News

Marcos Paseggi

Senior Correspondent, Adventist Review

Adventist Pilot Injured in Road Accident in Guyana

Pilot expected to recover, motorcycle needs to be replaced

An Adventist pilot who spends many hours in the air was injured in a motorcycle accident on his way to begin a mission flight in Guyana, on April 19. Darren Lea, Adventist World Aviation (AWA) mission pilot who arrived with his wife Joanne and baby girl Rosanna in Guyana in February, had an unfortunate motorcycle accident on his way to the airstrip in Mabaruma to prepare for the flight.

As part of Easter celebrations, children were flying their kites—a big event during that time of year. The kites are so large that heavy cords are needed to fly them hundreds of feet into the air. As Lea was riding past the children, one of the kite cords caught him across the chest, as he was braking for a speed bump. With the loose gravel on the road, the cord hitting his chest, he lost control and slid for about 30 feet with the motorcycle landing on top of him.

The accident resulted in many scrapes, bruises, and other injuries, though he sustained no critical injuries. Lea was on bed rest for several days, as he recovered in preparation to begin flying again. “We praise God that his injuries were not too serious and he will have a full and speedy recovery,” AWA leaders said.

  • Darren and Joanne Lea with their daughter Rosanna, in January 2017, days before moving to Guyana. [Photo: Adventist World Aviation]

  • A recent photo of the Leas, a missionary family in a remote village in northwestern Guyana. [Photo: Adventist World Aviation]

AWA leaders shared, however, that the motorcycle did not fare as well. “It is beyond reasonable repair,” it was reported on the organization website. “Now a replacement is needed for the airbase in Mabaruma since it is the most efficient form of transportation for Lea to and from the airbase.” The mission pilots’ organization is looking to raise funds to replace the motorcycle.

Since AWA’s last official posting on the issue, Lea has returned to work, reported AWA president Ric Swaningson. “He is sore, for sure, but he is back at work,” he said in a phone communication with Adventist Review. “Now we still need to find a way of sending him a new motorcycle.”

To the Ends of the Earth

Adventist World Aviation is a humanitarian aid organization, and a supporting ministry of the Seventh-day Adventist Church. It was founded in 1995 by the world church administration to meet the demands of isolated frontier missionaries in desperate need of air support.

AWA operates a fleet of over 20 aircraft in several countries, including Guyana. According to its website, the organization’s mission flights provide medical evacuations, medical outreach, dental outreach, lifestyle and health programs, and ministries such as church planting and Bible studies.

“One of Christ’s last instructions to us was to simply to ‘Go,’” states the organization on its website. “So that is what AWA is doing on a daily basis. Going. Going far. Going to the most remote locations this world has to offer.” And once they get there, they point out, their mission bases “stay busy serving.”

Wings Over Guyana

The mission outpost in Guyana is in Mabaruma, a village in the top northwest corner of the country. There are no roads connecting the village to other major towns. “In Mabaruma itself, there are just a few dirt roads and walking trails only accessible by motorcycle or by foot,” said Swaningson. “The only transport available is either our AWA plane or fishing boats adapted to transport people and goods.”

“We are so thankful to everyone who has given to make this work possible.”

The Mabaruma base has been in existence for over ten years. In that time, the AWA missionaries have grown deep roots within the community and have many ministries aside from aviation operations. The flight program in Guyana is very active. Most flights within this project are focused on providing emergency medical evacuations for the surrounding villages and transporting critically ill patients from the jungle interiors to the capital city of Georgetown, where they can get lifesaving medical care.

The Guyana program works very closely with the Guyanese government, something that keeps the Mabaruma aviation base very active and busy. AWA also delivers supplies to remote villages and transports pastors to areas that cannot be reached by any other means. The villages that AWA aircraft impact are so remote, that very often aviation is the only way to reach the jungle inhabitants.

Darren and Joanne Lea, originally from South Africa, are not new to the mission field. Darren, who received pilot licenses in South Africa and the United States, has been an aircraft mechanic and flight instructor. Joanne, who has degrees in Communication and Accounting, has been a teacher in South Korea, and after marrying Darren, went with him to do mission work in Chad.

In a letter sent to the AWA leaders in February, Joanne Lea shared the arduous process of settling in that remote part of Guyana. “Setting up our new home in Mabaruma has been a challenging process because the little place is quite dusty and requires a lot of work,” Joanne wrote. At the time of writing that letter, the Leas were still waiting for their shipping barrels to arrive, containing personal belongings.

Also, when the Leas arrived in Guyana, the mission plane had been sitting for a few months, so Darren had to make minor repairs and tests before flying. As soon as he did, they received an immediate request for service.

Despite all the challenges, the Leas expressed gratitude for the opportunity to serve, and for the faithful AWA supporters around the world, considering that the organization operates mostly on private donations. “We are so thankful to everyone who has given to make this work possible,” Lea wrote. “Without you, we would not be here.”

AWA’s YouTube channel can be accessed by clicking here.


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