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A (Not So) Quick Errand

Don’t you just love it when you hop in the car, drive down the road five or ten minutes, do your errand, and get back home with lots of day left for other tasks? For missionaries, that sometimes involves a quick trip in an airplane.

Last year, Payton and Grace Downing were thrilled at the ease of using the Kodiak to get baby Evelyn’s required visa work done. They left Taliabo, Asia Pacific, flew to the city, got Evie’s photo, fingerprints and Grace’s signature in less than 10 minutes and even bought some fresh produce. “We arrived back in Taliabo just after lunch, only a little worse for wear.”

This year was quite a different scenario: The Kodiak was down for work on the propeller. The journey would have to be by land and sea and commercial airline. “Let's just say it's a little bit longer of a trip,” quips Grace.

First – get to the coast. The Downings and their friends jumped on four motorbikes and for the next hour slipped and slid over muddy roads and even forded rivers. Except for Grace. At times, she had to walk, carrying Evelyn through some of the huge and squishy puddles because the bike was sinking too low in the mud. “I even took my sandals off to get better traction,” she recalls. Speaking of sandals, Payton lost one as he used his feet to navigate the bike through the slime. Good thing he retrieved it before it sunk!

Then came the river. Once again, Grace carried Evie across, sparing them the bumpy ride and keeping the cycle from sinking in the mud.

That was the first hour. Then it was a three-hour wait for the “cruise ship.” At least that’s what Payton told Grace it would be!

In pouring rain, they climbed into a canoe with their kids and cargo and were rowed out to board the small seagoing vessel. Their teeny cabin on the “fancy” level came complete with a small air conditioning unit, tiny TV screen – and a Karaoke machine. “And don't forget that our room is number nine!” little son, Finn, was quick to point out.

Twelve hours of ocean travel lay ahead as the vessel stopped at every port to offload and onload cargo and people. After arriving in port at 2:30 a.m., they finished their night on the boat before disembarking at the more reasonable hour of 5:30 – bringing the travel time so far to 18 hours and 30 minutes. Good thing they had friends a half hour away who took them in for the day.

After the welcome rest and relaxation, the Downings headed to the airport to board a commercial flight to the city where the immigration office was located. “It took 51 hours just to make it to immigration!” said Grace, “and that was only one way!”

Grace’s conclusion? “The plane is not just for supplies and transportation. It is a ministry tool to keep us on the job of learning language. Any time we are in transit, we are away from the job we are trying to accomplish and the ministry with the people.”

“Was this trip all in God's perfect timing? Yes. Did we learn a lot along the way? Yes. Did God provide all the strength we needed during those long hours? Yes. But are we much happier with the shorter route? A thousand times yes. We're so thankful for the flight program. They make it possible for us to spend most of our time learning culture and language and doing ministry rather than spending hours in transit.”

When you give to Missionary Flight Sponsorship, you make it possible for the flight program to do affordable (and quick!) flights for families like the Downings and for all our missionaries. Thanks for having it in your heart to make aviation service a part of your personal mission strategy. What a tremendous ministry tool you provide to get the gospel to people in remote situations! (And, by the way, praise the Lord, the propeller is back on that “ministry tool”!)

Tags: Asia-Pacific, Kodiak Aircraft, Taliabo People,
POSTED ON Jul 08, 2022 by Wonita Werley
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