A seeming coincidence connects a mission pilot and a medical missionary family in Chad.
Published on: 08-15-2023
A couple of mission testimonies connected by a strange coincidence brought thrills and tears to the hundreds of people attending the August 3 evening program at the 2023 Adventist Laymen’s Services and Industries (ASi) Convention in Kansas City, Missouri, United States.
As part of the program, General Conference president Ted N. C. Wilson interviewed several missionaries, including mission pilot Andrew Hosford and Katie and Stephen Waterbrook, soon-to-be medical missionaries in Chad. The two stories became strangely linked by an experience shared during the program.
Aftermath of a Tragic Accident
Hosford is a missionary pilot in the Philippines Adventist Mission Aviation Service (PAMAS). His main role is to transport patients from remote island locations to the main island so they can receive medical care.
PAMAS has four bases strategically located across the Philippines. “God has been using us for the last 17 years to bring help, hope, and healing to people in the Philippines,” he said.
Wilson reminded ASi members about the tragic accident on March 1 of this year, when a PAMAS helicopter disappeared. Among the six people lost in the accident was Hosford’s fiancée. “Our hearts went out to you,” Wilson said. “We prayed for you, we prayed for the situation.” Then he asked Hosford for an update on the situation.
Hosford thanked everyone for their support and prayers, and then he described what happened on the day of the accident. A PAMAS team “picked up a patient that needed medical attention. Unfortunately, as they were flying back, I was looking at the GPS tracker and a few minutes after they took off the tracker disappeared. Immediately we launched a search-and-rescue mission, because we know how serious this is, and we understand the risks.”
In the following days, volunteers kept enlarging the search area, but the helicopter was never found. “All we could find was [my fiancée’s] shoes,” he said. “In the aftermath, it has been really hard to cope with that, but God has been using the situation in mighty ways.”
Hosford said now they are focusing on safe operating procedures and looking at better aircraft. PAMAS is also raising funds for two helicopters to go to the Philippines. But more than that, the ministry wants to keep going with God’s help.
“I want to see a generation of young people dedicate their lives to mission service,” Hosford said.
Willing to Be Willing
In 2020, when Stephen Waterbrook was at an alumni convention in Loma Linda, he met Olen and Danae Netterburg, who were looking for a general surgeon and a nurse to serve in Chad.
Katie Waterbrook shared how, for years, they have wished as a family to follow God’s will, “but foreign missions were never in our eyesight, had never crossed our minds,” she said.
Stephen agreed. “At that point, I was not even willing to be willing,” he said. “I was praying about that, and [we were] checking with each other from time to time. I was head elder in my church, I was busy with hospital leadership, I was paying down debt, and I was in a very busy practice.”
But something happened that eventually convinced the Waterbrooks to go and be part of the medical mission in Chad.
After much prayer and conversation, the couple decided to visit Chad for five days in March. “At the end of the five days we looked at each other and said, ‘It felt like five years; that is too hard, that is too hot, it’s too isolated; that is not for us,’” Katie shared.
On their trip home, the couple dismissed the possibility. But, Katie said, “when we got home, God just kept working on our hearts.”
A God-sent Coincidence
Katie then shared that around the time they were in Chad, the tragic accident of the PAMAS helicopter took place. “We were looking, and we were watching this story,” she said. “One morning, I opened Facebook and read Darryl Hosford’s very convicting message included in an Adventist Review article, calling for two hundred missionaries to replace the two that were lost.”
Katie said that after that, she felt convicted, and that her husband was experiencing similar convictions. “We just came together and realized that it was not our decision; this is God’s calling us, and we need to go.”
Stephen, on the other hand, shared how one day, as he was waiting to start a surgery, he felt overwhelmed and burned out. “I thought to myself, ‘Something needs to change.’ At that moment, the Holy Spirit spoke to my heart and said, ‘Now you are willing!’ ”
In those days after the March trip to Chad, Stephen shared, they prayed individually so as not to influence each other. One morning, he picked up a book that talked about going to foreign lands, challenging oneself, and accepting the call, especially for medical doctors in the medical ministry. “At that moment, I said to myself, ‘We need to go to Chad,’ ” he said.
“I can tell God has your hands in His hands,” Wilson told the couple at the end of the interview. “I praise God for your commitment.”
Calling for Commitment to Mission
Wilson closed his August 3 interviews by addressing what he called “a select group” — Adventist professionals who would like to commit for extended mission service. “The Holy Spirit is calling you to be part of something extraordinary, part of perhaps something that has yet to be revealed to you, as you can become involved in a ministry for at least one year or more,” Wilson said. “I am appealing to you tonight … the Lord is calling some of you to give a chunk of your life” to the mission field.
He then called those who felt God was calling them to longer-term service in the mission field to walk to the front for a special prayer. Dozens of people responded.
“God might be calling you to something like what you just heard in these interviews,” Wilson said. “And if God is telling you to become part of something bigger than yourself, you must answer His call.”
PAMAS is an independent supporting ministry and is not operated by the corporate Seventh-day Adventist Church.