The morning had started as every other day for MAF Pilot Kirstein Combrink. Kirstein prepared for the day's Haydom medical safari in Tanzania and made his way to the airstrip. Little did he know, that this seemingly ordinary morning would be followed by a very unpleasant afternoon!
Kirstein had planned to fly a medical team to Gorimba as part of a medical safari in partnership with Haydom Hospital, but as he walked towards the Cessna 206 he couldn't believe his eyes! Kirstein incredulously inspected the elevator of the plane: it was badly damaged, the fiberglass scratched off and the metal bent!
What caused the damage?
Had he hit something on his way back last night? Had he not noticed having damaged the plane yesterday? Or did a motorbike hit the plane during the night? All of these scenarios seemed improbable...
Who was the perpetrator? Who could sabotage the medical safari? Who would vandalise an MAF plane, a plane that is supposed to bring help, hope and healing in Christ's name? It almost looked like there were bite marks on the elevator. The only animal that would take some big bites out of the wings of hope could be... hyenas! (And all that hyena saliva was a bit of a giveaway, too...)
How dare these carnivorous (or shall we say plane-ivorous!) beasts cause great damage and cancel that day's clinic flight!
Hyenas: uncanny witch creatures?
Intriguingly, Tanzanian mythology associates these curious animals with witchcraft and black magic. Some tribes in Tanzania believe that witch doctors use hyenas to cause harm and trouble in the villages. During the Haydom safaris, Kirstein can often see their footprints, droppings and hear them scream and hoot. Some people get very frightened when they hear the hyenas yell.
Kirstein's colleague, Pilot Jarkko Korhonen, is still perplexed by the gnaw-attack: 'Usually, these mysterious creatures are quite shy and even scared of people, which is why it's really strange that this happened so close to the inhabited areas, and only 30 meters away from the sleeping hut of the watchmen.'
Not only had the medical safari to be cancelled for the day, MAF weren't able to fly to Gorimba for four months: first the hyena-attack, then other issues such as bad weather had made the monthly medical safari impossible.
When the people of Gorimba finally saw the MAF plane again, they were overjoyed as they had been worried that the plane would never came back to their village again. A scary thought for people living in an isolated village cut off from basic healthcare services.
The Haydom medical safaris is a partnership between doctors and nurses from Haydom Lutheran Hospital and MAF, who flies them to several very remote villages each month. These mobile clinics are a lifeline to over thousand people who have no other way to access basic healthcare.
Pray for MAF to not only be able to meet people's physical needs but also to make a difference for them spiritually, as practices of witchcraft are still widespread in the area.