Defusing Tension

A medevac flight benefits a Congolese village in more ways than one

Tensions were mounting in the Congolese village of Kikongo. A beloved pastor had been suffering from debilitating headaches for more than a week, and people were afraid. Not knowing the cause of his illness, they began to point fingers at their neighbors, wondering if some kind of curse or sin was to blame.

At the same time, a man from a neighboring village was at the Kikongo hospital after he was accidentally shot in the knee. Police were trying to blame people and fine them for his accident. The village was on the brink of a violent outbreak if a solution wasn’t found.

That’s when missionary Glen Chapman, with American Baptist International Ministries, called on MAF to see if there was any way to do an emergency medical evacuation. MAF altered its flight schedule and flew a Cessna 206 into Kikongo, in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), and evacuated both patients out.

Later that day, Glen emailed a note to Garth Pederson, the MAF pilot who did the flight:

Thanks for taking our two malades (patients) today. Thanks for your flexibility … Just getting the patients out really defused the tension … There is a tremendous sense of relief here at Kikongo that both of these patients can be moved to get better treatment.”

Five months later, the pastor was ready to return to the village after receiving treatment in the capital city of Kinshasa. This time pilot Kevin Spann made the flight. He had no idea just how special this man was to the people of Kikongo, but he was about to find out.

Photo by Glen Chapman.

The pastor’s return flight to Kikongo. Photo by Glen Chapman.

Kevin taxied up to the parking area, and as he did, he heard something amazing. Even with the engine running (an unmuffled turbo-diesel engine) and noise-canceling headphones, he could hear it: joyful voices rising in song, the beating of drums, and chanting.

“There is a very eerie death wail that people do here when they mourn the loss of a family member or friend,” said Kevin. “I have heard that quite a lot with the flights we do taking the deceased and their family members interior. But this was the first time I had heard the rejoicing wail. It was beautiful!”

Once the engine shut down, the crowd swarmed the plane and practically engulfed the pastor. They whisked him away to the school—still singing and chanting—where pastors-to-be were taking their finals.

MAF serves the people of Kikongo in a way that exemplifies the multi-faceted impact of MAF’s ministry—a medical evacuation brings healing, keeps the peace, and encourages pastors in training.

“The ministry of MAF is far more than transportation,” added Glen, “but the transportation in our case affects the pastoral school, the mission station, and the neighboring village.”

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