Saturday, 20 April 2019

Rural medicine, medevacs, and more...

In early March, I (Marcel) had the opportunity to join a medical trip with Dr Tim Kubacki to the southeast province of Angola, Cuando Cubango.

These trips take place several times per year, where Dr Kubacki will travel via MAF to several small villages, performing rural medicine.

In an effort to describe as best as possible what goes on during these trips and explain what rural medicine / medevac flights / and some of the logistics behind a trip like this, I attempted to video document the four days as best I could in order to share the story of some of MAF Angola's most important work with you. You can also hear about it on the April 2 episode of "Breakfast with the Boers" podcast (find the link on the right side of this page).

"MAF Angola - Southeast Angola" on Youtube

 I hope you enjoy!

Friday, 19 October 2018

Three years here!

This last week, we celebrated three years in Angola! Can you believe it? Time flies ... and yet, looking back, they have been a busy, full three years!

Allow me to take a few minutes to reflect on the journey.

How has our ministry changed or grown over the last three years?

Two years ago, we were in a very different place emotionally and physically: exhausted by work, stressed out, overwhelmed, inexperienced. Marcel's health suffered because of his heavy learning curve and feelings of incompetence. There were big projects to be done--a Caravan engine overhaul, for one--and there were many small projects on the to-do list. We were surviving, but definitely not thriving. Yet, God was faithful--flights arrived safely, projects were completed, and even in the toughest moments, God would remind us of our calling here to Angola.

Incredibly, the amount of flying has steadily increased over the last three years--reflecting an overall growth in the MAF ministry. The number of flight hours reflects a growth in medical, church, and NGO flying to the far reaches of Angola. Yet, by God's grace, Marcel has not drowned in work. Since returning from our home assignment, things have gone much smoother. We've been much healthier in all realms, and much less stressed. God gave us rest, and it was just what we needed.

At the school, there have been several milestones to celebrate over the last three years. Our first graduate, Odon, finished his high school degree last year, and even attended the graduation ceremony in Nebraska. He is now studying business in Spain.

Over the summer, we were able to move into a new school building, which also allowed us to clean up, reorganize, and essentially have a "fresh start". While the last school year ended very well, this new school year started even better--we have four teachers for the year (Helena, myself, a German short-term teacher, Michelle, and a young Angolan, Crisio, who worked for us last year). We have 35 full-time or part-time students. Our internet has improved dramatically over the last three years. And most excitedly, we have had a gradual shift in the spiritual climate at the school--from anger and apathy towards God to much more interest in following God and seeing fruit in the lives of some of our "baby Christians" ... how awesome is that!

Thank you so much for your support through the ups and downs over the last three years! We are so ridiculously blessed, that's it's impossible to stay sad or mad with God when we consider how kind He has been to us in all the little and big ways!

Much love,
Marcel, Kelly, Ethan and Avro

P.S. We have started a podcast to help stay in touch through a different media--a podcast! We love to listen to podcasts, so we thought it would be a good idea! Go to iTunes and search, "Breakfast with the Boers"--we only have one episode so far, but there will be more on a monthly basis!

Then ... (2015, look how chubby, cute and bald Ethan is!)

... and now! (2018, at Tchincombe farm, my how we've grown and developed
bags under our eyes!)

Thursday, 2 August 2018

Prayer and Praise Updates

  • Life has been a lot easier in this second half of our term. Returning from Canada was much smoother and easier that the first time we came, and both in work and in life outside work, things feel much easier and more familiar. Though it may seem silly, we praise God for things like better Internet, reliable energy, and filled potholes!
  • The end of the school year was very enjoyable, and it felt like everyone left on a very positive, happy note. Students were enthusiastic for their year-end presentations to parents, and we had our first graduate--Junior--prove to all the other students that it is possible to finish and move on! He even went to the US for his graduation ceremony through the University of Nebraska High School!
  • The school is also moving into a different building and this is exciting for us as it is larger and has more access to amenities. Praise God for a young German teacher coming this school year, and pray that the transition goes well for everyone.
  • We've had great safety and impact in the last few months of flying--always a reason to praise God. Praise Him for lives healed through many of our medical flights!
  • We recently had a team meeting to discuss future directives for MAF Angola, so pray for wisdom and open doors for our strategic plans! It was good to come together and discuss where we'd like to see MAF go over the next few years.
  • Pray for a busy month of flying and maintenance coming--August is sure to fly by with training, and a new propellor for one of the 182s.
  • Pray for our German teacher, who is due to arrive in August. She is waiting for her visa! Pray she will be a good fit with us at the school for the year.
  • Pray for all our key partners--CEML hospital, the churches of Angola, and SIM--that we may bring glory to God here in Angola!
  • Pray for more workers--particularly doctors and teachers--to develop a heart for Angola and join us here. 

Tuesday, 31 July 2018

On being a missionary mom ... a few unorganized thoughts

Ugh. I've determined something that many of you already know: the best way to get very little done is to have little ones that haven't got enough sleep.

Raise your hand if you just groaned there!

Today felt like a very mom-ish day. Not very missionary-ish. It's only now at 9:45 pm that I'm finally sitting down to answer emails and do "productive stuff".

But, I need to remind myself that this is a beautiful, difficult, valuable part of being a missionary too. My kids are my number one ministry--even if I'm tired of playing "airplane" with my three-year-old, and playing "Don't put that in your mouth!" with my 9-month-old.

As some of you know, my life is normally this awesome mish-mash of working at the school and being a mom. I say awesome because I really love the balance I have between school (8-3:30 pm) and being at home with my family (at break and lunch, and literally 2 minutes after I leave the school). It's kind of a teacher's dream!

Now that we're on holidays, I'm really appreciative of some of the extra time with the boys, but also in awe of moms who do this full-time. Good for you, stay at home moms! You are heroes! You might not speak to another adult for hours ... you clean only to have a messy kitchen minutes later ... you play games that make no sense at all ... and when your kids are really young, you're not even sure what they'll ever remember!

Well, I've reached the end of my "rant" ... I really just wanted to write a blog (long overdue) and couldn't think of anything else, so ... that's what came out. Kind of therapeutic I guess ... I promise a better blog later!

One of my favourite weekly "holiday" activities:
taking Ethan and Siena to the bread store, and then sitting and
people watching outside the compound. They love it too!

Saturday, 5 May 2018

Up a creek with more than we deserve

Recently, we were able to get out of town for a few days at the beach. Something we always look forward to. This particular trip brought on a little more adventure than we anticipated. Here are some thoughts I took note of while on that trip...

The scene in front of my right now is one I think many people would pay big money for, and yet we get to do this on a bi-annual basis - On a beach, no one else, just Kelly, Ethan, Avro, and myself. There are 4 fishing boats way out on the water as waves gently roll in. A calm breeze passes under out shade tent, protecting us from a harsh sun. Birds are chirping somewhere behind me as I sit here watching for any whales on the ocean horizon.

This was far from the scene 2 days ago on our drive here. Our initial plan was to leave Lubango and meet Alex & Isaline at the beach. We were heading out by ourselves to this beach we've been to once before (a year and 4 months ago). We had a GPS track, and I figured that was good enough to find the beach again. As we travelled, we made the turn off the main road for the final hour and a half leg off-road. Things didn't quite seem familiar, but we credited it to the green scenery which was not in bloom last time. Things didn't seem familiar was confirmed when we reached a river that would require crossing. We drew near over some rough terrain which should have been our first sign to turn around, before stopping to get out and inspect the river. It was maybe 6" deep at the most, however it was soft sand on the bottom. At first I said we need to turn around when Kelly re-examined the GPS track and found there was an alternate way, the way we intended to take, but it was hard to ignore the signs for Piambo Beach. Examining the river once more, I decided it looked good, and the solid road on the other side looked inviting; definitely more inviting than the hour + we would have to backtrack, so I went for it. It started well, maintaining engine RPM and speed over the first 20 meters before... I got stuck. There was seriously maybe 1 or 2 more meters before reaching "solid" sand on the opposite side, but that didn't matter. Where we were was not solid.

I've tried to imagine what getting stuck would be like, since I knew living in Angola it is basically inevitable. I didn't think it would happen on a road nobody expected us to take (not even us), in an area without cell coverage, on a trip where we weren't convoying. For the next hour and a half, we attempted to get unstuck. Some local kids came, curious who/what/why we were here, and helped us to gather rocks to try and create a footing for the truck, but more importantly, they kept all of our spirits up. After that hour and a half, we had a decision to make: Keep trying to dig out, which was only getting us deeper (it was clear we needed something to pull us out. Note: next Windhoek trip, BUY A WINCH). Or hike the 17km to the beach where our friends were. So we grabbed water, some food, and headed out at 1:45pm. The first km was all uphill and took about an hour. Kelly carrying Avro, and I was carrying Ethan. I've done a couple big hikes before, but not with kids. Once we reached the top of the hill, I was gassed and trying not to let Kelly know. I had to lie down, so we took a 10 minute break before continuing in only t-shirt and boxers. Fortunately the rest of the trek was fairly level ground. At 4pm, Kelly's sandal broke, so I tied her sweater around her foot to offer some protection from the stoney road. We were quite a sight I'm sure.

After 9.5 km's of walking (3 hours that felt like all day) we heard a vehicle coming toward us. It was a couple of fishermen heading back inland, so we stopped them and pleaded our case with them. They offered us a ride and took us to a small fishing village near our intended campsite. There was several small huts and one house, the latter which belonged to a Portuguese man named Carlos. We explained our situation to him, but no one wanted to take us the 1km over to the beach, saying that there was nobody camping there. Eventually they sent someone to look, and it was confirmed to their surprise that yes, someone WAS camping there. We wrote a note for Alex to come get us, which was taken by another messenger. I noticed the logo on Carlos' shirt as the same company Alex works for, so I asked Carlos about it, and told him that our friends on the beach we were trying to contact is Alex - his co-worker! Alex arrived, and together with Carlos and another Angolan (also named Carlos) we went back to the river where we pulled the truck out. Hallelujah.

Throughout the whole day, Kelly and the boys were amazing. Ethan walked 4-5 of the km's himself. Kelly had the idea that we should pray for someone who's name corresponded with each letter fo the alphabet, which helped us make good use of the time, and Avro pretty much slept the whole day.

Next time you do this, Marcel, have a winch or take a tracker!

Thank you God for giving us more than we deserve.

A few thoughts from Kelly:

I don't need to recount what happened ... Marcel did a pretty good job of giving all the details. But I want to expand on Marcel's last point ... "Thank you God for giving us more than we deserve." This sentence may make very little sense to those who aren't Christians. What do you mean, "more than we deserve"? I think most of us hold the opinion that if we are decent, kind people who work hard and do our best, then we deserve "good karma"--good should come our way. But throughout the walk, the reality of what the Bible teaches struck me hard. "The wages of sin is death." (Romans 3:23) In light of our almighty Creator, who is wholly good and wholly just (because a god that is anything less is no worthy god at all ...), we are NOT good enough. We are not just kind of bad and mostly good. I think most of us know, deep in our hearts, that we are very, VERY broken. Disobedient. Selfish. Looking for answers in the wrong places and denying God in our day-to-day actions. Sinful.

The reality is we deserve death. But God mercifully provides us with good things every day--sunshine, food, shelter, providence when we are STUCK in a desert with no cell reception. Furthermore, He provided a way to be made right with Him through Jesus Christ. Perhaps you've heard it a million times, but it bears repeating one more time--through Christ, we can find peace and forgiveness with God. And that is no "small hope"--in the middle of a desert, walking with two small children, and ACTUALLY wondering, "What if something SERIOUS happens?"--it was not the hope of finding our friends on the beach that carried us through. It was the hope that NOTHING, not even DEATH, could separate us from Christ. For the Christian, death is not the end. Suffering is not reason to lose hope. Everything is secure and peaceful in Christ, and though we were once an enemy of God, we have been brought over to his kingdom, and we can rest secure there. He truly gives us more than we deserve.

Deep stuff ... eh? Well, that's the sort of thing you think about in the "desert places of life".

Ephesians 2:1-10, "As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins, in which you used to live when you followed the ways of this world and of the ruler of the kingdom of the air, the spirit who is now at work in those who are disobedient. All of us also lived among them at one time, gratifying the cravings of our flesh[a] and following its desires and thoughts. Like the rest, we were by nature deserving of wrath. But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved. And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus, in order that in the coming ages he might show the incomparable riches of his grace, expressed in his kindness to us in Christ Jesus.For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast. 10 For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do."

Monday, 23 April 2018

A few brief thoughts on money ...

One thing I love about living on the “mission field” (aka. in Africa) is that, unlike many people, we get to witness/be a part of the direct impact of your missions dollars. I think I sometimes take for granted how cool that is!

Just today, we were sitting and chatting with a doctor friend who daily sees patients impacted by your dollars. While he is able to buy medications and provide extremely knowledgeable counsel to some of the poorest, sickest people in Angola … local clinics and hospitals lack even basic necessities. And it’s thanks to donors like you that he can do his work! Just recently, he recounted seeing a boy with such extreme malaria that he arrived in a coma. The boy recovered … but not without a severe complication of malaria—he began to lose complete blood circulation in his toes and teeth (extremities). His toes were in need of amputation … but the family didn’t have the money to send him to Lubango for surgery! So … in a life-saving move … Dr. Tim offered to cover the MAF flight to Lubango through his ministry funds! The boy received the surgery he needed and is likely to make a very good recovery! From death to life!

Dr. Tim flies all next week with MAF to some of the most under-served clinics in eastern Angola. Marcel has been working intense hours to prep the planes for this journey, since they will put in a lot of flight hours and won’t be able to undergo maintenance for an entire week. While the work is extensive, the hours spent chatting with Tim about his medical ministry certainly help us realize why we are here—to provide basic human dignity!

I’ve been pondering money lately, and how, sadly controlling money can be. Whether you are a slave to money because you work, work, work to afford all the greatest things … or you are a slave to money because you just don’t have enough … there’s no doubt that for any human, anywhere on the earth, money would likely rank somewhere in the top five “daily worries”. How sad is that?
Even here in Angola—where I feel incredibly rich compared to some people—I am not freed from the temptation of money. Some days, we worry more than we should about money. God knows our needs! Other days, I find myself thinking that money is the solution to all problems here in Angola—and it’s not, thankfully! A saving relationship with Jesus is worth infinitely more than any charity! Other days, I wish for more money or wish that things cost less. Money grips our thoughts when it shouldn’t!

Yet, God, in his wisdom, has provided a remedy for our tendency to have an idolatrous attitude about money. As I read in my morning devotional, “Giving [money] away breaks the grip of greed, teaches us to trust and obey God, and is an avenue through which treasure can be stored up in heaven.” And this I know to be so true! There’s something so freeing about sharing wealth and giving generously.
So to tie it all together—if you feel like you are a slave to money, may I suggest a beautiful remedy? Missions. Find a place where you can give of your money, whether directly or indirectly, and experience the blessing of sharing your wealth. It doesn’t have to be MAF, or Angola—but rest assured, I know a few good people who could use your help, if you’re interested! J

Monday, 2 April 2018

Significance, Baseball, Easter, and Prayer/Praise

It's been a busy stretch of life. Day in and day out of work, play with kids, sleep, repeat. The missionary life is so exciting, right?

And yet ... there are little, daily treasures ... mercies ... that God has left for us along the way.

A recent blog post by a friend left Marcel speechless. In the midst of a difficult week--one plane problem after another, parts stuck in customs, too many flights and not enough hours in the day ... our friend Dr. Tim reminded us of the beauty and foolishness of our work in Angola. How our work is not without curse (ie. the original curse), but we have a loving, victorious God and a network of Jesus-loving, big-hearted people who care about our work! (That's YOU, in case you are wondering!)

Read the blog here:

Okay, so y'all may know that I don't really like sports. I've never been very good at them. But ... at our tiny school of 25 kids, I've discovered a beautiful, unifying thing ... baseball.

Let me explain ... in a school of 25 kids, somehow us teachers have to work magic ... P.E. magic, that is. We have to teach P.E. from K-Gr. 12 ... at the same time. Talk about scaffolding and individualizing!

But these past few weeks ... amidst bullying problems, lack of motivation, personal issues ... baseball has been the one time of week where ALL the kids seem to get along and be happy. And ENCOURAGE one another! Who knew? And the crazy thing is that none of them knew how to play baseball 6 weeks ago!

So maybe, just maybe, I am thankful to God for sport and the power it has to unify.

Easter weekend (and the following week of vacation from school!) brought rest to our family. And a chance to recharge.

See, in case you didn't know, church isn't exactly a guaranteed place to get fed and relax on the mission field. Maybe, in some locations or some weeks it is, but for many missionaries, it isn't. It's the one place where language, culture, cranky children, hot weather and spiritual warfare collide on a weekly basis. (Can I get an amen from anyone out there? Or maybe just from parents whose church doesn't have a Sunday school program for toddlers?)

Anyway, this past weekend, we purposely set aside an afternoon to study from a David Platt Secret Church study called "The Cross and Suffering" and it was a beautiful chance to be challenged and fed in our own language.There were wayyyyy too many good points to cover in one blog post, but I highly recommend the study to anyone who really wants to understand a biblical view of suffering! I'll add the link, but one big take away that I got is that true gospel sees suffering as a means to treasure God more deeply. Say what!? Yes, God would use even suffering to draw us close to Him--He will do whatever it takes, He wants first priority, all of us, a relationship so deep and wide and sanctified ...

Romans 8:28-29, "And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose. For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers."

Anyway, if you are struggling with the Biblical purpose behind suffering (Why is there suffering? What is God's purpose in it? How does the Bible treat suffering of all types?), I highly recommend this comprehensive study (inc. a manual and videos) by David Platt:

Praise and Prayer
I'd like to end offering some prayer and praise for our ministry and life, as I know that (PRAISE GOD!) so many of you lift us up in prayer throughout the year, and this just comforts us so much! Thank you wonderful people!!!!
  • Praise God this week for Ethan--he will be turning 3 years old on April 5!
  • Praise God as well for the wonderful Tias (Aunties, or Nannies) who have been watching Ethan and Avro over the past few weeks/months and really been such a blessing to us and my work at the school.
  • Praise God that MAF's airplane parts that were held in bond in customs were finally released ... many weeks later, but still, in Marcel's hands now!
  • Praise God that the other teacher, Mrs. Helena, is back from Namibia with a new, healthy baby boy and will return to teach at the school soon!
  • Pray for Avro's visa to get approved (he's currently on a 30-day visa that gets renewed every month, but he needs his year visa).
  • Pray for the school and how I, Kelly, along with the other teachers, can continue to support, challenge, and bless the students not just academically, but spiritually (feeling very challenged by this lately--how can I be more than just a teacher, but also a disciple maker?)
  • Pray for many flights in the month ahead ... for safety, fruitfulness, and of course, the ongoing CHALLENGE of maintaining those three, finicky airplanes!!
Much love and blessings ... 

Other wonderful, small (and big) mercies over the last few weeks ...

Sushi ... in Lubango?! Yep! (Though expensive)

This little guy loves learning letters and sounds!

Tia Fatyma's 19th birthday party gave everyone a reason to have a little party!
She takes care of Avro and Ethan while I work at the school ...

The beautiful beach sunsets in Angola are truly a wondrous work of God!

Bragging moment: Ethan loves salad with oil and vinegar and will even lick the plate clean!
(Now if that isn't a big mercy I don't know what is!)
Check out this massive avocado ... almost as big as Avro's head!

My two little blessings!