About five years ago the national missionary Gerinok Elabi trekked in to Luban with his family. Just like any foreign missionary, they had to learn the language, battle sickness and struggle with loneliness and discouragement. They planted a church and recruited workers to build an airstrip. Finally, after several visits by the MAF helicopter to offer technical advice, the airstrip was ready.
About 200 villagers watched my airshow of low passes, aborted wave-off approaches, and several different landings. What a reception awaited me! When I finally shut the engine down, many were literally leaping into the air in ecstasy! Now I know I’m not that good — could it be they’re happy for the airstrip?
They flocked around, curious eyes and hands inspecting this strange Bird they’d only seen afar off, flying overhead. Greasy nose prints adorned the windows. They discovered the hot engine compartment, and Gerinok told them with a straight face, “That’s where the fire was built to warm the food for the Bird.” Wow, really?! When I drained the fuel sumps and fuel squirted on the ground, Gerinok told them rather indelicately, “The Bird has bodily needs, too.” Amazing!
I told him to cut the clowning; he was giving the people the wrong impression. But when I opened the cargo pod under the plane’s belly and took out some chickens, he told them, “See, the Bird has babies, too.” Groan. I suppose they’ll feed these chickens really well so they’ll grow up to be … Cessnas? But, hey, if it works, it’s certainly cheaper than our way. Maybe …