A Year of Blessing

2011 December 23

Dear friends and family,

The year 2011 has gone by quickly in our minds. It was full of challenges, yet full of blessings. We thought we would share a summary of the year and our plans for next year.

I'll go ahead an include a few important notes from 2010. Melody and I were married November 7! After our honeymoon we finished packing our suitcases and arrived in Chad December 15.

A few days after our arrival, we went down to Mondou to help unload a container of medical equipment and supplies for the Bere hospital. We were excited about this because some of our equipment and supplies were in there as well. Various donors and family had arranged for this equipment to be loaded months before, and we were excited to finally see some of our things. Some of the things we unloaded were my aircraft mechanic tool set, an full-size keyboard, solar panels and batteries, canned fruit and vegetables, 12V freezer and fridge, some books, hardware (bolts/nuts/screws/etc), and my telescope. These things have made a huge difference in life here and have made it a lot more comfortable. As God wills, we are here on a long-term commitment and we thank all the donors who contributed to the things in this container.

Phase one of our perimeter wall around our property is now complete. The wall is about six feet tall, about a half a mile long and is made from fired mud brick and mud mortar. This is perhaps one of the biggest improvements to enable us to work more efficiently. Now, instead of people wandering in all day and disrupting the work, we have work hours. Our guard manages people who come during work hours. Also, because the goats and pigs and horses and donkeys and cows and everything else do not freely roam the property anymore, we have been able to plant a small garden and an orchard. Issues of theft also diminish when everybody and his brother are not allowed to walk through the work site surveying what is available to steal.

Fruit is usually scarce, so we decided to invest in planting an orchard. The trees are about $1 each at a local gardener's house. The trees are mostly doing well. We planted custard apple (one of those slime-on-seed fruits), cashew, lime, orange, grapefruit, mango, and guava trees. Limes are plentiful during the lime season here. While sometimes we can get imported oranges or grapefruit, I do not know of any orange or grapefruit trees growing locally, so we decided to try growing some. Melody planted a bunch of papayas early this year and several of them are producing fruit already.

We erected a total of seven One-day Church structures this year. The first two were for small, but growing congregations in villages south of us. One of those is the Dabgue church were we attend every week. The other two churches were erected west of us. The most memorable was the one we erected in the small village of Congo 4 during the rainy season. Because of heavy rains and flooding, we had to slog about 5 kilometers through rice fields to get to ground solid enough to use a moto. Each congregation is happy to now have a permanent place to meet. We have a number of locations with requests for a church structure and will continue working with the mission office to place these churches in areas of need.

The other three One-day Church structures were erected on the nutrition center property and will hopefully soon serve as office, consultation rooms, dormitory, kitchen, and classrooms. The new well and outhouse are both functional now. Two of the structures have walls and construction on the walls of the third structure is scheduled to begin next week.

Work on Gary's house has been slow. Frankly speaking, I think we made a mistake when designing the house. While the house was designed for maximizing cooling airflow, neither Gary nor I understood how complicated the roof structure would be. It has caused us much headache, taking much time for welding and a lot of steel. Yet at this point, we can't just abandon the project. So we are pressing on. The complicated phase is nearly finished, and the tin roof is mostly installed. Interior plaster is mostly complete. One important lesson I have learned from this: future projects will be primarily local style with relatively simple designs.

The "Jericho house" is an example of what we have learned. It is a cute little house built along the perimeter wall - one bedroom, a small kitchen, and a porch. It is a multi-purpose building suitable for housing or as community kitchen or as a place for our translator to work. For now, it will serve as temporary housing for another missionary couple currently with us short-term. Most of the labor was hired out to locals. This project took about three months.

For most of this year, the airplane hanger project has been on hold. We made a contract with an engineer in Ndjamena, but he has turned out to be dishonest. He erected an unsafe structure using steel that was too thin. Then he left the scene and is refusing to provide the rest of the materials to finish the project. Thankfully, God has provided us with a solution through another engineer from South Africa. He and his wife are here for three months with the goal to reinforce and finish the main structural parts of the hanger. We are happy to see this project finally moving forward again after being at a standstill for nearly two years.

I have been gaining some flight experience this year, little by little. By early 2012 I should log my 500th hour. After this, I should have the flexibility of doing some flights on my own. We can then be a little more flexible and efficient in our flight program here.

This year the focus has been largely on construction. In Africa, so many things take longer than expected. At times this is cause for frustration, because it is so easy to lose sight of the long-term goals. Next year, construction will continue, but we hope to finish major construction within the compound by end of second quarter. Then we can focus more on direct ministry projects such as nutrition center and Bible school. As we come into a new year, we are laying out plans and goals. Some of our work now is leading up to these goals. Below are some examples of some non-construction activities that we have been doing this year and some ideas for next year.

Gary and I flew our little airplane to South Sudan just a couple days before it officially became a new country. We visited with the government officials there to investigate their invitation to start a medical aviation program there. We saw a great need and the doors wide open to start another aviation ministry in that country. During the rainy season, vast areas flood and isolate villages from outside help. If an epidemic comes through, they have no way of getting medications or medical help. With a small airplane, many villages could be reached efficiently both with medical help and with the gospel. We cannot fill the need there at the moment, but we are praying that God will supply a person or a couple and an airplane to start the project there as soon as possible.

We have continued with the weekly Bible study group, averaging about six people. We study topics that they wrestle with including questions such as: How do we act under a corrupt government? Why does the school system teach that Sunday is the seventh day of the week when the Bible teaches Sabbath is the seventh day of the week? What are spirits, and why are they powerful? Which law was nailed to the cross - God's eternal law or the ceremonial law? As we study together, I enjoy trying to lead people to make their own decisions based on what is in the Bible, and watching their surprise as they discover that the Bible really does address everyday issues they face in life.

Land has been donated for a Bible school in a village about a 15 minute flight away. We are waiting for some paperwork issues to clear on that project before we begin construction.

God has blessed us through a donor who found us two French concordances. Rather than wait to construct a building for the Bible research center, I will make these and some other material available on a loan basis for people to use and study. Maybe it will be the start of our resource library for the Bible research center.

Please pray for God's leading and that He will open the right doors at the right time for a French radio broadcast.

Before the wall was constructed we experienced almost daily visits from people begging for food or work or money or help with hospital bills. Often, we would just give a bit of money or write a note to the hospital promising to pay the bill and send the people on their way. The people really like this and as time went on, more and more people started visiting us until sometimes I would spend an entire day just dealing with people. We came to the realization that in many cases, we were not really helping, but creating a dependency. While some of the people are truly needy, some others present to us sad stories that are untrue. For now as we go into the new year, we are trying out a new system that doesn't help as many people short term, but should help them long-term. Before assisting anybody in a significant way with food or money, we visit with them at their home and try to talk to their local chief to verify the story. Then, instead of merely giving them a handout, we will try to teach them something they can do to help themselves. Almost anybody can pick palm leaves for free in the bush, weave a mat or basket, and sell it. They can buy a large sack of charcoal and resell it at a profit. They can buy raw sweet potatoes, fry them, and resell them at a profit. We hope to help them with creative ideas to become and remain independant.

One category of needy people are the elderly and babies who are sick and need urgent medical attention or surgery. Many people have eye problems like cataracts, but do not have the money to travel to another country to do the operation. There is no way we can help everybody who needs help. But if you would like to contribute to this fund specifically, please mark "needy fund" on the donation slip.

This email has become long, so I will end it for now. Thank you for your continued prayers and support throughout this year. The project is primarily run on funds that God provides through donors. We are all volunteers without salary, yet God is faithful to provide for our needs and often, even our wants! Please continue to pray for us. If you would like to know more specifically how to help as a volunteer or financially, please visit our website: http://www.africaaviationministry.org/howtohelp.html

We praise God from Whom all blessings flow. He spared Melody's life when she was severely ill for two weeks with malaria back in August, and has kept us mostly healthy through the year. We have so much to be thankful for. We give God all the credit for the progress and ministry here.

Merry Christmas!

In His service,
Jonathan and Melody Dietrich

Jonathan and Melody