Monday, August 25, 2014

First Observational Flight to the Interior of Borneo

When the 7am weather reports came in from the interior of Borneo, things did not look good.  At each of the villages we needed to get to that day it had rained significantly the night before, and in fact it was still raining at most of them.  We had a fairly busy day scheduled, including one medical evacuation request, but we had no choice but to delay our departure and hope to get a report of better weather soon.  Bad weather and mountainous terrain are two things that should never be mixed in aviation.  At 8:30 we finally got a report that the rain was subsiding and decided to launch off.  From Tarakan it is about a half hour flight to Malinau, which is the jumping off point to the interior mountain villages of Borneo.  From Tarakan to Malinau the terrain is flat and full of wide meandering rivers and rice fields.  After Malinau the ground rises to form the jungle-covered mountains of Borneo.  We crossed over Malinau at a comfortable 7,500 feet enroute to our first stop in the mountains.  
                                                 The Landscape from Tarakan to Malinau

     Along this first leg of the trip the pilot spent a good deal of the time on the HF radio talking to the different villages we were scheduled to stop at that day.  Each village wanted to know how much weight we could take, and when we might be arriving.  He had to calculate approximately when we would arrive at each point and approximately how much fuel we would have burned by then, in order to determine how much weight we could carry out of there.  On top of that he had to find out if all of the passengers were at each airstrip and ready to go.  If they were not ready we might be more efficient by stopping somewhere else first.  Finally, we had that medical evacuation to think about.  According to the sparse information we received she was having abdominal pain and was described as “relatively serious”.  We thought about going there to get her first, but that airstrip was still hidden under the rain and clouds, and the grass airstrip was still wet, which isn’t a good thing.  Braking effectiveness on short, wet grass can be zero.  We decided to push on to our original first stop.  
                                   Weaving through the cotton balls on our way to the interior

     After circling down through a hole in the clouds we made it to the first village.  The passengers were happy to see us and climbed on board.  After starting the engine though it became clear that the weather had closed in around us in the last 10 minutes and it would be too risky to try to get out of there.  So we shut down and waited.  It was a good opportunity to go hang out with the people there, hear a couple of their stories, and drink some “kopi susu” (instant coffee mix with milk…like a latte!).  An hour and a half later we decided to give it another try.  However, because of the long delay we decided to go get the medical patient first…so our passengers had to wait in the terminal for our return later that day.  It was a short, 15 minute hop over to the village to pick up the medical patient.  The grass was still wet, but the weather was slowly clearing up all around us.  As we taxied to a stop a group of perhaps 40-50 people walked slowly out to the airplane carrying a lady on a stretcher of bamboo.  They laid her under the wing of the airplane and gathered around as the pastor of the village prayed for her.  She did not seem to be doing well at all and was in a more serious condition than we were expecting.  She seemed to be barely conscious as her face was locked in a grimace of pain, and a constant low moan escaped her lips.  The men carefully loaded her into the airplane, lying her down, as her husband and young daughter climbed in the seats next to her.  The seriousness of her mother’s condition was evident from the worry etched into the young daughter’s face as she gently stroked her mother’s hair.  The pilot was faced with a tough decision at this point.  In evaluating the weather he decided that we needed to take off to the south.  However, taking off to the south would mean taking off with a tail wind (a wind blowing down the runway from behind the airplane).  Tailwinds can greatly reduce the performance of an airplane and they must be handled with caution.  As a result he had to ask 1 person to stay behind.  Reducing the load in the airplane would give us the margin we needed to takeoff safely.  One family member who had planned to accompany his mother to the hospital would instead have to stay in the village and wait for news about her via the radio.  As we took off and dodged clouds on the 30 minute flight to Malinau, where an ambulance was waiting, I quietly whispered many prayers for our passenger in the back.  As I looked down and saw nothing but unbroken jungle all the way to the horizon, I realized that without this tiny little airplane to fly her out this woman would have had no options for the medical care she needed.  I thanked the Lord for the privilege of being this lady’s lifeline that day. 
     After that flight the rest of the day was a bit of a whirlwind.  We were 2 hours behind schedule and still had 5 stops to make before heading back to Tarakan.  I got to see the pilot switch into “efficiency mode” as we shuttled people, motorcyles, mail, food, a generator, and many other things between those interior villages.  Finally, at 4:30 pm we took off for the 1 hour flight back to Tarakan.  Even though I had done nothing that day except observe my instructor pilot at work, I was exhausted!  Soon I will have the privilege of carrying out the duties he did so well that day, and I am looking forward to it.  I got to see firsthand how much the people in the interior appreciate and rely on the service that we provide.  I got to see a desperately ill woman receive the medical care she needed, and watch the joy in her daughter’s eyes as she took her first airplane ride!  I am humbled by the great task ahead of me as I begin serving these people with the airplane, and bringing them hope through a warm smile to a nervous child on her first flight, a prayer said for a sick passenger, a chance to share my testimony as we wait for the rain to stop, or however else God chooses to use me here.  

Waiting out the rain in the "MAF terminal" 

 I noticed that every vehicle and even motorcycle in this village had big knobby mud tires installed.  That's a good indication of what condition the roads are in!

 Somewhere down there the medical patient and her family have been waiting for us all morning.  The weather was finally clear enough for us to come in.

                                          Family and friends carrying her out to the airplane.  

         The village gathered around her to pray while the pilot completed his paperwork for the flight

                               We made it to Malinau where an ambulance was waiting for her

                                                 Unbroken jungle as far as the eye can see!

                                                                  Picturesque rice paddies 

                                                              "Wait, we're going there?"

                                                      Turning final and lining up for landing

                                            Short final approach.  Those trees sure felt close!

                                            The kids are excited to check out the airplane

After a long day the island of Tarakan is a welcome sight.  You can see the entire island in this picture.  It's not very big.

Home again!

Monday, June 16, 2014

Trip to Tarakan

As we touched down (rather firmly!) on the runway in Tarakan the emotion of the moment was significant for me.  After 12 years of preparation for service in mission aviation, I was finally about to set foot in the place the Lord had called me to.  Like every good passenger does, I waited until the aircraft had come to a complete stop before unbuckling my seatbelt (wink, wink), and braced myself for a wave of sticky heat as they opened the cabin doors.  My mind was filled with questions of what it would be like there, and I was excited to finally get some answers. 

Our program manager met me in the terminal and took me straight over to the MAF hangar, which is just on the other side of the runway from the main terminal.  I had seen hundreds of pictures of this hangar, I had watched documentaries about the program here, I had dreamt about what it might be like there, but none of that equaled standing there in the heat, smelling the burning jet fuel as the Kodiak started up, hearing the sounds, and feeling the breeze.  In many ways I felt like I was finally home. 

Over the next 3 days I got a tour of the island, saw a couple housing options, picked a house, unloaded our container full of furniture into the house, started unpacking, and had fellowship with several of the MAF families there.  It was fun to see how excited they all are to receive our family in just a few short weeks.  We pray that we can be a great addition to that team.  We pray for incredible friendships for Ellie and the kids there.  There certainly are a lot of kids there!  The MAF team consists of 13 families, and we are the only "Westerners" on the entire island.  Our new home is only 7 minutes away from the hangar, and 9 minutes away from our MAF team mates.  The city of Tarakan is small, with just 2 main roads crossing in the middle of town.  You can find a lot of life's necessities there, though there may be no're stuck with the one type/brand that happens to have been imported there.  There are less food selections available there, which will require some adjustment for us.  Overall my impressions of our future home were good, and I am excited to return there at the end of July with Ellie and the kids. 

 On final approach to the island of Tarakan
 A small, simple restaurant with an amazing view.  Enjoying the ocean breeze and good company on my first meal in Tarakan.
The picture doesn't do it justice, but this is perhaps the largest mosque I have seen yet in this country.  It is still under construction.
The airplanes get washed every evening.  This was a particularly muddy day in the interior of Borneo (Kalimantan) so the Kodiak is enjoying a nice scrub down.
 One of the Cessna 206s getting a bath after a muddy day serving the interior churches of Kalimantan.
 I still don't know how they did it but these guys managed to get our couch up the narrow, winding stairs into our living room!
Early morning on the ramp in Tarakan.  The Kodiak is just spinning up it's engine, one 206 has taxied out already and is running final checks before takeoff, and the other 206 is just moments away from starting it's engine.  Just another typical, busy flying day for the MAF team in Tarakan.
This is Gnochi.  He helped me blow off steam at the end of long tiring days of moving furniture around.

Friday, June 6, 2014

Jakarta and Medical Update

We have arrived at the guest house in Jakarta and have been getting settled in for the last few days and learning where everything is. The house is nestled downtown in the middle of several high rises, so it definitely has a busy city feel. We take cabs everywhere, which is an incredibly easy method of transportation here. For the first week and a half we lived in the guest house and all stayed in one room together. It definitely had it's challenges but we also enjoyed getting to know the different people coming through with different backgrounds and stories. Today we moved into the apartment behind the guest house and have taken over the responsibilities of managing the guest house.

Front View of the Guest House

Front View of the Apartment

I have already been to see the doctor several times and it has been very encouraging and hopeful. The doctor is from LA and has been practicing in Indonesia for over 20 years. After he explained my x-rays and MRI, I learned that I have three different problems with my back that need to be addressed. First, my sacroiliac joint is unstable and has been one of the biggest reasons I continue to have pain. I will need to continue building my core muscles and getting chiropractic adjustments. I also have scoliosis, which I knew about but I didn't know that anything could be done about it. The doctor has started me on a scoliosis treatment in which I lie on a special table that moves my back into the correct angle. This will continue until we leave and at the end of our time here (tentatively end of July), I will get another x-ray to evaluate the degree of improvement. Lastly, I have several bulging discs and some degeneration in the discs as well. I have starting decompression therapy in order to take pressure off of the discs and hopefully put things back into place. I also have started exercising at the hotel next door. We definitely could use prayer that this is a time of healing for me, and also prayer for Matt as he watches the kids for my appointments and exercise routine. Being downtown makes it a little difficult to think of things to do with the kids and this is a pretty expensive area, so already the kids have been going a little stir crazy.

Here are a few things that I have noticed about Jakarta:

1. The mosquitoes are much worse here
2. The ant situation is not as bad.....maybe it's just where we live but we haven't seen nearly the amount of ants crawling all over our house and counters like we did in Salatiga.
3. Traffic is horrific!
4. You can find just about anything and there are some VERY fancy malls....and great restaurants!

On another subject, this week our car sold! We praise God for bringing along a buyer. Thanks to each of you who have supported us through encouragement, prayer, finances, and countless other ways as well. We have definitely felt God's grace through so many of you.

 View of backyard. You can see that there is a building about 1 the to the fence.

Callie loves this rocking chair

Monday, May 5, 2014

New Information About Sending Packages

Some people have asked about where to send packages since we will be moving in less than one month. Packages can be sent to the MAF office in Jakarta. The address is as follows:

Matt and Ellie Scheer
Mission Aviation Fellowship
Gajah Mada Tower A Lt.22 #5A
Jl. Gajah Mada no. 19-26
Jakarta Pusat, 10130, Indonesia

We will be there until the end of July, so since packages take an average of 3-4 weeks to arrive, it would be best if they were sent before July. After that we will move to Tarakan and will have a new address (which we will post at a later time). We are so thankful to those who encourage us in this way!

Saturday, April 26, 2014

Upcoming Move and New Twists in the Plan

We are nearing the end of our time here in Salatiga and there have been a couple of new twists in our plans that we would like to share with you, as well as some prayer requests for the upcoming months. We have about one month left here as we finish up our last unit of language school. Originally the plan was to move directly to our base in Tarakan, Kalimantan, an island northeast of here, and for Matt to begin flying. Because of my continued low back pain, it has been decided by us and MAF management that we will spend some time in Jakarta first, so that I can get some much needed chiropractic help. I am functional, but longevity in our new location is a priority and we want to get all the help that we can before we settle there. There is less available in Tarakan for those needing specialized medical care, and the capital city of Jakarta has some excellent chiropractors. Initially we were disappointed to delay moving to Tarakan, but we are thankful for the opportunity to get some needed care and can see God's hand in this situation in some pretty awesome ways.

Our bosses in Jakarta had recently taken over a guest house there, but were hoping to make a trip back to the states to see their daughter graduate from nursing school. Not knowing about our need to live there around the same time frame, they prayed for a solution and for someone to run the guest house while they were gone. So, as you probably guessed, we been asked to take over the guest house while there and will be staying through July. After that we will move to our base in Tarakan. This will give us plenty of time to explore options to help my back, and will give our bosses the opportunity to be there for a huge milestone in their daughter's life. Win-win! Thank you Jesus!

As we prepare to leave, we have definitely been feeling the pressure of this upcoming transition. We have been dealing with illness cycling through our family for almost three months now and it's really starting to take a toll on us. Right now both Blake and I are sick again, and we had a scare with Eva last week when she was having some respiratory distress. I feel like I've had a crash (reminder) course of almost every infectious illness in the last several months....and not only our family. We could really use prayer for health as we near the end of our time here, and for healing for my back.

In addition to the stress of illness, we still need to sell our car, prepare and pack a container of furniture and appliances, finish up unit 9 of school and write a ten page paper in Indonesian, and all of the extras that come with preparing for a a city that can only be reached by boat or plane. Please pray that all of these things come together smoothly, and for peace in the process! (Trying not to hyperventilate as I write this ;).

Lastly, please pray for the transition itself, for us and the kids, that we would feel God's grace and peace in each new place.

We praise God for the relationships that we have built here, that we have learned the language enough to carry on conversations with people relatively easily, and that we are almost to our final base! Thanks to all who support us in prayer, finances, and encouragement!

We are currently on the island of Java. Tarakan is where we will be headed in the beginning of August.

This is me at my first neighborhood women's meeting. As you can tell I don't have a uniform yet ;).
The neighbor kids like to come over and play in the yard.

We have made some wonderful friends here. It will be hard to leave.

 Blake at one of his swim lessons at a local hotel pool

Such a good older brother!


Tuesday, March 25, 2014


 Before my parents left Indonesia, we all flew to Bali, a cheap flight away from Java. Bali is a beautiful island and attracts tourists from all over the world. Most of the people we saw were from Australia or Europe. As Americans we still felt like we were in the minority. It was funny to see the surprise on the locals face when we spoke Indonesian to them because they are used to tourists who don't know the language. It was a great way to spend quality time with my parents before they left.

The island of Bali is primarily Hindu, as opposed to the Islamic majority where we live. It felt like a different world in that sense. We didn't hear one mosque while we were there and there were sacrificial offerings everywhere you looked, composed of flowers, incense, and sometimes food or candy in a basket. They were even in the taxi cabs and grocery stores....I mean everywhere.We even saw one beach that was lined with offerings.

Here are some pictures from the trip:

 Making friends everywhere they go

 This is Blake's first time down the waterslide. As you can see he wasn't thrilled.

 Still not happy

 Callie LOVED the waterslide. She went over and over again with us.

We went to a Mexican restaurant one night and it was amazing....oh how I have missed Mexican food!

 Date night! This is a rarity when my parents are not around.

Not many people get to see this side of I just had to post it :)

On a walk one day I saw this awesome door, leading through a tall brick wall
"This is what God the Lord says - he who created the heavens and stretched them out, who spread out the earth and all that comes out of it, who gives breath to its people, and life to those who walk on it: I, the Lord, have called you in righteousness; I will take hold of your hand. I will keep you and will make you to be a covenant for the people and a light for the Gentiles, to open eyes that are blind, to free captives from prison and to release from the dungeon those who sit in darkness. Isaiah 42:5-7