Things don’t always go to plan in rural Africa. Last year, a Flying Mission Zambia contingent went to NW Province to complete an airfield for a remote Mission Maternity Clinic. The job proved to be a challenge for a number of reasons. By Christmas the rains had set in and the work had to be shelved until the end of the ‘green season’ – April or May. It was very disappointing for the medical mission personnel, who have waited patiently for some years for this provision. The FMZ workers, who badly wanted to hand over another working airstrip to their partners there, were somewhat frustrated.
Now, 5 months later, the rains have ended and we have great news: the airfield is in use. The DCA (Department of Civil Aviation) has inspected and approved the work.
Phil Smith, FMZ pilot from Chitokoloki (Chit), flew the first plane into Dipalata alongside Gordon Hanna, the CMML administrator from Chit. Gordon had done some ‘fancy footwork’ to get machinery and workers in place and Phil had helped him to bring the job to a successful conclusion so they were both very happy.
We hope these pictures give you a sense of the excitement of local people as the plane arrived. Some were seeing an aeroplane for the first time ever. There was much noise: joyous clapping and ululations! Africans really do know how to celebrate!
Also watching these significant moments was full-time CMML medical missionary Sister Betty Magennis. The availability of a plane will enable Betty to significantly reduce the number of night-time road evacuations she has to drive. Till now she has taken medical emergencies to the ‘nearby’ Zambezi hospital, about an hour away along the gravel track. Now she can call for the plane to evacuate the patient or bring the doctor in.
And waiting with Betty were Jack and Eleanor . The Finnegans have worked there since 1946. They are also excited to have the plane at Dipalata. They recalled how, in early days, they had to travel from their homeland of Northern Ireland by ship to Cape Town, South Africa, (3 weeks) then by train to Zambia (4 days). From there they would find a truck to take them another 4 days’ journey to the end of the road. Finally there was a few more days’ walk overland to the Dipalata location. By contrast, they can now fly overnight from N Ireland to Lusaka and, from there, a further 2 hours to Dipalata by Flying Mission aircraft, arriving within 24 hours of leaving UK. What a different story.
FMZ is excited to be a part of Dipalata’s new day. Now the clinic, which delivers 500-700 babies each year, is within 20 minutes flying time of Chitokoloki Hospital, with its resident surgeon, and just two flying hours away from Lusaka for visiting personnel or provisions.
So Dipalata is finally on the bush strips map and Flying Mission Zambia is helping to connect more people to the God who cares so much for them. Thank you, Lord, for the privilege of working for You in this way.