As we write it’s the second day of Naadam, the Mongolian summer festival, when the country’s history and culture is celebrated. Throughout the past week there have been concerts, parades and celebrations. Yesterday the games opened and these comprise horse racing, wrestling and archery. Another popular activity is Shagaar (knuckle bones) which is the flicking of sheep ankle bones at a target several feet away, using a flicking motion of the finger to send a small bone flying at targets and trying to knock them off the platform.
Now a little about the changes in Blue Sky Aviation; if you’ve been following its story probably you’re aware our pilot, Ryan Van Geest and his family return to Canada in mid-October after six years’ faithful service in Mongolia. There were some concerns that no one could be found to replace Ryan and operations here would need to be temporarily suspended. We are pleased to say that another Canadian couple, Dallas and Karen Derksen and their family, presently serving in Uganda, have agreed to fill the gap for a year while a permanent replacement pilot is sought. Praise the Lord and thank Him for answering in this way. At the moment we are expecting them to arrive at the end of August.
As for us, we remain here to the end of September when we travel to the UK for the autumn Regional Managers’ Conference. After that, as ever, we remain in the Lord’s hands.
Please pray that Ryan and Amanda’s departure will be blessed with good goodbyes and that Dallas, Karen and their family will have safe travel and settle well in this very different environment.
Thank you for faithfully praying for us and BSA.
Alan and Davina.
Contact details: firstname.lastname@example.org
UK Contact: Rob Brown email@example.com
Thank you Rob for continuing this valuable work.
Thank you Peter for updating our website.
Warm Greetings from the sunny, blue, skies of Ulaanbaatar.
Arriving 6 weeks ago, we settled quickly into our apartment, the city and work roles. It is good to be back with the Blue Sky Aviation team. Our Mongolian colleagues gave us a warm welcome and had organised a pleasant apartment just 5 minutes from the office.
Tony (Chief Engineer) and Jill Lohmeyer arrived 11 hours after us to join our team. It has been a joy to help them settle and they have discovered many things we haven’t! Pray they’ll continue to settle well, Tony into his new role and that Jill will find what God has prepared for her to be involved with.
Getting our feet back under the table was initially hindered by cotton wool heads caused by the eight hour time change but after a week we were close to functioning normally. Remarkably little had changed in Blue Sky while we were away. Two of the Mongolian staff and Davina spent several days organising a retreat for all our staff which coincided with the MAF prayer day in early April. It was twenty four hours filled with prayer, spiritual input, sport, food and fun. More importantly three members of the BSA staff gave their lives to Christ during the retreat.
End of April, Alan spent a week at the MAFI International Managers’ meeting at which one of the topics discussed and taught about was disaster relief. Whilst Alan was travelling back from Bangkok the earthquake in Nepal occurred and on arrival in Mongolia he was asked if we might be able to move our aircraft to Nepal. The majority of the next week was used preparing the aircraft for flying there by giving it an early service, planning the route of our intended flight, obtaining maps and charts and negotiating with numerous civil avation authorities to overfly their countries or land for refuelling. By the end of the week it became clear there was no need for a fixed wing aircraft and we were stood down.
Once again we thank you for praying alongside us, which encourages and strengthens. We pray you will continue to grow in your relationship with our faithful, loving, caring Lord.
Alan and Davina
Where have the past eight years gone? As I (Alan) sit here writing this, our house in Nairobi is full of half packed boxes and the clutter of our possessions which in a few weeks’ time will be on their way to the UK. It very much resembles the weeks before we left for Tanzania in 2005 with the exception that this time the country we are moving to is not so unknown. I wonder if that is actually true as things have also changed a great deal in the UK in the past eight years? As we do our packing, we return to the UK materially poorer as much of what came to Africa has either worn out, was destroyed in the crash moving to Kenya or has given away but much richer through our experiences and the friendships we have made. It almost seems inconceivable that in thirteen weeks time I will have arrived at Heathrow Airport having handed the Kenya Programme to a new programme manager and having flown out of Kenya for what could be the last time. It will be good to take time then with God to see what He wants for the next phase of our lives.
However, for now there is plenty to be done. Not just routine things but in some ways some extraordinary things. The last few weeks of my tenure of the programme cover the Kenya presidential and parliamentary elections. For those of you who remember what happened in the last elections, you will understand that the whole country is concerned that similar things might happen again. We in the MAF community are praying for peace and security in this land but at the same time we are taking steps to protect our local and international staff and MAF’s assets. Many plans are starting to be put into place and in some cases some of the children have already packed their go bags in case we have to leave our homes in a hurry. Please, as we approach election day 4th March 2013, pray for the country of Kenya, its people and those of us in mission who serve here.
On a lighter note we are very grateful to the Lord for His provision of a fifth Cessna Caravan aircraft. It arrived early in the New Year and we are in the process of registering it in Kenya. Once this process is complete it will carry the registration 5Y-ESU. All you Kiswahili speakers know well that Yesu is Kiswahili for Jesus.
Growing Leaders began today. Last year 3 MAFK wives joined with me (Davina) in exploring what it means to lead as God intends. This year 4 more wives asked me to repeat the course. So we’re off racing towards our personal leadership goals. This intensive, brief course includes practical opportunity with colleague critique – exciting and scary! This amidst my usual MAF tasks, organising shipping and attempting to maintain some normality in a 75% packed home. Grand sale occurs in February; finding alternative accommodation for multifarious unused, unwanted, worn out, surplus to requirements items is interesting, challenging and cathartic. Recommended for those who rarely move! Boxes leave in 3 weeks I’d best continue packing…….
A day of prayer and fasting to promote unity for all of us serving in Nairobi, Loki and Juba happens on 2nd February. You are invited to join with us in spirit.
This really does seem strange writing our last prayer letter. In doing so we would like to thank you all for all the prayer and support you have given us over the last eight years. We hope to see many of you personally in the first couple of months after our return to express our appreciation and gratitude face to face.
Alan and Davina
Where have all the days and months gone? Is it me getting older or is it simply that life can be so busy? Since March of this year the months have been a rollercoaster for MAF Kenya and for Davina and I. It might be something to do with the amount of globetrotting Davina has done or it might be that the security situation in South Sudan or Kenya and the number of new babies in the programme have made the months flash by.
At the end of February our PC-12 aircraft started its annual certification maintenance. The engine had been running slightly hot for a while so it was decided to do some deeper investigation on the engine. On getting inside it was discovered that a component had burnt through and this necessitated the return of the old part and picking up a new part from our engine overhaul contractor in Manchester UK. The quickest and cheapest way to achieve this was to hand carry the component both ways and this is why Davina went back to the UK for the first time this year. The new component solved the temperature problem but another deeper problem was found when the engine was accelerated. We were unable to solve the issue here so the complete engine was shipped back to the UK. There it was found the whole compressor had been damaged by stones and sand. (We suspect from prolonged operations into Sudan and Somalia.) This part of the engine had to be rebuilt but even then the engine did not run correctly. As I write the engine is still being worked on. The aircraft has not flown for five months. This has had a profound effect on the amount of flying we can achieve as well was being a huge expense to repair. Please pray that the problem with the engine will soon be solved and that the money will be found to cover the cost of repairing the engine.
April saw the first parliamentary elections in Southern Sudan for many years. It was a kind of hold your breath time as no one knew how the security situation would turn out. We, like many other missions and NGOs, removed our non-operational staff from Juba. They all returned at the beginning of May when we knew the situation there was stable. We thank the Lord for His peace. The next two big testing times for all of us will be 4th August this year when Kenyans vote on their new constitution and 9th January 2011 when the people of Sudan vote on whether the country should be divided officially. Both of these votes have a capacity to spark violent protests in their respective countries. Please pray for peace and for the protection of innocent citizens of Kenya and Sudan and for all our MAF staff. One of my greatest sorrows at present happens when I read the daily UN South Sudan security bulletin. As far as the greater world is concerned South Sudan is at peace but rarely a day goes by when someone is not killed by a thief, cattle rustler or drunken soldier and more often than not many people are killed in such incidents.
Davina and I had a short trip to Juba recently to visit our families and staff in South Sudan. What a difference six months makes. There are many new buildings going up and the roads in Juba town have vastly improved since I was there earlier this year. Even the airport has air conditioners and luggage scanners. I pray these improvements will be mirrored in health care and education in Southern Sudan. We stopped in both directions at the small town of Torit and I was reminded what a difference weather makes to our operations. On the way up the airfield was bone dry but where water previously had flowed there were several large channels cut across the runway. During the two days we were in Juba there were several very heavy storms. On our return the runway at Torit was slippery with mud and the gullies even deeper. It is a valuable lesson to be reminded of the need for constant prayer for safety of our operations. On a personal level it was great to be out of the office for three days, mingling with those we serve and flying again.
These pictures highlight the complexities and conditions our pilots deal with every day.
Thank you for your faithfulness in praying for us and for the letters, cards and emails kindly written and sent by you to Nairobi, 4.500 miles from your home. Your prayers are answered: we continue to be in excellent health and have been kept safe in our travels whether to UK, around this extremely busy city or further afield. Your written communications are exciting to receive and help us feel connected with you and UK.
As Alan mentioned, I’ve been to UK three times between March and June. Once with a box of PC-12 parts as my companion and twice to support Kristy (our daughter) through a difficult time and to prepare a cottage for holiday rental. Each visit was challenging for me travelling alone, getting from Heathrow to Gatwick for internal flights (due to BA strike action), hiring cars, organizing internal flights at a moment’s notice etc. Again, thank you for your prayers.
Babies, babies, babies! It has to be a MAF record: 6 new arrivals in one year and all the Dad’s are pilots! Great excitement for the wives and children and a logistical challenge for those planning flights and work coverage due to paternal leave. We held a mums morning exploring transition, beginnings and endings for 1st, 3rd and 5th time mums from God’s and their point of view.
With families leaving and joining our MAF K Team, there’s always a lot to be done. I really enjoy assisting families with moving and farewells and preparing for the arrival of new families. Each family has a link family whose responsibility it is to answer their questions, make arrangements, prepare their home and welcome them to Kenya. Alan and I have been doing just this for the Simkins family (Finance manager) who arrived on 24th July and the Vennell family who arrived on 4th August.
What a difference a year makes: Corrugated iron roofed, brick built dwellings arising where the bulldozer had flattened thatched roofed, mud huts close to our Juba sub base compound. A huge, plush looking, hotel serving the usual fast food delicacies, a five minute, muddy, walk from the compound. Beside these evidences of change, the children of our MAF K Juba families have grown in stature and maturity. I enjoyed joining in ‘home school’ for a morning and an afternoon babysitting whilst one of the Mums finished a customer care training course with local staff. Despite the signs of improvement, life continues to be challenging for these families and I admire them for their perseverance.
Finally, it was a joy to have our friends of over 20 years visit us in June. Again, we had adventures: (you may remember the stuck in the mud in a Tanzanian national park episode), getting lost, coming across camels, crocodiles and crossing waterfalls and staying in a cottage without hot water.
Folk spending time with Alan and I, experiencing our lives, sharing the joys and sorrows, listening to and challenging us encourages us to continue serving our Lord in Kenya and Sudan.
Peace and security in Kenya and the same for Southern Sudan at the end of this year and the beginning of the next.
That the new international families arriving in Kenya will settle in quickly and soon feel at home.
That the PC-12 will soon be back in revenue service.
Our 5 weeks in UK during September/October for holiday and Regional Managers’ Conference.
Alan and I moved from Tanzania to Kenya in April this year (2009). In February 2008 MAF asked us to consider serving with MAF Kenya and during home assignment in June we both heard independently form our Lord that this is His plan for us.
After 4 years developing relationships and serving with our big hearted MAF Tanzania family, leaving was painful. Logistically, it was a challenge. In May, our goods and chattels were transported by lorry and Alan drove our Land Rover to the border. The lorry had a serious accident which resulted in a substantial amount of our belongings being smashed, destroyed or damaged. Due to Customs delays the Land Rover stayed at the border for 8 weeks. August was an exciting month as we received the vehicle registration platesand the insurance claim was settled. Now we are mobile again and can begin to replace the damaged goods for our home – thank the Lord.
Kenya is a large programme both in terms of the hours we fly the distances we travel and the number of staff to fulfil the work. We possess seven aircraft, a Cessna 206, four Cessna 208 Caravans, a Cessna 210 and a Pilatus PC12. These aircraft together with 14 pilots fly around 6000 Hours a year. To keep all of this going we require a further 85 staff who are split between our main base in Nairobi and our two sub-bases, these being in Lokichoggio in northwest Kenya and Juba in Southern Sudan. Much of our flying is focussed in northern Kenya, Sudan, and Somalia and the shear distance from Nairobi makes communication both with our own staff and those we fly very difficult at times. Unlike some other programmes the main bulk of our work is supporting Christian NGOs such as World Vision and Tear Fund although we also provide services to local churches in Kenya and Sudan. The biggest challenges we constantly face in this programme are the insecurity in most of the areas we operate and the grinding poverty often brought on by drought and people being displaced from their homes by violence.
Building relationships with all our MAF families is an essential element of my call to serve in Kenya.
Along side this I’m slowly finding my way around the huge city of Nairobi, getting used to shopping in supermarkets and avoiding traffic queues.
Organising, arranging, sorting, painting and making curtains are some of the tasks currently filling my days as I make our house homely, warm and welcoming for all who climb the steps to the verandah and knock at the ever open door.
There is a warm welcome for you in Nairobi. If you’d like to visit us, experience Africa, get to know more about MAF or have a holiday please feel free to contact us.
As we came near to returning to Tanzania we reflected on our stay in the United Kingdom. Overwhelmingly it is one of thanks. Thanks to the Lord for looking after us in all our adventures, and thanks to family, friends and supporters. Both Davina and I have known that under girding of prayer throughout the whole time but in particular during my stay in hospital with gall bladder problems and we are grateful to each one of you.
Our heartfelt gratitude also goes out to all who have shared their lives and their homes with us over the past ten weeks. There are too many to mention individually, but if I give some idea of what was so kindly provided you might understand how much we’ve been helped by so many people and how it would have been difficult without that help. We were never without a place to lay our heads each night. Davina says she has slept in 23 beds. Old and new friends sacrificially supported us during our ‘open days’. We used many peoples’ internet connections to keep in touch with Tanzania, numerous peoples’ washing machines to keep our limited supply of clothing clean and many gallons of other folks’ hot water to keep ourselves clean. Endless delicious meals were provided not to mention the loan of cars (perhaps best not to mention that one!) Thank you for all this practical support and your endless patience as our itinerary changed sometimes moment by moment.
Spending time with family and friends was precious. It was good meeting new folk from the west coast of Scotland to the south east coast of England. Amongst it all we enjoyed a holiday with Demelza, Kirsty and Luke (our children).
It is good to be back, refreshed and raring to go - there’s much to do and we’ll let you know all about that in our next news letter.
Davina and Alan
Greetings to you from an intermittently drizzly, cold, sunshiny/very hot Nairobi.
Istanbul was the venue for the April Regional Managers’ Conference.
About 70 attended: senior managers, programme managers and their wives managing
programmes in Kazakhstan, Afghanistan, Laos, China, Senegal, East and West DRC, Lubumbashi,
Lesotho, Mozambique, Kenya, Tanzania, Uganda, Chad, South Africa, Mongolia, Madagascar,
Angola, Costa Rica and Australia.
Our eyes were opened and horizons broadened as each manager gave a presentation about how
MAF is serving the people in their country and the future vision.
Leadership training equipped us to return with ‘how to’ and ‘how not to’ lead our teams.
Wives had been invited for the first time and I pray it’s the way ahead. We had our own
workshops and discussions covering subjects ranging from how to build unity in our teams and
have fun together to caring for needy team members and ourselves.
Since December, we’ve had a family of 4 join our Team and 4 families leaving after a combined
28 years serving with MAF. This is the flowing nature of MAF staff in, out or onwards to other
MAF programmes. It doesn’t matter how often this occurs there is joy and sadness to be
experienced and shared.
Being beside a new member of staff in the challenges of Nairobi life is a joy. Sitting in the
passenger seat to encourage confidence whilst a ‘right hand side of the road’ driver gets to
grips with inner city left-hand side driving amidst rule less chaos is exciting or was it scary!
On one such trip her car ‘met’ another on a roundabout where traffic was being controlled by
the Police. Armed with kiswahilli and surrounded by onlookers, the driver and the Police I
inspected the almost visible scratch and managed to persuade the assorted company that we
were residents. The foiled driver drove away having been unable to fleece naïve tourists!
Friday mornings can be full of surprises as spouses get together taking it in turns to host and
lead. Last week tears were rolling down our cheeks as we watched ‘Laugh your way to a better
marriage’. Sometimes, meaty matters are discussed: Hospitality - God’s perspective. As a Team
how can we do it better?
Work is intermingled with rest and refreshment: Alan and I enjoyed the Welsh coastline, Good
Friday hot cross buns on the beach and an Easter Sunday service in Welsh! The after church
chat included advice - ‘the 11 o’clock would have been in English’. God understood, He’s multilingual.
Where have the last four and a half months gone? In truth it has had a significant Southern
Sudan focus both physically and mentally. The MAF Team in Juba are small and close knit so the
prolonged absence of any Team member can cause difficulty. When the Juba Base Manager was
away on home assignment and paternity leave the only way we could cover the base was for the
non flying Kenya managers to take their turn in Juba. I spent three weeks of the first eight of
this year there and it was very unlike my normal role. Within the first 24 hours of arriving I
was part of a MAF crew that flew into an airfield near Malakal to pull out six missionaries who
had been caught up in the fighting between rival troops. Parts of this event were somewhat
fraught with frantic preparation to get the aircraft away from Juba in time to return before
dark. At our destination airstrip passengers and their luggage had to be rapidly loaded. While
Jakob Adolf stayed at the controls I looked after the passengers and secured the aircraft. It
was five minutes from landing to airborne. The two hour transit either way was pretty routine,
apart from the surreal experience during our return of hearing the BBC World Service
reporting the fighting that was taking place in the area where we had just landed. Much of the
rest of my time in Juba was more normal but normality is relative, although there is no good
reason why not, the Kenya Programme Manager is not routinely found loading aircraft in 40°C
heat or servicing an argumentative generator.
The White Nile and Juba Town
End of the flight with the Lancasters
My return to Sudan was far shorter but just as active. A week before the Regional Managers’
conference I accompanied David Pearce as part of the crew that flew members of the
Lancaster Foundation from Entebbe to Tonj in South Sudan. It was the Lancaster Foundation
that donated the PC12 to MAF and it was in this aircraft the trip took place. Timing was of the
essence as we had many miles to fly, one refuelling stop, to deliver the party to Eldoret in
Kenya and to return to Wilson Airport before the airfield closed. Whilst at Tonj we were
hosted by In Deed and Truth Ministry run by a couple, the wife being English and her husband
Sudanese. God has placed them in an unexpected ministry. After the Comprehensive Peace
Agreement (for Sudan), they moved to Tonj with the intention of providing a school for pastors.
This they have done but a meningitis outbreak forced them into becoming health providers.
They now run the only recognised clinic for many miles around and are in the process of building
a hospital. They and their young family are incredibly dedicated to the people in this area. On
arrival back at the aircraft the air temperature was 45°C. When David and I entered the
cockpit the temperature gauge was off scale. We suspected inside the aircraft it was close to
60°C and we all spent a very uncomfortable 20 minute transit to our fuelling stop. Another
strange experience during this trip for me was to see several crashed Hawker Siddeley 748
aircraft on airfields in Southern Sudan. In the RAF these were known as Andovers. As we
taxied for takeoff at one of these fields through the peeling paint I could read Royal Air
Intellectually, the recent weeks have been focussed on Sudan. MAF recognise we have a unique
opportunity to increase our ministry in this country. To fulfil this we require more
infrastructure, personnel and aircraft. Following meetings in March, much of my time has been
taken up in writing concept papers and project proposals to this end. It is my earnest prayer
that the security situation, the softened hearts of donors, the required personnel and
resources allow the vision to become reality.
Please join with us in thanking our Lord for:
Our maintenance team who keep the planes airworthy.
The peaceful referendum in Sudan.
Continuing safety in the air and on the roads.
And our prayer requests:
Concerning the exciting plans to develop the work in Southern Sudan.
For the families who are moving on and those continuing to serve in Kenya as we adjust to
changes in our Team.
On July 9th the new state of South Sudan will be declared. May peace prevail around this event.
For the In Deed and Truth family in Tonj and the work God has called them to.
Join with us in raising heavenward prayers for life-giving rain which Kenya so badly needs.
God is faithful in His provision for the needs of His people and we are trusting Him to end the
Plans for home assignment in September are well underway. Thank you for your prayers and we
do look forward to seeing as many of you as possible.
Alan and Davina Sully
Please pray for: