MAF partners serving in South Eastern Chad share the good outcome of a flight that originated in difficult circumstances.
Through April and May as the COVID-19 pandemic spread rapidly across the world, it looked as though MAF Chad might have had to temporarily cease operations, as key staff were stuck on the wrong side of closed borders. Accordingly, our partners living in remote parts of the country had to think through the implications of this and make contingency plans. Partners like Mark and Diane, who live in the village of Tchaguine (pronounced Chageen) and use MAF services regularly, decided to rearrange their usual travel plans, and make provision to stay in the village for a prolonged period.
“We arranged a freight flight because it seemed at the time that the MAF program would have to be suspended for the month of July, which is when normally we would travel to the capital N’Djamena for a break, and for supplies,” Mark explains. “The freight in question consisted of lots of food, some local currency and some hardware items. All that enabled us to stay on in our village in comfort and security. As it turns out, COVID-19 has not come to the village in any significant way, life carries on pretty normally.”
Meanwhile, in a village a little further south, linguist and Bible translator Andrea had also made adjustments to her usual schedule. Andrea explains, “Normally, at the beginning of rainy season (end of May or early June), I leave Doumougou for holidays in Switzerland and then work from N’Djamena until October, because Doumougou gets completely rained in and becomes inaccessible by car. There needs to be a few conditions in place for me to extend my stay into the rainy season: mobile phone network, an airstrip in Koblague (a nearby village) and MAF service availability.” These things came together for the first time this year. With the COVID-19 situation, her holidays in Switzerland were not an option, so she decided to stay in the village until the end of June, then leave for N’Djamena because MAF might not have been available in July. She found this to be a good opportunity to experience the rainy season in Doumougou!
All was going well, and so when Mark and Diane messaged about the plane coming to Tchaguine and flying back empty, there was no need to take any action. “They just wanted to let me know in case I had something to order or send, or if I wanted to travel,” Andrea explains. “I wrote back ‘thank you very much, good to know, but I don't need anything and am not planning to travel’.”
However, everything changed two days later when Andrea started to feel unwell with a fever from a suspected wound infection. Concerned from previous experience that it could become serious, she called a missionary doctor for advice, who recommended that if things didn’t improve, she should get out sooner rather than later. “I realised that if MAF was coming on Friday, maybe that's an opportunity that I should not let go. The idea of having the plane 15 flight minutes from me and not benefit from it, only to have to travel very tediously a few weeks later, seemed silly.” The next day, Andrea’s symptoms worsened and whilst waiting to see the nurse at the local clinic, she called MAF asking for the plane to come for her after going to Tchaguine. Although she still had a day to go, she started packing. Then everything changed again.
Around 11am, an MAF pilot, Phil Henderson, called Andrea to ask whether she could be ready the same day rather than the next day, because there was a big rainstorm coming. She was glad that he had not asked her earlier! So, by noon she was packed and had organised three motorbikes to get her and her belongings to Koblague, and by evening she had landed in N’Djamena. Great! “I called my colleagues to tell them we'd made it to the capital in 90 minutes, and they laughed, saying that in the car I'd have just about travelled 20km in that time. Only too true!” With access to medical treatment Andrea soon felt better, although the infection took a while to heal. Reflecting further on the flight and the events leading up to it, she can clearly see how God was at work in so many different ways, even before her sudden departure from Doumougou.
Andrea recollects that back in January, a construction worker from Switzerland had come to carry out some necessary repairs in her house. Without all that, she would not have been able to close up the house for the whole season within a few hours! She was thankful for phones, that it was possible to organise this flight and concentrate on packing, as work could still be organised from N’Djamena. There were so many factors in place and she felt so grateful. Andrea says, “It was a beautiful example of useful communication between Mark and Diane and me; and an event that has proved the wisdom of two conditions rule (phone and MAF) for staying in the village during rainy season. It has taken years of effort to get the airstrip re-opened, and it was done for cases just like this in mind.”
MAF Chad can also testify to God’s gracious oversight in this situation, since our staff and partners were able to travel and the programme didn’t have to shut down in these dire circumstances.