June 2012, Issue 19
Letter from Thomas Kemper
Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
In the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), a vast rugged country with few passable roads, an airplane can make the difference between life and death. United Methodist pilots provide a link to people living in remote villages; in fact they provide hope--hope with wings.
This ministry provides the poor with transportation to hospitals, clinics, and other lifesaving medical care. It brings medicine, Bibles, evangelism teams, and pastors to some of the world's most vulnerable people.
In this month's connectNmission, I invite you to read about the missionary pilots who are instrumental in carrying out this unique mission. Gaston Ntambo, North Katanga Wings of the Morning; Jacques Umembudi, Central Congo Wings of Caring; and Rukang Chikomb, Southern Congo Wings of the Morning, will soon be joined by Markus Wolfmaier who will be based in Katanga, Central Congo, and serve all the DRC episcopal areas as needed. While the DRC is expansive, a national aviation board is being implemented to coordinate services.
I invite you to be part of the miracle that is unfolding throughout The United Methodist Church. Because of the generous outpouring of support, United Methodist Aviation Ministries (UMAM) is developing a sustainable foundation to continue this vital and transformational program.
In mission and ministry together
General Board of Global Ministries of The United Methodist Church
Photos: Thomas Kemper, chief staff executive of the United Methodist Board of Global Ministries (top). Flying sick and injured patients to hospitals in larger cities (bottom). Credits: Paul Jeffrey (top). Gaston Ntambo, courtesy of the West Ohio Conference (bottom).
Missionary pilot Gaston Ntambo attended General Conference as a delegate for the North Katanga Conference, DR Congo. He is a pilot and mechanic who directs the North Katanga Wings of the Morning Aviation program. Here is what he had to say about his ministry:
"People can walk 60 to 100 miles to get to a hospital in the DR Congo. People that we fly are people who have tried everything. They use the traditional medicine, they have tried the local medicine man, there are no clinics nearby--so basically, they have one chance to survive. They are in their last stage of life when we get called in."
"The most difficult thing we face in Congo is not flying in bad weather or flying onto difficult air strips. It is making that choice of flying in the wrong direction first and knowing that somebody is dying behind us. I have to go in the wrong direction to fetch fuel when they call me for a medical flight. We do the best we can to plan for it."
Aviation gasoline is so hard to come by that they have to fly to Zambia, the neighboring country, to get it. The aviation ministry has been raising funds to buy a Cessna Caravan, which uses a cheaper fuel that the DRC can deliver. "I have waited 17 years to see the fuel truck come to me," he said. "That will be a new day."
Photo: Gaston Ntambo, UMC Missionary Pilot (top)
Credit: Paul Jeffrey
Markus Wolfmaier is a new missionary who was commissioned by Global Ministries on April 29. He is preparing to serve as a pilot and will be based in the Central Congo Episcopal Area in the DRC. He will rotate to relieve and assist the different United Methodist aviation ministries in the DRC. Markus was born in Germany and grew up primarily in Sweden, where his parents were missionaries. He wrote the following about his upcoming ministry:
"In my aviation ministry I will help the local church by flying missionaries, ministers, and volunteer teams to local villages. I will also fly people from the villages to local hospitals, since medicine and hospitals are hard to get to. The roads in Congo are in bad shape, and make ground transportation a long and hard journey. At the moment most of the supplies for the city of Kananga are flown in, just to give you an idea. By flying I can help...the gospel be spread more efficiently and His word can be spread around the country, without being hindered by the physical obstacles of the jungles."
"The city I will be based in, for most of my time there, is called Kananga and is located in the south central part of Congo; the region is called Kasai-Occidental. It is just shy of a million inhabitants, but because of its location it is fairly isolated from the capital, Kinshasa. The city does not have a reliable electrical grid; while I was there the family I stayed with got electrical power every second night from about 8 p.m. to 10 p.m. There is not a municipal water grid that functions, so you have to bring in water on your own, which also means there is not running water in the house I will be living in. I am blessed, however, that the house is located just across the street from a local water well, and so I will not have to carry the water too far to get it home." Read more.
Photos: Markus Wolfmaier, UMC missionary pilot (top). Markus Wolfmaier and UMAM pilot Rukang Chikomb (bottom).
Credits: Courtesy of Markus Wolfmaier
Jacques Akasa Umembudi
Missionary pilot and mechanic Jacques Akasa Umembudi is a director of the Central Congo Wings of Caring Aviation Ministry in the DRC and was a delegate to General Conference for the Central Congo Conference. At The Advance display, he told this story:
"Just last year, I had an emergency call concerning a school teacher who was walking close to a river and was attacked by a crocodile. The crocodile snapped off his left arm. He was bleeding to death when I found him, and we flew him to a nearby Presbyterian hospital. Almost three weeks later, I was called to fly him back home. He wanted to express his gratitude to us. The man started to cry. You see, Africans use both hands to take the two hands of another to say thank you. He said, ‘I cannot express my gratitude. I don't have my left hand anymore. But please understand, I am very grateful to you for saving my life.' And I told him, ‘Just say thanks to God, because he's the one who provided.' "
Photos: Jacques Umembudi, UMC Missionary pilot (top). Jacques Umembudi Akasa, a United Methodist missionary pilot for Wings of Caring Aviation (bottom). Credits: Paul Jeffrey
Rukang Chikomb is a missionary serving as director, pilot, and mechanic of Southern Congo Wings of the Morning, the aviation ministry of the Southern Congo/Zambia Episcopal Area. Southern Congo Wings of the Morning provides transportation for hospitals, educators, mission teams, church leaders, and other mission needs.
"I am so blessed to be a part of the ministry serving God's people in Africa and around the world," he says. He recalls with gratitude the influence of an aunt on his spiritual and professional life when he was growing up on the Kapanga United Methodist mission base. "We can only give back to God if we listen, accept, and obey his call to witness him in this world."
Hear more about Rukang's perspective on missionary service in this short video interview.
Photo: Rukang Chikomb, UMC Missionary.
Credit: Paul Jeffrey
Advocate of the Month: George Howard
With a long-standing passion for international missions and asset-based community development, George is a director of the General Board of Global Ministries. He has participated in dozens of Volunteer-In-Mission work teams.
He serves as a special leadership-development consultant to North Katanga and strategic-planning consultant to Bishop Ntambo in the North Katanga Conference. His passion for aviation ministries led him to become one of the architects of the partnership between the North Katanga Conference and the West Ohio Conference.
According to George, "I first met Gaston [Ntambo] as a teenager with a dream of serving God and the Church. Over the past 22 years I have seen firsthand how transportation is one of the key underlying challenges for the development of the church and the community."
This partnership resulted in a miracle offering from the West Ohio Conference of more than $1 million for the Wings of the Morning aviation ministry at this year's annual conference. In his episcopal address, Bishop Ough commented on the Conference's "recession-proof mission," describing the people of West Ohio Conference as "riding the crest of the missional wave."
George emphasizes the importance of the new plane that the miracle offering will help purchase. "The new caravan will increase the capacity of the leaders in North Katanga to respond to humanitarian and evangelistic opportunities. Instead of bringing one person out of a village for health treatment, the plane will be able to deliver a medical team to treat hundreds and to teach health workers. At other times, teaching teams will provide leadership training for pastors and leaders. Connecting people and resources across the region will strengthen the witness of the UMC."
Photos: George Howard (top). Gaston Ntambo, a United Methodist missionary, inspects the prop of a Cessna P210 (bottom).
Credits: Paul Jeffrey
Featured Resource: United Methodist Aviation Ministries Video
Share this short video about the ways that United Methodist Aviation Ministries touches the lives of the Congolese people.
Music by the people of Tunda. Images by Paul Jeffrey.
Give to UMAM at umcmission.org/airplane.
Photo: United Methodist Aviation Ministries plane. Credit: Paul Jeffrey
Save the Date: 10-Fold
Become an advocate for mission - through the click of your mouse! This October, 10-Fold returns with five exciting projects, each highlighted for a full week. Encourage friends and church members to visit 10-Fold.org weekly, all month long, for a project-focused multimedia experience that includes videos, chats, devotions, worship resources, and more. Each visitor can trigger a $1 donation to the week's project, made by one of our sponsors.
October 2012 Schedule at 10-Fold.org:
Week 1: Disaster Relief
Week 2: Young People in Mission
Week 3: Mission Initiatives
Week 4: Missionaries
Week 5: Fair Trade