25 September 2012

Without Ceasing: Caravan

Note: I wrote this last Friday, but it took me a while to get the pictures together. Just pretend it's last Friday.

I was writing about something else this morning. I was working on a post about our decision to deliver in Portland. I left my computer open.

Then Julie and I were having lunch, and someone texted me. I don't get many texts, except from my fantastic husband or our phone company offering me an AMAZING DEAL! (And it must be amazing, because they text me about it five times a day.)

But it was John, our chief pilot. He'd been at a meeting to try to get the Caravan approved, and he doesn't usually text me (or anyone, as far as I know). Here is what it said:

"Full approval for the Caravan!"

It's a good thing I wasn't driving, because I probably would've crashed my car. Julie can attest--I gasped. My eyes filled with tears. It was more than I'd hoped for.

Let me see if I can put this in perspective: they've always wanted a Caravan here. Always. It was all I heard about when I got here. We used one after the earthquake and people got to see how great it was. It would be like trying to get 10 people from Portland to Seattle in a Tercel by shuttling back and forth, and then someone giving you an 18-passenger van. It would be like trying to fit your family into a red wagon for church (after having to send your purse and Bible with someone else) and then being given a minivan. Passengers kept giving me baffled looks when I told them they didn't have to send their cargo by truck.

Our "little red wagon."
See, these are the planes we've always had. They're good little planes--my girls get the job done. But the most they can carry to most locations is 1125 pounds...where the Caravan's minimum weight capacity is 2424 pounds. Yes, you read that right--more than twice as much. We quickly discovered that the Caravan's awesomeness was good for more than work teams. We could take four ladies and their non-collapsible wheelchairs to Cap Haitian. When a truck overturned on La Gonave, we took twice as many injured patients to Port-au-Prince as the U.N. because their helicopters were at capacity. It could carry oddly-shaped items like surfboards. (Hey, even missionaries need to hang ten sometimes.)

Did I mention how great it was? 

SP, the plane generously leased to us by Samaritan's Purse
 At that point, we could use it for humanitarian purposes. It wasn't ideal, but we accepted their regulations and stuck to them, despite some very ardent walk-up passengers who REALLY NEEDED THAT BIG PLANE.

So when our lease expired on Sierra Papa (that's her name in the phonetic alphabet: SP), it seemed logical to bring down an MAF Caravan. ...right? I mean, this was a great tool. I was routinely turning down flights because her schedule was full, even with purely humanitarian flying. Talking with the government, we hoped they would allow us to register the new plane in Haiti and fly for whoever needed it, including the many business people who'd create jobs and create an economy here. (It's hard to get out of poverty without jobs.) It felt like a pipe dream, but it was worth asking.

But there were more snags. More hiccups. More meetings that seemed to go...nowhere. The reasons why didn't seem to be clear...we were getting vague answers.


Lonely Mike Fox.

Mike Fox (MF) arrived on August 6th...and there she sat. Waiting. One pilot likened her to a lonely wallflower he'd like to dance with. Pilots are so romantic.

I tried to be optimistic at first. "It's a temporary situation," I told passengers. "We're hoping to have approval by the end of the week." Then the week ended. And two weeks ended...and six weeks ended. I started trying to work with the planes I had available, but it was tough--those little planes just had to make so many trips. It felt there weren't enough hours in the day. I changed the tone of my emails..."There's a situation, and I don't know when it will be resolved."

I was frustrated, but I didn't start to despair until this week, when our program manager mentioned sending Mike Fox to another program. After all, planes are a limited resource, and if she's just sitting on the ground here...he trailed off. What else was there to say? We'd exhausted all our earthly resources--we even talked to someone who thought they could put pressure on the director through his mom. (Yeah, we were that desperate. I would've cornered his grandma, too, if I thought it would help.)

Then we got a call: the director wanted to meet with us. We'd requested a meeting, but that was still surprising. Here's what happened next, in our boss's words:

John and I waited almost 2 hours to see the director, and once we entered the room we exchanged pleasantries. Then he asked how he could help us...[After discussing it,] the director said, “This is a new day in Haiti.  The Caravan is out of jail!”  I literally put my arms up and said a quiet “Hallelujah!” ...John very clearly expressed our desire to register the airplane in Haiti and have the C-208B on our operating permit. Almost without any hesitation, the director agreed. He told us to work out the details with Mr. D. Can you believe it? This is a huge, huge answer to prayer.

"Born free, free as the wind blows..." She's out of jail!

And that's just it--that's what I hope you take away from this. It's a huge answer to prayer. Your prayers. There hasn't been a Caravan registered in Haiti for a long time, but God willing, we'll have the paperwork in our hands by the end of next week.

A new day indeed!

No comments:

Post a Comment