It's been more than six years since I left my engineering job to begin training as a missionary pilot-mechanic. Today, after many years of preparation, I finally was able to participate in my first flight with ITM in Bolivia! We partnered with Mano a Mano to deliver medical supplies and personal protective equipment to the town of San Borja.
|ITM's Cessna 206 and Mano a Mano's Navajo, along with the supplies that were donated for San Borja.|
It's been over 11 months since I've flown an airplane, and I haven't flown a Cessna 206 since I left Mexico in November of 2018. It was great to be back in a 206 again! Today I did some right-seat flying, but our first flights will be more focused on learning the "lay of the land" and getting my brain back into aviation mode. Before too long I'll move over to the left seat and start getting back up to speed, and then get checked out for solo flights into some the airstrips we use most often. Please pray that my piloting skills will come back and improve quickly, for my continued language learning (the goal is to be able to do all my radio work in Spanish), and for the process of obtaining my Bolivian pilot certificate.
While I am definitely excited to be flying again and to have my toolbox stocked up and ready to go, that excitement is not just for the joy of flying and fixing airplanes. We have tried to emphasize over the years that the airplane is just a tool. With this tool we can reach remote places with physical help and with the hope of the gospel. I'm grateful that I get to be a pilot, but even if I never flew again I would still want to devote my life to making Jesus known among those who don't know Him!
We are grateful to be serving with ITM, and for how the Lord is using this ministry. The aviation program definitely looks a bit different amidst the coronavirus pandemic, but it's exciting that we have started flying again. And apart from the aviation ministry, God has continued to work in the communities where other ITM missionaries are living and working. Hopefully we will be able to start supporting them with the airplane again soon!
In the meantime, here are a few photos from today's flight.
|Flying past the town of Ushbe on the Securé River.|
|Flying looks a little different during a pandemic. Masks, gloves, suits, and being sprayed down with disinfectant are usually not a part of the process.|
|We brought back two women from San Borja. They had not tested positive for COVID-19, but we still took all of the precautions including a plexiglass barrier between pilots and passengers.|
|"Capitán Tony", suited up and at the controls.|
|The two airplanes on the ramp in Cochabamba prior to departure. In the background you can just make out a little bit of snow on the mountain peaks.|