Wednesday, April 9, 2014


On the afternoon of February 26, the aviation department was notified that an emergency beacon belonging to a translation team was transmitting a distress signal. The signal originated some kilometers off the coast of the remote island where this particular team was allocated—only 64 miles south of the equator.

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The aviation team promptly gathered open water rescue equipment and medical supplies and readied one of the Kodiaks. After a quick call home, I (Jon) jumped on board the aircraft with three other crew members and flew to the coordinates last transmitted by the emergency beacon. En route, we received more information over the radio and the pilot set up a search grid over the open water. Unfortunately, our destination was a couple of hours away and we wouldn’t have much daylight left to search.

When we reached the search area, the pilot descended to optimal search altitude and decreased our speed. With two sets of eyes to the front and two at the back, we spotted several boats and lots of debris but not the translation team. At dusk, we landed with heavy hearts on a neglected WW2 airstrip on a nearby island.

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Several locals met us as we climbed out of the aircraft. We learned that members of the translation team were receiving assistance at the local medical clinic. Praise the Lord!

Later, I learned that the team’s vessel had capsized in the rough sea midway between two islands. After many hours in the water, they miraculously made it to shore. We figure they swam over nine miles, and we thank God for sparing their lives.

We spent the night on this remote island and enjoyed the wonderful hospitality of the local people. I was humbled by their generosity and kindness to us strangers. The next morning, we loaded the translation team onto the aircraft and returned to Ukarumpa.

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Jon’s host showing off his unfinished dugout canoe

The whole rescue was an emotional roller-coaster ride and I’m grateful to God that the experience had a happy ending. The credit for that goes entirely to God. We can be as prepared as possible for emergencies, but when you’re flying over miles and miles of nothing but ocean, you quickly realize only our great God could pull of a rescue like this one.

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