Nepal 2015

Nepal MapIn late spring 2015 two earthquakes struck the Himalaya Mountains just north of Kathmandu in Nepal. Both earthquakes were over 7 on the Richter scale. The destruction left behind crippled the entire region, wiping whole villages off of the mountain sides. Roads and trails throughout the region were rendered impassable by landslides. The situation was truly dire.

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Mission Aviation Fellowship has a department that is specifically intended to respond to major disasters like this. Within days of the first earthquake, MAF sent a small team to determine if there was a need for our skills as an organization or transportation or communications assistance.

A need was found, and MAF put out a call for volunteers, staff members who were willing and available to travel to Nepal for a rotation to help with the relief efforts.

I was sitting in the breakroom at the MAF headquarters hanger for the morning meeting when that need was expressed. I immediately felt an excitement to be able to go and help in any way I could with the relief work that was just beginning. A team was selected, and sent out, and I was still waiting in the hanger. I didn’t think I was going to get a chance to help. Then the second quake hit, and the first team was getting ready to change out. I was approached about going to Nepal to help, and I eagerly accepted.

MAF had discovered that there were numerous smaller organizations ready and eager to be of assistance in the mountain villages, but the waiting list for rides on the UN helicopters was weeks long. MAF contracted with a helicopter operator in Kathmandu that usually flew for tourists and trekkers to commit two helicopters seven days a week to flying for these organizations. With help from UKAID and DFID, and funds that MAF had raised, these smaller groups were able to fly for a significant discount to give aid to needy villages. Medical care, emergency food stuffs, water filtration kits, and temporary shelters were getting flown into the mountains.

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I didn’t leave for Nepal until June 15th, but I was there for a month. My primary job was to meet passengers and cargo at the domestic terminal in Kathmandu. I helped carry hundreds of bags of rice, water filters, and tarpaulin through that terminal, and became acquainted with medical teams and others by first name over the weeks I was there.

It’s hard to describe the destruction I could see in Kathmandu from one day to the next, it was even harder yet to explain the way things were in the villages. What struck me the most was the way that the Nepali people were bonding together to rebuild. At one Buddhist temple complex, a number of the shrines had collapsed. A huge crowd had gathered and they had formed a line to pass debris long the line and away. It was like random men, women, young and old, had just stepped into line to help clear away the mess. Even in the villages, relief supplies were not stolen or hoarded, but gathered in one place to assist in distributing evenly throughout the entire area, not just where the helicopter landed.

This man is working with the village to gather supplies in order to distribute them fairly throughout the region.

This man is working with the village to gather supplies in order to distribute them fairly throughout the region.

It’s been a few months, since I came back. I still worry though, about those villages I got to visit, and all the others that I helped, but never saw personally. What will happen when winter comes? Will they be warm? Will they have food and adequate shelter?

Nepal is a beautiful land. I loved being there, and being able to help provide relief care to the villages throughout the region. It was a great honor. But Nepal’s recovery is far from over. Pray for Nepal. And keep supporting groups that are still there giving aid. The need is not over.

Thank you for supporting my ministry with MAF and making it possible for me to serve the people of Nepal.

Thank you for supporting my ministry with MAF and making it possible for me to serve the people of Nepal.

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Pak Pilot – A Cartoon about Flying in Papua

That’s like, Mt. Everest or something!

I’ll just turn at the tree and slide past the cliff face there and…

Seriously, we get 737s all the time.

Hike Merapi

I don’t think I slept much at all Friday night. I went to bed at a fairly normal time, or around 10pm. But as is my normal when I have to get up early, I slept fitfully, waking every 15 minutes or so to check the time. Finally, at 2:45am my alarm went off while Joy was feeding Zoe, and I got up for the day.

I was off to climb Merapi.

I met some folks at 3:30am at the gate to the International School. We were going to climb together. After a few minutes, we had our group of 6 folks together, and off we went. Since Merapi is on the other side of Merbabu, we had to drive around it before we could get to the trail head. We arrived at the trail head at about 5am.

Merapi is an active vulcano. I don’t mean active like geologists would call active. They call anything that’s erupted in the last the last 10,000 years and still has magma hanging out inside. (1) I’m talking about active; it erupted last year and you can hear stuff going on in the crater.

Before last year, the top of Merapi was supposedly green and beautiful. I wouldn’t know because I hadn’t climbed it yet. When it erupted, it lost a nice chunk of peak in the process.

Yeah, so that’s what we wanted to climb. On lower slopes there was terrace upon terrace of crops being grown by the local villagers. How they climb up there and work or carry their produce down the mountain is a fairly scary thought. I had a rough time on that slippery trail with just me and my backpack.

At a certain point in the hike, there was a clear shift from vegetation to ash and rock. Andrew Jackson got it right when filming Mordor. There was nothing but a monochrome of grey rocks and sand everywhere with an occasional yellow sulfur rich rock hanging out.

At one point we crossed a sand field that was roughly an +50- 55% incline. That’s more then half way to vertical by the way. It was tough going up, but the way down was really fun and easy.

At the peak, we were fairly well surrounded by steam vents which were belching sulfur fumes. Before us lay a sheer drop off into the crater. All we could see was a swirling cloud of steam. But far below we could hear something boiling.

Of course, at the top I popped open my bottle of victory Dew.

The trip back was fairly uneventful except for the monkey who tried to steal food from me and only got a beating from my elbow and a hiking pole.

Karimunjawa Final

The second day of snorkeling took us to Gosong and Cekil. They were both amazing. See the photos below for proof! On the way back, we got caught in a cloud burst right as we approached the docks. We did get wet, but we didn’t mind. The little cloud burst let up for a bit but then turned into a full on storm for the whole night.

After a couple days of snorkeling, we had a relaxing Sunday morning. We got up and spent a little time packing and hanging around. At about 11 we went to our little eating spot, Amore Cafe and Resto. The folks there were super friendly as always. The lady who seemed to be in charge was kind enough to inform us that the ferry was intending to leave an hour early. This put a little cramp in our plans.

The end result wasn’t so bad though. We had about 30 minutes of stress and frantic packing just before catching a car ride to the ferry dock. We boarded with about ten minutes to spare though.

The trip back through the Java Sea was calm and beautiful as before. There were some impressive storms to the east and west of us, but we just plowed right through to Semarang without a problem.

We got back to our home in Salatiga, after a stop for dinner at McDonalds, and pretty well crashed. We were all tired out.

Zoe’s reaction to coming home was priceless. As soon as we put her in her crib she looked around and got all wiggly and smiley. She was so happy! Oh dear, we have a homebody for a daughter. Poor thing is gonna spend her life traveling and she likes being home.