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A Last-Minute Gift

The MAF Cessna Caravan landed at the Vanga airstrip in the western Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). I disembarked and wondered what I would accomplish here since I’d only have an hour on the ground, and I didn’t have a plan.

But God already had something in mind for my last visit to a remote village in the western part of the country.

Normally, I work at MAF headquarters as a writer. But I was here visiting our programs in the DRC for the first time, along with MAF’s video producer, Lem Malabuyo, to do interviews with our partners and staff. We had previously developed a list of subjects to interview. Since schedules and flights could easily change, we went with open hands, willing to accept whatever the Lord made available to us.

Our initial plan to interview a medical missionary couple at the Vanga Evangelical Hospital didn’t work out, as they were out of the country. Still, we were happy to tag along on this training flight for one of the pilots who needed to be checked-out at Vanga.

Once we landed, Lem went off to set up on the side of the airstrip to film the training flights (aka takeoffs and landings). As I started walking away from the airplane, a woman approached. One of the pilots introduced me to Marta Klein, an expat medical missionary.

The MAF Caravan in Vanga, DRC. Photo by Lem Malabuyo.

She told me a bit of her history and how she serves in the northwest part of the country with the Congo Covenant Church, as well as at the hospital in Vanga. She’s trained as a physician’s assistant and focuses on nutrition and continuing education for local doctors and nurses.

MAF had flown her and two nurses from Kinshasa to Vanga the previous week so they could teach nurses at the Vanga hospital the “Helping Babies Breathe” class for resuscitating newborns.

The name of the course was familiar to me from past stories I’d worked on.

“Are the nurses here now?” I asked her.

“Yes,” she said, pointing toward the hangar building.

She mentioned they were waiting for their MAF flight. Turns out they would be on the return flight to Kinshasa with us! I told her I’d like to talk with them, so we headed in their direction.

Marta introduced me and explained what I was doing in the DRC, and that I had some questions for them.

One of the men agreed to speak and Marta served as translator, since he spoke Lingala.

I asked how many people they had trained over the past week.

“We came to do the training with six people beforehand,” answered Alphonse NDOMBE, an obstetrical nurse, sonogram technician, and a teacher at a nursing school. “We have a method called Train the Trainers, where we trained six people and then those six people will train six more people. So we have trained a total of 12 this last week.

“We do the training in groups of two, so they will be able to go out and train the rest of the doctors and nurses that are in the Vanga Health Zone.”

“Has he flown with MAF other times for this work?” I asked.

“We were able to use MAF to work with the Paul Carlson partnership,” he said. “We got on the plane in Gemena and we flew to Wasolo, and we did another training there.”

I recognized the organization he mentioned, and when he said Wasolo, something clicked in my mind. I had written a story about that a few years back …

“Was this when they had run out of a special gel for the umbilical cord?” I asked.

“It was,” Marta said. “We were having difficulty obtaining that medication. And then we were able to get it right at the end of the trip.”

Suddenly, I realized I was with the people who had a part in that earlier story. I was so excited that I may have hopped up and down a few times (well, truthfully, I did).

Marta explained to them why I was jumping. They seemed to understand and shared in my joy with a chuckle or two.

But really, it was just one of many times on this visit to the DRC where God surprised me with an unexpected gift like this one.

Left to right: Alphonse NDOMBE, Marta Klein, Jennifer Wolf, and Jonas BWAZU. Photo by Lem Malabuyo.

When I asked what they had accomplished on the Wasolo trip, Alphonse replied:

“Since we did the training, and they [the doctors and nurses] were using the chlorhexidine gel and following the protocol we taught, they were able to reduce the neonatal mortality rate in that region.”

After the chat with the nurses, Marta shared with me how MAF helps them reach Vanga, which otherwise could take up to 15 hours or more by road.

“We’re very grateful for MAF offering their services to fly from Kinshasa to Vanga, because it only takes one hour and 15 minutes,” Marta said. “It’s much more convenient, and I feel it is much safer because there are so many accidents that happen on the road. And not just accidents, but also there’s a risk of getting robbed or worse.”

When asked if she had a message for MAF’s supporters, Marta said, “I really want to thank people who donate to this ministry … It’s life-changing, it’s lifesaving, and it’s time-saving as well for missionaries and local people.”


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