Missionary who died in Zambezi river plane crash pondered death weeks earlier

Missionary who died in Zambezi river plane crash pondered death weeks earlier

The Erickson family photo

The missionary who died in a plane crash in North-western province last week wrote about death a few weeks before his death.

Jay Erickson and his wife died when the light aircraft they have been using to transport sick villagers to the hospital plunged into the Zambezi River at hitting a ZESCO pylon. See at the end more information about the couple and the mission hospital.

But on April 20, 2012, Jay wrote that he had been pondering about death. In the missionary newsletter of April this year, Jay made the following entry:

Oddly enough, I (Jay) have been pondering the concept of death since arriving at Chitokoloki. Living next door to a bush hospital, we hear quite clearly the wails of mourning with each death.

And these occur frequently, being about every other day.  In addition, I have been reading through Israel’s wanderings through the wilderness and all the times God’s wrath was poured out such that each time thousands were consumed, bitten, swallowed, or otherwise perished. Still again, I have been reading Out of the Silent Planet by C.S. Lewis, which though a fictional work, deals philosophically with death. Even in eating meat here when I saw the creature alive that morning reminds me of the topic. 

 I did not plan the correlation, but it caused me to think along these lines and realize again in a new way that there is nothing sad about the death of a Christian. The only sadness (and I do not intend to belittle this aspect) is in the loss of companionship by those left behind. And yet, to contrast this, the level of tragedy is so vast for the passing of an unbeliever. To borrow from physics, it seems the “equal and opposite reaction.”

 It warms my heart to hear the frequent and fervent preaching of the Gospel here. Perhaps it is the real presence of death here that we seem so surgically removed from in the USA which is the motivation.  At any rate, I hope it will inspire me to get over those inhibitions which so easily hinder me from speaking. 

I will close with a quote from C.S. Lewis which is at the foundation of my thinking: “You don’t have a soul. You are a Soul. You have a body.” And I know that when this body dies, my soul will get a new one

Jay & Katrina Erickson

Missionary / Pilot
Chitokoloki Mission Hospital, Zambia

The Ericksons were in process of improving this kitchen at Chitokoloki hospital

Who was Jay and Katrina?

Jay & Katrina were dedicated to following the teachings Jesus Christ and are fulfilling His command to love others by serving the less privileged around the world. Jay was trained as a bush pilot and aircraft mechanic at Moody Aviation–a branch of the Moody Bible Institute. The Ericksons were full-time volunteers ready to bring food, medical supplies, doctors, missionaries, and most importantly, the Word of God by aircraft into areas of the world that would otherwise be extremely difficult or impossible to reach.

At the time of their death, the Ericksons were assisting in the work of the Chitokoloki Mission Hospital.

The mission hospital is located in the remote North West province of Zambia along the banks of the Zambezi river approximately 400 miles upstream of Victoria Falls. It offers a 150 bed facility with modern medical equipment, operating rooms, and laboratory. In addition to the hospital, there are three satellite clinics which provide care to a wider region. Due to it remote location and the time difficulty of travel by road, the hospital operates a Cessna 206–a six-seat airplane. The airplane brings many of the volunteer professionals to the hospital as well as facilitates the transportation of staff and patients to and from the clinics.

The Ericksons were planning to work with the hospital until February 2013, at which point they would seeks God’s will as whether or not they should continue with Chitokoloki.


Greetings from Chitokoloki, Zambia! Jay, Katrina, Marina & Coral

The transition to living in Zambia has gone very smoothly. Although English is the national language and most Zambians can speak enough to get a basic point across, it is clear that we will have to learn the language to be able to have any deep or meaningful conversations.  Zambian children come by almost daily to play with Marina and Coral. Marina calls them all “cousins.” She is very excited when they come to door and plays happily while we try to figure out the language.

One of the first tasks to do in a new place is get all the paperwork sorted out. Our work permit, by God’s grace, we were able to collect the day after arriving in Zambia. Jay’s pilot license took a little bit longer. After some delays and a week of running around government offices, he received permission to use his American license in Zambia for three months, after which he will have to either renew the permission or take a flight test for a Zambian license.

Upon getting permission to fly Jay was put right to work, and two days later he was flying his first patient—a young woman who was hit by a car while walking home from church. Katrina was there when the plane landed, and went with the woman into the hospital. She was able to observe the doctors successfully remove the spleen and stop all the bleeding. Unfortunately, the woman had also sustained substantial head injuries, and because of this she passed into eternity three days later. The reality of death seems so much clearer here, and Jay has posted some more about this on our blog.

We enjoy our ability to work more as a team here. The hanger is only about 300 yards from our house, so Katrina and the kids are usually there when the plane lands. They also come out and help when Jay is working on the plane. Just the other day we had a family airplane bath day. That is where Marina and Coral get soaked while Katrina and Jay wash an airplane. In the end, we all had fun and the plane got cleaned up.

Please pray that we will be able to connect with the locals here. Zambia is considered a Christian nation, and everybody we talk to knows about Jesus. The trouble is that too many have not put their confidence in Him and when things rough they revert back to their tribal beliefs. Pray also that Jay will have wisdom in flying and maintaining the airplane. And finally, pray that Katrina will find an area on the mission where she can feel useful to the work.

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