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Missionary Pilot Nate Gordon has had the chance to fly all sorts of people, cargo, and even animals around the mountains of Papua, Indonesia. Recently he wrote about a small passenger he transported eight years ago:

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Eight years ago I flew a man named Melky from our base on the coast across the high mountain ranges into the small village of Langda. Graying at the temples, this grandfatherly guy clutched a newborn baby boy to his chest. An unwanted child.

As pilots in Papua, we’re often privileged to enter into the critical scenes of the dramas happening around us. The vast majority of time, after playing our cameos, we exit stage left, move on to another play, and don’t get to see how the original story turns out. Occasionally there’s an exception. village of Langda. Graying at the temples, this grandfatherly guy clutched a newborn baby boy to his chest. An unwanted child.
A few months ago I was back in Langda. The fog was rolling in fast and I needed to unload my cargo and get out of there as quickly as practical. Two passengers wanted to come out to town with me, one of them a familiar face.

“I want you to meet someone,” Melky says to me.

MINOLTA DIGITAL CAMERAI’m a bit hesitant, glancing nervously at the wall of fog to the south as Melky disappears into the crowd at the edge of the airstrip. Moments later Melky reemerges with a little boy in tow.

“Do you remember?” he said. “In August 2005 you flew us in here. My wife and I have been raising him ever since.”

These are the people I choose as my heroes. Anonymous, little people, doing much harder things than I, sacrificing so much more … doing it cheerfully and taking the time to thank others who have played bit parts (supporting roles) in their dramas.

 

This story was originally posted on Nate’s blog, where he writes about the day-to-day work of a pilot supporting Bible translation: http://offthepath.wanderprone.com

Eight Years Later 3

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Click here to read Part 1: Nawuri

On March 14, Wycliffe USA staff gathered in Orlando to celebrate sixteen recent Scripture translations. Three staff members shared stories about some of the translations featured. We have been posting the scripts for each of these stories on our blog. Here is the second story, by Melissa Chesnut, who works in Wycliffe USA’s human resources department:

The Alune New Testament, Indonesia

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It has been a long journey for the Alune people to receive the Word of God in their heart language. The Alune people live in Indonesia on an island that is part of the Maluku archipelago. There are around twenty thousand people in this language group. Once known as fierce warriors, a powerful Alune leader came to know Christ in 1920 and influenced many of his people to do the same. However, it wasn’t until 1986, when two Alune men sought help from foreign linguists, that the translation work of the New Testament was started.

During those twenty-six years, the translators faced many hardships. And in 1999, they had to evacuate to Australia due to civil unrest. Two full-time mother-tongue translators continued to receive further training and carry on the work, despite many hardships that they encountered along the way—bombs, life threatening experiences, illness within their families, helping others to deal with trauma, and countless more.

alune2Moi was one of the mother-tongue translators for the Alune project. His journey towards working as a translator was also filled with obstacles, both personally and professionally. After years of perseverance, the translation work was finally completed—the Alune people were to receive God’s Word in their heart language for the very first time. But it wasn’t without its difficulties. Moi was working on transporting the New Testaments to two places for the dedication. On the day he had arranged for a truck to come to the office, he waited the entire day, but the truck never came. Frustrated that the day was not going as planned, Moi’s stress was heightened by the rain that was pouring down, seemingly heedless to his ardent prayers for good weather. The team had spent a lot of time putting the boxes filled with New Testaments into plastic bags, but it was rainy season and the rain just kept coming down. Moi prayed that the rain would stop, but the more he prayed the harder it rained. “Lord, why are you not answering my prayer?” he asked. “You want this to go forward, right? Why is this happening?” Moi was upset because it seemed that God was ignoring his prayers, heedless to the difficulties that they faced with the packing and transporting of the books during the bad weather.

Finally, after hours and hours of waiting, the truck arrived. The team managed to load about 200 boxes filled with 4,300 Alune New Testaments, and Moi left with the truck to the island of Seram. When the truck got off the ferry at Seram, Moi received a text from his wife, Mey, saying, “Do not come to the bridge, because earlier today a big truck broke the bridge and you can’t pass on it. Come on another road.” Immediately, Moi knew that God had been protecting the New Testaments by sending the rain and delaying the truck. “It could have been our truck that broke the bridge, and all the books could have been wet,” Moi said. “Oh, Lord, now I know You had a purpose for delaying the truck. I am sorry that I was upset and didn’t keep trusting you in all circumstances. Thank you, Lord.”

That wasn’t the only difficulty that Moi faced with distribution of the Scriptures. Last alune3August, the translation office was flooded during a storm, bringing mud and water into the rooms until it was waist-deep. The storage room where the Scriptures were kept was also flooded, and thousands of New Testaments were soaked. But even this God used for His good purpose, as people in the neighborhood heard about the Scripture portions and came to the office asking for them. Every last one of the Alune New Testaments that was damaged that day was given away to Alune speakers who took them and laid them out to dry. Praise be to God, who sovereignly fulfills His promise to use all things for the good of those who love Him.

James 1:2–4 says, “Dear brothers and sisters, when troubles come your way, consider it an opportunity for great joy. For you know that when your faith is tested, your endurance has a chance to grow. So let it grow, for when your endurance is fully developed, you will be perfect and complete, needing nothing” (NLT).

After twenty-six years of trials and perseverance, the Alune people are finally able to hold the finished work of their perseverance—God’s Word in the language of their heart.

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By Elyse Patten

Photo by George Hsia

Community living sure is colorful! This image comes from the city of Palembang, Indonesia which is home to Malay, Chinese, Indian, Arab, and European descendants who live in extraordinary unity. Although Indonesian is the official language, and English, Arabic, and Chinese are also widely used, the people of this city enjoy their own vernacular: Baso Pelembang. Learning the local language is essential for any resident who wants to connect with their neighbors, enjoy the local radio and TV stations, and make friends. Baso Pelembang collects and creates the unique identity and unity of this city. Language is much more than a tool for education and business, it is a instrument for friendship, worship, and community. And when you can choose which one to use, you always choose the one that is closest to your heart.

Click here to learn how you can pray for the work of language development and Bible translation in Indonesia.

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The route to Sentani, Papua, from Kathmandu, Nepal should take about seven days.

By Angela Nelson

Last September, Wycliffe suffered a tragic loss when pilot Paul Westlund and two passengers died in an airplane accident in Papua, Indonesia.

The plane lost in the crash was one of three that was used to ferry translators, supplies, Bibles, and other passengers throughout the mountainous terrain of Papua. And while Paul himself could never be replaced, the team had to search for a replacement airplane to carry-on the important work.

Today we’re praising God for providing not just one, but two planes to add to the fleet in Papua. After a great deal of time and effort, the team purchased a lightly used Pilatus PC-6 Porter from Switzerland with insurance funds from the accident. The second Pilatus PC-6 Porter was purchased from an airline in Nepal, using generous donations.

This morning pilots Nate Gordon and Brad McFarlane were scheduled to leave Kathmandu, Nepal, in a white Porter with green and gold stripes. It’s the beginning of a seven-day journey to ferry the little plane nearly 5,000 nautical miles to Sentani, Papua.

Not far behind them is the second Porter, also on its way to Sentani. It left Switzerland August 21, being ferried by Swiss pilot Daniel Eicher.These short-field aircraft are crucial to Bible translation work in Papua. A few weeks ago, Nate wrote about a day he flew the Ketengban Old Testament translation team in one of the other planes:

“As I thought about that flight, bringing the entire OT team out to Sentani for a couple weeks of checking their drafts with their translation consultant, I was struck by how tenuous this whole thing is. Suspended 10,000 feet up in an empty sky, a single engine pulling a pair of wings over a seemingly endless stretch of impenetrable rain forest…it was easy to feel incredibly vulnerable. All our eggs in a fragile aluminum basket.

“This endeavor of reaching the remotest parts of the earth with the Good News of Jesus feels just like that most of the time: ridiculously fragile. The only way this work will ever succeed is if God undergirds it, protects it, and prospers it. But it is His work and it will bear fruit.”

Please pray for the pilots as they ferry the planes this week! Visit Nate’s blog for updates on the flight.

Pilots Nate and Brad with the Pilatus PC-6 Porter from Kathmandu, Nepal

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By Nate Gordon

Nate Gordon, a missionary pilot in Papua, Indonesia, tells stories like this one on his blog http://offthepath.wanderprone.com

I watched the heavy, wet clouds carefully as I approached the mountains and landed the plane just before the rain started. Andi, the local pastor, came out to greet me as we huddled under the Pilatus Porter’s wing in a futile effort to stay dry.

We soon decided we’d be better off waiting out the rain in one of the grass-roofed honais built by the Ketengban people. So we ran inside and joined several men around a clay fire pit.

The Ketengban are very generous, and I soon had a steaming hot sweet potato in my hands, plucked out of the coals. When I finished my breakfast, I leaned back against the ax-hewn planks that formed the walls of the honai and enjoyed the company. I noticed a subgroup of young men holding their own conversation in their native Ketengban language, so I asked Andi what they were saying.

“They’re just carrying on about how amazing it is that they have a real pilot in their hut,” Andi said.

Here we go again with the hero worship bit, I thought to myself.

“Listen up guys,” I said in Indonesian, which they also understood. “How many nails did you use to build this honai?”

They looked down and sheepishly said, “None.” In this little mountain village, the use of modern materials is a sign of status, wealth, and that you’re a forward thinker. To them, I was pointedly calling attention to how backward and primitive they were.

“Look around you. We’re sitting on this beautiful woven rattan floor suspended three feet off the ground where the critters can’t get to us. It’s pouring rain outside, and we’re completely dry. The fire is keeping us toasty warm—and cooking breakfast for us. And you did all this without a single nail? I could never build something like this.

“How long can you guys survive in the jungle?” I continued. They gave blank stares and started to laugh nervously. They couldn’t figure out why I would ask such a question.

“Indefinitely, right?”

They didn’t answer, but their faces said, “Yeah, of course.”

“Put me in the jungle by myself and in two weeks I’m dead.” They all started laughing again—surely I was joking. There’s no way someone as smart as a pilot could be that incompetent. “No, really, I can’t hunt. And even if I did catch something, how would I cook it? I can’t make fire without matches. How do you guys do it?”

One man jumped up and ran out into the rain. He was back in no time and demonstrated how to make a fire using sticks, leaves, moss, and grass in a matter of minutes. It takes me half an hour using a match, lighter, and kerosene.

“Do you see what I’m talking about?” I asked. “You’ve mastered the challenges of your environment. I’ve also mastered the challenges of my environment which include things like computers and airplanes, but I’m no different than you. You’re made in the image of the living God, which means you carry His creativity in your souls—and you apply it to solving problems like how to build a wooden home without nails, and fire without a lighter.

“You carry dignity because you reflect the creativity of your Creator.”

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Paul Westlund

Paul Timothy Westlund, 57, died tragically September 22, 2011 as a result of an airplane crash in Papua, Indonesia. As he had for many years, Paul was piloting a small aircraft, serving the physical and spiritual needs of the people and land he loved so dearly.

Paul was born on June 14, 1954 in Minneapolis, MN, the son of Howard and Lois (Foss) Westlund. He was united in holy matrimony to LaVonne E. Martin in 1979 at the West Chicago Bible Church; the service was officiated by his dad, Howard.

Paul graduated from Moody Aviation with a B.S in Aviation in 1981. He became a member of JAARS Aviation and Wycliffe Bible Translators in 1983 and began serving overseas in 1987. Paul was a highly qualified and well respected pilot. He was certificated as an Airline Transport Pilot with a Multi-Engine Airplane rating. He held a Certified Flight Instructor license and an A&P Mechanic license.

Before serving with JAARS, he gained experience flying with Gardner Express (IL), Prompt Air (IL), and Weber Aircraft (PA).

Paul was an exceptional husband and father. He loved to surf, exercise, and build and fly model airplanes. Paul was an animated storyteller and would tear up nearly every time he got to the crux of his storyline. Paul faced many difficult trials during his overseas service, and yet he could regularly be heard saying, “Isn’t this just the best life a guy could have!”

Paul is survived by his wife LaVonne, his daughter Joy and granddaughter Jadyn, and his son Mark; his parents, Howard (Lois) Westlund; his sisters Jean, wife of Dr. Robert Chase, and Petrea, wife of Timothy Ratliff. He was preceded in death by his sister Janet. Paul is in heaven now, not because of his faithful commitment to his wife and family, his love for and forgiveness of others, his easy-going character or good deeds, nor his humble service to the Lord. Paul is in heaven because he gave his heart to Jesus.

Funeral services for Paul were held in Papua and were attended by both his national and ex-patriot family members who were serving alongside him. He was buried in a local cemetery near the family’s overseas residence.

A memorial fund has been established in Paul’s name. Inquiries concerning this fund may be directed to members of the family. The family also welcomes gifts toward the JAARS aircraft funding project S4700, a project that Paul wholeheartedly supported. Detail concerning this project can be found at: http://www.jaars.org/projects/s4700.

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Paul Westlund

Wycliffe USA’s partner organization – JAARS, Inc. confirmed that an aviation accident took place early this morning in Papua, Indonesia; the pilot and the two Indonesian passengers were killed.  The cause of the accident is unknown.
The aircraft was a Pilatus Porter PC-6 operated by YAJASI, an Indonesian partner organization. The pilot, Paul Westlund had been flying in Indonesia for nearly twenty-five years.  Paul is survived by his wife and two children. No further details are available at this time.

(Photo courtesy of Clive Gray)

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