God is Good

March and April have been busy months for us. In March, the entire UIM Aviation team in Tucson was gearing up for a wedding for my helpmate in the office, Bethany. We decorated the entire hangar, hung lights, moved equipment out, and made the space a beautiful venue. It was a lot of fun and a unique experience! We had a wonderful time celebrating their marriage in the place we work every day.

In April, Justin used his gift of teaching to instruct an Instrument refresher course. He had a lot of fun preparing for it! The course took place over two Mondays and over seven individuals attended, all of whom are an active part of UIM Aviation’s ministries. It was so much fun for me to watch him in his element.

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Shortly after the class, we flew to California for a quick trip to say goodbye to our Wings of the Way interns. Jessica and Noelia have been with WOW for an entire school year, so it was hard to see them go. They have been instrumental in the development of the organization; they established a Fund Development plan, kept up with WOW’s social media, written grant proposals, represented the organization at many anti-human trafficking events, and much, much more. They will be missed.

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In the meantime, we have taken an active role in raising funds for one of UIM Aviation’s airplanes, “29C.” After 29C came up to Tucson for its annual inspection, there were cracks found in its landing gear castings, and the plane was grounded until we could raise the money to purchase the parts.

The response was overwhelming! We sent out the need through email and social media, and the Lord answered our prayers with the gifts from generous individuals. We raised the money in less than two weeks, which is record time for us. I was so deeply encouraged by this. It was a unique experience to see God work in such a direct way.

This summer, we plan on traveling to California and Spokane! We are excited to try and see some of you during our brief visits! Feel free to reach out to us to schedule a time to meet, and we would love to hear about how we can be praying for you.

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Good Days

Shortly after the New Year, we had the opportunity to go to Disney World with Justin’s sister. She works with Disney and she was able to get us in for free, so we took advantage of that! In fact, the whole trip ended up being free, as we cashed in some airline and hotel points. Admittedly, this was the first trip in years we’ve taken for pure vacation. It was much needed and we definitely enjoyed ourselves.

When we got back, Justin immediately packed his bags again for a trip to El Paso for the annual Pilot Meetings held by UIM Aviation. Usually I go with him to take minutes, but the dates happened to land on the first week of classes for me, so I stayed home. The purpose of the meetings are to realign themselves as a team, to talk about safety procedures, and to set new goals in respect to where missionary aviation is heading.

Since getting back, Justin has been in and out of the shop. I’ve also accomplished something major in the last month: my desk is completely clean! In the two years we have worked with UIM Aviation, I’ve always had one or more stacks on my desk. Here is the proof:

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Isn’t it beautiful? I still have sticky notes for reminders, but otherwise there’s no mess! A clean desk helps to declutter my mind in a lot of ways, so this was a huge feat.

I am really excited to say Justin has had a lot of ‘good’ days in a row, which has been very encouraging. Some of this may be attributed to working in the shop and using his hands to make parts for an aircraft engine. It’s also a testament to what the Lord is doing in his mind and heart. There is still a process of growth that we are walking through together each day. Please pray for more good days in the future!

We pray that each and every one of you are doing well and that the Lord will meet your needs.

Blessings,

Justin & Callene

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Best friends

 

2019

I was about to go into the New Year without too much worry. ‘All it’s doing is changing the number from 2018 to 2019,’ I thought. But then I read a meme that said, ‘And just like that, 1999 was 20 years ago.’

20 years ago.

I was seven, attending second grade, and I had just moved to Alaska. I remember going to see the glaciers for the first time, swimming in the frozen rivers, and running through fields of purple lupine.

In reality, one year can make a huge difference. It’s not just numbers turning on a dial. In a year, we have grown closer to God. In a year, Justin became medically unfit to fly. In a year, our world has flipped upside down, topsy turvy.

What does God have in store for us in 2019? What does God have in store for you?

I’d like to think it’ll be easier going forward, that perhaps He’ll give us a break from all the unknowns. But we rest in the fact that whatever He decides, it’ll only be for His glory.

We had a wonderful Christmas. We drove to California with our kitten, Tumi, because we decided he was too young to roam the house alone for several days. We spent the holiday with family, completed three puzzles in a few days’ time, ate amazing food, and played games. By the seventh hour in our drive back to Tucson, Tumi was handling being in the car like a pro! We had so much fun, and Christmas 2018 will always have a special place in my heart.

How was your Christmas? How can we be praying for you as we enter the season of a new year?

Blessings,

Callene

And A Happy New Year

This year, Thanksgiving came and went quicker than ever. We were blessed to be able to have Justin’s entire family visit us in Tucson this Thanksgiving. We baked, cooked, ate, played games, and enjoyed each other’s company. There were families all over the country and world, however, that did not have a similar experience. There was separation, war, famine, death and for many, November 22nd was just another day in their life. Even further, for many of them, a feeling of hopelessness reigned supreme in their hearts. My heart is often burdened for those experiencing such things. With that said, please pray for our brothers and sisters in those places. What a great hope we have in Christ.

What are you most excited for during the Christmas season? Maybe making Christmas cookies, being with loved ones, decorating the tree? For me, it’s all of those and more! I honestly love everything about Christmas. I am just a little bummed that our kitten prohibits us from putting ornaments on the tree this year. He likes to eat the decorations. Should it be about the ornaments, though? During this particular season, I have been struck with the amount of movies and songs that fail to share the true meaning of Christmas. This world is moving further and further away from the heart of the holiday and failing to recognize what it is all about: Jesus. Jesus. Jesus. 

I am not here to preach a sermon. Trust me, I wouldn’t do it justice. Instead, I just want to share about the special privilege I had to be part of the Living Nativity a local church puts on in our area. It’s a production that takes place outside, and the audience moves from one scene to another on a trail and witnesses the Bible characters come to life. There were about ten scenes in total, starting from the prophet Isaiah prophesying Jesus’ birth, all the way to Jesus’ death and resurrection. I heard they needed some volunteers to guide the groups along the trail with a lamp, and this sounded exciting to me! I enjoyed drama productions in middle and high school, and this allowed me to relive some of the days when I wasn’t so shy and introverted.

I watched the story of Jesus four times in total. I witnessed children hearing the Good News for the first time, had the opportunity to talk with new and mature believers, and my favorite part was in the end, when the angel of the Lord declared Jesus is risen, and the adults would simultaneously rejoice, “Jesus is risen indeed!”

It was honestly so special.

So, as you read this, please know that you are loved. Justin and I are praying that each and every one of you have a blessed holiday celebrating the true meaning of Christmas: the birth of our wonderful Savior.

Merry Christmas,

Callene

 

Hover over the pictures to read the captions:

 

This was the Cookies & Coffees event I helped organize in November

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Dressed in my costume for Living Nativity

Spooktacular!

Hey, you guys! This is Callene writing. 🙂

Fall is my absolute favorite season. I love the changing leaves, the smell of snow on the horizon, the chill in the air. Well, in Tucson we don’t have those! But we can pretend. It does get colder, and I am extremely thankful for that. We needed a break from the oppressive heat.

A lot happened this month, and we have really exciting news! After four years of praying and waiting for the right time, we finally made the decision to get a kitten. And in the month of October, my favorite month of the year! He’s orange, too, which fits with October’s theme.

His name is Tumi, short for Turmeric, the spice. As it turns out, he was conceived around the time we found out about Justin’s medical issues, which means the Lord had us in mind while He was knitting Tumi together in his mama’s womb. He is such a precious kitten and has brought so much joy to the Ross household. He loves playing, sprinting and jumping around (with a crazed look in his eye) at around 9 PM, and cuddling on laps. He is such a special kitty!

We also had a fiasco with carving pumpkins this year! Trying to be proactive, we bought pumpkins about three days before Halloween. We went all out and even bought a $3 carving kit. They were, without a doubt, the most artistic pieces of pumpkin carving we ever attempted. All to no avail, as the pumpkins rotted in two days and we were without pumpkins for decoration! So we bought another as a last minute resort, quickly poked a few holes in it, and threw it out on the driveway to let the kids know we were offering treats. It worked! We must have handed out over 200 pieces of candy that night. It was so exciting because we have never lived in a place that gets trick-or-treaters!

Other than that, Justin is continuing to work in the shop while accomplishing administrative tasks for Wings of the Way, while I work in the office as a bookkeeper for UIM Aviation. I cannot wait for the holidays to come around!

How can we pray for you guys?

Blessings,

Callene

Craving Clouds

Summer in the desert seems to never end. Since we have lived here, we have become skilled at killing plants in the scorching heat. More than ever, I long for the gradual change to cooler nights, crisp mornings, and grey skies. I didn’t used to desire a change in weather. I was fine with endless days of sunshine. Growing up next to the ocean, the more temperate climate yielded pleasant summers and mild winters.

Despite the endless heat, change is inevitable. At some point, the days will grow shorter and cooler, the ground will harden and the desert life will retreat into the ground. Change is constant, isn’t it? As it has been said, “the only thing constant in life is change.” How is one to process this ever changing world? If you are like me, it is easy to be bombarded and overwhelmed with the changing world. Loved ones pass on, friends move away, difficult trials arise. I used to fear change. I probably still do. But somehow, going through challenges in life gives us a new perspective, possibly a more realistic one. The perspective shift that I have experienced in the past few months has left me with a lot of questions about life, and the mysteries of our Creator. Naturally, I’d imagine any normal person would do the same if they experienced a similar disruption of normalcy and trajectory of their life. But what I’ve noticed is I’ve started to care less about having it all figured out.

There is a lot to be thankful for. My situation, though difficult to describe to those who don’t understand, is not fun. However, there are many worse things that could happen. I’ve found myself slowing down each day to appreciate the small things and thanking God for all the amazing blessings I have each and every day.

Though there is a long journey ahead to figure out all my medical issues, the Lord has still allowed me to be involved in aviation. As a Certificated Flight Instructor, I can still use my experience to train others. It is the only way I can still have an active role in flying. Recently, the Lord brought a new pilot to our hangar in Tucson. He is retiring soon from the airlines and wants to help do some of the flying that I previously did in Mexico. This is a huge answer to prayer. Not only does it fill a need, but it helps me to stay involved with my flying skills by helping train this pilot to our standards.

It seems that change isn’t all that bad after all. There is good in it. We just have to know where to look for it while praising our great Savior “all the day long.” Thank you God for the recent change of weather, bringing widespread rain and clouds to the desert, and for allowing me to still have a part in aviation ministry.

In His Hands

It has been far too long since we posted a blog. We can make all sorts of excuses, but the reality is, the analytics show that only 5 people read it. For those of you who have been wondering what has been going on with my (Justin) medical problems, this post is going to summarize what has happened in the last few months and how it has brought us to where we are today. We appreciate those of you who have reached out, concerned. There are still a lot of details yet to be determined so we ask as we wait for answers, you join us in prayer. The reality is, despite anything that doctors or non-doctors say, one of our biggest hurdles is the FAA. They have the final authority on my ability to fly. We ask then, that you pray for healing and for a favorable decision, and that no matter what the outcome and how long it takes to reach a final decision, that we will trust God through it all.

In March, I went to the doctor’s office for a routine physical exam with blood work. I’ve never had a problem drawing blood, at least not more than anyone else. I can’t say that I like having my blood drawn, but it was never a problem before this incident. After having 8 vials drawn, I passed out. While to some, this would seem normal, it rocked my world. Since then, I have had vivid flashbacks brought on by physiological and mental triggers in which some were closely associated with the passing out experience, and others seemingly far from it. At the time, my doctor thought it was a normal reaction (though it had never happened in my life) and that I shouldn’t worry about it. However, out of an abundance of caution, the doctor ordered a series of tests. Two of the three tests came back normal. The third, a 72 hour EEG monitor of my brain, did not. The neurologist at the time said I had an “underlying seizure disorder,” and offered little explanation as to what this means, practically. They told me I needed to start anti-seizure medication, and stay away from water and other high risk activities. Having never knowingly had a seizure before, this came as a surprise.

What came as even more of a surprise was the FAA’s stance on anyone with neurological conditions like seizures. Essentially, if it was an isolated incident (occurring once) and a distinct cause could be identified, I could attempt to apply for my medical certificate (which is required to fly) in 2 years. If it was not an isolated incident and/or no cause could be found, I was looking at a mandatory 10-year waiting period before attempting a medical certificate. If I had another recorded “episode” in 9.9 years, the 10 years would start over again. So, as you can imagine, upon hearing that news, I essentially saw my flying career as over. The more I read about seizures and how the FAA handles them, the more I realized this could be a permanent life change.

The advice I got after learning about all of this was to find a doctor who could be an advocate on my behalf, especially one who understands even a little about working with pilots. The neurologist I had seen was not an advocate of mine. In addition, a second and third opinion from a neurologist would be useful. One problem I ran into, however, was a severe issue with anxiety. I had never dealt with anxiety of this level in my entire life. In my feeble mind and understanding of this world and the the One who made it, all I could see, initially, was the 8 years of training to be a missionary pilot being completely wasted. I knew that wasn’t the case, but it was hard to keep my thoughts from going to those dark places. Why would I go through all of that just to have it taken away from me? This and many more questions plagued my mind.

Essentially, my anxiety, namely my anxiety of visiting the doctor again (because bad things happen when I go to the doctor), has prevented me from seeking a second opinion. As a result, the last few months has been spent dealing with the anxiety through a series of in-depth counseling sessions and therapies. If I’m honest, I used to look at people dealing with the stuff that I am dealing with and be baffled at why they couldn’t just fix themselves. I think the Lord has used my situation to humble me, among other things. I have realized that you can’t really understand unless you have been there. For the survivors of human trafficking that we work with, we never try to understand the situation that they are leaving. How could we? Why then would I try to understand any other issue someone has been through if I haven’t myself been through that situation? We might be able to sympathize, but could we understand?

All that to say, I’m doing better, and getting closer to being able to visit a doctor again. With the focus on my mental health making significant progress, I can now start to think about working towards understanding my physical health. However, finding the right doctor is still something we are praying about. We have several leads that we are going to follow and are praying for guidance as we do that. This could take a few weeks, months, or years to work through the bureaucracy required by the FAA, we just don’t know.

This is what we know: we know the Lord is good. We know He is in control. We know he loves us. We know that even if I can’t fly anymore, the Lord is not done with me. This is what we don’t know: we don’t know if I’ll ever fly again. We don’t know if this “underlying seizure disorder” is an anomaly or a serious condition. We don’t know how long it will take to get answers.

So, as many of you read this, you might be wondering what this means for our ministry. First, it is His ministry. It has always been His ministry. I have might have lost that perspective a little over the 8 years of training and preparation. It is easy for me to look back and see how God provided over those years. It is also easy for me (my ego) to look back and think that I got through tough times on my own strength; though I cannot truly say that. This season is about Him refining who I am. It is about turning my heart towards repentance. It is about trusting Him. It is about having a deeper more secure understanding of my identity in Christ. It is about removing myself from the equation. It is about humbly accepting my circumstances. It is about seeing Him work in spite of my inability to fly.

The Lord can restore my ability to fly. He can continue to grow the ministry without me. He can continue to rescue survivors of trafficking. He can continue to advance the gospel in isolated areas. He can do way more than I can even imagine. Right now, I am learning to trust Him. Please be praying for the upcoming weeks, months, and years: for wisdom, patience, trust, and a closer walk with Jesus.

If you do have more questions about this, please send me an email. I’d be happy to answer any questions: justin@wingsoftheway.org.