'shine your eyes’ is a phrase that I picked up in liberia, west africa. it means to open your eyes and see the Truth. this is my hope for people everywhere, myself included, that we will continually be transformed to see and be the ideals God has set forth as the Kingdom. the book of isaiah says it this way:

'see, a king will reign in righteousness and rulers will rule with justice. each man will be like a shelter from the wind and a refuge from the storm, like streams of water in the desert and the shadow of a great rock in a thirsty land. then the eyes of those who see will no longer be closed, and the ears of those who hear will listen. the mind of the rash will understand, and the stammering tongue will be fluent and clear.’ isaiah 32:1-4

currently this is taking shape in my life working with bahamas habitat. we are working to provide aviation support to bahamas methodist habitat, a hurricane relief/sub-standard housing repair organization based in the bahamas. know that we would love for you to come spend some time with us as we take part in all the beautiful ways that God is loving His creation.

in the words of mother teresa, “pray for me that i not loosen my grip on the hands of Jesus even under the guise of ministering to the poor.” and i pray that in all that you do, whether coming to the bahamas, serving in haiti or celebrating life in your part of the world that you will simply love and come and see all that God has for us. let this place be a place of celebration and conversation for us to greater understand life with one another.

‘and because of our faith, He has brought us into this place of highest privilege where we now stand. and we confidently and joyfully look forward to actually becoming all that God has in mind for us to be.’ –romans 5:2



You might want to have a Haiti map up and ready)

Cities, Planes, Pilots

With PAP being so centralized in terms of resources and the influx of refugees to the outlying cities and the performance characteristics of small aircraft as the ones we fly, we focus on flying everywhere except PAP, with rare exceptions.  Cities include: Les Cayes, Jacmel, Jeremie, Cap Haitien, Pignon and La Gonave.  We are working on Port au Paix.  Our requirement for landing and delivering supplies is that we have secured a ground contact that is ready to claim the supplies.  From there we match the conditions and need with the capability of the aircraft and supplies on hand.

Planes that have come through for the aviation enthusiasts: Albatross from Nevada, Skymaster from Canada (blew an engine on takeoff that they handled famously), Barons, Bonanzas, Cirrus, Senecas (one flew direct from Massachusetts to Nassau at night through the Bermuda triangle..nutheads), Aztecs, Diamond from Michigan, Pilatus from New Jersey and California, Meridians, Malibus, Cessna 180 and 182, Navajos, King Air from Texas, Lance from NY.  We have had about 130 planes involved so far.

The people who have come through have been incredible, about 250 so far (including relief workers and pilots).  Everyone has interesting stories, and it’s gotten to the point that I am no longer surprised or disbelieve anyone who tells me their airplane has been in movies, they own Madison Square Garden and the NY Knicks, they were the Sunkist girl from Hollywood when she was a teenager, a full-time farmer from Iowa, they started The Salon hair salons, are billionaires or have no money at all, or are world famous aerobatic pilots.  The guy organizing our warehouse built water purification systems everywhere from Africa to Costa Rica and Haiti, sailed the world, worked on fishing boats and he tells me something new everyday and I believe every word of it.  And, I may or may not know most of this because we Google-search their name after meeting them.

Day in Les Cayes

Three weeks ago we took off in a Baron and a Bonanza from Nassau before sunrise to try and make it to Les Cayes in time for church.  A few technicalities kept us from making it on time but instead we spent the afternoon meeting the doctors and seeing the clinics where the supplies that we deliver are going.  That day is one that I will not forget anytime soon.  After landing, about 10 of us piled into trucks and went to a missionary’s house, had lunch at the guesthouse, visited 2 clinics and a tent city, then flew back to Nassau.  The capability of general aviation shined brightly on the reality that we are able to go in and out of Haiti in a day able to serve a purpose without being a burden.  It was a battle internally having lunch there but accepted it with the realization that many times accepting hospitality serves a greater good than the obvious negative we are eating food that the country does not have to spare.

The clinics were heartbreaking.  I pray that God continues to break your heart and mine and realize that only through Christ are we made whole and righteousness is found.  This is a prayer that we pray regularly.  Of the 50 beds in the first clinic we visited 44 of them were occupied by refugees from PAP.  At that point, most medical procedures remedied injuries as a result of being crushed by buildings.  Broken legs and hips being set, many amputated. Forgive the gore, but to give you an idea of the need for medical supplies, many of the amputations are done with old hacksaws and Tylenol.  That is all that is available when the supplies are depleted as quickly as they are in Haiti’s crisis. 

Dr. Richard McGlaughlin is a pilot and a surgeon.  He came initially to fly supplies in and out but after seeing the need, decided that his skills as a surgeon would better benefit than as a pilot.  So on his second trip in, he stayed for over 2 weeks.  We were reunited the day we got to visit and he showed us one of his improvisations that impressed us all.  He ran out of hardware to set bones so he set a broken leg with rebar.  It was nuts to see.  One of my favorite personal aspects is seeing how a material, the rebar, is used in both parts of BMH’s ministry.  We use rebar so much in the home repair aspect and then we saw it used to improvise medical procedures in the relief efforts.  Dr. McGlaughlin beamed with his creativity.

There is more to this story but honestly, I don’t totally feel comfortable putting it on the internet...if this sounds sketchy, it is.  But it has something to do with customs, lost passports, passengers and plane checks.

I will say this one last part though.  To land or takeoff at any airport in the Bahamas other than Nassau, you must schedule an appointment and the airport operator must gain clearance from Nassau to turn on the runway lights.  In the air at night, you must be on an IFR flight plan.  We were really pushing time trying to get out of Great Exuma, our fuel stop, on the way back from Haiti to Nassau before sunset.  The first plane took off and a Bahamas Air DHV-8 squeezed between us for takeoff.  Annoying.  We were all calling Clearance for IFR and takeoff clearances.  The -8 literally positioned right in front of me in a Bonanza with both monstrous engines flowing.  Although they chimed in on the radios after me, they were doing their best to get ahead of me.  It didn’t help that the other aircraft and me differed in call signs by 1 number (N359P and N459P).  Anyway, by the grace of God I’m convinced, I was given a clearance before the Bahamas Air flight which usually get priority as it is a commercial airliner.  If I could have, it would’ve been better for me to reverse the plane to get around the -8.  Instead I scooted around the beast of a plane and puttered into position for takeoff.  I know I was cussed at least once.  We were on climb out when the sun dipped below the horizon.  A few minutes later and we would’ve been stuck on the ground trying to call Nassau for our appointment.  Whew!  This story is an example of some of the Bahamian ridiculousness.  I never did hear Bahamas Air on the Nassau frequencies.

Charlie and Fuel

God is incredible in provision and strength and love.  Multiple times daily we see the promise of God so obviously.  Planning only goes so far and then we see the reality of God’s guidance so obviously.  For example, Charlie Zaloom from NY flew with us for 11 days.  He shimmied down to PAP in his Cessna 180 to base himself independently distributing goods to outlying villages.  He was in Jacmel, a city just 25 miles south of PAP, and thought to himself that he could really use just a bit more fuel, 5-10 gallons.  Knowing the little to no possibility of actually getting the fuel to make him comfortable, he brushed it off just as another plane landed.  The pilot jumped out with a full fuel can and handed it to Charlie saying he had extra and didn’t know if Charlie could use it or not.  Charlie hadn’t made any request for it to anyone.  I’m telling you, these events happen daily.


The day Charlie headed back to NY we had a short conversation about the struggle with the media attention of those like Charlie.  A reporter from Plane and Pilot was here and Charlie and I talked about how frustrating it is when people try to make heroes out of people simply doing what they can.  I just read in the book Three Cups of Tea what I think sums up our conversation:  (a quote from a well known climber and humanitarian) ‘I was just an average bloke.  It was the media that tried to transform me into a heroic figure.  But I’ve learned through the years, as long as you don’t believe all that rubbish about yourself, you can’t come to too much harm.’  I was reminded of Charlie and all the pilots who have come through when I read this.  I pray that the reporters that have come through here will simply tell the real story of what is happening in Haiti and the beauty of God that shines so brightly when we serve one another in love.

Holding My Breath

One of the more exciting flights was with Gene Schmidt.  This weekend he is on his way down for the 5th time since the earthquake!  (I have Gene Parmesean of Arrested Development in my head whenever I say his name)  Kelsey Farrington, one of my college roommates, came down for over a week to help us out with emails, phones, logistics, etc.  She was a huge relief as we were able to catch a little air with her help.  (She says she’ll be back soon…I’m going to hold her to that!)  Gene, Kelsey and I flew down to Jacmel, Haiti.  The airport is fun as it is controlled by the Canadians from a collapsible table on the porch tucked in some mountains right on the southern coast of Haiti.  Landing to the South, on base to final there is a steep hill that causes a weird feeling, as you are on a normal decent.  And takeoff, although ultimately safe, gets your blood flowing a good bit as you stare at the mountain just ahead before turning around it.  There was a moment when you couldn’t think about anything else than that you’re committed on the takeoff and you just need to keep flying.  Gene said, “It’s not unsafe to fly down here…sometimes you are just very, very focused.”

La Gonave

The most risky, and in-need, place we fly is La Gonave.  La Gonave, also known as The Forgotten Island, sits just off the port.  If Haiti is a mouth, La Gonave is the tongue, that’s the technical descriptions I give in the briefings.  This island has 150,000 people living on it and depends entirely on shipments from PAP, just about 20 miles across the water.  With the disfunction of PAP due to the earthquake, there is no food/water or medical supplies or anything really going to the people there without the assistance of small aircraft.  Other organizations such as MAF and us are flying are the only physical way that supplies are delivered.  That is a crazy reality to us but because of that, there is danger when we land because the need is so great.  Mark, one of the pilots, in his C210 has gone twice to La Gonave.  To land he did a low fly-over to assess the field.  He saw some type of official holding a green flag giving the clearance to land indicating that it is secure and safe. Immediately upon shutting down the engine, a swarm of locals surrounded the plane making it difficult for Mark to get out.  The official who held the green flag for landing in one hand was now using the stick in his other hand to keep people away from the plane.  It was great, except that in his effort to protect the plane was hitting it every time he drew back with his stick.  Mark and I had a good laugh about that.  He also told me that women would hand him their babies and others would reach into his pockets looking for food.  Throughout the country when kids see us, they gather their fingers together holding it to their mouths showing that they want food.  Reflecting on his experience at La Gonave, he told me about his second visit there and said, “It’s scary but I would do the same thing as them if I were as hungry as they are.”

PAP x 3:: Day 1, MAF, and the Beech 1900

I’ve made to PAP 3 times so far.  The first was the Friday after the earthquake.  It took us 2 days to get there as the airspace was so congested.  The other pilot, Dave Spangler (a missionary pilot based on the same island where I live, Eleuthera) and I got as far as Inagua (the Southern-most island of the Bahamas and the island of Morton salt) where airplanes were stacked about 12 and 16 high holding until their turn to land on PAP’s only runway.  We landed here and stayed the night as we have connections through BMH and the Methodist church. The following morning we took off at dawn and landed by 8:30.  We circled the runway for 30 minutes, which is better than the 3 hours they anticipated the day before.  When we landed, we saw that everybody showed up for the party: The US government, Red Cross, Doctors without Borders, China, Jamaica, France, everybody.  It was quiet chaos as there was tons of need literally pressing against the glass doors on the other side of the terminal and tons of supplies and food ready to be distributed, but the terminal was empty in between.  It was very symbolic of the situation.  Everyone was there but there was no one to close the gap and actually meet needs with provision.  It took us 3 hours to unload a Piper Aztec because no one really knew what to do.  We finally made it back after picking up a family of 5 needing to get back to the States.

The second time I went in a Navajo, owned by the NYC Dolan family, with Ben Dolan to deliver a load to Charlie Zaloom, which he in turn delivered to the outlying cities.  Upon landing we met Charlie who took us to a hospital right on the field.  The tents, donated by Alanzo Mourning were filled with people being treated.  In block letters with permanent marker a cardboard sign read, “WOUND CARE”.  Coleman camping tents were set up only 50 feet away from the hospital separated by the walkway for everyone.  They served as isolation tents as some feared small pox was about to break out.  We walked around talking with lead doctors collecting information on specific needs that we can deliver.  We make an attempt to meet real needs, not just deliver supplies.  Especially after we learned that some of the medicine we delivered was cholesterol and Alzheimer’s medicine; that was frustrating.  We walked around and I actually ran into some friends of mine!  It was my boss/supervisor/mentor at MAF during my internship in Idaho summer of ’08.  They have a base there and had many from the Nampa office come for support including most of those who I knew from MAF.  It was really fun and we have since continued conversation about how we might partner in the relief effort.

The third time was just yesterday and I got to fly with Pineapple Air in a Beech 1900. Definitely the biggest airplane I’ve ever gotten to fly…and least technologically developed airplane lately.  For you pilots, it had Avidyne display but operated with a NDB and no autopilot.  Straight stick flying for 4 hours…whewhoo!  I have no idea how anyone gets away with letting me fly it with passengers on it and no training per that plane but at least there was a captain sitting next to me, never mind that he was 23 years old!  It was fun and on the way back we planned to pick up 17 doctors/nurses with Partners in Health.  Partners in Health is the organization that Paul Farmer started.  (If you don’t know who he is please Wikipedia search him and read the book, Mountains Beyond Mountains, and then let’s talk about it.)  We landed, I met a local named Rolex and got another guy to go with me to chase down the group of 17 at the main terminal since we were down the road at the general aviation terminal.  Lots of run around got us to a plane loaded with only 9, 4 of whom were Partners in Health doctors. We made it back and as excited as I was to finally meet people involved with Partners in Health it was pretty anticlimactic.

haiti relief

Today I got to sleep in…went to sleep at 9:00 last night and got up at 9:15 this morning.  Went on a walk to the store and got settled in the room that is a condo/time share marina called Sandyport donated to us for 2 weeks.  It’s ideal..3 beds/2 bath with a kitchenette.  I’m very thankful for a place to stay.  For the last 2 weeks we’ve slept at the airport, and Odyssey aviation is the FBO where we’ve based the relief efforts for the last month.  They gave us a warehouse space.  It’s a quirky space with one wall dedicated to a line of our air mattresses.  Pretty funny looking.  We now have a place just about 10 minutes away that is comfortable.  An update.  Where to begin?

The gist of the operation is that we are meeting needs through the use of general aviation.  We carry medical supplies, food/water and shelter materials (tarps, tents, sheets, etc.), listed in order of priority.  We carry passengers but it is by far the biggest challenge of everything.  We do not charge to carry passengers, as per legal reasons mostly but rely on pilots raising their own support to cover fuel costs.  We have a solid understanding as an organization that money will not be what inhibits a pilot’s willingness to serve Haiti through aviation.  Therefore, we rely on the financial support of donors.  I’m thankful to say that we have been supported solidly by many generous donors, many of who are you.  (Thank you!)

General Aviation (GA) opens many possibilities through its capability for small, pointed and flexible operation to respond almost instantly.  It’s interesting comparing the beginning of this effort to when we started growing into larger and faster aircraft.  At the beginning it was eating meager meals and going all the time.  When the bigger and faster boys came in, we found ourselves being asked to order catering for when the pilots returned and having to calculate every pound being loaded on the aircraft but able to get 2 runs to Haiti in a day as compared to the 1 by small planes.  We’ve had a few laughs about that, and learned to balance our fleet with small and larger aircraft.

One of my favorite stories is that a few weeks ago a Citation flew critical antibiotics destined for Cap Haitien, Haiti from Montgomery, AL to Ft. Lauderdale, FL by 10 am.  A few of our small aircraft met the plane and an Alabamian politician to transport them to Nassau, and from there, a Pilatus took the load to Cap Haitien in the afternoon.  I was amazed.  We didn’t even plan for it to go that quickly, we actually were excited when we planned to get it there the next day. This is the opportunity of GA.  Although seemingly inefficient as you think about how small and comparably slow the deliveries are made, small aircraft meet the needs without the red tape and provisions of large micro-organized operations.

I pray that we are getting more organized and balanced.  I think we are on our way more and more everyday but are also slapped every once in awhile when we try to do too much and get ahead of ourselves and possibly the Spirit.  A normal day:

6:45:  Breakfast for the pilots, prepared by St. Michael’s Methodist Church

7:00:  Dispatch airplanes and make final preparations for the day’s mission (fuel, load, plan, coordinate with air traffic control) 

**Flights are made both Ft. Lauderdale-Nassau and Nassau-Haiti carrying supplies**

8:30:  Pilots are out, and we (staff) coordinate pilots, planes, supplies, passengers, meeting requests of Haiti doctors and missionaries, receiving new pilots and supplies from Ft. Lauderdale and otherwise

4:00: Planes begin returning from Haiti

7:00:  Finalize the logistics for the following day

8:30/9:30:  Dinner

Abraham, Matt and I work together on all of these parts of the day.  I am usually coordinating and flying, working with people both in person and otherwise throughout the day.  I’m thankful that we all get along well and have grown to depend and support each other so critically.

The situation in Haiti is still desperate.  For the first two weeks it was constant trauma and emergency care.  Haiti is very centralized in Port au Prince (PAP) as a governmental power play and because of the port.  A parallel is if we in the USA had to drive to NYC from Tennessee to get your driver’s license.  Therefore, the country is extremely rural and undeveloped.  Many have asked if I’ve seen much damage but honestly Haiti was a desperate place well before the earthquake.  The silver lining is that this is an opportunity for a fresh start for an already hurting Haiti, even before the earth moved under its feet.  Haiti has the world’s attention.  (I can attest, we fly in sequence with Japan, Jamaica, USA, Germany, Bahamas, and others.) 

After the emergency phase, the second wave came.  Many many many people fled PAP to the outlying villages where many had family or some sort of transportation to get there.  Anywhere but PAP was good in most people’s minds.  Les Cayes (pronounced: la kii) is a city about 100 miles west of PAP with a population of about 7,500.  Within two weeks after the earthquake the population doubled. 

We are walking into the third phase now, which is the foothold for long-term partnerships and sustainable solutions.  Much of the needs that we meet are very necessary, but short-term focused.  We will continue as long as need and provision are there.  A personal hope is that the outlying cities will be strong enough to retain the influx of people and the country will grow stronger as density is dispersed.  That would mean opening more ports and a couple cities in particular, such as Cap Haitien, Jacmel and La Cayes are ideal locations to receive shipments.

Everyone involved with the Haiti relief effort are beginning to raise our heads and open our eyes to the long-term solutions and how we might contribute, if at all.  We are in a unique position here nestled in the middle of the USA and Haiti with access to so many resources such as medical personnel, aviators/planes, and incredible support from so many.  We plan to continue going daily as we have been through February at least.  Support is still strong, thankfully.  In March we have talked about having pointed missions every week, or on need basis, and go from there…we’ll see.

If you don’t have time/are done reading, thank you for your support.  Stories are coming if you are interested in the fluff, and pictures are on Facebook.  If you want to be involved, see these ways: 

1.) Pray and tell the story of Haiti’s situation.  Get in touch with the local Haitian community in your city.  I’d bet there is a lively one near you.

2.) Collect medical supplies and get it as least as far as Ft. Lauderdale.  The address is: 5320 NW 20th Terrace Ft. Lauderdale, FL 33309.   Clearly mark it for Haiti Relief c/o Bahamas Habitat.  See the needs list attached.  You may also send food: Rice, Beans, Oil and Dry Milk.  We place a high priority on medical supplies, as rice becomes very expensive rice when transported on our airplanes with limited loads.

3.) If you are a doctor, particularly a surgeon, or a pilot with an airplane and IFR rating, volunteer your time and skill.  See www.bahamashabitat.org for both sign-up forms to get you on your way to Haiti.

4.) Give financially to contribute towards fuel and operating costs.  All donations are tax-deductible, including flights made as pilots.  You may make donations through our website:www.bahamashabitat.org.

5.)  (insert creativity)  Consider long-term partnerships and sustainable contributions.  (who loves buzz words?)

The day off was really welcomed.  I’m thankful for this team who makes me feel okay about taking the time to rest and be quiet today.  A song that runs through my head a good bit is by The Swell Season called “A Love that Conquers”.  Enjoy it if you find the time to listen to it.  I know y’all are busy having babies, doing well with your businesses, loving people constantly and pursuing incredible lives.  How are you?  What has been going on in your world?  I would love to know.  I hope you take time to breathe with the confidence that God is good, His love endures forever and His strength will withstand eternally.  Love you all.