In the United States, we have rapid transportation and reliable access to hospitals, urgent care centers, and doctors’ offices. A broken leg, a high fever, or a deep cut require either a quick ambulance ride to a nearby hospital, or transportation by a friend or relative. For severe accidents, we have air ambulances such as LifeFlight.
Now, imagine a single aircraft serving a region the size of Texas, populated by six-million people. There are no paved roads, and traveling just 15 miles on foot or bicycle can take an entire day. Seeking medical care and receiving needed medicines requires extensive planning.
It also requires Wings of the Morning aviation ministry.
Wings of the Morning consists of one plane – a Cessna P210 that seats six people – and one pilot – Gaston Ntambo, a United Methodist missionary educated at Davis College in Toledo. They serve the North Katanga Conference of the United Methodist Church in the Democratic Republic of Congo, along with his wife Jeanne, also a United Methodist missionary, serving as a radio operator.
Wings of the Morning is not a new ministry. Since the 1960s it has brought healing and hope to many people throughout the North Katanga Conference. It has always been a ministry of the United Methodist Church. And for 15 years, Gaston has been on call 24/7/365 to do whatever is needed: deliver malaria and cholera medicines between towns, transport pastors and doctors around the conference, and airlift the critically ill and injured. It’s not a job for him – it’s a calling. And for the people who need Wings of the Morning, it’s free. Gaston and Jeanne also founded a recovery home for those discharged from the hospital, but still unable to travel. They can take the time they need to convalesce.
The current plane, with a full fuel payload, can carry only 850 pounds – that’s about five passengers with little or no luggage. Fuel cannot be purchased in the Democratic Republic of Congo for this particular plane; Gaston needs to burn fuel to acquire fuel before he can complete his mission. The aircraft is becoming more difficult to maintain. It’s time for an upgrade.
“Where can I go from your spirit? Or where can I flee from your presence? If I go up to the heavens you are there, and if I make my bed in the depths, you are there. If I rise up on the wings of the morning and settle on the far side of the sea, even there your hand will guide me. Your right hand will hold me fast…” – Psalm 139:7-10 (NIV)
So this blog post isn’t about politics or religion…it’s about compassion and help. It’s no secret that the DRC has seen violence and struggle, and it’s people still deal with the landslide effect of war every day. And we can’t fix everything, as much as we might like to. But helping one man purchase one plane to continue doing what he’s been doing for years, only do it more efficiently and effectively, that can make a major difference in the lives of many people.
The West Ohio Conference of the United Methodist Church has always supported Gaston’s mission. Now, member churches are committed to raising the final $600,000 needed to purchase a larger, newer, more efficient Cessna Caravan to help Gaston continue the Wings of the Morning ministry. My church – Epworth United Methodist Church in Toledo – has pledged $50,000 toward this goal, and all churches in the Conference will combine their contributions at the annual conference in June 2012.
Learn more about Wings of the Morning at these links:
And, as my pastor would say, prayerfully consider donating to this dramatic effort, either directly to the West Ohio Conference, or mailing the contribution to Epworth (3077 Valleyview Drive, Toledo, OH 43615) noting that it’s for Wings of the Morning.
And on June 1st, 2012, if you’re in the neighborhood, come out to Epworth United Methodist Church at 7pm for a party to celebrate the Wings of the Morning aviation ministry.
On the Wings of the Morning – A Celebration will feature creative biblical storytelling from the Scripture by Heart team (myself and five spiritually motivated friends who love a challenge), high-energy worship music from Epworth’s contemporary praise band Hearts Afire, and a casual reception afterward with food (including, yes, WINGS) and more music! The whole event is free and open to the public, though free will offerings are welcome in support of Wings of the Morning.
So what do you say? Will you rise up on the wings of the morning too?
You are fearfully and wonderfully made.