Friday, December 25, 2015

Mission Trip and the Drug Police

Bolivia Mission Aviation Newsletter 
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In mid-October, some of the missionaries who live here on the property, went by land two days travel to do mission work along the river Mamore, in the northern floodplains of Bolivia. Some of us also went by airplane to meet up with these missionaries, where we did health work alongside them. I took a dentist, and doctor, along with Saray and Miah, and flew to the small town of San Joaquin. We then traveled by pickup truck to the even smaller town of Puerto Siles, situated along the river, where the rest of the missionaries were traveling back to from doing work along the river. That same Friday afternoon a health fair was held at the town medical building.

Dozens of towns people showed up to receive medical attention, and hear about nutrition, exercise, good hygiene, and most importantly the gospel.  A lot of them were there for the dentist alone. One man told me that they had no dentist around these parts. Many received free literature, including bibles. The children received tooth brushes. A few wondered when we would be back as there was not simply enough time to fit everybody in to see the dentist. Currently there are plans to return in January if funds are available to bring in the dentist again.
We spent Sabbath in the town of San Joaquin with the group, and on Sunday put on a health fair at the town plaza. Many people came out to hear what the missionaries had to say. Again the doctor, dentist, nurses, and physical therapist were on hand to give treatment and advice.  It was a very satisfying experience to see so many receive the health message alongside the gospel. We hope to make these trips more often in the near future.
Shortly after our mission trip, I woke up one morning to armed men walking around our property. They were dressed in military outfits and had automatic weapons. As I looked out my bedroom window, I was motioned to come outside. Leaving the house, I saw that one of the men was already talking to Steve. I joined the conversation and asked what they were doing here. They told me that they were investigation a report of armed men not allowing people to cross a property. I was suspicious of his answer as I knew right away that they were the drug police by the FELCN logo on their fatigues.

We were asked all kinds of questions like, “who do these airplanes belong to?”, “is this a legal runway?”, “what do you guys do with these airplanes?”  They began looking though our airplanes, taking pictures and calling people to verify our answers. We were all a bit nervous, as you can never trust the drug police. We had all heard the stories of people having drugs planted on them, or being falsely accused of transporting drugs, and in a country like Bolivia, being an outsider, things tend to go against you much easier. Never the less we were kind to them; we showed them around and talked to them about our project. They spent much of the morning asking questions until they got hungry and broke for lunch.

A little later they were back, this time with a trail of reporters and cameramen that wanted to get the scoop on the presumed drug bust, happening in their very own back yard! We live not too far from the the large city of Santa Cruz, a place infamous for drug trafficking.  Just a few days earlier the drug police had busted a drug lab down the road from where we live. Now they had stumbled upon our newly opened runway, airplanes, and our hanger that was hidden from view of the neighbors, in order to provide extra security. These things only added to the intrigue of what was going on at our air base.

The lead officer said our runway and airplanes were clear, but with the exception of our one airplane that had not been flying due to maintenance reasons, it would need to undergo additional testing in order for them to be sure it was not involved in any illegal activity. So they taped the doors shut, and ordered a micro-aspirasion test of the airplane. The test consists of vacuuming to collect dust particles and testing them in a lab to see if the airplane ever had any drugs on board. To get the test done and the results back took several weeks.

The Drug Police surrounded the airplanes and began asking questions.
Young mother with back problems flown to Santa Cruz for treatment.
The following is a short list of what our main goals are for the upcoming year.  Please add them to your prayer list when you have a chance. Your prayers and support are greatly appreciated.

Bolivia Mission Aviation Goals
  1. January 2016-Funds to fly a team to San Joaquin for more work along the river Mamore-$800
  2. February 2016-Paperwork to nationalize the Cessna 182 Turbo and have unrestricted access to all airports in Bolivia-$1500
  3. March 2016-Obtain my Bolivian pilots license in order to fly our Bolivian registered airplane-$4000

If you feel impressed to help with any of these needs, please contact me directly. Donations are tax deductible. If you have any further questions, please feel free to contact me.

If you would like to be a part of something like this, either personally involved, or a financial contributor, please contact me.
The negative news hit the TV airwaves that evening. It was reported that a secret runway had been discovered and the police were investigating. Thankfully, since we did not talk to the reporters, they did not know who we were, so they could not link us to the drug investigation. I hoped that things would calm down, and once the results came back as negative, it would all be forgotten. Even so, I prayed that the police would not try and taint the results to get things to swing their way and possibly confiscate our airplane. It’s the Lord airplane I prayed, He will protect it.

Things did calm down. I heard nothing from the drug police or the investigation. We began to seek answers from our test on the airplane. I called the investigator and he assured me that things would turn out alright. Around this time, one of our airplanes needed a renewal of permission to operate in Bolivia. When we asked civil aviation for it, we were flatly denied. They told us that it came to their attention that we were operating one of our airplanes illegally, and thus they could do nothing until the problem was resolved.

We sent our people to inquire from within. They told us that civil aviation had told the drug police that we had an unregistered airplane in the system. After they investigated the matter further themselves, they realized they had made a mistake. But that now they could not retract their mistake because it would make them look bad. Unbelievable!  Long story short, our people were able to get the results on our micro-aspiracion and submit the results claiming our innocence. A few days later we were out of the muck, and breathing a sigh of relief that the Lord helped us though yet another day in Bolivia, that if Satan had his way, could have brought us down.
Flying an unconscious patient on oxygen and artificial respiration for the length of the flight.
Even with all that commotion, we still needed to make our flights. One of those flights involved a man who had suffered a stoke and needed to be transported to be near his family. Two medics were needed, as well as oxygen and artificial breathing be performed for the entire trip. I was able to squeeze the two medics into our Mooney with the patient laying on his back, plus the oxygen tank underneath them. It was quite the flight as we bounced around bad weather for a couple hours. Landing at our destination in Cobija, I was grateful to see help on the ramp to get the patient out. As he was unconscious, it took several men to get him into the airplane and situated, and it would take just as many to get him back out!

Later I received a call to pick up a patient that was bedridden due to a damaged back after a cesarean delivery. She was in great pain and needed specialized attention in Santa Cruz. Steve pulled the seat out of our Cessna 182, and I was able to lay her down in the back of the airplane on a stretcher. This time we had plenty on room, as our Cessna has a much larger cabin than the Mooney.

As the calls come in, and the flights are made, I can’t help but wonder how good God has been to us. To have two airplanes operating, and soon a third one, is a great blessing indeed. I can’t stop thinking in amazement what great things the Lord has in store for Bolivia Mission Aviation this next year. Already we are looking forward to having Steve Wilson and family based with as airplane near the school in Guayaramerin, early next year. I am also looking forward to begin flying in the altiplano, and help the ongoing work already established there.
Thank you for your prayers and financial support!
Herman Gonzalez
Chief Pilot
Santa Cruz, Bolivia

Herman Gonzalez
Gospel Ministries International
Project Name: Bolivia Mission Aviation
874 South McDonald, TN 37353
1 (423) 473-1841 or 1 (423) 473-1842


Bolivia Mission Aviation · Km.14 Carretera a Camiri · Santa Cruz · Bolivia

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