Tuesday, November 20, 2018

Apprenticeship Complete!

On November 9, I returned from Mexico after completing a three-week internship with UIM Aviation. This experience was also the culmination of my five-year apprenticeship with MMS Aviation and Missionary Air Group. In the coming weeks we'll write more about our future plans. For now, we simply ask for your prayers as we consider a few different options for long-term service. In the rest of this blog post I'd like to share briefly about my time in Mexico.

As I mentioned in my last post, hurricane Willa hit the coast of Mexico very close to UIM Aviation's base in Tepic. Although we felt some effects of the hurricane, we were not hit directly; some nearby towns were not so fortunate. As a result, we had the opportunity to fly several relief flights into the town of Tuxpan after they were able to clear the runway for us.

Clearing the runway in Tuxpan

Many streets, homes, and business were flooded as a result of the hurricane. Many people lost most of their belongings to the flood waters. Clean drinking water was scarce, and the town faces a long process of recovery and rebuilding.
Clif loads relief supplies into the airplane.

As people cleaned out their homes and businesses, much of the trash made its way to the edge of the airstrip. This added to the complexity of taking off and landing safely, along with the vehicles, pedestrians, and animals on the runway.

UIM Aviation partnered with a local church to distribute food, water, and clothing to the residents of Tuxpan. Although we are sad for all who were affected, it's exciting to see the Church in action, helping to alleviate suffering and pointing people to the hope that can be found in Jesus.

In addition to the flights into Tuxpan, I was able to make many flights into the mountains near Tepic. I really enjoyed those experiences, not only as valuable training, but as an opportunity to put my skills to use. I have spent the last several years working toward becoming a qualified missionary pilot-mechanic, and it was exciting to finally fly my first mission flights with UIM.

My first flight into the mountains was to deliver supplies to missionaries that minister with the Huichol people in the Sierra Madre.

Another flight was to transport an evangelical/dental team between mountain villages. Ground travel across some of the valleys can take a day or more, whereas a flight can be made in 15-20 minutes!

One of the short mountain airstrips. It is a one-way airstrip with landings made uphill and takeoffs downhill.
While in Tepic, I helped with the 50-hour inspection on UIM's Cessna 206.

In addition to the flying, I enjoyed interacting with the UIM missionaries, as well as the people that they serve. I enjoy airplanes, and flying in the mountains was great. But when it comes down to it, the ministry is really about people. Even though my ability to communicate was limited, I enjoyed my interactions with them, and getting a glimpse of the Huichol culture.

A Huichol woman and baby from one of the villages in the Sierra Madre.
Some of the Huichol girls from the same village.
After so many years of preparation, it was exciting to finally be making my first ministry flights. Even though I was still under the supervision of a more experienced pilot, I was happy to be a contributing crew member and to be at the controls for several ministry flights. I loved everything about it, and can't wait for the day when I get to do this on a regular basis! Please pray that God would continue to guide and direct our steps, and that He would provide all that we need to finally get to the field.

We'll write more about our next steps in a future post!

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