Airplane Ride

One day last week one of the mechanics, Jim, and I were the only ones in the lunch room. He served as a pilot in Africa for thirty years, flying with SIM. He’s still with them, but has been essentially farmed out to JAARS. In addition to starting up their flight service in Niger, he’s also a mechanic and a talented sketch artist. I got him to give me a couple of stories.

“When I was based out of Niamey, Niger,” he started, (things in quotes are more paraphrase than direct quotation) “there was a little boy, about three years old, who loved airplanes. His parents were with World Vision, working up in the desert with the Tuareg people, and every time they came to Niamey he would run around the hangar and look at all the airplanes.

“The World Vision base was out in the desert about two hundred miles north of Niamey. One evening, they had a party or celebration there, and all of the kids were playing around outside. Well, in the dark, this little boy ran across the cover of a dry well – it was rotted through, and gave way. He fell thirty feet, straight down. When the adults lowered someone down on a rope to pull him out, the three-year-old was completely unconscious, and his head was starting to swell. They sent a radio call out to Niamey for Jim to take him to the clinic, and for a plane to be ready to take him to Europe for treatment, if needed.

“I had gone home for the evening, but I had left my phone number for the radio operator. He could have looked it up, but it was a lot quicker when he saw a piece of paper on his desk with ‘JIM’ in big letters and a contact number.

“I was in my plane within ten minutes. The radio contact with World Vision was really bad; there was a lot of dust in the air. I turned on the radio and asked the operator how many cars they had out there in the desert. The answer came back eventually: three. I told the operator, ‘Have them drive the cars out to the runway with their headlights on – put one at the end of the runway, and put the other two at the touchdown point, at 45-degree angles with their lights intersecting.’ It was dark, and dusty, and there was no other way I was going to find their runway.

“Our radio navigation systems were preprogrammed with some of the locations we flew to, but it was an old system and only provided an approximate location. When I got to the place the World Vison base was supposed to be, I couldn’t see anything. I circled around and finally saw three little lights off in the distance. I couldn’t think of anything else those lights would be, so I headed for those and came down on the runway.

“The little boy was unconscious, with a bunch of bruises. His head had a big lump on the side of it. As they brought him on board, I told him, ‘Uncle Jim’s here to give you an airplane ride!’ and he opened his eyes a little. His mother started crying. It was the first response anyone had been able to get out of him.

“They took care of him at the Niamey clinic; he didn’t have to be flown to Europe. He actually recovered in just a few weeks – he had no memory of what had happened, of course. But that little guy loved airplanes.”

Here are some prayer requests:
1. One of the guys in the hangar has cancer and is being treated with chemotherapy. He had a bad reaction to one of the treatments and has been hospitalized – please pray for his healing!
2. The Wanca (I believe) Quechua New Testament was published last year (printed and audio), and now the churches are standing-room-only! There have been many requests for the Old Testament, and a workshop will be held for potential national/indigeneous translators on 9 December. Please pray for this and for a group of women who are writing simple versions of Old Testament stories (which involves a lot of cross-cultural interpretation).

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