September, 2014. A tiny, isolated village on Southern Palawan. A young single father torn by love, cultural pressures of shame and responsibility, and a desire to do what was best for his young son. Church planters who had opened their hearts to this little boy, and with his father’s blessing begun the tedious, years-long process of adopting him, only to have the father change his mind at the very last minute.
This drama was brewing as we were leaving Palawan two years ago for a brief furlough in the U.S., but we had no idea at the time that the decision of one man from a small, remote tribe on Southern Palawan would be the catalyst, “the last straw”, to launch our Philippines NTM Aviation team into a new era, and our family into 3+ years of living in transition. When we boarded that plane two years ago, we fully expected to return after 4 months and continue the aviation ministry that the Lord had called us to years before.
All of that changed in a few short days. While we were in the U.S., our Palawan flight program closed, permanently. We had tickets to return to the Philippines on December 29, 2014, but for what? Quietly, gently, the Lord asked us to take another step. Just one. Then another. The first half of 2015 found us deeply involved in People Group Assessments for the Palawan region of the Philippines. A PGA is the tedious process of gathering detailed information about a people group, understanding in a general way what makes them tick, and what access they may have to the gospel. This process is critical to strategic planning, and determining the most effective places to locate church planting teams.
While deep in the middle of our PGA project, we received another one of those game-changing phone calls. Brian Pruett, our Program Manager, called and asked if we would return to the U.S. in May, and help rebuild a helicopter to bring to the Philippines. Within two short days, the Lord had worked out all of the details and logistics to make that possible, given us confirmation that this was His leading, and we said yes! With just over two months left to finish our assessment projects, pack up our house, and transition back to the U.S., we were plunged into a whirlwind of long, busy days.
We moved to McNeal, AZ on May 15, 2015, and two short days later we started disassembling NTM Aviation’s new 12 year old helicopter. Over the next few months, we were asked to join the Mindanao, Philippines NTM Aviation team as a helicopter pilot/mechanic, and so Josh began flight training for his commercial helicopter license in NTM Aviation’s training helicopter while still rebuilding the Philippines bound helicopter.
We returned to the Philippines in January, 2016, and moved straight to Mindanao to prepare for the arrival of our newly rebuilt helicopter. While Josh has his commercial helicopter license, there simply wasn’t time to complete all of the advanced courses that he needs in order to fly in the Philippines before we had to return and prepare to receive the helicopter, so our primary ministry right now is logistics and flight center setup, not flying.
The last eight months have been a juggling act, trying to keeping dozens of little projects and responsibilities all moving forward at the same time, with the ultimate goal of moving our Mindanao flight center to a new location, and equipping our team well to serve missionaries across the Philippines under a new paradigm with helicopters. While Josh is focused on all of the logistics and construction involved in transitioning our field to helicopters, Candy has taken on the huge responsibility of supply buying for all of our Mindanao missionaries on top of homeschooling and keeping our home running. Sometimes it feels easy, like juggling beanbags. Sometimes it’s a little intense, like juggling eggs. Then there are the moments where we feel like we’re juggling knives or chainsaws, and if we drop one, the results could be disastrous!
In the middle of huge transitions and challenges this year, we have been overwhelmed by God’s goodness and graciousness to us. We’ve been blessed to move straight in to a house that needed almost no repairs (unheard of here), blessed to get to know an entirely new group of church planters and see how God is working among the people groups of Mindanao, blessed to have aviation co-workers for the first time in 6 years, and most recently, blessed that Josh has been able to fly the Cessna 185 again, even some on Palawan last week! We didn’t even realize how much we needed closure to the Cessna 185 “Jungle Pilot” phase of our ministry, but God knew, and has graciously given it to us.
After months of looking for land for our new flight center with no success, last week the Lord gave us an amazing gift. On what may have been the last ever overseas missions flight in a Cessna 185 on wheels last week, Josh received a text that our offer on a piece of land had been accepted! We take possession of it the end of November, and can go ahead and start the building permit process now!
We are so humbled and thrilled at the way the Lord in His kindness and goodness, closed one chapter of our ministry at the very moment that he was opening the next!
Pray for us as we launch into more new adventures – overseeing construction of a hangar and helipad, and designing and building the fueling system, workshop and other support systems that we need for our new helicopter flight program.
Also check out our post here for details of our vehicle project, and our give page for the latest update. Since our ministry now includes buying and packing supplies for 6+ church planting teams, our 5 hour round trip drives to town are as frequent as ever, and our tired old land cruiser is no longer up to the task.