Many, O Lord my God, are the wonders you have done.
We were given car keys, house keys, a bed, and instruction on how to watch Netflix on their television. My favorite place was their gas-powered fire pit that warmed my cold morning toes and readied my mind for December. Washington is a gorgeous state, one that is covered in emerald green moss and giant Christmas trees.
We were hosted by the Elliots in the small town of Arlington. Stacie Elliot works at the front office of MATA (Missionary Aviation Training Academy) and is as bright as the Amaryllis flowers on her desk. Her husband, Gary, is MATA’s chief pilot with 24 years in the Air Force followed by 8 years in the Philippines as a missionary aviator for New Tribes (now Ethnos360).
MATA is basically everyone’s second home. Instructors, office workers, mechanics, students, and interns gather in the hangar’s break room for nearly three meals a day. Stacie serves lunch to anyone lunch-less and hangry, and those who cannot resist the smell of her cooking. On Friday nights, Stacie and her office crew serve dinner to the entire staff and families for bible study. Together they watch a short video about missionary aviation ministries and organizations and then partake in a devotional with tricky questions such as, “If you’re anxious, are you really trusting in God?”
At one MATA gathering, John discovered an old friend, Ben Jones. They didn’t recognize each other for days but then once John mentioned his hometown, Lake Forest, Ben commented saying, “Oh I used to work at a Christmas tree lot in Lake Forest.” BAM. John’s memory kicked into gear and he realized, he was talking to his old boss! Twelve years ago, Ben was a manager and John was the worker that loaded and tied Christmas trees to people’s cars. They used to hang out at a friend’s house watching rally car races.
Ben is a highly adventurous individual. In 2005, he broke record speed for hiking all 50 States’ highpoints in 50 days. Although his record has been surpassed by later hikers, he’s moved on to greater things. He is now in the process of obtaining his private pilot license at MATA with his eyes and heart on the mission field.
For two weeks John practiced flying bush planes, specifically the Cessna 185 under Gary’s instruction and guidance. John is used to a glass cockpit (digital display) and flying above 20,000 feet in the King Air, surpassing mountains and layers of clouds. But flying in a bush plane is a completely different experience; the aircraft is obviously smaller, has a steam gauge cockpit and can fly close to the treeline. Bush planes can also land on small, thin airstrips made of dirt or grass. Eventually, John earned his tailwheel endorsement and rehearsed CFI (Certified Flight Instructor) maneuvers for his upcoming CFI training in Miami, FL.
While John studied and trained at MATA, God blessed me with an unexpected reunion with my brother. Clint works as an installer for Direct TV in Idaho but had taken up a temporary job in Washington. His hotel was only 40 minutes away from Arlington! On his day off, we visited Seattle’s upgraded Space Needle, its neighboring glass museum, and Pike’s Place Market.
I also met up with a high school friend, Sarah Alcorn (Nootbar!) and previous hostess from two years ago (we were stranded in Seattle for five days back in December 2016). She introduced me to her baby boy, Lewis, who enjoys lying on the carpet, and listening to Nat King Cole and Norah Jones. We exchanged stories over frothy coffee and sat, awestruck, at all God had done in the past two years.
We love Washington and all the people in it. Thank you for your kind generosity and love for God that has clearly overflowed unto us.