Katie: I heard you moved to Indonesia. What made you move to the other side of the world?
Michael: I had been interested in working as a missionary pilot and so after I finished college I began researching different opportunities where I could serve. While I was finishing my flight instructor training, I happened to meet Gary Roberts, an active missionary pilot. Gary had flown in Africa and was now working in Papua Indonesia (formerly known as Irian Jaya) for Adventist Aviation Indonesia. We exchanged contact information and a few months down the line, I reached out to see if he had any need for pilots. He immediately invited me to join the team, and that’s how I ended up in the easternmost province of Indonesia.
Katie: Have you always wanted to become a mission pilot?
Michael: I have always wanted to be a pilot for as long as I can remember. Of course little boys say they want to be many things and I was no exception—astronaut, doctor, scientist, fireman—but somehow the desire to fly airplanes was always at the forefront and stayed with me as I got older. My focus sharpened in high school while I was attending Weimar Academy, as I made the decision that I wanted to use my passion for aviation to serve God and that’s how I started down the path to becoming a mission pilot.
Katie: I'm sure living in a new country poses a challenge or two. What difficulties have you encountered in the mission field over there?
Michael: I live in a fairly developed location with internet, supermarkets, plenty of fresh fruits and veggies and a good community of Adventists colleagues to work with, so everyday life is quite comfortable as far as missionary life goes. But I think the biggest challenges have been all the curveballs that have come down the line while I’ve been here—like arriving here only to discover the aircraft would be grounded for several months because a replacement wing arrived damaged; experiencing a flash flood that half destroyed our campus and claimed the life of one or our employees; and ending up not being able to work in a flying role as a result of these setbacks, as well as other factors. It’s clear the devil doesn’t appreciate the work going on here and has been hard at work to try to disrupt and discourage. Yet it has been encouraging to see the silver linings in the storm clouds and to witness ways that God has continued to sustain the program with miraculous protections on more than one occasion.
Katie: Have those experiences changed your understanding of mission work?
Michael: Being here has definitely been a growing experience, both in my understanding of myself as well as my understanding of what being a missionary means. I have been reminded that a willingness to serve God is the most important element of mission work, and that means mission work isn’t restricted to flying a bush plane over the jungles or preaching an evangelistic series in some faraway land. It’s being faithful in whatever task God asks you to do, and living out an example of what a loving, lovable Christian is. Many times we cannot see just how far our influence for good goes, even when we’re not doing the things we had hoped to do. You can be just as much of a missionary in your hometown as someone who has traveled to the other side of the globe. Actually, this was something I had started to learn while I was gaining experience as a flight instructor in the U.S. when I realized I could be a witness even in a secular job. I had made it a goal to always ask my students if I could start a flight lesson with a word of prayer for safety, and I never had a student decline the offer. Some even expressed their appreciation and a few of those students weren’t Christian. Daniel’s story in the Bible has always been an inspiration to me and I believe God needs people in every walk of life, particularly in professional occupations and positions of influence, who stand out for their excellence in what they do and the fact that they’re different. When people ask why, the answer will make a lasting impression: “Oh, Jake? He’s a Seventh-day Adventist Christian. And Melissa? She’s an Adventist too.”
Katie: What 3 pieces of advice would you give to missionaries that are serving in a foreign country?
Michael: For those who are already in their mission field, I have discovered these principles to be really helpful. First off, take the advice of my mom (a veteran missionary herself) and don’t burn yourself out. There will always be more pressing tasks to do than there is time, and though it’s all important and good, you need to take care of yourself and your relationships to sustain your long-term usefulness. Make sure to intentionally build in time that you can spend with God and your family and friends. And it’s okay and even important to have some kind of a hobby that you enjoy doing.
Secondly, have a support network. I can’t say how immensely helpful my family has been to me during my time overseas, as well as a pastor mentor who I regularly call. I think most of us are definitely taking advantage of the ability in this age of technology to stay connected with loved ones, so that’s not hard advice to follow. There can be times, though, when you need additional help working through the emotional aspects that can be amplified by your occupation. There are counseling services out there that are geared specifically for missionaries serving overseas, so don’t be afraid to reach out and ask for help.
Lastly, don’t expect yourself to be superman or superwoman. That’s God’s role, and your responsibility is to do your best and ask God to do the rest. That means He’s also responsible for the results. I don’t know about you, but that’s a relieving thought to me!
BY Michael Lombart & Katie C.M. Li
Our Guest: Michael Lombart has been serving with Adventist Aviation Indonesia in Doyo Baru, Papua. He loves writing, traveling the world, and flying airplanes. You can follow his adventures on his blog.