My Testimony

My story is initially fairly typical for a child who grew up in a Christian family.  I gave my heart to the Lord at a young age and grew up in the church, attending Sunday school every Sunday and vacation Bible schools over the years.  When I entered my teenage years, I became involved in the youth group at my church.  It was during this time, one Friday night, in the summer of 1997, I attended a youth rally and first felt God calling me to full time service as a missionary in Africa.  At the time, being sixteen years old, I really wasn't interested in ever being a missionary and the thought of moving to Africa was terrifying.  I left the church that night and brushed it off as nothing, however, over the next couple of years, God solidified this calling and by the end of high school, I was certain that God wanted me to serve as a missionary in Africa.

However, there was one major problem: I didn't want to do it.  I was adamant in not becoming a missionary and so upon graduating from high school, I decided to pursue my plans for my life and not God’s.  This involved attending York University where I majored in Biology as I aspired for a career in a field such as optometry or pharmacy.  During my second year though, God began to challenge me about my motives for what I was doing and where I was headed with my life.  For the first time, I had to admit to myself that I was living my life for me and came to a point where I had to make a conscious decision as to whether I was going to continue living for myself or whether I was going to live for God, knowing full well that meant becoming a missionary and going to Africa. 

At that point, I had to truly dedicate my life to God and agreed to follow whatever it was that He had planned for me.  Not long after I made that decision, the fears and reservations that I had about following God’s calling on my life began to dissipate and God began to replace them with a burden on my heart to serve and do whatever I could to help spread the Gospel to the very ends of the earth.

However, I wasn't sure what I could do as a missionary, as I didn't see myself as a pastor or Bible translator, so I decided to finish my degree to give myself some time to think about it.  During my last year of university, I began searching for various programs at Bible colleges and stumbled across the world of missionary aviation.  Though I had never considered or been interested in a career in aviation before, when I first learned about missionary pilots and how they would fly other missionaries and cargo in and out of the most remote areas in the world, it seemed like such a natural fit for my talents and strengths.  I began to search for schools that offered an aviation program and decided to go to Providence Bible College in Manitoba.

I began at Providence in the fall of 2003 and fell in love with flying very quickly.  I was very much enjoying my time there, however, when I returned after Christmas that first year, I began having some pains in my lower back, which drove me to see a doctor.  After a few tests and seeing a number of doctors, I was diagnosed with cancer on January 23, 2004. 

I left the doctor’s office despondent and angry.   I felt like God had abandoned me.  I had thought that God had some sort of plan for my life, that I was going to become a pilot, be a missionary and go to Africa.  However, having just been diagnosed with cancer, it suddenly felt like that was all just wishful thinking.  How could cancer possibly be a part of any plan?  My life was a farce and God didn't have a plan for me.  I was never going to become a pilot, never going to be a missionary and never going to go to Africa. 

The next day I returned to Toronto to begin treatment.  After picking me up at the airport, my parents took me to see our family doctor, who confirmed the diagnosis.  As we drove home from the doctor’s office, I began to reflect upon the decision I had made to completely follow Christ.  I realized that this didn't just entail where I was going to go in life and what I was going to do, but also included giving all of myself, even my very life, back to God.  I silently prayed that although I didn't understand why this was happening and even though I didn't really like it, I was going to trust that God would use me for His glory, even if it meant that I needed to die at 22 years old with cancer.  I completely surrendered my entire life to God that day and He truly provided me with a peace that passes all understanding that very moment.  Instantly, every fear, care, worry and all anxiety washed away as I said “Amen”.

Two days later, I was in surgery to remove the main tumor.  After that, further tests revealed that the cancer had spread to lymph nodes in my abdomen, which required a second, major surgery.  Although that surgery was successful, the doctors still recommended that I go through chemotherapy treatment, as a preventative measure.  After six weeks of chemotherapy, the doctors were happy with my condition and I was able to return to Bible college that fall and resume my training.

Over the next year, I completed my flight training and achieved my commercial pilot licence.  After finishing at Providence, I began training for aircraft maintenance at Centennial College in Toronto for two years, which led to a job building aircraft for another year.  During this year, I was uncertain as to how I was going to get the necessary real-world flight experience and flight hour minimums generally required by mission organizations.  Mission Aviation Fellowship (MAF), who knew I was interested in working with them, surprisingly approached me in early 2008 about an opportunity that had come up, to serve as a co-pilot in Botswana with an organization called Flying Mission for two years.  With this opportunity, I would gain the necessary flight experience that MAF requires for their career pilots.

I was excited about this opportunity and quickly began preparing myself to meet the qualifications needed for this position.  This included needing to achieve my multi-engine and Instrument Rating in a short amount of time, which was going to be very difficult.  I wasn’t sure how I was going to do this, but God opened the doors at just the right time for it to happen.  

Myself (right) and one of our captains, Jon Bell, with the Flying Mission Air Ambulance
However, my departure date was pushed back a couple of times for various reasons.  Though I was initially suppose to leave in July 2008, after these delays, my departure for Africa as bumped back to January 2009.  MAF did my booking for me and sent me my airline ticket.  The departure day on my ticket was January 21, 2009, not a particularly special day, yet it took two days to travel to Botswana.  I quickly realized that the day I was landing in Botswana was January 23, 2009, exactly five years to the day that I was diagnosed with cancer.  Exactly five years to the day where I felt that God had abandoned me, the He didn't have a plan for my life, that I would never become a pilot, never be a missionary, and never go to Africa, I landed as a pilot and as a missionary in Africa.  To me, this was God’s testament that He was always in control, that He did indeed have a plan all along and that He most certainly never abandoned me five years earlier. 

Picking up a Patient in Tsabong, Botswana, in the Kalahari Desert
When I arrived in Botswana, I started working with Flying Mission who used King Air aircraft to fly medical evacuations from the smaller, more remote villages throughout the country, transporting patients to the larger cities or to South Africa for treatment.  

An Occasional "Perk" of the Job: Getting to Fly Over Victoria Falls
In 2011, I completed my two years and returned to Canada.  At that time, I felt I could still use some more experience flying, particularly as the pilot-in-command, as opposed to co-pilot, before returning with MAF full time.  Flying in remote areas of Africa can be very challenging and I wanted to make sure that I had the necessary skills and proficiency before doing that.  My initial plan was that I would find a job here in Canada, however that proved more challenging than I anticipated, and I went a year after returning without being able to find an aviation job.

Flying in Northern Canada: A little different than flying in Southern Africa
At this point, MAF again approached me about another organization here in Canada, called LAMP, which was in need of a pilot for the summer of 2012.  I spoke to Ron Ludke, the Executive Director of LAMP, and agreed to help them for the summer, as they did ministry in the most remote, northern communities of Ontario, Manitoba, Saskatchewan, and British Columbia.  The very next day after that phone call, I received a call with a job offer from one of the companies I was really hoping to work for.  I felt that God was really opening up the door to work with LAMP and that this job offer was nothing more than temptation, so I declined the offer even though my work with LAMP was only suppose to be for the summer, after which I would be unemployed again.

LAMP's Airplanes in Thompson, MB
LAMP’s primary ministry is to put on Vacation Bible’s Schools for children throughout the summer.  As many communities in the North are only accessible by aircraft, I fly LAMP’s personnel to and from the communities they need to go.  Midway through that first summer, LAMP asked me to continue with them in a full-time capacity as their Director of Flight Operations, which I accepted.

VBS in Northern Manitoba

In the fall of 2012, I moved to Edmonton and have been serving with LAMP since then.  I still feel called to serve in Africa and I hope at some point God will open the door to return, however, I don’t know when and where that will be.  At the moment, I feel as though God may have me working in the north much longer than I ever anticipated, but I am very happy to be serving with LAMP in my own country until God leads me elsewhere.

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