made it back home before dark having thoroughly enjoyed the day.

Traditional Drums of wonderful quality and Roam antelope horns to blow as they dance.

Traditional Drums of wonderful quality and Roan antelope horns to blow as they dance.

It was great to remember that MAF had been a part of this 20+ year project from its very beginning and right through the hard times of the fighting.   MAF men before us had started and we got to be part of the finishing. In many ways it did not seem fair for us to get to be at the very satisfying and enjoyable end instead of them. But it was a good reminder that we don’t always get to see the end result of the role we play in God’s plans. There is a bigger picture and we might get to write a few lines in the story, doing our job as best we can with maybe the end not even in sight, knowing that we may hand the baton on to another who gets to cross the finish line. That is enough. None of this is for our glory anyway. Every one of us wanted to turn it back onto God.   But, I would love to make him smile.

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