The request for prayer from a medevac patient’s family on the MAF Timor-Leste mobile phone, sent members of our staff into prayer for this family. As they responded to the request, arranged to visit the hospital and prayed for this Timorese family, there was a sense of gratefulness in our hearts. This was the moment we had dreamt, planned and worked for over the past year. Thank you God!
The majority of the flights MAF Timor-Leste does in this country are medical evacuation flights. People who are sick or injured in remote parts of the country, often need to be transported to Dili National Hospital, for further medical care that the clinics in the districts just cannot provide. Due to the rough, bumpy and unpredictable nature of Timorese roads, road travel is not possible, especially in situations when blood loss is severe, such as from a pregnancy or a severed hand. Three MAF pilots and two Gippsland Aeronautics Airvans, make it possible to provide an air ambulance service for those in most need of significant medical care.
Recently, MAF Timor-Leste experienced its busiest month ever, completing 31 medical evacuation flights, transporting 37 patients. The situation that faces our medevac passengers is a daunting one in many ways. The patients generally arrive to the plane with one family member and small bag of personal belongings, they often didn’t expect to be needing our medevac services that day. For most, this will be their first time to fly in an aeroplane and possibly even their first visit to the nation’s capital city of Dili. They may speak a different language to what is spoken in Dili and in most cases they or their family member are seriously ill. As MAF staff our hearts often ache with the scenes we see and hear about, during these medical evacuation flights. Pregnant women are the most common evacuation passengers, with complications involving blood loss occurring often. Small babies and infants who are struggling to breathe from lung conditions. Victims of trauma such as road accidents or a boy who impaled his arm on a tree branch. The reasons for the flights vary, but the response of our pilots doesn’t. As our pilots, seek to show the love of Christ to each patient and their family, during this time of tremendous distress, by transporting them to Dili and caring for them as lovingly as possible.
But as the pilots carry out these flights, their wives, who often hear the stories and pray for safe flying, especially when the weather is bad, were dreaming of something more. As MAF staff we wondered if perhaps there was something more that we could do for these medevac patients that we transport. Was there any practical needs we could meet? How could we communicate that we were praying for them in this time of illness or trauma? Was there more that we could do?
As a team, we began to talk to those we knew who worked in medical field, those who live and work in the remote districts and an idea began to form. The dream of a care package for each medical evacuated patient began, as a way to communicate to these families, that as an organisation, we were here doing God’s work, we did care about them, we were praying for them and we willing to help if there was a need.
Dreams take time to become a reality. Planning, revision
s, project proposals and funding all need to be arranged. In creating these care packs we wanted to use local services as much as possible, so we arranged for a local women’s sewing centre to create the bags and re-usable pads for us to include. The Gospel of Mark booklets needed to be sourced from a local Christian organisation. Colouring books that tell the story of Jesus in Tetun, were bought from another mission organisation. Then the supermarket needed to be tackled, with several boxes of supplies being bought for just the first month’s needs.
The MAF pilot wives, Angela, Deborah and Kim, took over the MAF office one morning as they assembled all the supplies together to create the care packs. Four slightly different packages were created, one for women, one for men, one for children and one for babies, based upon the needs of each group. A card attached to the strap of the bag says, “We are sorry for your sufferring and illness at this time, and pray that you will recover quickly. We would like to give you this gift. We hope it will bless you during your hsopital stay. If you would like someone to visit you to pray with you, please call us. We would love to hear from you again with any updates about how you or your family member are recovering from your illness.” It was so exciting when the first care packs were finally being distributed, with Aldo, our Timorese staff member giving the pack to the family with an explanation of what it was.
Not long after the care packages began being distributed we received the phone call mentioned previously. The family of a medevac patient was requesting that we come to the hospital to pray for them and the patient. Two of the MAF team, along with several other Christian friends, who are fluent in Tetun, went to the hospital and were greeted by many family members and many curious onlookers. People were interested in the “malae” or foreigners who were there to pray for this Timorese man and his family. It was a bittersweet moment for our staff, as the injured man had passed away before they arrived, but we had been given a precious opportunity to reach out and love a family in their time of sadness and need. Jesus words, recorded in Matthew 25:40 often echo in my heart as i think about the patients who we transport on our planes, “The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’
Living in a country like Timor-Leste presents you with many needs and very quickly we have come to realise that we can’t solve them all. But when we listen to the Spirit’s leading and work together with the team God has assembled to be MAF in this place, we can make a difference in the lives of many.