This year began in some turmoil in Chad, as the government responded to changes in the Covid situation both domestically and globally. In early January, restrictions across the country were tightened with very short notice; ground and air travel were halted, and the capital city put in ‘confinement’ for an undefined period.
This left some of our partners stranded and without transport options. ‘One missionary had gone to a town in the east for Christmas and couldn’t get back, ‘ explains Ops Manager and Pilot Becki Dillingham. ‘Another family had planned to come down by road but obviously with the closure of everything, they couldn’t, and they had no idea how long this might last.’
For that family, missionaries Ethan and Sierra and their young son, the situation wasn’t just an inconvenience, but something with significant implications.
Sierra explains further. ‘Living out in a remote village has many challenges and aspects that require trust in our Almighty God. However, with trust comes wisdom and preparedness. My family lives in a village that is a long, rugged two-day drive from the capital city. One of my biggest concerns as a wife and mother is what will happen if a medical emergency requires immediate evacuation. We are so grateful that in the last two years of living remotely, we have not needed such services. Regardless, it brings much comfort in knowing there is the option to call MAF and have them come to get us in an emergency.
Recently, we faced a need to utilize MAF services in a way that we never dreamed of. We are pregnant with our second child and had been planning on driving to the capital to give birth there. However, two days before our planned departure, the government ordered the land border of the capital to be closed to incoming and outgoing traffic starting four hours after the order was released. They also said that the airport was being shut down with four days’ notice. After living in this country for almost two years, we knew one thing: That we didn’t know anything. There was no telling how long these orders would be in place and how strictly they would be enforced. Considering we lived so remotely with no medical care, we were very concerned about getting our family to the capital where there would be trustworthy care to help deliver our baby.
We began conversations with the MAF team and they shared their concerns about the government not allowing them to fly domestically once the airport was shut down. By this time, we had one day left to fly. It was a weekend and they typically don’t fly on Sundays, but the pilot and staff were fully onboard to work long and hard to help us.’
Gratitude for Safety
As the deadline for closure loomed ever nearer, MAF was not the only operator scrambling to complete flights. ‘The airport on that Sunday was absolutely manic,’ reports Becki. ‘Everybody was there, the skies were heaving.’
‘The day they flew out to pick us up, I was so filled with gratitude to have a safe and effective way to get our family to the capital,’ Sierra continues. ‘I was also giddy with excitement because I grew up hearing about MAF through my church and missionaries my parents supported, and now here I was getting to be the one blessed and served by this incredible organization! I will never forget the gratitude and relief I felt as we landed on the airstrip in the capital.’
The Covid restrictions also include a curfew, which had to be factored into the timings for the day. After returning to the MAF hangar, Becki had to make sure Ethan and Sierra were able to collect their bags, complete Arrivals procedures, and travel to their accommodation before it was too late. She also had to ensure she could put away the plane, complete the paperwork and get herself home. Although it was tight, everyone was safely back where they should be by the time curfew started.