Philipp, Lia, and their two children (originally from Switzerland) have lived in the Ramingining, Arnhem Land community for four years now after being guided by God to move out of Gove. Philipp serves as a Missionary Aviation Fellowship (MAF) pilot and has been given opportunities to invest in people simply by being available to them – he is known in the community as the man who fixes broken cell phones for free. Lia spends most of her time at home or with the kids at school. She enjoys Bible studies and learning about the lives of the ladies she meets from the community. She also gives free lessons on baking bread and birthday cakes. One of their favorite verses comes from Micah 6:8 – “He has shown you, O man, what is good; And what does the LORD require of you to act justly, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God?”
A slow day came to an end in Ramingining. I had been working from home and was about to walk to the car to drive to the airport. I had left the plane ready to fly all day, although I had not booked any flights. Now it was time to lock it up again for the night.
My work number rang, and I saw that it came from the pay phone of a small homeland on the other side of the swamp from Arafura. It was Michelle. She lives in Mirrngatja to take care of her father. We regularly fly in clinic teams, and some locals visit the community to shop. Michelle sounded anxious and immediately asked if it was too late to flee. My first thought was to tell her I could easily pick her up in the morning to run errands, but she continued, “…because we have an emergency. A crocodile bit Kelvin!” Everything changed. I told her to hold the line while I told my wife, Lia, to contact the local clinic. Michelle didn’t have the Ramingining clinic number, so she got the Lake Evella clinic from where the home clinic visits came in. Shortly after, Lake Evella’s clinic manager called to confirm the flight and asked me to bring some clinic staff to provide first aid.
I checked my weather forecast again and confirmed I had about an hour to do the tour. I assured Michelle I would have enough time to pick up and bring two nurses. She would have to find a way to take Kelvin to the runway, only about 500 yards, as we wouldn’t have time to walk in and back. They had already organized a small ATV from the rangers stationed there.
The Techand family
I reached the airport a little after 5 pm and got the plane ready to fly. I realized I only needed a few gallons of extra fuel, so I got out of the fuel drum. When I finished refueling, the nurses hadn’t arrived, so I ran the engine to save time later. We were ready to fly in about 10 minutes when the two nurses came.
Take off at 10 minutes to 18 hours. The wheels in my head turned the numbers…the flight plan said 15 minutes there and 14 minutes back, leaving us 10 minutes to load and get out. There was a thin line of showers in our way, but it didn’t look like it would get any worse. I took a deep breath… step by step.
Mirrngatja is a beautiful outstation surrounded by a vibrant green swamp. The low sun shone reddish on the buffalo grazing below, and the usually white cockatoos looked colorful.
A group of people and a quad bike were at the parking lot where we stopped the plane. We were all relieved to see the victim in a much better condition than expected. He was on his bike and could stumble into the plane between one of the nurses and me for support. He was in pain and still bleeding, but the nurses agreed to get airborne and then they would treat him during the short flight.
At 6:15 pm, we were back in the air. My original flight schedule showed I would be a minute late. However, I noticed that the wind was a bit stronger than expected and would help us on the way back. Sure enough, the GPS showed an arrival time one or two minutes before the cut-off! Over Ramingining, we flew through light rain, the sun d already disappeared behind the horizon. It was quickly getting dark under the rain clouds, but the sun sent us its last light in a beautiful sunset to the west.
I parked the plane and exited. The ambulance, the police, and a group of residents were present to help us unload. It was now dark. I didn’t see the blood until the next morning. Kelvin was treated at the local clinic and then flown to the hospital.