Flying the Gospel
Dean and Kaylene Yeoman live in South Africa but work across the border in Mozambique, ferrying pastors, education and development teams, medical teams and supplies, doing emergency evacuations and keeping isolated villages in touch with the outside world with flying mission Mercy Air. They say, “We are privileged to be part of it.”
Currently, the Yeomans have been called in to help in the serious flooding in Central & Northern Mozambique. Of more than 500,000 people affected, tens of thousands are in emergency accommodation centres because their homes have been destroyed. Dean has been doing survey flights for Save The Children. He says, “I have seen widespread flooding beyond my imagination. Moz is a very flat country so doesn’t drain easily. Two weeks of torrential rain has turned thousands of square kilometres into muddy lakes, washed out many bridges, isolated many communities by submersing roads, left this years food crops lying on their side covered in mud and of course taken many lives.
“Waters are now receding, but of course many houses have collapsed, food stocks lost and this year’s harvest wiped out. There are tough times ahead for tens of thousands of people.”
Even in normal times the Zambezi Delta has no roads, life expectancy is about 35, and death by hippo, disease or in childbirth is not uncommon. Crocs, mosquitoes and tidal mud are also dangers that limit access. In the rest of rural Mozambique roads are basic and rough and transport is unreliable and expensive. Getting fuel for the helicopter is always a major hassle. It’s trucked in drums to the two main bases that Dean works from and stored there in shipping containers.
Alongside the humanitarian work, Mercy Air partners with those involved in church planting and evangelism. Dean says, “After more than a year transporting teams to the Zambezi Delta village of Rampa to teach the Firm foundations Bible programme, these people have finally heard the Gospel message and 33 people made a decision to be followers of Christ. Pray that they will remain strong in their faith as they have little support.”
The Yeomans previously worked in Sudan, Cameroon, Kenya and Ethiopia, seconded from SIM to Helimission. Going out to fly famine relief in Sudan in 1985 was a tough start. When a colleague started Mercy Air’s helicopter division seven years ago to do flood relief work in Mozambique, he invited them to work there. Dean did some short term stints and the couple have been full time with Mercy Air for one and a half years. Mercy Air has been operating small aeroplanes in Southern Africa for nearly 25 years.
Kaylene, a teacher of English as a Second Language, teaches staff and pupils at a farm school when not on flying missions. She often works with Mercy Air’s education team, who have had some encouraging results with young mothers in one village who are mastering basic reading skills.
The Joy of a New Book
“Another time flying out to the Delta we took a new book,” Kaylene says. “These villages have access to only three other books in their own language, so a new book creates great excitement. After seeing a big coloured version, each village was left with small copies at 10 cents each. “My heart melted as I watched one young boy seize his new book, drop onto the grass mat in a dilapidated hut, oblivious to all around, and falteringly read aloud to himself. Others bought books, not because they can read but because they are hopeful one day they will.”
Not only does this ministry have to maintain documentation in two different countries, but also multiple languages are spoken. In South Africa, as well as English and Afrikaans, the local language is SiSwati. In Mozambique it’s Portuguese and Sena, with Zulu and Shangaan in the south. “We are struggling to learn Portuguese as we go,” Dean says. “The rules about visas into Mozambique change every three months when we apply. Last time we were warned that they might not continue to issue us visas because we apply so often. However, we don’t meet the criteria for residency in Mozambique either. We just continue to pray that this door remains open for us. Generally we enjoy good cooperation and favour with government departments. We work with several of them — particularly provincial hospitals — and have established good relationships with them.”
The work is expanding, as a second helicopter has been bought from the US and two young Swiss pilots have been accepted as trainees. Mentoring them adds a new dimension to Dean and Kaylene’s ministry.
• For courage for people to face their life post-floods, and for wise use of resources in distributing aid. It takes so long for “aid” to build up momentum and be effective.
• For helicopter fuel to be available, and for safety while flying.
• That the way stays open for the Yeomans to fly into Mozambique, and they continue getting visas and new important documents.
• That remote villagers who have decided to follow Christ get the support they need to grow in the faith.