Today I had the distinct pleasure of flying a family of heroes to N’Djamena for their final departure to the United States after 5+ years of service. Jamie and Tammy Parker came to Béré Adventist Hospital in 2009 to serve in meeting one of the most necessary and under-appreciated needs in the mission field: maintenance director. Jamie, a plumber and all-around handyman, has been serving in that role since his arrival here. During that time, the hospital has greatly expanded, adding a total of more than a dozen buildings: new wards, volunteer staff housing, nursing school campus, etc. He has kept up with every need, from building maintenance to landscaping; electrical issues to construction. When he goes on break, the doctors and nurses have to spend their time fixing such issues rather than performing surgeries and seeing patients, which is their greater strength. Without Jamie, the hospital could not have grown nor continued to provide the care it does.
While Jamie has been working hard at the hospital, Tammy has been a huge advocate for women and children. She spent years working with the local Adventist school, striving to ensure the kids received a quality, truly Christian education. She ran numerous programs, from providing formula for children under 6 months to mothers unable to breast feed, to helping truly needy families pay their medical bills, and dozens more. She would go to the people where they were at, and find those who truly needed God’s hand of comfort and support. She is well-loved in the community because of her care. She lives a life of championing the cause of widows and orphans.
Over the past several months, God has been making it clear to them that their time in Chad has come to an end. They searched every avenue, and God has given them the peace that it was time to go back to the States, for now. As a thank-you for their work in Chad, I gave them a flight to the capital to catch their continuing flight onward.
We met at the airport this morning, I having already loaded most of the baggage the night before. Danae came down with the hospital children, including the 4 Chadian boys the Parkers “took in” as their own. We gathered together, prayed, and they said their tearful goodbyes. As we loaded into the plane, Lyol and Zane, the Netteburgs’ two sons, stepped out of the crowd to say one last goodbye, “Peace out, dude!” Tammy’s tears told the story of an inside joke. I cleared the area around the propeller, making sure all children were accounted for by the hangar, and went to start the engine: nothing. Since my last flight, the battery must have drained, so we didn’t have juice to start it. We tried our jumper cables attached to the car, but there was minimal indication of a change. Needing to get going so they wouldn’t miss their commercial flight this afternoon, we took off the top cowling around the engine, installed a new battery and gave it a whirl: success! We re-placed the cowling, loaded up, and rolled out to the runway an hour and a half past schedule.
After takeoff, we turned north over the hospital. I circled around it for them to get one final look at their home for the past 5 years, then we continued on to N’Djamena. As we went, we were watching the arrival time: we were cutting it a little close, but we should still be okay. Nearing the destination, I was asked to circle to permit time for an arrival to land; it was their Ethiopian flight arriving! I kept circling and circling until, finally, I was cleared to the approach. After landing, I rushed them in to the terminal, where they were able to check in with minimal (for Chad) hassle and made it on to their departing flight. Throughout all the potential for stress, however, Tammy’s words, spoken at the start of our troubles, stood strong in my ear and my heart. “You know what?” she said, “I know this will be fine, I’m not worried about it. ‘Everything works together for the good of those who love Him.’ Even if we miss our flight, God will take care of us.” Their faith is a true, sincere trust in God that I hope to have one day too.
The Parkers return to Tennessee, still unsure (at the time of this writing) what God has in store for them. They go home to their two kids, Cory and Brichelle, who have spent the past year in the US for school. Though they will be missed here, we are excited to see and hear what God has planned for their lives now. They stand strong as people of God, dedicated to His calling. They did all He put before them with all their heart. They used their talents to grow and further the cause of God. They are heroes. And it has been such a privilege to know them, and to be able to provide some of these last memories for their time in Chad. We pray that God continue to bless them.
Epilogue: My plane continued to have issues, and I am grounded for the night, lodged with a very generous family from Mission Aviation Fellowship. I expect to have it up and running tomorrow afternoon to fly Nutrition Center formula supplies and the school’s vice-principle (a friend of the Parkers) back down to Béré. I wish I had more maintenance experience. We need a full-time mechanic…