“Mom, this is surreal. How does this happen?” said MAF pilot Stephen Hale to his mother, who was in the co-pilot seat next to him in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). It was morning, and they were about to take off for the distant village of Wasolo, in the northwest corner of the country. Renée Hale was accompanying a team of medical ambassadors in her role as the executive director of the Paul Carlson Partnership.
The team included a pediatrician, a nurse, and a physician’s assistant from the U.S., along with four Congolese medical professionals from Karawa. These seven would teach a group of 22 Congolese doctors and nurses two courses: “Helping Babies Breathe” and Essential Care for Every Baby.” The 22 could then go out and train many others.
On the taxiway at the Kinshasa International Airport, Renée said, “Stephen, at 15 we knew that God was beginning to work in your life towards mission aviation ministry, and now, here you are, and I’m sitting in the co-pilot seat with you. We’re actually seeing the kingdom work that God has called us to do meld together as our organizations are partnering in this ministry. It does feel surreal. It also feels like so much of a blessing, I can hardly contain it.”
Renée had flown with MAF in the DRC previously, but this was her first time to fly with her son there.
The team landed on the red-clay airstrip near Wasolo in the late afternoon. Wasolo was too far from home base to return that day, and Renée was scheduled to fly to another village in three days. So the airplane was parked until then, and Stephen was able to spend two days on the ground with his mother, getting to know the team and seeing their work firsthand.
A Strong Partnership
“Our Congolese brothers and sisters kept thanking Stephen profusely for the ministry of MAF to bring us to this remote area,” said Renée. “They kept saying, ‘Thank you for helping us learn to save lives,’ and ‘We know you could not get here over the roads. It’s just too long and the roads are too deteriorated.’
“They could see the connection between MAF, the Paul Carlson Partnership, and themselves—how those dots connect to make life-saving medical ministry possible.”
That sense of partnership was strong during those few days in Wasolo. One evening as they were all together enjoying an African-style dinner, Renée was struck by how all three parties were coming from very different places of life and ministry, and yet, there they were, ministering together. “It was powerful,” she recalls.
As a holistic ministry of capacity building in medical and economic development with the gospel as the foundation, and in conjunction with the Evangelical Covenant Church, the Paul Carlson Partnership often collaborates with third parties like MAF.
“It’s like a stool with three legs,” explains Renée. “If one leg is missing, it will fall down. God has provided us a way to create these three-partner relationships that transform us as partners, and they transform the lives of the people alongside whom we have the opportunity to minister.”
The Timely Way
Renée boarded the airplane with her son a few days later, heading to Karawa to visit the Paul Carlson Partnership’s Karawa Coffee Project, and she was in for an even more poignant experience.
“As we took off from the airstrip, it was just the two of us in the airplane; it felt like a moment suspended in blessing. We flew at a lower altitude than usual because the weather was better at around 5,000 feet.
“If someone has not had the opportunity to fly that low, then you don’t have that magnitude of realization—how thick the forest is and how there are no roads. How you really are remote!”
Had Renée and her team not been able to fly with MAF to these distant locations, the trip most likely would not have happened. They would have had to wait for dry season; their Congolese partners would have had to survey of the roads. It could have meant a one- or two-year delay.
“When we need to do timely work, we rely on MAF,” said Renée.
This particular training happened last September, and the Congolese medical staff were able to start saving lives immediately. And they’ve already trained others to do the same. The impact has spread exponentially.
A Parting Delivery
When MAF came to pick up the medical team and take them back to Kinshasa, the airplane carried a great blessing for the Wasolo hospital.
On board were 20 mattresses donated by a U.S. church, and a six-month supply of an antiseptic gel that, when applied to the umbilical cords of newborns, would prevent infection and reduce the seven-day mortality rate in infants. The departing team rejoiced to see the boxes of life-saving gel, knowing they had already taught the medical staff how to use it.
Thinking of the donors who make the work of the Paul Carlson Partnership and MAF possible, Renée says, “Thank you is not sufficient. Those of us who get to be the messengers, the pilots, the facilitators—we are in a place of honor and privilege to carry out what our donors make possible by their gifts. So thank you for giving to MAF, because MAF partners with people like the Paul Carlson Partnership.
“Our Congolese brothers and sisters have said it best, ‘Thank you for helping us save lives every day.’ ”