A Gift of Hope with Wings
by Melissa Hinnen
Following an outpouring of pennies, dollars, and Congolese Francs, the people of North Katanga are about to receive a gift of hope with wings.
For months, an aviation team, coordinated by the General Board of Global Ministries, has been looking for an airplane that would meet the needs, in a sustainable way, of rural villages in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. The team traveled recently to Norway to inspect and purchase a Cessna Caravan.
But the Cessna Caravan is more than just a plane; it bears on its wings the promise of Good News, hope, and healing. This “flying clinic” will bring a team of doctors and pastors to meet both the physical and spiritual needs of the people it serves.
With the density of rain forests, scarcity of resources, and lack of infrastructure, aviation is the only means of accessing hundreds of remote villages.
Gaston Ntambo is one of three missionary pilots in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. He is part of a supply line that enables emergency medicine and other items to be delivered where needed. For Captain Ntambo, flying is more than a passion, or even a career. It’s his ministry. “The best part of my life is when I’m coming down with a patient and I’m close to landing where I know they’ll get help, and they’re still alive.”
Ntambo will take a flight-training course that will prepare him to fly the caravan when it arrives at the end of the rainy season this spring. In the meantime, the plane will be flown to a long-standing mission aviation partner in Ohio for refurbishing.
The West Ohio Annual Conference raised more than $1.5 million for the Wings of the Morning aviation ministry, including a $1M miracle offering at their annual conference in June. The Greater New Jersey Annual Conference raised over $320,000 and the Arkansas Annual Conference raised another $100,000. Individuals and churches, across the country, including Church of the Resurrection in Kansas, contributed as well.Twenty-five thousand dollars was raised within the North Katanga Conference – a region of the world where the average income is less than $10.00 a month. In total, $2.1 million was raised, including $250,000 in a West Ohio long-term maintenance endowment.
According to George Howard, who leads the Mission and Evangelism unit at Global Ministries, “The new caravan will increase the capacity of the leaders in North Katanga to respond to humanitarian and evangelistic opportunities.” Noting that the plane will strengthen the United Methodist connection, he continued, “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 prepare health workers. At other times, teaching teams will provide leadership training for pastors and leaders.”
After receiving word that the money had been raised to buy the new plane, Ntambo wrote, “You have just opened the biggest door for mission work… You touched and changed my life with your mission work when you sent me my very first pair of shoes at 9 years of age, Today you are sending me home with the a perfect airplane to go and make a difference for our people. Thank you for believing in us and for saving North Katanga Wings of the Morning flight ministry.”
To learn more about United Methodist aviation ministries, watch this short video. To support these ministries, please make a donation to UMCOR Advance #3019626.