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Jan 12, 2017

big steps

I haven’t written in the last few months, but there has been so much going on! Josh and I have been really, really, really busy. No, really. :-)

NTMA has been working really hard at getting the flight program back on track, a process that has been going on for a couple of years now. On Dec 10, two of our pilots were checked out by the aviation authority in PNG to be able to train and check our own pilots! This is HUGE because it means that we are able to train our own people instead of pulling our chief pilot – who has his own life, business, job, and family in the states – away from his family for weeks at a time. This will save time and resources and is a huge step in keeping our program on track and moving forward.
Bush strips. This family has to take a boat and then hike after the flight to get into their village!
Josh has been flying a lot, and getting checked out into different airstrips, which means that there’s one more person to bear the load of flying for an entire country. He has really enjoyed getting to spend time with people in other areas – and he has built some good relationships with our other centers and tribal areas. He is also working on his check out for Cairns flights, which means that he can help with international medevac flights to Australia, as well as routine cargo flights. These long, international flights have previously only been possible because of two pilots, and the red-tape, long hours, and stress is a lot for just two guys – although they are amazingly resilient – so this is another big step towards bearing one another’s burdens and sharing the load. It still awes me how wonderful Josh’s job is – it’s seriously so cool!
Jon and Josh on the closest thing to Santa's sleigh around here: the Kodiaks! This was the last cargo flight from Australia before Christmas - they delivered many packages and Christmas presents with their Christmas hats on!
My dear friend, Bonnie, the one who left for medical reasons a couple of months ago received the surgery she needed, has made a full recovery, and has just returned to the field. It feels like whining when I say that it was a long and hard three months without her for me. The hardest part was dealing with myself when I got stressed out. I tend to blow things out of proportion and overreact when I’m stressed; and I take things personally, even when they aren’t meant that way at all. It didn’t help that we’ve had 11 medevacs since July, and not enough people trained to do the front office part of it. I ended up taking myself right to the edge of burnout and putting my toes over the edge. By the grace of God, I was able to step away from the ledge and slow myself down. And just when I thought I couldn't do anymore, Bonnie came back. That is grace, y'all!
The pilots of PNG!
Left to right: John M., Josh V., Brent H., Jon L., Ryan F., Brent R.
Not pictured: Mike M.
Another thing which I’m sure did not help our combined stress levels was the unexpected departure of one of our pilot families, and friends. They had to take an unexpected home assignment for their family, and they left right after the start of the new year. While this is a good thing for their family, it adds a bit of stress to our pilot team as one already left on a planned home assignment the week before, leaving just 5 pilots to do the job of 7.

Unfortunately, it also meant that Josh and I had to delay our home assignment as well. We had planned on coming back to the states for a few months in June; however, if we left when we had planned, we would be leaving 4 pilots to do the job of 7. These guys are our friends, and we know what pressure and stress that would put on them. So we have decided to delay our home assignment by three months, which gives enough time for the pilot on planned home assignment to get back and get online again before we would leave for our break. Our new tentative plan is to leave in September of this year. 
Rainy season is here, so this is what my porch looks like right now!
Until it was taken away, I didn’t realize how much stock I was putting in going back in just a couple of months; and honestly, there was a bit of a grieving time. Josh and I are overdue for a break – New Tribes recommends 2 weeks off every 6 months – and we are feeling the pressure. So pushing our break back a couple of months seems like a big step of faith for us. We’re hoping to get some genuine time off in the next month or two. It’s times like these when life feels overwhelming, and for me, it’s easy to become a cynic and forget why we’re here. Honestly, we really do love our jobs and we love the people that we work with and serve – they are amazing and have become family – and just like family, sometimes you need to get away from them to appreciate how great they are.

On a non-ministry-related note - the dry season is finally over and the rains have begun! Every afternoon, you can count on it steadily raining and continuing through the night. So far we haven't had any of the big, booming thunderstorms that I love so much, but I'm enjoying the cozy, rainy afternoons and evenings. It has even cooled off a bit in the mornings and evenings, so it's perfect weather for sitting by the window with a cup of coffee and a sweater. The thing I don't enjoy? The mud. You can hardly walk anywhere without your shoes, feet, and legs being covered in the dark, sticky, clay-like mud. If it isn't the smoke from dry season grass burnings, it's relentless mud from rainy season. Choose your evil. 
This is our driveway. This mud is about 4 inches deep. Our car does a bit of sliding when we drive out! And it's so sticky!
So as you can see, there has been a lot going on - and all of it has added up to some big steps in our departments and our lives. Thanks for coming alongside us during all of this - through your emails, letters, support, encouragement, and even Christmas presents! It really does our hearts good.

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