Forget a car. Ginny Bradley often hitches a ride to work in a helicopter.
Ginny has served in Cameroon for over 40 years as a translation consultant. Most recently she has been checking the M* and Mati* projects. The six language teams of the M project finished translating their New Testaments last year! And the M people now have their New Testaments, in part, due to the helicopter.
Mark Spangler, a JAARS-trained helicopter pilot for Cameroon SIL, often flew Ginny from the village where she lived to the village of Lida* to work with the M teams. For each visit, the flight saved her about six hours of travel on rough roads. There wasn’t an airstrip in the area, but the helicopter could land in a field near the church where the training would occur.
The helicopter has also helped keep Ginny safe when she couldn’t drive between two villages because the roads were blocked due to unrest. Although the helicopter pilot wasn’t familiar with the area, they arrived safely at the village. As the pilot circled over the town before landing, they could see the whole population had gathered below. “The helicopter made it possible for me to make the risky trip and to arrive safely and quickly at my destination,” Ginny said.
Ginny was most grateful for the helicopter and its well-trained pilot, though, when she flew to two other locations to work with the translation teams. “It’s not very far to drive there, but [the roads] are quite rough. As I get older, the wear and tear of driving my vehicle gets heavier. So it has been a great energy saver to use the helicopter to travel. I arrive feeling ready to work, and it probably saves a day’s worth of work to have that energy.”
When civil unrest rose in the northwest part of Cameroon, Ginny had to relocate to Yaoundé, the capital city. The four translation teams of the Mati project, overseen by CABTAL**, are still translating the New Testament, but they’ve also had to move out of their home area due to the conflict. Ginny has only met with them once to check their translations during the last year and a half, a trip made possible by helicopter transport.
Mark Spangler flew Ginny to meet the Mati translation team in a remote village. The helicopter journey of about 1 1/2 hours saved her at least 14 hours of driving on rough roads and from using unreliable public transport prone to breakdowns. “It was worth the part I paid to take it,” Ginny said.
At first the village authorities were surprised to see them. Although the local church authority had informed the correct official of their coming, it hadn’t been communicated to the local authorities. They questioned Mark and Ginny about who they were and what they were doing there. “I much appreciated Mark’s calm handling of the situation,” Ginny reflected. In the end, there was no real problem, just a request to be informed if and when the helicopter came again.
The villagers, however, were delighted that such a special event had happened in their village! They were thrilled when Ginny told them that the name of their village was now known at the airport in Yaoundé, since the pilot had named the village as his destination when they left. The translation team and Ginny were both exceedingly glad that during their two-week session they finished checking the entire Gospel of Luke—the first translated Scripture that the people have in their language. “This trip was a good encouragement for Ginny and for the rest of the [translation] team,” Mark said.
In order to provide the most relevant training for pilots like Mark, JAARS is currently seeking to acquire an R66 helicopter to replace the R44 they currently use for training in Waxhaw.
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*Name changed or omitted for security reasons
**Cameroon Association for Bible Translation