formerly "The View From Up Here"

Formerly titled "The View From Up Here" this column began in the Liberty Gazette June 26, 2007.

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March 3, 2009 Mission flying, part 2

The Liberty Gazette
March 3, 2009

The View From Up Here
By Mike Ely and Linda Street Ely

Prompted by the recent visit to Liberty by Greg Ford, Christian missionary to Sudan, I submitted the subject of mission flying last week; flying over Kenya in to Entebbe, Uganda, and how flying there is somewhat different. On another trip, five of us hopped in a Cessna 206. The 206 is a bit smaller than the Caravan I mentioned last week; seats six and not nearly the baggage room. And while I enjoyed flying right seat over Central Africa in that airplane, it was the remote dirt strip landing in Maridi, Sudan, that delighted my sense of adventure. Looking ahead on approach, we saw a herd of cows meandering along the dirt runway. The procedure for a safe landing then is to do a low pass first; a go-around. Hopefully, the cows are startled enough to clear the landing area. It worked on the first try and when we came back around to land on the cleared runway, the welcoming villagers were a heart-warming sight. Clad in colorful clothes and waving white flags, they beat drums and played handmade wind instruments, and sang an African welcome song that couldn’t help but put a big smile on any face. The white flags were so we’d know they were friendly because that’s a place where such information is necessary.

Before we left on that leg, standing in the Dispatch office of AIM Air (African Inland Missions), the captain sought not only the weather conditions, but inquired as to the most current information on violence and guerillas in the area of our destination. Before the bovine paparazzi were of any concern, we all scanned the landscape carefully for people with guns. A week later, before taking off, we had to herd cattle again.

Flying to Liethnhom, Sudan, we were warned during the arrival to keep quiet because Americans are not liked there. In fact, in talking with the captain during the flight, he explained the importance of being careful not to wander off the planned route because much of the area is hostile, and we can’t just call air traffic control for help.

On a different trip, into Rwanda and Congo, flying RwandAir was probably more unsettling to me than the missionary charters because I knew the mission pilots were trained in the U.S. to U.S. standards, but I wondered what kind of training those airline pilots had. But the flight was uneventful, other than me being carried up the steps because of a life-threatening infection from a spider bite the previous day, but that’s another story.

My exposure to MAF, AIM Air, JAARS (Mission Aviation Fellowship, African Inland Missions Air, Jungle Aviation and Radio Service) and other mission aviation groups, has caused me to consider mission flying. That idea is still on the radar. One thing I would leave you with, though, is in spite of the potential for danger that exists in Central Africa, I truly wish every American would take at least one trip there, or somewhere where there is real suffering and people have no hope, and put ‘self’ aside for once, and see how it changes you.

Mike and Linda can be reached at

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