Airstrip Focus – Silimo

I fly to Silimo at least once at week and sometime almost daily. It’s a short 15-18 minute flight from Wamena as long as the weather is good. Its short but not very steep. The hardest part about the runway is that the abort point is over half a mile away from the touchdown point. That means that once you’ve passed that point you have to land or accept an accident.

I’ve had my fair share of fun in Silimo, and even a few scary moments. Generally though I thoroughly enjoy flying there. The folks on the ground are friendly and there’s a deep missional history there. That history wasn’t always so friendly though. In fact, it started with an ambush.

Years ago a missionary who was looking for a certain village was attacked by the local tribe. He had hiked into the valley and the men were waiting there for him. When he realized what was happening, he did the last thing his attackers expected.

He laid down. Lying there on the rocks and mud he told them he wouldn’t stop them from killing him because he loved them. The spears and arrows never flew.

Now, that man’s son visits Silimo regularly continuing on the work his father started. Creating an alphabet for the tribe, teaching them to read, giving them a school, bringing access to medical care, establishing a church, and giving them the Bible in their own language.

Like many villages in Papua, Silimo’s history of connection to the modern world starts with a western missionary appearing in their village. The history continued with the construction of the airstrip. And now, I’m helping write that story as I fly to those villages. Reflecting on this makes me hope I can write a chapter for these villages in the example of that first missionary, one of love and care.

 

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Delayed Again

A few weeks ago I bent over to grab my backpack. I was about to put the last few things into it that I needed for my flight day. The sun was streaming in the window promising a good day for my PPC/ICC (pilot proficiency check/instrument competency check).

It wasn’t to happen however. As I reached for my backpack, something gave way in my back. I’d had back pain in the past, and usually it went away in a couple minutes, or even a few hours. This pain didn’t just go away.

After sitting on the couch a bit, I texted my chief pilot with whom I was to fly. I explained what was happening as my back grew more and more painful. He told me to take it easy and rest. We could do the check flights on Monday. Since it was Friday, we wouldn’t lose much time and I’d have the weekend to recover.

That was four weeks ago. Since then I’ve learned that I’d not just pulled a muscle, but I had a herniated disc in my back. Much of the time since then I’ve been laying on my back in bed waiting. Now, after several weeks of recovery time doing gentle exercises at the direction of a physical therapist, I’m able to move about on my own somewhat. I still can’t bend over however, and sitting or standing for more than a few minutes rapidly becomes uncomfortable and even painful.

I’m not sure what’s next. Hopefully in a couple more weeks I’ll be able to return to work to a limited degree, and maybe even start flying a bit here and there. It could also be that I’ll end up needing to travel for more extensive medical care. Right now, all I can do is wait.

Regardless of what’s to happen though, I’ve been feeling generally quite positive. I’ve had more time to read, catch up on some thank-you notes, play some games, read to my kids, and even write some blog entries. It’s been a good, if somewhat boring few weeks.

What are some things that you would suggest to fill my time? Perhaps you have a book to recommend or an activity you’ve used to pass the time while bed-ridden?

Football and Video Games

I read an article a few days ago that made me ponder a little more about free time and how men use it. The thrust of the article written by Matt Walsh on the website The Blaze focused more on a few things men do in general that are damaging to their marriages. It’s a great article and well worth a read. I was a bit surprised by his fairly pointed scrutiny of men who play video games.

To be fair, he was highlighting men who are addicted to their games, and play for hours every evening rather than interacting with their family. To this point, I agree completely. Any habit taken to that extreme really would be unhealthy, and hurtful to one’s marriage.

Video games, however, are not the issue. Yes, they are addicting. Yes, people lose their lives inside their gaming console. Yes, the gaming world can have particular draws as an escape from reality. The same can be said for sports, movies, TV shows, hunting, tinkering with cars, flying airplanes, improving the house, or even serving God. Video games are just an easy thing to blame.

I completely agree with Matt as he writes, “…mature men should not be so obsessed with toys… that it takes over their lives.” I disagree that video gaming is the obvious fruit of immaturity, and neither are comic books, superhero movies, or cartoons. Tinkering with a ’64 Shelby Mustang can be just as immature as playing with your Legos if that toy controls your life. Playing a video game that challenges the heart and mind with your wife can be as mature an activity as reading a book together. After all, aren’t those two the same thing, entertainment and communication, but from different eras?

Are men choosing to be, or being allowed to be, immature long into their adulthood, letting their lives, and loved ones, be destroyed by hobbies? Yes. Is this new in the last 20 years since the beginning of the gaming culture? No.

In fact, I would argue the video games can be a step in the right direction.

Let’s consider a four hour chunk of time for both video gaming and watching a football game. While watching the football game you will also watch a fair number of commercials. You will have no control over the content of the commercials, aside from hitting mute, shutting the TV off, or changing channels. There is no mentally challenging interaction, unless you are really into keeping game and player stats on your own.

Take that same time and play a video game. Assuming you’ve chosen the game well, you will not be subjected to anything that you don’t want to see. You won’t be attacked by commercials. You are mentally engaged in accomplishing a goal of some sort, and depending on the game, you are possibly very physically involved as well (ever play Dance, Dance, Revolution?).

Which one sounds healthier to you, commercial inundation with uncontrolled content that is passively consumed, or controlled content that demands at least mental interactivity?

And now you know why I almost rarely watch movies or TV any more. Because playing a Lego video game with my wife is way more fun.

What are your thoughts? Is the gaming culture an expression of immaturity in adult sized boys? Or is it a growing and budding form of entertainment that, much like books or movies, can be used to make humanity better?

The Depressed Missionary. Part 3: Recovery

A couple months ago I posted about how Joy and I have been having an incredibly difficult time while overseas. I shared how we had finally “arrived” at what I believed to be God’s calling on my life. Somehow in the process of arriving there however, we had become so damaged and hurt that we, specifically I, could not actually fulfill our role there in Nabire. During perhaps the most difficult few months of our lives, we came to the realization that I was experiencing a depressive episode and that we needed some serious help.

In a previous post, I shared how we were moving back to the US for a year. The plan was for Joy and I to return to the MAF headquarters where I would continue working, and we would be seeking professional help as we worked through our brokenness.

The best way to describe this summer is to compare it to a roller coaster. If you’ve walked through a depressive episode, diagnosed or not, you understand that even during recovery, you have good days and bad days. There are moments when you feel the darkness creeping back in around the corners of your world. There are moments when you take a deep breath, look around, and realize that you are happy, not because of a drug, or something you ate, or something someone said, but just because you are. And then the day comes when you realize that you haven’t been actively trying to hide for days.

It happened just a couple weeks ago. I was working in the hangar at MAF, up to my elbows in project when I paused and looked around me. A sudden thought had come to me. I was content. It was an unlooked for epiphany. The darkness was gone.

The path to this point has been long, expensive, and uncomfortable. It’s been hard on my family, especially my wife. But we are doing so much better now.

When people ask us if we want to go back to Nabire, our answer has become a “Yes, but not yet.” Part of recovery for us has been learning to recognize our own needs, call them what they are, and choosing to be unashamed of them. Something we have to see that we need is time to be stable. Time to be home. And time to be with our friends and family.

That’s what this year is about. It’s about time to recover. Have you experienced depression and recovery? What helped you?