Home to the Philippines
After almost 8 months in Arizona refurbishing a helicopter and getting trained as a commercial helicopter pilot, 2016 kicked off for us with a homecoming back to the Philippines. After a couple of weeks in Manila renewing our visas, we traveled straight to Mindanao, the island that would become our new home. We spent a few weeks scoping things out in our new town and making decisions about what house to rent before flying back to Palawan to pack up our old house and ship everything.
We spent the end of January and the first week of February sweating on Palawan, packing our belongings in a sea container, shipping our car, and taking care of NTM Aviation’s hangar and aircraft that were still there in storage. Once back on Mindanao, we hit the ground running, looking for land to locate our new helicopter hangar on.
Since our Mindanao Cessna 185 operation closed down in September 2015, and we were still waiting for our newly rebuilt helicopter to arrive, we did whatever it took to keep our church planters supplied with groceries, building materials, medicine and printing supplies – anything they needed to continue with translation, church planting, medical clinics and all of the other ministries they are a part of. With no aircraft available, we spent hundreds of miles and untold hours on rough roads and 4×4 trails driving supplies to villages that normally are minutes away by aircraft. It was on these trips that we realized how decrepit our old land cruiser was becoming, and we launched our vehicle replacement project. We also continued our search for land, and started settling in to our new house.
Our family along with our co-workers, the Pruetts, lived for much of the month of April in a guesthouse in a large port city while we worked through government paperwork and assembled the new helicopter. We also submitted a letter of intent on a piece of property, and continued to drive supplies for our church planters!
So close, and yet so far away
By mid-May, the paperwork, assembly and inspections were all done on our new helicopter. And we waited… The Lord granted us huge favor with all of the government offices, and for an initial aircraft certification the process went extremely well, but we still didn’t have an operational helicopter.
While waiting for the final helicopter paperwork, we continued negotiations on land, and Candy took on the responsibility of buying supplies for all of our church planters. Josh also renewed his Philippines Cessna 185 license, did some inspections on one of our Cessna 185s and began flying it again, enabling consultants and church planters to move far more quickly from major commercial airports to smaller general aviation airports much closer to the churches they needed to visit.
We spent the first week of June with over 100 of our co-workers at our annual field conference. It was an encouraging time of fellowship and hearing what God is doing all over the Philippines. As our time at conference was coming to a close, our final paperwork was released so we could begin flying the new helicopter! Josh also met with a couple of different architects to begin working on the design for our new hangar.
Camp and contractors
With the new helicopter flying, life got extremely busy, playing catch up after months of almost no flights. Josh enjoyed being able to use the Cessna 185 to compliment and support the new helicopter, while Candy stayed busy buying and packing supplies, flight following and teaching our kids. We also were blessed to be able to spend a few days in Manila – Joshua and Anna at a Christian camp while we caught up on some time as a couple, took care of some licensing paperwork and met again with a contractor working on bids for our new hangar.
Normal life at last!
We were thankful for a slightly slower pace this month! Josh continued flying and did an Annual/100hr inspection on the Cessna 185 while wading
through paperwork and approvals in order to lease the land that we found. Candy continued teaching our kids and kept up with buying and packing supplies for our church planters.
Josh flew one of our Cessna 185s and Brian flew the helicopter to Palawan. They spent a fun week flying together with both aircraft for consultants and Palawan church planters, and working on our Palawan hangar and the old Palawan 185. Both 185s were left in storage on Palawan to be sold or shipped back to the U.S.. As fun as the trip was, it was bittersweet to be part of ending 50+ years of flying bush planes for missionaries in the Philippines. After Josh got back from Palawan, Candy spent a couple of days in Manila getting trained on NTM’s new accounting software so she can keep up with all of the bookkeeping required for her supply buying ministry.
Thinking about October still makes us tired, but so many good memories too! A visit from our U.S. Operations Director and his wife, as well as the Kellers, our friends and co-workers from another island. A ladies retreat. Another week on Palawan for Josh, Brian and our Operations Director where they disassembled and loaded one of our 185s in a shipping container to be sent back to the U.S.. A contract finally approved for a piece of property. A new baby in our house, born to the filipino couple who work for us. A 2-day impromptu road/trail trip into a village to replace a part on the helicopter. And the month wrapped up with a typhoon knocking out power and water and doing significant damage to our flight center on Luzon. Josh stayed behind to keep working on land paperwork while Brian took our helicopter up to Luzon to help with cleanup and the additional flights that were needed after the storm. All of this on top of buying and packing supplies for 12+ flights made for a truly insane month!
Almost normal again
After October, we were grateful for a few weeks of normal life and ministry. While we had a contract on the table for a piece of property, objections were being raised by another religious group to the idea of us locating a helipad near them. This led to noise testing, hours of research, meetings, letters to government offices, and more meetings as we sought their approval and the approval of the local government offices for us to open a helipad in that community.
After literally months of negotiations, requesting meetings and hearings only to have them postponed, and more letters than I can count, on December 16th, we were finally granted a public hearing on our proposed helipad and hangar, and received a favorable vote! A week later, we picked up Candy’s parents and two of her sisters to spend Christmas with us. One of the highlights of their time here was our first visit as a family into one of the villages on Mindanao where we have church planters. Seeing once again first-hand the transformation that the gospel brings to lives and cultures was truly exciting!
As we look back over the year, it is amazing and humbling to think what the Lord has allowed us to be a part of. Sure, a lot has been done with aircraft, supply buying and working towards setting up a new flight center, but the eternal fruit is impossible to measure – books of the Bible in the hands of believers in their own language for the first time, new outreaches and church plants started by tribal believers who are now reaching out. Hundreds coming to know Christ and following him in baptism. These are the things that make it all worth while. These are the things that we are thankful for!