At the beginning of the airstrip project in Kotidanga, all that needed to be moved was dirt…lots and lots of dirt. First by hand, then by our trusty New Holland Skid Steer, the mountain began to grow shorter and shorter. Then MAF came in to do a physical airstrip check. They tested the soil for compactness (it’s hard clay, believe us, it’s packed). They checked its grade. And they checked its length. Their conclusion: You’ll need to make this airstrip longer, and you’ll need to reduce the grade (slope) of the landing strip itself.
The only way to go is back into the mountain itself. Already the face was too high for the skid steer to climb; and picks and shovels weren’t moving very much. Then came the idea, borrowed from years of airstrip building: Do it with controlled erosion. Find a source higher than the airstrip mountain and channel the water to where you need to move dirt.
Using silt fences (made from local materials) our airstrip crew has not only used water to bring the mountain down, but they use it to move the dirt and silt to where it needs to be built up. Tier after tier of new ground has been built up, raising the sides of the airstrip.
Then came the day that we found “the stones.” These were big stones; rocks the size of cars, busses, even houses. How to move them down the mountain?
Ricky Beyaba, a national believer who worked nearly forty years with SIL (Wycliffe) Aviation, “retired” from SIL and offered to help Matt with our airstrip project. In the three years he has headed it up, he has met every challenge head on, and God has blessed him! Ricky holds daily devotions with his work crew (15 men), encouraging them to take the step of faith to trust Christ. Some have come to the Lord, and all of them have great respect for Ricky.
For many weeks they worked on these huge rocks; and gradually, they began to come down. No one was injured, though the men were greatly concerned. They saw God’s hand of protection on them, and the provision of God in moving those huge boulders down the mountain.
We hope that this long-term project will be completed soon, and that our aircraft, P2-TMK, will be flying in and out of Kotidanga Airstrip in the near future!