As a young pilot of 27, Gaston Ntambo flew a small plane from village to village, transporting sick people from villages to urban areas and critically needed drugs from urban areas to villages in the North Katanga Episcopal Area.
African United Methodists shared the story of Ntambo’s ministry – Wings of the Morning – in the United States. The West Ohio Conference got on board, contributing $25,000 toward the project. The gift made a huge difference.
Most districts in North Katanga are located in rural areas. Health facilities are poorly equipped. People must travel great distances to larger health centers in cities like Lubumbashi to get care.
“Medical flight ministry is meaningful and reasonable to me,” Ntambo said. “It is a joy to see a sick [person] lying behind my seat in the plane for referral in the big city for treatment. It energizes [me] to save lives. Even though small flights are challenging with the weather in the rainy season – sometimes engines do not move during flights – God is still my shepherd in the aviation ministry.
“What moves me most is passion and compassion as I take part in the healing ministry.”
Ntambo set out to work five years in the flight ministry, then to take advantage of job opportunities in the local government. But he decided to stay.
“I am always tempted,” said Ntambo, “but my heart tells me not to quit church ministry where I grew up and changed my life of serving others while making a difference in people’s lives.” He is the son of United Methodist Bishop Ntambo Nkulu Ntanda who oversees the North Katanga area.
‘A job of blessings’
Diagnosis is still an issue and challenge in rural villages, he said. Complications occur often because village facilities lack adequate and appropriate equipment. When complications occur, village doctors call Ntambo for rescue and evacuation to a health center. He responds, even in severe weather conditions.
“I carry sick people – not to please family members of the sick – but I see it as a calling for me,” he said. “After the phone call, when the flight is postponed, the person dies if the pilot does not show up for medical evacuation.”
Ntambo contends his role is simple: to give people a chance to survive. “God heals,” he said. “Flight ministry is a job of blessings. I meet people who thank me every day without knowing that it is God who cures.”
The blessing of caregiving is contagious, he noted.
“Even my wife cares for the sick, and all of us become health workers. That is what my wife and I called blessing. We do that to bless other people to have access to good health. When the sick person is referred from the village to the urban health facility, my wife and I monitor them until they are discharged from the hospital and take them back to their respective villages.
“What motivates me a lot,” he said, “is that in different villages where I land, old women come near me and hold hands together to pray even for one hour. The content of prayer is to praise God for flight ministry of taking people from villages to urban areas. Prayers, collaboration and patience with the sick people help me reflect about the way forward with flight ministry.”
God pilots the flight ministry, Ntambo said. “Sick people are Number 1 priorities.”
“It is not a privilege to fly a plane, but it is determination to change lives of people in North Katanga.”
Musau is the communicator for the North Katanga Conference.
News media contact: Vicki Brown, news editor, [email protected] or 615-742-5472.