Both the missionaries and the village folk agreed that the Gates family needed a larger home. Claude Aselmo, who had been a policeman in Georgetown, had returned to his real home, Kaikan. He became David’s right-hand man. Organizing the people from several villages, he supervised cutting trees and preparing the lumber with chainsaws. They all joined in building a two-story house.
The ground floor consisted of a large kitchen and dining area plus another large room to be used as a clinic. The upstairs had a spacious living room with a large glassless corner window and four bedrooms. The men rigged up an outside shower enclosure. They built beds, cupboards, closets, benches, and a table. They also set up barrels to catch rainwater and piped it right into the kitchen sink. Becky, David, and the children were thrilled with their new home beside the river.
The Gates children organized a junior choir. The village kids loved to sing.
During their first year in Kaikan, one of the teachers at the elementary school had to leave, so the village people asked David if his daughters could teach. Though she was only 14, Lina accepted the challenge, asking God for wisdom.
When the year ended, the headmistress told Becky, “Kaikan took first place in the examinations due to the excellent teaching of your daughter.”
Several months later David’s parents came to help. His father prepared the soil and planted a garden. His mother helped with the clinic. She joined in teaching classes on personal health and hygiene, first aid, and treatment of disease. Becky taught the ladies how to sew on treadle machines. They also started a Pathfinder club.
As word spread, people from other villages asked, “Please come to our village and help us.” “Where do you live?” David would ask.
“Not very far. Just four days’ walk over the mountains, with several rivers to cross. No roads or navigable rivers. Then four days back.”
David knew he could accomplish very little with eight days of walking and only one or two days in the village. “Becky, there’s only one solution–an airplane. But we barely have enough money to buy medicines and food.”
They prayed for guidance from God, who impressed David to step out in faith. First he must contact the government to prepare for an aviation program. Officials said, “No, you cannot fly into the interior.”
But David asked, “What form do I fill out?” They handed him the paper, and he filled it out!
“What test do I have to take?” He took the test. He did everything they required, and even though it took him a year, he ended up with a Guyana commercial pilot’s license.
“Becky, I keep thinking of God’s promise, ‘He who calls you is faithful, who also will do it’ [1 Thessalonians 5:24, NKJV*].”
“Remember, David, we have $5,000 in savings, which is a start toward buying a plane.” Becky spoke with conviction. “As I hear of the many sick who are dying in the villages because there is no way to transport them to a hospital and a doctor, I’m convinced we must trust God to supply the rest and go forward on faith.”
“Yes, Becky, I know God loves to answer prayers. He has impressed me to go to the States and look for a plane to buy. If we do our part, we can trust God to add to the $5,000.”
* * * * *
Arriving at his parent’s home in the U.S., David began to search magazines that advertised airplanes for sale. He prayed that God would help him find just the plane he needed. Then he could ask God to provide the money.
Finally David found a plane that he felt would be ideal for landing on short runways in jungle conditions. He called the owner and told him of his mission project. The man answered, “This plane will do well for that type of flying. I’ll be glad to sell it to you. In fact, I’ll drop the price several thousand dollars since you will use it to help others. Come and look at it.”
Just as David prepared to leave, a close relative offered him a loan. “You may buy the airplane and pay us back as God gives you the money.”
So with the money in his pocket, he bought the airplane, realizing it needed lots of repairs. He flew it to Kentucky and began the work of rebuilding the engine, giving it a new paint job, and installing the radios. Later he flew it to Andrews University, where the students of aviation maintenance completed the final preparation for the plane’s departure.
As David worked, a man stopped by to see this highly modified, two-seater Cessna 150, now ideal for jungle airstrip operations. “May I help with this project?” he asked as he pulled out his checkbook. Funds started coming in from many sources. Three months after receiving the loan, David had the money from gifts to pay it back in full.
Before he left for Guyana with the plane, David thanked the students. “You guys have done a great job. The new high-powered engine and the high-lift wing will make this an ideal aircraft to begin medical evacuation operations. You have helped us launch Guyana Adventist Medical Aviation Service!”
‘Do you have everything arranged with Guyanese officials?” the crew at Andrews asked.
“No. Future progress is in God’s hands. The secular government is not favorable to a missionary airplane in the interior. They do not understand how the church can help raise the quality of life in the jungle. But I’m trusting God to do great things.”
“What are your objectives?”
“First, we will provide free medical evacuation to take critically ill patients to the nearest hospital. Second, very few Amerindians know anything about healthful living, so we will offer health education. Third, each village with a runway will have a radio to communicate with the pilots for a safe landing. Fourth, and most important, we will bring the gospel of Jesus’ love to all.”
Lief Aaen, a student missionary, had signed up as David’s copilot. The two were eager to get on their way. “We’ll leave Miami early next Tuesday,” David announced to the Andrews crew. “Please pray that God will send His angels during the many hours of flying to Guyana.”
* * * * *
Just before David and Lief landed at the Georgetown airport about noon on Friday, David explained, “Permission for us to fly on to Kaikan will take a miracle from God. Usually this takes weeks or even months after the plane’s arrival. I do want to be there for my daughter Katrina’s eighth-grade graduation on Monday. Let’s pray.”
As he taxied into the airport, the administrator ordered, “Go park your plane in the back corner over there. You won’t be flying that plane for a long time.”
On the way to the office, David claimed God’s promise, “Through God we shall do valiantly” (Psalm 108:13, KJV). Then David made his request to fly to Kaikan.
“No, you cannot fly. You need more experience in Guyana.”
“I’ve been flying for ten years in the jungle. I’ve landed in Kaikan ten times as a copilot with air taxi pilots. I’m very familiar with the route and the airfield.”
“You need twenty landings at least before you are used to it.”
“May I please talk to the director?”
‘”You’re in luck. He’s here.” David walked to the director’s office, praying as he went.
“No, I can’t let you fly there,” the director said. “You need more experience. The flight is too dangerous.”
David shot up another prayer for guidance. “Please don’t be angry at me, but I have another reason I ‘d like to go home today. You see, my family lives in Kaikan, and my daughter will graduate from the eighth grade on Monday. I’ve been in the States for some time. I’d be so happy to see my family and attend the graduation.”
“No, Kaikan has been our home village since we arrived in Guyana. The runway is near my home. I know it very well.”
“Oh, that changes everything. I had no idea your family lived there. Your confidence is contagious. You have my permission to make the flight. Please be careful. Let me sign the form. You may leave today.”
David walked out with the permission form in his hand and a prayer of praise and thanksgiving in his heart. He handed the paper to the airport administrator, asking, “Please have the plane refueled while I file my flight plan.”
No one could believe he was being allowed to take off the same day he arrived in Guyana. But David knew only God could change attitudes, “for with God nothing shall be impossible” (Luke 1:37).
After two hours of flying over the jungle, David began the descent into Kaikan. His eyes filled with tears as he saw the whole village waiting. Before he could unbuckle his seatbelt, most of the men stepped up, all trying to hug him at once. Everyone formed a circle around the airplane for a thanksgiving service to God who makes all things possible.
Just twenty minutes before the Sabbath, they pushed the plane into its tie-down position next to the mango trees. With God’s blessings, Guyana Adventist Medical Aviation Service would soon be helping bring healing and salvation to the Amerindians of Guyana’s interior.
*Texts credited to NKJV are from the New King James Version. Copyright © 1979, 1980, 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.