Wednesday, September 14, 2011


Sorry it's been so long since we posted. Brad has been busy working on his master's degree in his spare time. And Rebecca blogs often over at her spot:

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Men with machetes were roaming the streets

Indonesians had been killed. And people were fleeing Tarakan.On Sept. 28, our quiet lives in Tarakan were suddenly on hold as ethnic conflict was taking over the city. A man and his son from the Tidung ethnic group had been killed by a group of 10 people from the Leta ethnic group. The Tidung had already suffered other murders by the same group and were tired of the police failure to capture the murderers. So, they were thirsty for revenge and wanted to take matters into their own hands. So, that night, they grabbed their machetes and headed out looking for Leta people to kill. The Leta brought their own machetes and home-made guns and met them downtown—next to the mall and the KFC—and they fought throughout the night.

We had heard about the tensions for the past couple of days and had been sticking close to home. That afternoon, Rebecca got a text message from the police, calling for a mandatory curfew of 5 p.m. due to the ensuing conflict. Brad and the other MAF pilots came home straight after work. And we all locked our doors and gates, wondering what the night would bring. This is what happened the next day:

Sept. 29
7 a.m.
Brad-I headed to work, prepared to fly a normal schedule that day. On my way to the airport (located a couple miles from our house), I passed a group between 50 to 100 Indonesian men carrying machetes, spears and clubs. The military was guarding all entrances to the airport.

Rebecca—Brad called me to tell me about the men with machetes and told me to stay locked inside, and to let the other MAFers know. I sent out a text message to the others.

7:15 a.m.
—The Program Manager, David, had been the first to arrive at the airport. He told me about the long night he’d had fielding calls from desperate Indonesians asking for flights out of Tarakan, scared about the conflict going on. The two ethnic groups had been fighting throughout the night and some people had been killed in the battle. More people were expected to come in from other villages and towns to join the fight. David made a decision to start the process to evacuate our MAF team to a small interior village. Ironically, that small interior village is where former headhunters live. But they are now, by and large, followers of Christ, so they are peace-loving, friendly people we are privileged to call friends. They were ready to welcome us with open arms.

Rebecca—Brad called, and through a really bad phone connection, he told me to prepare to evacuate, packing 10 kilograms worth of stuff for each of us. He said we may be flying out of Tarakan in two hours.

Brad—I and another MAF pilot, Craig, began pre-flighting the airplanes in preparation to leave. I jumped in the Caravan, which had just come out of inspection to do a Return to Service flight, flying over the fighting town below.

Across the airport apron, I had seen a battalion of Indonesian military that had arrived from a bigger city in the middle of the night.

Rebecca—I remember hearing Brad’s plane flying overhead—though I didn’t know he was the pilot. By this time, I was getting lots of text messages from Indonesian friends, asking if I was OK and telling me to stay safe inside my house. Many of my friends were being evacuated to military and government bases around town. I worried about my 9-month-pregnant friend, Elin, whose husband is away working on a ship. Another friend with a 6-month-old son lives alone since her husband works on another island. Another friend of mine called me, asking if she and her husband could join us on an MAF plane if we left Tarakan. I emailed our family and churches, asking for prayer. Then I tried to focus on packing for our trip. I hoped I’d have enough diapers to last. And I wondered what would happen to my friends, my house, my cats, and my town while we were away.

10 a.m.
—All morning, my thoughts were consumed with what would happen to our Indonesian staff. I knew we westerners would end up OK. This fight was not ours, and we had the means and the airplanes to leave. But what about our Indonesian employees with MAF? Many of them had spent the night sitting up, guarding their homes with machetes. What would happen to their families? We had enough airplanes to fly out just our eight American families. Would we pilots be able to return to pick up the wives and children of the Indonesian staff?

Rebecca—I had spent the morning running around the house, packing bags, weighing them, and hoping I had what we needed for a time away that I had no idea how long it would last. Brad finally called with an update. Our boss, David, has talked to other senior MAFers in other parts of Indonesia and they encouraged him to wait a bit before evacuating. The painful ramifications of inevitably leaving people behind would be difficult. Besides, these types of local tribal conflicts were not usually dangerous for westerners. So, for now, Brad said to sit and wait.

11 a.m. and on
—I returned home, ate some lunch, then immediately started working on stuff on the computer that I needed to finish. If we ended up evacuating to the village interior, we wouldn’t have Internet access.

Rebecca—We live on a rather busy street. I watched the traffic outside. One way, the motorbikes and cars were filled with men. I wondered if they were heading out to fight. The other way, the cars and motorbikes were filled with families and their stuff, headed to a nearby military base. By the end of the day, some 30,000 people were sent to these bases. Some didn’t have food or water for that day.

After putting the kids down for a nap, I needed to burn my nervous energy. So, I exercised for a bit. Then I decided to make peanut butter. It seemed a bit silly. But I knew it would use up some time and hopefully distract me from what was going on outside. When he woke up, Evan was my little helper and the chore did its job of giving me something else to do besides sit and wait.

10 p.m.
—I went to bed, wondering what another night would bring. More fighting? More deaths? Would I be flying a normal schedule tomorrow? Or would I be evacuating my family?

Rebecca—One of the MAF wives told me that a tribal leader with black magic powers had been called to Tarakan that night to use his magic machete that could fly on its own to locate and cut the enemy. Around that time, an Indonesian friend of mine sent me a text message, telling me that a peace agreement had been reached between the two ethnic groups. A few minutes later, our manager, David, confirmed the news, texting all of us. We felt relieved, but still not certain if the agreement would truly end the conflict.

The next day:
—I called David to find out the latest. An Indonesian MAF employee had spent the morning riding through the streets, making sure everything was safe. The agreement seemed to be doing its job of ending the conflict. I headed to work.

Rebecca—I chatted with my Indonesian neighbor across the street who had been out that morning. He said everything was fine and back to normal. I walked down to a small store to get a paper. The news said that the Indonesian president had come down firmly on the side of order and was doing everything in his power to make sure that the conflict didn’t become too huge. Later that morning, with reports of safety holding, I left the kids at home with our helper and headed out to the store. Only about one-fourth of the stores were open. The owners in the ones that were open talked to me in hushed tones, telling me what they saw, clearly still afraid. The town looked different. The men with machetes had chopped off some of the tops of palm trees that lined the streets. The windows in the mall had bullet holes in them. And military and police were everywhere. The KFC, which is almost always open, was closed. Two houses beside the mall had been burned to the ground.

Throughout the next few days, life seemed to return to normal. Kids went back to school. Stores re-opened. But now the most common greeting when we meet someone is, “where did you flee to?” In fact, we didn’t even know the word for “flee” until last week. Now it is imbedded in our minds.

We know of at least one Muslim Indonesian who seems to have come out of this situation with a desire for a changed life. Keep praying for this woman, who had nearly wrecked her life before the conflict. Now she wants to start over. And we’re encouraging her to start it through the power of Christ.

Some of our friends were involved in the conflict, brandishing their own machetes and heading out to fight their enemies. They told us stories of how they’d locate the enemy (simply asking someone they encountered in the streets if they were Tidung or Leta). They said that some 500 people had gathered the night of Sept. 28 to fight on the main street. Others fought in smaller neighborhoods. That night, at least, hardly any police or military monitored the situation. People had been maimed or been killed. The ambulance arrived and left several times throughout the night, carrying the wounded or dying to the hospital. Though the paper reported that only a handful of people were killed, our friends said that many more had died. Thankfully, our neighborhood remained safe and we saw no men with machetes marching the streets.

The following days:Life seems pretty normal and everyone here is hoping the peace agreement will hold. We are also praying for peace in the hearts of those who don’t yet believe.

Monday, August 24, 2009

A smoky day of flying

One recent day, I (Brad) was in Malinau, sitting in the plane with six passengers behind me. I looked out at the air temperature gauge and it read 112 degrees. In the shade. The spring on one of the windows in my airplane was broken (so it had to be kept shut), so it had to have been 125 degrees inside the airplane. Sweat was pouring out of me, and my clothes were sticking to me.

I was planning to take off from Malinau and go to Long Alongo, one of the toughest strips out here. I felt the weight of doing a good job when I looked behind me at the other six passengers—five adults and a small child.

I taxied out, waiting for the tower to give me permission to take off. Malinau is a small city interior, with a paved runway. It is the closest thing to a runway in the States out here. And yet it is so different. It is poorly and unevenly paved. So, as you’re roaring down the runway, it tends to toss you into the air, but not high enough to actually take off. It makes for a bit of a bumpy take-off.

While I waited, I noticed about 20 piles of dried water buffalo patties on the runway. I wondered how so many water buffalo were walking all over the runway long enough to do their business. It was surreal. I had the thought that this was definitely NOT like life in the States.

Finally, I took off, veering slightly to the right to avoid some of the water buffalo poop. Still sweating like crazy, I climbed up to 3,000 feet. I noticed about 40 fires down below. It is smoky season, which means that farmers are burning their fields, taking advantage of the dry weather to get the job done. It also makes for a lot of smoke, creating low visibility. And I could taste the smoke as I climbed. It was nasty.

The smoke gets thicker and thicker as you go up. Bits of black ash were flying up, looking like birds that I was just about to hit (and adding to the stress of the flight), but really just flowing around with no contact. My eyes were burning and I was coughing. I remember praying a prayer, “Lord, I think that if you decided not to throw Satan into the lake of fire, just send him to Malinau during the smoky season and you’d get the same effect. You’d get the heat, fire, smoke, and the gnashing of teeth and weeping.”

Soon I was nearing Long Alongo. The approach for Alongo is to fly down a river, but someone had lit a fire at the end of the river. So, as I was flying this really difficult approach, now I had to deal with the smoke, along with these big pieces of black ash going over my windshield, and still make a good, safe landing.

I just hope smoky season ends soon.

Monday, August 3, 2009

A Time to Fast and Pray

As guests in a Muslim country, we have grown to love our Muslim friends and neighbors. This weekend, out of this love for them and our great respect for God, we are planning to pray and fast for Indonesia and our Muslim friends. We will also use this time to focus on looking for ways that God would use us to care for them.

We plan to fast from all food and all drinks, except water, from 6 p.m. Friday, Aug. 7 until 6 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 8. We’ve picked these dates in August in order that our Fast would fall before Ramadan, the Muslim month of fasting, which begins Aug. 21.

If you are interested in joining us, let us know and we can give you some ideas about which to pray. You can comment on our site or email us at

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Good food and friends at the beach

We’ve enjoyed reconnecting with our Indonesian friends during these first few weeks back in Tarakan. One of our favorite things to do with our friends, Ema and Ilham and their 4-year-old son, Nanda, is eat clams and shrimp and drink young coconut juice at a little eatery by the beach.

So, today, a Sunday, we did just that. The last time we’d gone was the week before we left for our six-month furlough—back in October. This time, Evan, almost 1 year old, is old enough to eat. So, he got to show off his love for Indonesian food by eating rice and fried noodles. This was the first time he’d had the young coconut juice and he loved it. Our friends very generously treated us to the meal, even though Brad kept trying to pay.

Ema had given Evan a shirt that matches the one Nanda was wearing. She had to ask what the English word “Rebel” written on the front of it meant. Evan is easily entertained by other little kids, including his friend, Nanda. And Nanda, an only child, did his best to dangle toys in front of the giggling Evan.

After dinner, we stopped by Ema’s house to meet with her mother and aunt. They are going to help us with a birthday party for Evan next week. Unlike American parties, where cake is the main food, Indonesian parties serve the guests a main dish. We plan to invite both our American MAF friends and our Indonesian friends and their kids. In Indonesia, the guest is considered a king and must be served well. So, Ema volunteered her family to help buy and prepare the meal, so that it would taste Indonesian-enough, and not be too much trouble for me to pull off. They plan to make Soto Ayam (Chicken Soup). And I’ll make the cake.

While we were there, her aunt, who had just made some fried noodles, insisted we eat some of her food. I’m always amazed at the hospitality of Indonesians, as we were unexpected guests, and yet she generously fed us. So, while we were stuffed, we did enjoy eating her yummy noodles.

While I (Rebecca) chatted with the ladies about the upcoming party for Evan, Brad tried to answer Ilham’s questions about his faith.

We went home stuffed and excited about our time with our friends.

Thursday, April 30, 2009

Please pray

Last night, an Indonesian friend of ours called me (Rebecca) with some sad news. Her husband of some 25 years or so is leaving her.

Our friend, who we knew during language school on a different island, has had a hard life. She and her husband have four kids together, and live in poverty. They just can’t seem to get ahead. My friend has worked as a maid since she was a child. Her husband is a driver. But they have been in a good deal of debt for several years due to needing to pay some medical bills when their daughter had dengue fever and spent over a week in the hospital. (Like most Indonesians, they don’t have health insurance.)

Right now, my friend doesn’t have a job because her daughter, now age 9, has been sick often this past year and my friend feels like she needs to stay home and take care of her. She left a job as a maid that was an hour away from her home, and she worked long hours there. She just started running a very small store from her home, selling snacks to school children.

Now her husband has left her. Honestly, he’s never been that good of a husband for her. In many ways, he’s a really good guy. He works really hard. He’s a nice man, so friendly. But he has this other side of him that my friend often sees. He’s been abusing my friend for most of their marriage, usually using his fists, but he has used a hammer to beat my friend.

Now he’s told her he wants the freedom to sleep around and not care for a wife and children anymore. In Indonesia, it is very difficult to get a man to pay child support. So, my unemployed friend will have to take care of herself.

In the meantime, her middle son, 17 years old, has threatened to beat up his dad. Understandably, he is very angry, and has been for a long time, as he has witnessed the abuse. My friend fears a violent confrontation between her husband and her son. And at the least, she worries about the stress and anger her children harbor due to their dad’s behavior.

My friend continues to hope that her husband will change. She asked me to pray that he would, and to tell my friends to pray that way, too. So, I’m spending much of today fasting and praying for my friend and her husband.

Will you join me in praying for comfort and provision for my friend? Please also pray that her husband will choose to change. Her children also need prayer as they deal with their parents’ impending divorce.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Returning to Indonesia

After some 24 hours on an airplane, we are back in Indonesia. Day has become night. Spring has become summer. And English has become Indonesian.

But as we start our second term here, so many things are so much easier. No language to learn. Brad is already a pilot experienced in flying in the jungle of Borneo. Our house is set up. And we’re actually experienced parents now…at least for months 1-11 with this particular child.

We still have to remember to drive on the “wrong” side of the road. And I (Rebecca) keep turning my windshield wiper on when I mean to use the blinker. But in many ways, we feel like we’re coming home. And with a furlough that has refreshed us, we are patient with the things that bother us. And we found that we missed many things about our lives here.

As we begin this next term, please keep certain things in your prayers:
-Safety for Brad as he begins flying again here.
-Unity on our team of MAFers.
-Opportunities to share about God’s love with our friends.
-Wisdom for us as we are parents to Evan.
-That we stay refreshed, patient and encouraging to others as long as possible.

Also, we love hearing from you, so please feel free to leave your comments, questions, etc. on this Web site. We plan to keep this site updated at least once a week so that you know what is going on with us.