Wednesday, December 24, 2014

He Suffered Injustice

Over the past several weeks I have been dealing with some issues that have been a real test of character, and have caused me to think a lot about what it means to be a Christian in our culture. I won't go into all the details, but some explanation is necessary for this post to make sense. In October I was in a fender bender, where the other driver was cited for failure to yield and was clearly at fault. I thought my biggest headache would be finding the time to get to a body shop for an estimate and repair. That turned out not to be the case. The other driver's insurance company (The General) not only gave me a low estimate, but offered to pay just 60% of the repair estimate, claiming that I was negligent and partially at fault for the crash. The claims representative (I'll refer to her as Sandy) was very unhelpful and rude, and refused to connect me to a supervisor or anyone who could discuss the matter further.

I don't think I slept more than a couple hours that first night after I spoke with Sandy. I was angry at this injustice, and stressed about how I would shoulder the bill for repairing my vehicle. As I thought about it more, I became more bitter toward the insurance company and Sandy for the way I was being treated. I was dead-set on taking the matter to court (I had already contacted my insurance company and the Ohio Department of Insurance, who would do nothing for me). I was convinced that I would win in court, and I couldn't wait to see justice done, proving that I was right. I even found an attorney that would take the case.

But there was one small problem with my plan. As it turns out, in order to go after the rest of the money for the repairs, I would have to sue the other driver, not the insurance company directly. I wouldn't have found it difficult to sue The General, or even Sandy, since they are the perpetrators of the injustice, and the ones making accusations of negligence against me. But did I really want to take the other driver to court? She caused the accident, but it was not her fault that the insurance company was refusing to pay. At the time of the accident I actually felt bad for her. When the sheriff showed up, she took responsibility and expressed gratefulness that I wasn't angry about the incident. I don't know how much the accident cost her in terms of the traffic ticket and car repairs, but it's no fun paying for all that—even when it is your mistake that caused it.

As I mentioned at the top of this post, this whole ordeal has got me thinking a lot: about justice; about forgiveness; about bitterness and anger; about the effects of bitterness on us and those around us. The first couple days, when all of this was really weighing heavily on me, I was dwelling on it a lot. The more I stewed, the worse I felt and the more my family bore the brunt of it. Of course I didn't mean to treat them poorly, but bitterness was beginning to take root and my family was suffering he consequences. I finally realized what was happening, and had to ask the Lord to help me forgive, release my bitterness, and submit my burden to him. I meditated on this verse frequently:

The Lord is at hand; do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. (Philippians 4:5-7 ESV)

The other big issue I have been thinking about is the injustice of this situation. An honest insurance company would just pay the claim, but this company was blaming me so they could get away with not paying what they owe. As I reflected on this, something occurred to me. During this Christmas season we celebrate the coming of Christ into our world. Yet, the world did not receive him or recognize him for who he was (John 1:9-13). The blameless son of God suffered the incomparable injustice of being accused, condemned, and murdered in the most brutal way. If this wasn't enough, he bore the sin of all mankind. Yet, how did he respond?

He committed no sin, neither was deceit found in his mouth. When he was reviled, he did not revile in return; when he suffered, he did not threaten, but continued entrusting himself to him who judges justly. He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. By his wounds you have been healed. For you were straying like sheep, but have now returned to the Shepherd and Overseer of your souls. (1 Peter 2:22-25 ESV)

As I reflected on this season and what it means to be a follower of Christ, I found myself asking, “How can I best demonstrate the love of God in this situation?” On one hand, we have laws in this country to allow justice to be done in situations like this. I would certainly be justified in going to court. But is suing someone the best way to show the love of Christ? 

If there was ever a season in which to extend mercy, grace, and love, is this not the season? Of course we should do this year-round, but during Advent we set aside time to focus intently on the anticipation of the Messiah coming into the world as a helpless baby. The infinite God who spoke the world into existence took upon himself the constraints of a human. He ultimately endured unjust suffering, culminating in his death and resurrection, which purchased freedom from sin and eternal death for you and for me. If my Savior could suffer like that for me, can I not endure this relatively insignificant injustice for the sake of loving my neighbor? 

So that is what I decided to do. Rather than pursue the matter in court, I have—by God's grace—traded my bitterness and anger for forgiveness. In doing so I have found peace and freedom that is far more valuable than the sum of money I would have won in court. And in His mercy, God provided for the repair of my vehicle. To keep the cost down, I bought a new fender to install myself, and a family friend offered to paint it for free. Another friend advised me on how to deal with the insurance company, and I ended up getting about 85% of the estimated repair cost without going to court.

Sometimes it takes a trial like this to reveal our true character. Unfortunately, when I looked into the mirror of God's Word (see James 1:22-25), I did not like what I saw. But thanks be to God that He does not leave us in our sinful state. When we yield to Him, He transforms us and remakes us into men and women who increasingly reflect the nature of Christ.

This Christmas, take time with me to truly celebrate with thankfulness the coming of the Messiah into the world. Jesus Christ lived a perfect life, yet suffered and died unjustly. Then, having conquered death, He rose to new life, making the way for us to be rescued from the clutches of sin and darkness. Through Jesus' unjust suffering on earth the justice of God was satisfied, and those who turn from their sin, looking to Christ in faith, receive a full pardon. Not only that, but as we submit to Him, the Spirit begins changing us now—a transformation that changes the way we live and think and act, and will culminate on the day we find ourselves freed from this earthly body and made new in His presence!

May we live in this reality during the holiday season and all year-round. Merry Christmas!

Saturday, December 13, 2014

Year-End Giving

I don't like "year-end ask" letters. There, I said it! I have a hard time sending letters that start out by expressing warm wishes, Christmas greetings, and thankfulness for those who supported our ministry over the past year, only to end the letter saying, "Please send more money!" Of course I wouldn't use those exact words, but that is the feeling I get from year-end appeals. I want this season to be a time when I think about giving and thankfulness, and not asking others to give to us.

I'll also admit that, especially in past years, I have not looked forward to receiving year-end appeals for financial support. For some reason it bothers me when I eagerly open a "Christmas card", and it ends up being a request for money (sorry if this offends you; I hope you'll keep reading). But that's ironic, especially this year. We have been setting aside some funds and are looking for places to give. Am I crazy or what? I want to give, but I don't want anyone to ask me to give! Yeah, I guess I am crazy. Sure, there are times when God brings someone to mind, without any intervention by us. But He frequently uses some sort of communication, such as a letter or a presentation.

As I receive year-end appeal letters, I suppose I need to look at them as opportunities—especially since I am still considering where to give before the end of the year. I also realize that there may be other people out there in the same boat. So without making any desperate pleas or twisting your arm, I will just say this: if you're still contemplating options for year-end giving, and would like to help us continue ministry for another year, here's how you can help. If you want to know what we've been doing over the past year, feel free to look back over our blog, and especially our Facebook page and Vimeo account.

To those of you who have prayed, given, or supported our ministry in any way: thank you! It is a privilege to serve with MMS Aviation, helping to send people and planes around the world with the message of Christ and the love of God. May you be blessed as you celebrate and remember the coming of Jesus during this Advent and Christmas season. It's because of Him that we have true life, and can shine His light to others.

Sunday, October 26, 2014

Embracing times of preparation

I have spent a lot of time thinking about preparation the last few days. It seems that everything I've been working on at MMS has required lots of preparation, leading up to a final step that takes very little time to accomplish. As an example: Glen, Mike, and I did a compressor wash on the engines of a King Air 200. The whole process took about two hours. The actual wash and rinse time was about six minutes. The remainder of that time was spent preparing the equipment, mixing the rinse solution, getting the equipment into position, and cleaning up when we were finished.

(By the way, here's a video showing some of that process)

PT-6 Compressor Wash - GCI's King Air 200 from Aaron Hammitt on Vimeo.

And this is a more extreme example: last week we were painting some control surfaces for MAG's Cessna 206. Applying the paint only took Dale part of an afternoon, but the preparation took weeks of work by multiple mechanics and apprentices.

I could list several other jobs that I do around the hangar, where 75% (or more) of my time is spent preparing materials and equipment for a seemingly simple task. Prep work is not usually the most enjoyable part of my job. It usually consists of tasks like stripping paint, gathering supplies and equipment, scrubbing corrosion from 30-year-old parts, or researching parts diagrams and other documents to ensure a repair is done correctly. Even though I don't always enjoy this aspect of my work, I know that poor planning and preparation leads to a poor result.

As I step back and look at the bigger picture, I see this whole stage of our lives as a preparatory phase. Our time in Coshocton (and then with MAG in North Carolina) is giving us the foundation we will need to serve on the mission field as a pilot/mechanic family. Sometimes it's hard to embrace the current stage of life, and I am tempted to focus too much on the future. But when I do that, I tend to miss the opportunities that God has placed in front of me today. It's easy to say that preparation is important. But to actually live that out, embracing and valuing the times of preparation, can be a challenge. So I continue to pray for the strength and wisdom to embrace our time in Coshocton, and even to embrace the mundane tasks I face in the hangar, knowing that God can use these experiences to develop me into the man He desires me to become.

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

September 2, 2014 Update

It's been a busy month! We've been back to Northwest Ohio a couple times, we've had friends in town for a weekend, and the kids have started school. In all the busyness, we haven't made time to update the blog. So here I go!

The kids have returned to Coshocton Christian school this year. Ella has the same teacher as last year, and Ian has a new teacher who has substituted in previous years. Although the kids initially weren't excited to see summer come to an end, they are both enjoying school, and it's been good for us to get back into a routine.

In the hangar, I've been spending a lot of time stripping paint from Missionary Air Group's Cessna 206. This is a messy and time-consuming process, but it has to be done! This week the last of the paint should be stripped from the fuselage. We've already finished the flaps, ailerons, wings, and a number of small parts.

Stripping paint can be a messy job!

I also had the chance to work with Dwight and Joel on the annual inspection of a Piper Aztec. It was interesting to get exposure to this airplane and its systems. We don't work on a lot of twin-engine aircraft at MMS. I had the opportunity to conduct the post-inspection run, which was my first time operating a twin-engine airplane. Of course it would have been fun to go up for a flight (if I had an instructor along!), but I enjoyed taxiing and running the engines with the dual throttle controls. Here's a link to a time lapse video (also embedded below) of some work on this airplane.

Closing up a Piper Aztec at MMS Aviation from Aaron Hammitt on Vimeo.

Ian's birthday was this month, and one of the things he wanted was to make a skateboard (a longboard, to be exact). He rode a board belonging to a former MMS apprentice, and decided he wanted one of his own. I ended up doing most of the work, but Ian did help with some sanding and assembly. Here is the finished product (minus grip tape). At 56 inches long, it lives up to its name as a longboard!

Ian testing out his new skateboard.
We still haven't settled on a church here in Coshocton, and all the travelling we've been doing has not helped. We did visit a new church this past Sunday. Since they had a guest speaker, we'll definitely visit at least one more time to hear the pastor preach. The people there were friendly, and there are some things we definitely like about the church. It's different from anything we've been a part of before, but that's not necessarily a bad thing. We'll keep you posted, but in the mean time we'd appreciate your prayers for wisdom as we look for a church home. We have already been here eight months, and really need to get settled into a church!

I'm sure there's more I could write, but I'm going to call it a night! Thanks for your interest in our lives and our ministry. Good night!

Monday, July 28, 2014

I Tri, He Flies

I want to take this opportunity to say a quick, "Thank you!" to the women who participated in the "I Tri, He Flies" fundraiser to benefit our ministry with MMS Aviation. Not only did they get up early Sunday morning to participate in a triathlon and spend several weeks training, but they also worked hard to get sponsors to donate to our ministry on their behalf. It really means a lot to us that they would support Tara by literally running alongside her (and biking and swimming!), and support our entire family by helping us raise the finances necessary to keep serving with MMS. We don't have the final total, but through this fundraiser we have already raised enough money to send the kids to Coshocton Christian School again this year!

These seven women participated in the Triathlon with Tara on Sunday morning (sorry, Deb, I didn't mean to block you out of the picture!)

In addition to the women pictured, there were several others who were unable to participate in the Triathlon, but still participated in fundraiser as "Super Fans".

We are thankful to have such great friends, and we are grateful for all the ways that God blesses us through them. It's our hope and prayer that our family will also be a blessing to them, and that we will be faithful stewards of all that has been entrusted to us.

I'm sure Tara would have more to say, but for now I'll just leave it at that. Thanks again, ladies, for your hard work and dedication, and congratulations on your accomplishment!

Monday, June 9, 2014

June 8, 2014 Update

It's hard to believe that we have been in Coshocton for five months! Now that the weather is nicer, we have been getting out of the house more, feeling more at home in Coshocton, and making a few more connections in the community. We are still looking for a church in the area, however. Because of that, we are still feeling somewhat unsettled. Would you pray that God would lead us to a church where we can be nourished spiritually, where our family can develop meaningful relationships, and where we can serve?

In the hangar, I've been working with Tim on the annual inspection of a Piper Arrow owned by a ministry based in Illinois. I've enjoyed getting to know the airplane and its systems, and gaining a better understanding of what's involved in an annual inspection. It's the first time that MMS has seen this airplane, and there were lots of little fixes and improvements to be made. I had fun with the diverse tasks I was assigned on this project. I had the opportunity to work on wheels and brakes, fluid lines, a hydraulic cylinder, electrical wiring, control surface rigging, metal fabrication, and more!

In between tasks on the Arrow, I've also squeezed in a little bit of experience with some other airplanes. These include a Diamond DA40 (oil change), a Beechcraft Skipper (helping Terry with some maintenance), and a Cessna 182 (modified seat track installation).

Over the past several weeks we have had several guests from different mission organizations in the hangar. One of the things I enjoy about MMS Aviation is getting to meet these people and hear their stories. I'm always encouraged to hear how God is working around the world, and it's a privilege to be a part of this ministry that has a worldwide impact!

Saturday, April 26, 2014

Project Complete!

After many hours, I finally finished the cowling repairs I've been working on! In my last post, I shared some photos of the corrosion that I was cleaning and removing on the engine cowling of a Cessna 206 owned by Missionary Air Group. Wherever I removed corroded material, I had to make repairs. Well, here's the finished product!

I know it may not look like much, but this was a challenging repair, especially for someone who is new to this type of work. It involved fabricating 12 new repair pieces (some of them are hidden beneath doublers) to match the shape of the existing channels or fit over them as reinforcements. The curvature of the pieces also had to match the curves of the cowling quite closely, so that the cowling would fit correctly when installed into position, and so the nose bowl would fit properly to the front of the cowling. The repair pieces also had to be riveted into the existing structure in a manner that would give the cowling sufficient rigidity.

As I mentioned in the last post, a replacement engine cowling would cost over $5000 (or $10,000 for the right and left) if purchased from Cessna! Because of this, it was worth investing many hours of my time. It was rewarding for me to finish this project, and to make a small contribution to getting this airplane back into missionary service in a condition that will allow it to fly for many years to come!

A few of the repair pieces prior to installation.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Performing Surgery on MAG's 206

It's always exciting to be visited by pilots and other representatives from the organizations that MMS serves. It's encouraging to hear stories from the field, and to gain a better understanding of how our work at MMS impacts missionary work around the world. For two weeks, Sean Donnely from Missionary Air Group has been at MMS. We had the opportunity to hear about the work that MAG is doing in Honduras and Guatemala, and Dale and I had the opportunity to show him the work we have been doing on MAG's Cessna 206.

Cowling after modification and repair.
Lately, I have been removing corrosion from the cowling of the airplane, repairing the affected areas, and making some other modifications. The first photo shows the half of the cowling I completed last week. After cleaning it and stripping the paint, I moved the oil check door (to prepare for an engine conversion), which involved cutting a hole for the new door, fabricating some shims, riveting the door in place, then patching the hole where the door was previously located. I also cut out an area of corrosion in the skin and installed a flush patch, and made a reinforcement for another area that had been damaged.

The other half of the cowling had significant corrosion, as shown in the pictures below. At times I've felt like a surgeon, carefully cutting out this "cancer" that will continue to spread if it's not removed, trying not to damage the parts that are still in good condition. When I'm done, it will bear some scars (patches), but will be in a condition to fly for many more years. I'm investing significant time and effort in this project, and it has been a great learning experience for me. More importantly, my repairs will allow the airplane to return to service as an air ambulance in Guatemala, in an airworthy condition.

You may wonder why, with such extensive damage, we don't just buy new cowlings instead of investing weeks of our time to repair them. Well, it turns out that each cowling is priced at over $5,000! Even in good used condition, the two pieces would cost several thousand dollars each.

One of the things I love about MMS is that even in the course of my apprenticeship, I am making a meaningful contribution to the missionary aviation community. In the process of learning how to do this sheet metal project, I am not just developing my skills as a mechanic; I am helping to save potentially thousands of dollars for missions organizations like MAG, and to get their airplanes back on the mission field.

I look forward to finishing my repairs soon, and I'll share pictures of the finished product when that time comes!

Sunday, March 9, 2014

My Rights as a Christian

In the United States, we love our rights. Many of our foundational values revolve around liberty, individual rights, equality, fairness, and justice. And these are all good principles upon which to base a society. But what do we do when the exercise of our rights comes into conflict with the rights of others?

As I thought about my rights as a Christian, here are some things that came to mind. Without referencing any particular Scripture, these are some things I thought of based on my knowledge of the New Testament, and particularly the words of Jesus and the writings of Paul. Here are some of my rights as a disciple of Christ:
  • to consider others better than myself, and put their needs above my own
  • to put myself in the place of least importance
  • to suffer for the name of Christ
  • to lay aside all my "important" accomplishments, degrees, titles, and accolades for the sake of Christ
  • to be wronged so that the name of Jesus is held in high regard
  • to crucify my pride and live a life of humility
  • to boast in Christ rather than brag about myself
These are in stark contrast to the typical American mindset. We often hear things like:
  • look out for Number One
  • above all else, pursue personal happiness
  • take pride in your accomplishments; you've earned them!
  • make sure you get what's coming to you
  • we need to be self-confident and self-esteeming
  • it doesn't matter what anyone says about you; you are amazing!
Without realizing it, we have let many of these attitudes creep into the church. Now, certainly, there are great blessings that come with being a child of God! We have been adopted into His family (Ephesians 1:3-6) and have received an inheritance that will never perish, spoil or fade (1 Peter 1:3-9). We have an eternal hope to look forward to (2 Corinthians 4:16-18). Jesus told his disciples that they were friends of God (John 15:15). But I fear that we have become confused, believing that the rights of sonship, and these spiritual blessings, are somehow supposed to be fully realized here on earth, and exercised in our relationships here.

But if you read the context of the verses I cited from 1 Peter, the gospel of John, and 2 Corinthians, you will see that they all refer to the trouble that Christians will face on earth. Indeed, Jesus even promised his disciples that they would be hated on account of him! When it comes to our relationship with our brothers and sisters in Christ, Paul says that we should rather be wronged and cheated rather than exercising our legal rights to bring charges against them (1 Corinthians 6:7-8). For further reading about our Christian "rights", consider James 4:6-10, Philippians 3:7-11, Philippians 1:27-39, Matthew 10:21-22, and Galatians 6:14.

As an American, my first reaction when I am wronged is sometimes to seek immediate justice. But as a Christian, my first response should be to lay down my rights, and my very life, for Christ and for those He has called me to serve. As I think ahead to the time we will serve in cross-cultural ministry, I can only imagine the ways in which our "rights" will be violated, and we will need to follow the example of Christ in the way we react to these situations. Lord, strengthen me by your Spirit as I seek to follow your example of humility, service, and self-sacrifice!

Sunday, February 16, 2014

First Week in the Hangar

Last Monday I started working in the hangar at MMS! I had been looking forward to that day for quite some time, and was glad to finally get to work! As expected, however, they don't set new apprentices loose on aircraft right away. The first couple days involved a safety briefing, introduction to the shop equipment, and a "pre-service" orientation. After that, I began my "basic training", which will give me a foundational understanding of the tools and methods used in aircraft maintenance and repair. I was also assigned the responsibility of opening the hangar for the next few months, which will help me to be intimately familiar with the facility.

This week's basic training involved an overview of the tools used in aircraft maintenance, and the processes used for ordering and receiving parts at MMS. I learned about aircraft hardware, as well as safety wiring techniques used on airplanes. I practiced fabricating rigid and flexible fluid lines, and learned about the different types of lines that are used in the aircraft I'll be working on at MMS. Finally, I began working on my first sheet metal project, which involves cutting, drilling, and riveting aluminum sheets. 

My basic training is expected to last about a month, and after that I will begin working on aircraft under the supervision of licensed mechanics. I still need to learn additional metal forming techniques, control cable fabrication, welding, and more. There are also aircraft-specific regulations that I will need to be familiar with. There is a lot to learn, and I'm looking forward to putting my new skills into practice as I help to prepare airplanes for worldwide mission service!

Below is a picture of my new "desk", and some of the airplanes in the hangar. I plan to post some more photos (and hopefully a video) soon, so stay tuned!

The red toolbox is my new "desk". It sure beats sitting in a cubicle! In the background is MAG's Cessna 206, which will be heading to Guatemala when it is complete. On the left is a Cessna 182 belonging to Moody Bible Institute.

A few of the airplanes being stored in Hangar C. On the left is a Cessna 172 that belongs to Brigade Air. It had previously been restored by MMS (video here).

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

The Month in Review

Seeing as how we haven't posted since Christmas Eve, we are overdue for an update! If you follow us on Twitter or Facebook, you know that we moved to Coshocton at the beginning of this month and are about ready to start full time with MMS Aviation. Rather than try to catch up with a detailed post, we'll just go with a bullet list of highlights from the last month.
  • We spent most of Christmas break cleaning and packing the house in preparation for our move. We wish we could have just enjoyed our time off, but the bright side is that the kids got some extra time with their grandparents.
  • My last day at Dana was January 3. I worked with some great people there, but I'm very happy to be getting out from behind my desk and into missionary aviation!
  • With the help of many family members and friends, we got packed up and moved the first weekend of January. We were blessed tremendously by all of the people who helped us!
  • We spent a couple weeks unpacking, getting settled, and taking care of all the details involved with moving.
  • Our family took a mini-vacation so we could get some quality family time, after having been so busy packing and moving.
  • We enrolled the kids at Coshocton Christian School. It is very small—so much so that second and third grade are combined. It's been interesting having both kids in the same class despite being a grade apart!
  • The weather in Ohio has been much colder than usual, meaning lots of school delays and cancellations! 
  • We also had the kids out of school a few extra days around the time of our move. Between these and the "calamity days" (due to snow and sub-zero temperatures) I think we will remember December 2013 and January 2014 as the winter our kids didn't go to school. In fact, the kids have only had two full days of school in the past month!
  • I started studying some of the written material for my Airframe and Powerplant Certificate, and will start working in the hangar at MMS on February 10. I can't wait!
Now that we are almost settled into a routine, we'll hopefully be posting updates on a more regular basis. And starting next month I'll be able to share about the projects I'm working on in the hangar. I hope you'll enjoy getting a glimpse into our life and work with MMS!