|Saving Lives! |
Written by DJ Knott
"So, how many hours does it take to get here from town?" we ask a village elder after arriving at the community of Ingavi, a thirty minute flight from town. "About 5 days by boat," comes the reply in indigenously accented Spanish. "You mean five hours?"… "No 5 days," the villager insists. As the man's words sank in, the thought left me stunned. Just imagine malaria, a snakebite, dengue fever, pregnancy complications… living days from help. And this is only one of dozens of villages along just one of many rivers. A common thread ran through our thoughts and conversation that afternoon. This is a place where an airplane could really save lives. So began my experience with mission aviation in 2008.
Fast-forward to 2015. Replace oppressive jungle heat with snowcapped peaks, cold winds, and thin mountain air. This time, starting without an airplane, it has been harder to find the communities that are extremely remote. A 4x4 vehicle will take you to the end of the road, but we had heard rumors of places beyond the end of the road. We had to find them. Recently some church members in a small town related how they had received requests for help from villages with foot access only, some 2-3 days walk from the nearest road. In a flurry of Providence, I was airborne in a borrowed plane over that region scarcely a week later taking GPS coordinates of those very communities.
How many people will suffer and even die in these places before we can we reach them with an airplane? On foot we will certainly find needs beyond the scope of what medical help we can bring in a backpack. Anyone who walks those miles will doubtless come to the same conclusion we came to in Ingavi seven years ago…This is a place where an airplane could save lives!