21 April 2011
by Ross McLeod, Partnership Manager, MAF UK
Until recently, any reference to airport terminals would make me think of London Heathrow’s new Terminal Five – that was until I landed at Tonj’s “Terminal Tree”.
Deep in the heart of southern Sudan located at the end of a rough dirt airstrip, near the village of Tonj, towers a tall thick fig tree, affectionately named by the Dinka people as the Terminal Tree. With temperatures often soaring in excess of 40°C, this majestic provider of shade offers visiting MAF pilots and their aircraft welcome protection from the baking African sun. However, Terminal Tree provides so much more than just respite from the searing heat - it represents the existence of a vital and essential lifeline.
In Deed and Truth Ministries (IDAT) is one of MAF’s closest partners in southern Sudan. As frequent fliers, few are better qualified to explain the importance of such a lifeline than Sabet and Suzy Kuj, founders of IDAT. Visiting Tonj for the first time, I wanted to ask this remarkable couple what MAF means to them and how our aircraft are helping people in this remote part of southern Sudan.
I spoke with Sabet while jarring along a dusty dirt road in a four-wheel drive towards the IDAT compound. He explained that aside from Tonj, the next village with any form of medical care is three hours drive away and can only be reached by road in the dry season. In the wet season overland travel is not an option for the seriously ill, making Tonj a vital outpost for those needing emergency medical care.
Suzy told me that southern Sudan has some of the harshest living conditions in the world. Access to clean water is extremely limited, meager food supplies mean widespread malnutrition, infant and maternal mortality rates are extremely high, and hundreds need medical care for conditions ranging from malaria to gunshot wounds. With no other medical care available for 70 miles in any direction, IDAT operates a 24-hour medical clinic and fills a vital void by treating more than 100 people every day.
Sabet also shared that as the only missionaries within a 100 mile radius of Tonj, they feel deeply called to provide spiritual support to the church in their region. To this end, IDAT also run a Discipleship Training Centre which offers theological and practical training to Sudanese pastors.
How is MAF helping to multiply this vital ministry’s effectiveness?
Re-iterating the importance of MAF’s partnership, Suzy explained that all the medicine and supplies needed to treat thousands of people are flown in each month by MAF. Without these flights the lives of countless men, women and children could not be saved.
Suzy introduced me to little Montoch who, at 8 years of age, had been shot in the face during a cattle raid. Rushed to the IDAT clinic by his distraught family, resident Dr Andaie called for a plane. Soon Montoch was on a flight to Nairobi, where he received life-saving surgery to repair his damaged face. Today, despite some scarring, Montoch plays happily in the village – unaware that without Tonj’s very own Terminal Tree, the outcome of his story might have been very different.
Mission Aviation Fellowship
Castle Hill Avenue, FOLKESTONE, CT20 2TN UK, Tel: 0845 850 9505
Registered Charity Number 1064598 (England & Wales) and SC039107 (Scotland)