It Takes a Village

Local MAF staff, an American missionary pilot, and donors like YOU helped save a baby’s life in Lesotho.

 

Bryan Eygabroad landed his Cessna 206 at the Lebakeng airstrip high in the mountains of Lesotho. He was unloading cargo when he overheard a group of nurses from the local clinic chattering excitedly in a mix of Sesotho and a Zimbabwean language. The nurse relayed to Bryan that a tragedy had struck the village the night before. A local woman had died shortly after giving birth.

The baby survived … but there was no milk or formula in Lebakeng. It had already been hours and the baby needed food—fast.

“Looking at my flight schedule for the afternoon,” said Bryan, an MAF pilot, “I realized I was going to finish the day a mere 10 minute-flight away from my current stop. Surely there was something that could be done!”

A village in the mountains of Lesotho. Photo by Mark and Kelly Hewes.

Two clocks were ticking: one counted down how long this new infant could last without nourishment, and the other measured the time until the high winds would begin sweeping over the mostly treeless mountains of Lesotho in the afternoon.

If Bryan could not make it back to Lebakeng before the winds picked up, his chances of landing were slim.

High in the Mountain Kingdom
Like many villages in the tiny mountain kingdom of Lesotho, Lebakeng is remote.

Without an airplane, a trek out would involve a steep hike down a ridge, somehow crossing the wide Senqu River, and then hiking up the opposite mountain—which would only get one to the beginning of a gravel road—with many hours still to go to reach the nearest town.

Making this trip in the case of a medical emergency—or with a newborn baby—would simply be impossible. An MAF airplane is the only way.

Although this land and its people are beautiful, the needs here are great. Lesotho has an alarmingly high HIV rate, and there is little infrastructure in the remote parts of the country. Because of your support, MAF is able to partner with organizations like the Lesotho Flying Doctor Service and the Lesotho Flying Pastors, among others, to bring healing and hope to the people of this small nation.

Teamwork
The MAF team in Lesotho is made up of western missionaries like Bryan, along with several local Basotho (what people from Lesotho are called) who have a desire to share Christ’s love with their own people. Some of the vital roles they play include maintenance specialists, loaders, bookkeepers, and flight followers; and there is even a Basotho MAF chaplain.

“It has been really amazing to see how this team of Basotho staff have really grown,” said Bryan. “They are developing in their roles and they make our jobs as pilots easy.”

The team often finds creative ways to work out the logistics of flight plans so that Bryan and the other pilots can respond to medical emergencies—rerouting schedules mid-flight, calculating fuel supplies, and directing them to where they can safely land and refuel from MAF’s remote fuel caches.

“By the time they call me,” said Bryan, “they have worked out all the details. I love working with them—it makes flying so much more efficient.”

This day was no different.

With this baby’s life on the line, local MAF staff members—including Lehlohonolo “Oliphant” Tjokolo, the flight operations manager, and Tebello Ntebe Ntelo, the MAF flight follower—worked quickly to make it possible for Bryan to bring help.

Just in Time
From Lebakeng, Bryan radioed Tebello at the MAF base in the capital city of Maseru, and she quickly got in touch with the nearby office of the Lesotho Flying Doctor Service. They sent a staff person to the store to buy a box of baby formula. The box was waiting for Bryan in the hangar as soon as he arrived.

Oliphant had made arrangements for the plane to be loaded and refueled, and, in no time, Bryan whisked away to Lebakeng and the hungry baby.

“If it weren’t for the team on the ground, I would have had to run to the grocery store and back to the hangar, which would have tacked on a lot of time,” said Bryan. “By that point it would have likely been too late to land back in the village with the winds picking up.”

Even so, the wind was already beginning to sweep over the mountains as Bryan neared the airstrip.

“I prayed earnestly, as the turbulence rocked my aircraft, that I would be able to land,” wrote Bryan in his family’s monthly prayer letter. “I fought that wind all the way to touchdown, but it was well within limits … just another ‘normal’ day in Lesotho!”

A nurse feeds the baby formula delivered by MAF.

The formula was safely delivered. By the time Bryan was airborne on the way back to Maseru, he knew the nurses and villagers had worked out a long-term plan to care for the newborn baby.

“I love that I got to be a part of this story,” said Bryan. “But it was really the national staff who were instrumental in this story’s success. I was ‘ops-normal.’ They took the extra step to make sure everything worked out.”

“I have seen God’s love through MAF,” said Oliphant. “I feel blessed to be part of MAF Lesotho, where our everyday jobs include saving the lives of the Basotho people in the mountains. I enjoy saving lives.”

MAF would not be able to serve well in Lesotho without people like Oliphant and Tebello—nor could MAF share Christ’s love with isolated people around the world without the generous support of people like you who make stories like this possible!

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