Helicopter Speeds Missionary Deployment
Over the last two years we have been working toward restoring an old airstrip at Mountain View College (MVC) in Mindanao for the purpose of supporting the work of the SULADS. The SULADS had their beginning years ago as a student missions program of MVC. It is now officially a separate entity but is still mostly composed of college students and graduates of MVC. They have multiple mission schools and projects scattered all throughout the very remote mountains and islands of Mindanao as well as other areas of the Philippines. When God provided the R44 helicopter last March I wanted to visit Mindanao with it one time to help raise awareness of the need for a helicopter for that area. The SULADS missionaries annual training (of new and returning missionaries) ended the last week of May, so we decided to time our trip at that time so we could help deploy the missionaries. We headed to MVC the 1st of June with the helicopter and arrived at the newly restored airstrip just in time for a dedication ceremony for the airstrip. The mayor of Valencia attended with many SULADS missionaries and staff from MVC.
Four months ago during the dry season God moved the mayor to supply the graders and equipment for the reconstruction of the airstrip at no charge. All we provided was diesel to keep them running. So we felt it only right to give her a ride in the helicopter back to Valencia after the dedication ceremony. It was a four minute flight vs. 30 to 45 minute drive.
We immediately started making plans and arrangements for the deployment of the missionaries. Over the next week we dropped off 35 missionaries at their mission schools. The nearest school is about a 3+ hour hike and the farthest is more than a 2 days walk. We also helped them make courtesy visits to the nearby government officials of each area. The results were a huge boost in the morale of the missionaries, and a renewed interest in the work of the SULADS at the highest levels in the church and government. Part of this was simply because they had a helicopter supporting them. Our time there with the helicopter also made us see even more the huge need of aircraft in Mindanao for supporting the work in the remote areas.
When we returned to Palawan I turned around and went back to Mindanao in the twin Commanche airplane a couple days later to pick up a new missionary family to be deployed to our remote mission school in Kabulnukan. A few days later we dropped them off at the trail head to hike into the mountains with their four children. Then a few hours later, about the time they arrived, we flew in all their personal supplies, food and school supplies. They are experienced, former SULADS missionaries so they are used to hiking, but they were very delighted to have their supplies carried in for them this time.
The flight is only 5-6 minutes long to Kabulnukan. Every couple days or so we end up making flights for this village as well as the AFM project and several other similar villages where many are suffering from Malaria and other outbreaks. There are especially a lot of sicknesses right now with the monsoon rains starting again. We always coordinate the flights so that needed supplies and medicines are going in while more severe patients or missionaries are coming out. What a difference a helicopter makes to the missionary work! We continue to praise God daily for this great tool he has provided to speed the spread of the gospel to the people of Palawan. Thank you for your continued prayers and support!