To AIM Leadership,
I just wanted to send a word of ‘thanks’ to each of you, for your involvement and support for our flight on Saturday to Obo, Central Africa Republic (C.A.R.), a place about 200 kilometers from Zemio and where thousands of displaced people have sought refuge. Each of you played a vital part in making this flight happen. It was a privilege I will remember long into the future.
The flight was to visit the Zande church leaders and displaced families who were forced out of their homes and village. More than 20,000 people found themselves fleeing from their homes with little or no forewarning and with only what they could carry. Imagine right now that you have fifteen minutes to grab what you can before fleeing for your lives with your spouse and children. Then you wake up the next morning lying in a forest without any covering and slowly realize this might be your existence for as long as you can stay alive.
In some ways, this flight brought to mind a similar flight which I made back in ’96 to a neighboring country. The region was embroiled in a civil war; there was risk involved in doing the flight. It was my first time into this particular country. Quite a bit of planning went into the flight. We went in with our plane at a very low level, as word had it there were hostile aircraft and troops in the region. We were to do all possible to avoid detection.
Upon landing at a remote strip, a small handful of rebels who were friendly to the locals met us. As my passengers exited the plane, I quickly unloaded the cargo and, within minutes, prepared to take-off. But before I could strap in, the captain of the rebel group, a lady likely in her late thirties, approached me and told me I was not welcome to depart just yet. This, unfortunately, is not an uncommon occurrence in such regions. It usually indicates a soon-to-be coming demand for money for ‘landing fees’ or some other method of ‘getting something’ from the pilot.
But this was different. So much so, that after I departed, I asked God to ‘brand’ this moment in my heart and mind.
For the lady, after informing me I was not to depart, called her contingent of rag-tag, gun-toting men and boys out of the forest and over to the plane. She told everyone to hold hands, looked at me, and said, “Today you have brought us something. You think you have brought us these doctors and these medical supplies. But for us, what you have brought us is Hope. And as long as we have this hope, that someone somewhere knows and cares what we are enduring, we will win this fight. We now know, that whatever happens, it will be ok.”
She then ‘commanded’ all of us to bow our heads, and she prayed a prayer of thanks to God, for what He was doing that day and what it meant He would be doing in the future, and asked for God’s blessing for my safety. My safety! In several hours, I would be back somewhere comfortable, having a nice meal with friends. Going to sleep in a comfortable bed. She and her team would still be in the bush, in a war zone, at war.
“God, bless this pilot and keep him safe.”
I was blessed. I was also impressed. She was showing me what we all know deep in our hearts but sometimes overlook: it is a blessing to give hope to someone else. We all have a great need to have hope in our lives. Having a foundation of hope built by faith can empower us to endure the worst of this world. In I Corinthians 13:13, our Heavenly Father informs us that in the end, what we need to survive, thrive, and truly be alive is faith, hope, and love. For hope to make it into this short list of what’s important tells me its value is significant.
I saw hope brought to our ‘family’ in Obo on Saturday. You sent tarps and food to help them physically, you sent your representative in to hear their stories and glean information, but most importantly, you sent them hope. At that time years ago, I flew for another organization to a people group who we had little to no history with. This time, however, I flew for AIM and for the Zande people and believers who are close to our hearts. These people know us. They spoke to us for hours, about places, people, and regions they all shared in common. About their suffering. About the future.
What’s the weight of hope? Perhaps sometimes as little as 300 kilograms in tarps and food. Or even as little as 85 kilograms (in the case of one person). But weighed on a more accurate, eternal scale, it’s enormous.
Thanks again for supporting this effort and for allowing me to be part of it.
Your co-worker in Christ,
Jim Streit, AIM AIR