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Posts Tagged ‘mission aviation’

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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A Wycliffe missionary shares an unexpected outcome from his trip into a war-ravaged village. Due to the sensitive nature of this translation project, we cannot disclose the location or the missionary’s name.

As we circled the grass airstrip, I was anxious that we were going to disappoint the people waiting to greet us. These dear people had been living in a war zone for many years. For the past eighteen months their town had been occupied by government troops while being simultaneously under siege by the rebel forces. They had lost three successive crops to the fighting forces, and hunger was their main diet. There had been no medical supplies in the town for several years. Even normal commerce had ceased, and peoples’ clothing was literally wearing out. It would be very understandable for the welcoming party to expect us to be flying in food, medicines, or clothing.

Seven years earlier we had three translation teams and a group of literacy trainers and specialists living there. But with the escalation of the war, all our staff had left for other towns and countries. In the intervening seven years, the Bible translations had continued with displaced refugee communities from those three languages. Portions of Scripture had been completed and published. Scripture songs were composed by the refugee communities and had been published in song books. There were alphabet books, primers, and story books in all three languages.

One of the translators and I had hatched a plan to make the first visit to the town in seven years. Since it was still technically a war zone, we would hire a single-engine charter plane, fly along the border to the closest point to the town, and then make a brief low-altitude flight across the border. There the pilot would land, drop us off, and then return for us three days later.

As the translator and I put together the load of goods we would take with us, we were limited to a total cargo weight of less than two hundred pounds. We wanted to take the Scripture portions, the songbooks, and the reading materials with us, but two small footlockers of those filled our entire cargo allowance. We knew people were hungry, sick, and naked. Did we dare to not take food, medicines, and clothing? Finally we decided that while others might bring in those goods, only we could bring in the newly published sections of God’s Word.

So there we were circling the airstrip, and I was worried about letting our friends down by not bringing things for their physical needs. As we disembarked from the plane, the welcoming party came forward, shook our hands, and greeted us effusively. Then they asked us, “Did you bring us Bibles?”

I have often reflected on that moment. If I were hungry and ill and naked, would I seek my physical needs more than my spiritual needs? The war had stripped our friends of all their worldly possessions, but somehow they managed to keep their priorities straight.

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By Jon and Missy Damon

New faces have joined the work here in Papua New Guinea, and there have been a number of ministry changes made during our 3-year absence. One thing has not changed, however: Safe, reliable, air transportation is still vital to this country—not only for our translation teams, but also for the local people.

634596608959555280IMG_7677-K500A few weeks ago, the aviation department received a radio call from a remote village saying there was a local woman with a bad infection in her leg. She needed special medical help quickly. Could we come with one of our aircraft and get her out of the village? It took our pilots a couple of days to get into that specific airstrip because of bad weather, but they were finally able to pick her up and transport her to a location where she could receive medical treatment.

Later, Jon was told that it was a three-day walk from this woman’s village to the nearest road. Without the aid of the aircraft, it is likely the woman would never have made it to a hospital. By the time our pilot saw her, she was already too weak to sit up let alone walk on rugged jungle trails for three days. We thank God that our pilots were able to help her in time. We consider it a privilege to not only be part of bringing God’s Word to the people of PNG, but to also help meet physical needs as God allows.

*Photo by Robert Noble

Editor’s note: This post was originally posted on Jon and Missy Damon’s blog and is used with permission.

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Photo taken by Merle Busenitz

By Katie Adams

JAARS delivered a third Quest Kodiak airplane to Wycliffe personnel in Papua New Guinea on Monday afternoon, October 10. A crowd gathered to greet the 33-foot long aircraft when it landed on the Aiyura airstrip in Ukarumpa, Papua New Guinea.

For most people, a brand new aircraft landing to aid the Bible translation effort in Papua New Guinea could mean progress, adventure, opportunity, and hope. The sight of the shiny, blue and white wings and silver propeller and the sound of the powerful turboprop taxiing on the runway brought excitement to the workers who will depend on this airplane to do their jobs. For Kristen Brewer, they brought something far more personal—a connection to the family she left seven thousand miles away.

Kristen and her husband, Jeff Brewer, are Wycliffe personnel who have lived in Papua New Guinea since 2008. Jeff is an aircraft mechanic and Kristen is a stay at home mom for their three children. Her father has worked in the Quest factory where Kodiak aircraft are built in northern Idaho since 2007. For Kristen, every Kodiak is a little piece of comfort bridging the gap between her and her parents.

“When I see a Kodiak land for the first time, I just always think that it started in my parents’ town,” she said. “My dad may have even touched it. It’s just amazing to me that a small plane can fly all the way from them to me. It makes the world seem smaller and my family not seem so far away.”

Now one in a fleet of seven aircraft on the ground in Papua New Guinea, the Kodiak will be used to fly people to and from remote villages, transport cargo, perform medical evacuations, and provide other support for more than 175 translation programs in-country.

As of 1999, translation programs around the world were starting at the rate of about one every eighteen days, meaning there wouldn’t be a program underway in every language until the year 2150. Wycliffe’s introduction of Vision 2025—the goal to see a translation project in every language by the year 2025—increased the pace dramatically. Today, translators begin a new program about every five days.

Of the roughly two thousand languages around the world that still need a Bible translation started, there are about three hundred in Papua New Guinea alone. In a country like this, rich in steep mountains and rolling hills that make traveling long distances on foot or by vehicle cumbersome, air travel becomes a crucial part of the translators’ ability to meet the urgent need for Bible translation.

The Kodiaks are being phased in to replace two existing Cessna 206 aircraft, which are older, more expensive to use, and carry less cargo. The Kodiaks can seat ten passengers, but typically seat eight after loading cargo. Unlike the other two Kodiaks, this latest addition has a cargo pod located underneath the airplane that solves that problem.

“Now that we have one Kodiak with the pod, we’ll be able to load it to maximum capacity and carry more people,” Kristen said. They are expecting pods to be delivered for each of the other Kodiaks as well.

Quest lists its base price for Kodiak aircraft at $1.6 million, which doesn’t include shipping and related costs. The aircraft can only be paid for by donors willing to contribute to the translators’ efforts, said Chuck Daly, vice president of global transportation services at JAARS.

The Brewers and fellow personnel in Papua New Guinea are hoping to streamline their fleet even further with the addition of a few more aircraft. A helicopter will be delivered next spring, Chuck said, and he is hoping a fourth Kodiak will also be delivered next year.

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Take two minutes and fly with Clive Gray, a missionary pilot in Papua, to visit the Bauzi language group. Climb aboard.

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