2012. What a year.

The first few months of 2012 were pretty quiet. We were finishing up language school and making plans for our short trip back to the US. I still needed to finish technical orientation, and then we were going to move Papua.

We ordered and bought furniture and purchased major appliances. We didn’t really know much about how to ensure we were getting good quality things, so we just got stuff and hoped.

I carried the responsibility of welcoming several new families to language school, even finding homes for MAF to rent and arranging payment etc. Then April came around and we were off to the US.

We got to spend a few weeks with our families, both in Massachusetts and in Ohio before starting my training in earnest in Idaho.

My training was primarily focused on learning to fly the MAF way in general, and how MAF wants it’s pilots to fly in the mountains. It was a tough 3 weeks with an extra addition at the end. I got to fly to a number of interesting airstrips in the Frank Church Wilderness in northern Idaho as well as do spin training in Cascade Idaho.

Then off to Papua we went. A few weeks after we arrived and got settled into our tiny apartment in the MAF guesthouse, I started training on the program. My first flight was to the village of Bougalaga, a place legendary for it’s steep slope and violent changes in the airstrip pitch.

That fall I got to enjoy a couple weeks in Jakarta for a root canal while Joy went to visit Nabire. I met her there and we began to get an idea of what life there would be like for us. The weeks that followed were full of flying and aircraft maintenance and waiting to finally get settled into our future home in Nabire.

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2011. Indonesia Arrival

January of 2011 passed by slowly. We’d celebrated Christmas with family and now the hard work of packing up our stuff to move to Indonesia had begun. The decision had been made for Joy and I to move to Java and start language school as soon as our visas came through. We would await the birth of our first child there and return to the US after language school for me to finish my flight standardization in Nampa, ID.

As the weeks passed by, there was very little news about how our visas were progressing. Then one day, the visas were done. Just a couple weeks later we were on a plane to Indonesia. On March 8th we arrived in Jakarta to start our new life.

The next couple weeks were a blur of getting signed up for language school, getting settled into a new home, and finding out basic things like where to buy food. Then, school started and a pattern arose. Classes all morning were followed by lunch and then walking around the neighborhood practicing greetings and basic conversation. I swear the people living around us must have gotten bored of the same three sentences over and over in the first week or two.

April became May, which in turn gave way to June. Classes and homework, studies and broken conversation. Learning to pay bills, and trying to figure out how giving birth would work out. And of course, visiting Borobudur.

Then in early July, Joy went into labor. 50 hours of labor later, Zoe was born. We had no idea what we were in for with having a baby, but we were so happy to welcome her into our lives. Joy took the next two months off of language school while I returned to class after a few weeks.

The fall slipped by in a sleepy haze as Zoe adjusted our lives to her sleep schedule and feeding times. In November Joy’s parents, David and Cindy came to visit us and we all took a short trip to Karimunjawa.

We celebrated Christmas with several of the international families that year, and received visits from our Muslim neighbors as well. It had been a busy year, but 2012 was just beginning to show how much busier it would be.

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2008. Small Beginnings.


OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAIn July 2008 I formally accepted an assignment with Mission Aviation Fellowship to Indonesia. I was so excited. It had been a long fifteen years working hard to prepare myself for this job.

I’d been twelve when I first felt a “calling” to serve God specifically in mission aviation. That felt calling defined the following years, almost to the point of annoying friends and family around me.


In January of 2008 I finally attended the MAF technical evaluation and passed. Then in July 2008 at my Candidacy class I began what I hoped to be my dream job.

The summer ended sourly with my car getting several windows smashed in. But in the middle of that, God provided for the repairs before I departed on the long roadtrip back to Tennessee where I was living at the time. It was time to begin raising ministry support.


I didn’t realize it at the time, but God was directing my steps to meet one of my greatest ministry partners, my wife Joy.

Funding for my ministry with MAF came slowly that fall, but the difficulty of that process was eclipsed by the blessing of my growing relationship with Joy.

By the end of 2008 it was clear things were not going according to plan. I wouldn’t be leaving for Indonesia in 2009, but I’d probably be getting married.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Check Those Instruments – VFR isn’t always so easy.

A few days ago I departed with a full load of passengers from Apahapsili (apa hap silly). The weather had been building on the ridges between Apahapsili and Wamena, but blue sky above the lowlands promised great weather to the north.

Even with full seats, I was pretty light. With 750 horse power up front, my Quest Kodiak posted a solid 1000fpm climb from the runway all the way up to 8000′. Above 8k I was seeing something more like 800fpm. Given my climb performance, I turned toward the top end of a valley. The ridge beyond lead to North Gap, which is the closest pass to Wamena. North Gap remains open and clear much of the day, even when storms brood either side of it. The ridge between me and North Gap had characteristic high build ups on them, but nothing concerning.

As I approached 10,000′ I worked myself into a corridor between clouds. At the end was a nice low spot where I could pass over and into North Gap. It was a little like flying up a canyon with a low pass at the end. As my climb performance degraded though, I began to realize I wouldn’t out climb that last bit of cloud.

The mountains are no place to mess with illegal IMC. No matter how confident you are that there’s no mountain there, never go IMC in the mountains unless you’re on an established route. I wasn’t about to do that, so I elected to circle once in the climb.

I knew my margins, I’d kept my out. I had room to turn around. What I’d not counted on was the disorientation from a steep turn out with no horizon. With clouds towering all around blocking my view of the horizon, I couldn’t visualize my bank angle or pitch.

It took less than a second. I lost my perspective, said out loud “disorientation!” and snapped inside to my instruments. Ahh! Better. 45 degree bank, slightly more pitch up than needed. A minor correction, and I finished my turn and passed over the clouds into North Gap uneventfully.

After years of flying, and even after recently reviewing here my past experiences of disorientation, it happened again. It can happen to anyone. The solution is simply however, when things get crazy, always go back to the basics. Check your instruments and fly the plane.

There’s a life application here too. For me, I find my time spent with God to be the thing that re-centers my life. When things start going sideways, I know I can trust God to be my steady guidance. What helps you find a balance, a center to orient your life?