I arrived at the airport with just enough time to check-in and catch my flight, or so I thought. As I hurried into the airport, It was 11:30 in the morning and my flight wasn’t scheduled to leave until 2:05 pm.
Earlier that morning I had been traveling by taxi through city traffic and had arrived at the airport as early as I could, but when I arrived, I noticed a very long line in front of me to reach the ticketing agent. As I worked my way to the front, I was informed that enough time had passed and it was now less than 2 hours until my flight. The baggage counter closed, and to make the flight I would have to pay 300 pesos per kilogram for my luggage. I had over 50 kilos so I suddenly had a problem in front of me.
What could I do? I made some phone calls to my teammates and made up a different plan. I decided I would take a taxi to the bus station and would get on a bus headed to Santiago in northern Luzon. I waited 5 hours for the next bus and when I climbed on board, I was thankful that my luggage was safely onboard. We started on our way and traveled for a while before the sun began to set. We continued with a speed that was about a third faster than I was comfortable with for the conditions. We passed vehicles of all sizes and after about 9.5 hours we stopped at the station in Santiago. I was picked up and we arrived at the airbase at 3 am. God was merciful and I was excited to see what my new home was like.
Less than a month before, I began to understand that I was being called to work in the Philippines. I had already spent time serving in the mission field, but over the previous few months, I felt a call to a new mission location. The opportunity to be an active pilot in the Philippines opened before me and God opened the way for me to serve there. Within a few days of finishing service in Central America, I started earnest preparations for my new service and it wasn’t long before I had everything in order and I headed for the Philippines.
After close to 30 hours in transit, I landed in manilla and got a SIM card, changed some money, and checked into my hotel to sleep for the night.
The following day, I found a street side restaurant that had rice and bread as the vegetarian options. I asked for 3 cups of rice and a small loaf of bread. The lady at the counter looked at me and asked if I was sure. I was hungry and affirmed my decision. She replied and clarified that “in the Philippines, we don’t eat bread with rice” to which we both laughed.
Shortly after I went to the CAAP office and started my pilot's license conversion process. I didn’t know what I needed to do and so I asked a lot of questions to which the officials were very accommodating. I left after several hours once finished what I could do for that day. I had completed a verification request from the FAA and had a good understanding of what was next. I took the bus to Santiago. We arrived at the PAMAS base in Banuar in northern Luzon. Finally I got a few hours of sleep in my new home.
It wasn’t long before my first flight checkout started. Ray Sikich and I flew some patterns and soon I was comfortable flying into our home airstrip which was 2,100 feet and has a significant slope that pretty much limits it to a way in one way out airstrip regardless of the weather.
There weren’t very many requests for flights right away so the next day, I helped Ray on several projects around the airbase. We worked together to prepare the walls of a future duplex for being ready to spray stucco on the walls.
Once completed, we diverted our attention to a pile of metal that was organized by the hangar. They were for a large water tower being built to supply water to the hangar and the two houses were built under the shelter of the hangar roof.
We got the posts aligned and then welded a platform on top and built bracing and it's a lot stronger than either he or I expected. After it was built and secure, we had to pull a 1000-liter tank up to the top. From start to finish it took most of a week and we were very happy with the result. In the process, I learned a lot and I look forward to many more opportunities to serve.
I got to fly my first mission with Ray to Maconacon which is to the northeast along the coast. We flew a passenger there and then had a 15-minute flight over to Palanan where we would transport a cadaver to Cauayan. After a successful mission and we headed back to home base. A couple of days later we flew a stroke patient that needed more advanced medical attention in Cauayan. We completed the flight and I felt comfortable flying subsequent flights to Palanan solo.
The next mission was on the following sabbath morning when a 7 month premie was not breathing well and required a rapid emergency transfer to the hospital. The family was very grateful and afterward I was able to arrive back at base in time for church. After a fellowship meal with the church members, I got another request for a patient with possible meningitis or jaundice (there isn’t adequate medical staff in these villages and so the villagers oftentimes don’t know how serious a patient’s condition is until it becomes an emergency). I flew to Palanan and while I was coming a second patient who was dealing with a blood condition joined in and I flew them both to the hospital with a relative to watch over them.
Until more calls came later that week, Ray and I kept busy with maintaining the airplane as well as many construction projects we were involved in. I also am starting to get involved in opportunities supplied by the local church which is very rewarding. After being here in Luzon for just short of a month, I’ve been able to work alongside a wonderful team and have gotten my hands busy while learning all kinds of new things and strengthening many previously learned skills. As of writing this, I’ve been able to fly nearly 21 hours and transported 143 people and several loads of cargo to these remote villages.
God has been blessing me and I’m so thankful for the opportunity to get involved and serve. When I first arrived, I immediately felt like I was at home. This type of service is what I had only dreamed of before this and I am so thankful it’s becoming a reality! Sometimes it doesn’t seem real and then I remember it is real and I’m so very happy that a lifelong dream is finally being fulfilled!
There are still many unreached areas and if God is calling you to serve, start by praying that God will show you how to get involved. I want Jesus to come soon and I would encourage you to join me in sharing the Gospel and making a difference for others. Do what you can and let the Lord show you how you can be a blessing.
Missionary pilot serving with PAMAS.
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People, who do not know the Lord, ask why in the world we waste our lives as missionaries. They forget that they too are expending their lives… and when the bubble has burst, they will have nothing of eternal significance to show for the years they have wasted.