Christmas Rush in Cameroon

Friday After dropping off our truck to get bigger bumpers fitted, I began the day with a pleasant two-mile walk to work—the only calm moments of this day and several to come. As flight coordinator, it was up to me to process all the scheduling, pricing, booking, billing, and paperwork. One canceled or rescheduled flight can affect everything. By 2 p.m. I’d written 14 emails to people from all over the world who were requesting our flight services. I also made numerous phone calls, besides purchasing eight live chickens as Christmas presents for our Cameroonian friends. The number of communications and details I was trying to efficiently intertwine stretched my abilities.

Just after 5 p.m., when a fellow pilot and I started thinking about calling it a day, we got a request from a church leader needing a flight the next morning. Instead of heading home, we unloaded 700 pounds of cargo that had been preloaded for Monday’s flight.

So long, quiet weekend!

Saturday I made my first flight in Cameroon without a co-pilot—all on my own to aviate, navigate, communicate, and negotiate with airport officialdom. Arriving at the hangar at 5:30 a.m., I began the routine pre-flight inspection. Soon all that remained was checking the fuel on board. I pulled the knob to drain a little fuel into the inspection bottle and … nothing. Is the fuel valve shut off? Nope. Try again. Nothing. You’ve got to be kidding! Try once more. It became clear that instead of being airborne in 20 minutes, I’d be in the middle of a maintenance project. Soon I discovered the problem: an insect had made a nest inside the fuel drain tube. So instead of being 50 minutes ahead of schedule, I was now 20 minutes behind. No worries, the day was still young, and I enjoyed the flight over vast forests and huge rock formations. I made it to my destination without any trouble and also managed to navigate through each government office.

Sunday Thankfully, I enjoyed a well-deserved day of rest with my family.

Monday This morning I had another “oh-dark-thirty” start. First task: reload the cargo we had unloaded Friday evening, 14 boxes of New Testaments. They had just been printed in time for a people group in northern Cameroon to read the Christmas story in their language—for the first time. Dropping off the books and picking up the translator required almost four and one-half hours of flying over vast areas of wild land. What would I do if the GPS were to quit working right now? echoed from my training and kept running through my mind.

It was a privilege to provide transport, too, for the man who had first gone to this unreached people group in the late ’70s. He was returning to celebrate the dedication of the New Testament, which, by the way, was not publicized due to religious persecution in the area.

Tuesday Christmas Eve day was the first time that our family would travel all together by small airplane. By 8 a.m. we were on our way to the North West region to celebrate Christmas with good friends. About 30 minutes prior to landing, I was informed over VHF radio that an additional medical evacuation flight was necessary. A 10-year-old Fulani girl had fallen into a well and badly fractured her skull. So I delivered my family and took off again to transport the girl to a Baptist hospital. A few weeks later I spent the night at the surgeon’s home and learned that her skull fracture was the worst he’d ever seen. Without the medical evacuation, the girl would have died on Christmas Eve. Instead, one week later, she walked out of the hospital perfectly healthy and normal.

Thus concluded some of the busiest, most rewarding work days I’ve ever had. I love my job and am honored to be involved in bringing God’s Word to “every nation, tribe, people and language” (Revelation 7:9).

This article first appeared in the March 2014 Centerline newsletter.  All photos by Rodney Ballard.

Brandon Penkoff

Brandon, his wife, Rachel, and twin daughters, completed French studies in 2012 and now serve in Cameroon, Africa. …