Time well spent.

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A beautiful morning at Kagamuga Airport in Mount Hagen. PNG

If you have the opportunity to look through a pilot’s logbook, prepare for disappointment.  Most likely you will find line after line of entries that state little more than how many hours were flown, on what aircraft and where. I once had the opportunity to read through my great-uncle’s logbook.  He was lost over Berlin in WWII.  I expected many exciting, maybe even terrifying entries. Instead I found just plain entries: hours flown,  aircraft type and distance, albeit with a number of interesting aircraft types from Ansons to Wellingtons and Lancaster bombers.

For many pilots, a logbook represents much more than the number of hours flown and licenses and certificates.  The numbers and odd comment on a line does little to capture the imagination or give meaning to the numbers but for the pilot, the numbers may invoke memories of people, places and planes that are too difficult to capture in writing and are best relived in memory.

maf-png map dupuis maf-east africa map dupuisWhen someone discovers that I am a pilot, it strikes me as odd that the first thing I am asked is “how many hours do you have?” Even the language is strange because pilots do not collected “hours” rather,  they have used them.  Deducted, so-to-speak, from our life as we add up how much of our time we sit looking through the windscreen or at the instruments.  Can you imagine if everyone kept a log of driving miles or watching television or sitting in front of a computer screen?  Despite the life-time of hours spent flying, I have indeed collected many blessings in the form of memories, experience and relationships, while I fulfill a purpose that the Lord has given me … to serve others. I have seen the world from a perspective that can only reinforce the notion that God created it with an imagination (and sense of humour) that is beyond our human understanding.  I am forever in awe of Him and His creation.

Since joining Mission Aviation Fellowship, I have had to work very hard to keep up to the very high standard that MAF expects of its pilots.  There are many younger pilots, with much less time in their logbooks, who are very talented pilots and amazing individuals. The MAF standard goes beyond how well one flies an aircraft.  It is more about how we interact with our co-workers, the people working for organizations we serve, as well as the people that are ultimately the end-recipients of what we bring with the airplane.  That is why we are here: to bring hope and healing to some of the most isolated places in the world using aviation and technology.

Being that I have crossed another milestone of hours in service with MAF, I am placing a summary for those of you who like statistical details. Having an electronic logbook means that there are a few photos and special notations that might not be found in a paper version but it is not practical to show them here. There are many tears of joy and thankfulness wrapped up within these statistics.  There have been great experiences as well as near disaster.  I have seen landscapes that make the spirit soar and I have seen misery and tragedy that can rock one’s faith to the core. Whether good or bad He is always with me; Amen

Flying in Service with MAF began in 2010.  Flight statistics on MAF aircraft follow:

Total hours flown: 2519.8

Total Take-offs: 2157  Landings 2160

Instrument approaches flown: 185  Visual approaches under Instrument Flight Rules: 222.  The majority of flying has been VFR.

Total distance flown: 299037.1 Nautical Miles  or 344125.7 Statute Miles or 553816.7 Kilometers or about 12 times around the earth at the equator.

Note: I do not keep statistics on size of load or how many passengers are carried but the best estimate would be combination of passengers and freight that would equal approximately 1.58 million kg.  Average adult passengers where I have been flying are about 70kg (with carry on bags) and the mix of flights over the past 5 years in a combination of about 50% so that would be about 11285 adult passengers and 790000kg of cargo.  All of this work was done on Cessna Caravans (C208A, C208B) flying at an average speed of around 150kts.

I pray that every mile, every kilogram, every hour be for the glory of the Lord.

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Why Fly Wi-Fi

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Installing the WiFi Bible label

One of the things that I have really come to appreciate as a pilot serving with MAF is the clarity of purpose and direction of the organization.  (Click this link to read MAF’s mission and values). MAF has partnered with organizations over the years that share the same values and objectives.  Soon after we arrived in PNG we learned of a brilliant strategic partnership that is advancing the Gospel to remote locations in a way that could not be imagined by MAF’s founding pilots.

Christian Radio Missionary Fellowship (CRMF) is providing technology that allows MAF to carry a Wi-Fi hub aboard the aircraft fleet in PNG.  Each aircraft has a small, battery-powered device that contains .epub and other versions of the Holy Bible in over 200 different PNG languages (Tok Ples).  It has movies such as “God’s Story” and “The Jesus Film” which can be downloaded from the Wi-Fi hub in less than 2 minutes each.  A variety of music in the Tok Pisin language can also be downloaded.  There are a number of apps including daily devotions and Bible studies in a number of languages.

csm_ModelWIFIBibleBatterypoweredThe most amazing thing is that these resources are free to anyone who has a smart-phone or similar device with Wi-Fi capability.  There is no charge to the end-user as the resources are provided by donors from around the world. In PNG, the cellular networks are growing rapidly and connecting many hundreds of villages that have been cut-off from access to the rest of the country.  Inexpensive smart-phones from Asian manufacturers are becoming more commonplace. We have witnessed first-hand, how the movies, Bible studies and music are enjoyed by many in the community, even those without smart-phones.  During our time in Tsendiap, we watched several families crowding around the tiny screen of a smart-phone watching the Jesus Film in their own language after downloading from the tiny Wi-Fi hub that we brought with us for testing.

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Michael stands next to Wi-Fi equipped Cessna 208with us.

When an MAF aircraft lands at a remote airstrip, a quick wave to the pilot is all that is needed and the Wi-Fi hub is switched on.  A few minutes later, the downloads are completeL all without futher intervention of the pilot.  In a few short minutes dozens of downloads can be completed. The Wi-Fi home screen and instructions make the whole process simple, in any language.

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Judith shares “The Jesus Film” with a mix of adults and children.

The Wi-Fi Bible is quickly gaining in popularity and it is now being tested on some public motor vehicles (PMV’s) which are the mainstay of road travel in PNG.  Wherever the Wi-Fi Bible sign is seen, downloads are available for free.  With growing success, this resource may become a regular part of MAF’s fleet of aircraft in more and more countries fulfilling MAF’s purpose: to share God’s love through aviation and technology

 

 

 

 

Urban Cowboys: Flying in PNG

20151120_103345 (800x276)Touring the Rocky Mountains is a thrill for anyone. As a pilot, flying the mountains and valleys of the massive National Parks of Alberta and British Columbia, was a dream come true. The seemingly endless miles of pristine, spectacular scenery helped to shape our understanding of the passion and artistry of our Lord in His creation. Judith and I were blessed as we tracked wildlife and chased forest-fires through the scenic Rocky Mountains but our life in Calgary, as “urban bush pilots” did not fully prepare us for the rigors of flying in Papua New Guinea.

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Airstrips in PNG are categorized into A,B, C, and D based on difficulty. This B airstrip in Simbai is often obscured by low cloud clinging to the sides of the mountains that surround it. It is a B because it is long, not too steep and generally maintained with markings and windsock.

The highlands of Papua New Guinea has plenty of grande scenery and high mountains equally as daunting as the Rockies but the hundreds of remote airstrips makes flying here far more demanding than flying Canada’s National Parks. In Banff, Jasper and Yoho, there are no airstrips (at least none that can be legally used). Most of the flying we did in support of wildlife research was done on fair-weather days under generally favorable conditions.  We always avoided flying on days with strong winds, precipitation, thunderstorms, snow, icing, turbulence or heavy smoke. The nature of the National Park flying missions allowed us to pick our flying days but that is not so in Papua New Guinea. Unless fog, low cloud or heavy rain is blocking a route, flights continue to be dispatched. If MAF had to wait for fair weather days there would be very few flights, indeed! It is almost always raining somewhere in the country and flights must be dispatched, even when conditions force pilots to fly roundabout routes diligently searching for safe passage. I am not suggesting that MAF is does not put safety first!  There are times when turning back is the wise choice; not every flight can proceed safely and pilots are not pushed to continue when it is not safe. Similar to our experience in Africa, the majority of small communities in PNG are very remote, without road access. They depend on aircraft for almost everything: trade store goods, mail, doctors, teachers, church workers and critical medical supplies.  That is why MAF is here, supporting communities with a holistic approach to its mission and working in all conditions.

Weather was just one factor on a recent route familiarization flight with senior Captain Irwin Hodder at the controls. We were to fly a Cessna Caravan full of medical supplies for clinic in the village of Woposali. We took off with the sun shining overhead Kagamuga Airport in Mt. Hagen. Despite the sunshine, we had to find our way past a wall of cloud blocking the main mountain pass before we could get moving in the direction of Woposali. As we approached our destination we had to work our down into a series of interconnected valleys, barely big enough to turn around. Finally we came upon the airstrip which is the bottom of a deep gorge with high cliffs on each side of the runway.

My job that day was to watch and learn. Next time, I would be expected to do the same. When I first sighted Woposali airstrip, I thought to myself that there was no way that we could get past the scattered cloud that was lingering just above and below the ridge-tops of our intended landing place. As Irwin skillfully maneuvered the aircraft through the narrow passages, we safely reached our objective and were greeted by a crowd of people who quickly carried the metric tonne of medical supplies we were carrying to the nearby clinic.

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Captain Hodder at the controls as we maneuvered in the narrow confines of the valley above the Woposali airstrip.

Returning to Mt. Hagen, I found my self thinking back to the movie Urban Cowboy with John Travolta. The story is about a sub-culture of city slickers who dress up like cowboys and cowgirls. They go dancing, wear big belt buckles just like the ones earned as prizes at the rodeo. The boys ride a mechanical bull trying to be just like authentic bull-riding cowboys.  Little do they know the reality of being a real cowboy: the hours of hard work, the solitude, the sweat, the physical demands, the pain and variety of skills needed to do their job.

In the same way, being an urban bush pilot in Calgary is a far cry from the realities of flying in the bush of Papua New Guinea. Real bush pilots have to endure plenty of hard work in difficult situations in nearly every kind of weather. They must hone their skills of visual navigation and their knowledge of weather patterns and mountain winds just like in the Rockies but PNG bush pilots must learn how to safely fly in and out of hundreds of extreme airstrips that are the most challenging anywhere in the world, some with slopes up to 12% situated in precarious places.  Flying to these remote places demands disciplined decision-making skills in addition to good flying technique. There is much to learn if we are to be useful and safe pilots in PNG. We must become real bush pilots and thankfully, the program has some of the best pilot-instructors anywhere in the world to help us reach the level of skill that we need to fly here.

The lore of bush flying, might attract some pilots to places like PNG to “fly the bush” just as the lore of being a cowboy might encourage urban cowboys to leave the city and move out to the open range. Carrying critical supplies to a medical clinic  and watching the faces of people as they hear the Gospel message builds within us the resolve to become real bush pilots for Christ’s sake. That is the call to MAF in PNG and we so thankful to all of our supporters who are encouraging us, praying for us and enabling us in our quest to reach the isolated, bringing help and hope in Christ’s name.

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The 9% upslopeslope is apparent in this photo of a well-manicured airstrip. There is a medical clinic that supports the surrounding area. Many airstrips in PNG are well maintained by the community to ensure that their air-link is not disrupted.

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A typical mountain strip.  If the pilot elects to abort the landing, it cannot be much beyond this point along the final approach so that the aircraft can still escape to the left.  The terrain is too steep on the right or straight ahead. Once past the committal point, it is land well or land hard; there is no safe abort.

 

 

The meaning of Christmas-A village perspective

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The village of Tsendiapa and airstrip.

We were on the ground after a 15 minute flight out of Mt. Hagen to a small village called Tsendiap. It was to be our home for the next 7 days where we were to learn to speak Tok Pisin and to learn some PNG culture.
There was a crowd pressing against the fence next to the airstrip and a group of people were crowding around Judith and me when, amidst all of the confusion, Captain Mike Vogel leaned over to me and said “well, I guess you are really on your own now…” and as quick as the aircraft had landed it was off again leaving us in the care of a community.

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Click on any image to visit our photo album of Tsendiap

As the aircraft faded into the distance, the silence rolled over us, despite the cacophony of voices surrounding us. People were grabbing all of our possessions, food, clothing and scurrying off to unknown places as we were being shepherded by the local pastor and his wife to where we would be staying. In Tsendiap, there are no roads, no power and no telephone unless you want to walk up to the top of the nearby mountain to pick up a cellular signal from Dusin or Simbai; two slightly larger villages about a full day’s walk away. Both are less than 5 minutes by air. Over the next few days, we really became aware of how disconnected we were from the world that we know. We were really far from a full medical facility if we were bitten by a snake, got sick or injured. We were not physically fit enough to reach any distant village with a medical clinic that had anything more than the most basic care.

It did not take long for us to realize that people in the communityIMGP2399 share. They share food in times of plenty as well as lean times. They share precious resources such as matches, paper, books, Bibles, salt, sugar and cooking oil; every little thing that costs so much to transport to this remote place. Most of all, they share in a common faith in Christ and they gladly share the joy of knowing God with each other and their neighboring clans and tribes. Without Jesus, they would really be alone. They would live in constant fear of death from sickness, accident and injury as well as fear of attack from neighbouring tribes. We were told that in the time before missionaries came, many people feared bush spirits and angry ancestors that were believed to inhabit the thick jungle that surrounds the village causing accidents and mishaps. Tribal fighting was a constant threat and times of peace were rare. Through Christ Jesus, that fear is gone and through the love of Christ, MAF’s aircraft are able to bring both help and hope in those times when someone does get sick or injured or disaster strikes.

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A Child is Born

Despite having more than 5 years’ experience working in the third world with MAF’s aviation ministry, it took only seven short days for us to gain a whole new perspective and understanding of people, community and the power of the Holy Spirit in daily life. We saw how people depended on God’s provision and care. We watched as students departed the Bible College to go out to even more remote villages along barely traveled bush trails in the same way as the early disciples went out to spread the Good News of Jesus. We learned that the only way to really know any person is by meeting them face-to-face and spending some time in conversation. God, in His wisdom knew that the only way we could really know Him is to meet with Him in person. That person is the Messiah, Jesus. He came to be with us: Emmanuel or “God with us” as it was written and we sing in Christmas Hymns.

May the Peace of Christ bring you, your family and your community joy this Christmas. As long as you know Him, you will never be alone, you will never have to fear. Blessings be upon you in Christ’s name.

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What is the Bride Price?

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Dispela Meri I Hamas Mani? Tok Pisin. How much is this lady?

Story and photos by Michael & Judith Dupuis

Learning the customs and culture of a new place can be quite rewarding but somewhat overwhelming at times. The day after our arrival in Mt. Hagen, we started our lessons in Tok Pisin and soon after, we went to a village in the Southern Highlands to attend a worship service with an MAF ministry team. Up to now, our encounters with PNG culture have been a bit like drinking from a fire hose.

When a large crowd began to gather just outside our house in Mt. Hagen, we found ourselves at the fountain again. Our previous experience in East Africa has helped us to adjust here in PNG, but processing all of the new culture has been challenging. Fortunately, the Highland people are very patient, friendly and understanding.

It was in Africa that we first encountered a custom strange to most westerners. It is the buying a wife, which is also known as paying the Bride Price. The concept of a “dowry” is not unknown in the western world, but it is rarely practiced among those of European decent. Marriage customs vary widely around the world and in some places it is the woman’s parents, who must pay a dowry to the husband’s family. But in East Africa as well as here in Papua New Guinea, the bride’s family receive the payment.

In Papua New Guinea, just like in East Africa, a son will take on the responsibility of caring for his elderly parents. Saying that a person is buying a wife is not quite accurate. It is not a woman who is being purchased, but rather it is a type of compensation to secure the long-term security of her parents and extended family. Because the wife will usually live with her new husband, the bride’s family will no longer have her help in her family’s daily life. The money presented by the bride groom and his family is understood as a compensation for the family’s personal loss of their daughter. The money goes to the bride’s family and will filter through the community in various ways. The decision as to the acceptable price is more of a community decision, following traditional norms and criteria too complicated for an outsider to fathom. Similarly, it is usually the community that decides who will get married in the first place, and it is not always based on a mutual attraction. Arranged marriages are more common in village settings.

In the West, individual rights and privileges are honoured above all. In PNG, it is the community that is paramount, and so it is rare that an individual will go against the wishes of the community and still be allowed to remain within that community. As western culture permeates this culture through economic growth and development, movies and television, it is taking a toll on communities. More and more individuals are driven to the big cities where they often live a more singular lifestyle. But many are having a difficult time being apart from the supporting network of their home community, which is why Port Moresby, the capitol city of PNG, is one of the most crime-ridden places on earth. Drugs, alcohol and pokies (gambling) provide an alternative community membership. Despite the obvious downside, criminal gangs and communal despondency is still more attractive to many than living apart.

We are Canadians working with MAF in Mt. Hagen, in the central highlands. Mt Hagen is not a big city. It would rank only as a town in Canada. In landmass, it is about the same as a town with around 6000-8000 inhabitants. It would not be big enough for a Walmart but big enough to have most of the shops and stores to support the local and regional population. Nevertheless, a city the size of Mt. Hagen still draws workers from some of the surrounding provinces. The community where we are living has a good number of people from neighboring Enga Province.

When we awoke to the sound of buses and other vehicles outside our compound gate, it was a sign that a large group was about to mass in the small undeveloped strip of land out front. After several hours, many locals as well as travelers from Enga Province had arrived for a Bride Price negotiation.

As we walked out among the crowd, several people came up to us and explained what was happening, and we were invited to watch and even participate if we wished. The scene was a bit chaotic to our eyes, with a number of pigs staked out in the middle of the field surrounded by about 150 onlookers. With the help of an Engan man who could speak a little English as well as Tok Pisin, we learned who some of the speakers were. A number of people were giving what seemed like very eloquent speeches in the local tribal language. Many people were nodding their heads in agreement, while others, like ourselves, did not understand the tribal language, presumably because they too had joined in to watch and were not part of the Engan community.

In the center, right next to the livestock, were three colourfully adorned women. The one in the middle was the bride, with two supporting “sisters”. Each time a person gave a speech, all three would run over and hug the person then return to their previous spot in the middle of the ceremonies. We learned that the men and women giving the speeches were agreeing to support the married couple and to contribute some money towards the Bride Price.

By the end of the first day, there was disappointment in the air. Only 4000 Kina (approx. CDN$2000) cash had been raised. Added to the cash amount were 17 pigs and one goat. All together, the livestock was worth about 40,000 Kina or CDN$20,000.

Judith had been taking many photos during the day, and everyone was happy to see their pictures, even if only for the moment captured in time. When the negotiations slowed, Judith was inspired to make a contribution to the Bride Price. After asking about the appropriate amount that would be customary for a stranger to contribute, she made a small donation. Although the amount was not large, it was appreciated by all, and we were both made to feel a part of the community.

Soon after this, the speeches started again. One interpreter told me that the bride’s father had complained in a speech that if even strangers could contribute, then the amount that the family was seeking was fair. Now we were concerned that we might have had an intrusive influence on the proceedings, but we were assured that our participation was welcomed by all and that the father’s tactics were well understood and every bit a normal part of the negotiations. Some times later the talks stalled, and it was clear that the bride’s family was not satisfied with the offering. The father of the bride stated that another meeting would be necessary and that everyone should return later in the week after searching for more money.

After a few days, the crowd returned, along with truck loads of pigs and the goat. Within a few hours, the negotiations were concluded, with the final results being 8,160 Kina (CDN4100$) plus 19 pigs plus and one goat. Everyone was happy as Judith took some family photos of the two families. They all went home pleased with the results, and the two of us learned a great deal about the people from Enga Province and their customs regarding a Bride Price.

Our first Walkabout in PNG

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Pastor Kambowa preaches in Ialibu

It has been a while since we have posted to our blog.  It is not because we have been too busy…more that we have been engaged every day learning a new language.  Although Tok Pisin in a form of Pidgin English and according to many, very easy to learn, we have not found it to be that way.  Moreover, our English writing skills seem to be a more than a bit challenged lately.  We have been told that this will pass.

Next week we start the first round of flight training to get certified in-country.  We are excited to be onto this more familiar stage of country orientation.  Meanwhile, we did have an opportunity to go out with a team of MAF national staff members who are involved in outreach work in smaller communities near Mt. Hagen where we are currently based.  We traveled with the team for our first work outside of the housing compound since we arrived.  Here is our report:

A Journey to Ialibu (say Yaliboo)

In early September we received an invitation from a member of the MAF staff to join with a ministry team that would be traveling to a village in the Southern Highlands.
Judith and I had only been in Papua New Guinea for a couple of weeks and were in the middle of our Tok Pisin studies so we were both excited about getting out for a visit but we did have some concern over our lack of proficiency in Tok Pisin. Nevertheless we accepted the invitation. A few days before we were to travel, Kambowa asked IMGP9203if we would be willing to give our personal testimonies as part of the day’s activities at the church. We both agreed and we prepared a brief testimony and tried to translate into Tok Pisin without help from our teacher, Nicki Duncalfe, who was unavailable before we going upcountry.
Early Sunday morning we started our journey along with the other members of the team. When the last of the team was aboard, Pastor Albert asked the Lord for a blessing for the work of the ministry team and for safe travels. The road trip was very scenic and both of us were overwhelmed by the beauty of the landscapes. We noticed small gatherings of people alongside the road socializing and gathering in small groups to enjoy the Lord’s Day. We were greeted with smiles and hand waving as we drove by.
During the drive, Judith asked Kambowa if he could check her translation work. She intended to present her entire testimony in Tok Pisin as well as read two pieces of scripture. The passages from the Gospel of John have been important to her coming to Christian walk with the Lord. As the two of them worked through the text, it became very obvious that Kambowa was excited. He explained that the sermon he had prepared was about the same scripture.
IMGP9250When we arrived at the village we had a brief time for tea, hosted by Mr. David Sodi. Soon after we were walking to the church. Our group of ten or twelve quickly increased to about 30 as children from the nearby Sunday school joined us and then lead us to the church. As we entered, we were immediately immersed in the joyful sound of singing in the local language or Tok Ples.  The two of us “white-skins” joined in as best we could. We were not able to understand the words but the joy and energy of the worship was inspiring. A few of the songs were in Tok Pisin with a songbook provided and one was in English. During worship, the church numbers swelled to near capacity and soon it was time for the local Pastor to introduce our group and the guest Pastor, Kambowa.
Kambowa called the MAF team to the front of the church and one by one we told our names, our duties within MAF and our origins. We were greeted warmly by the congregation. A few of the women cheered when they learned that Judith is a pilot. Shortly afterward, a short video was shown. It was an excellent presentation on the history, the work and the ministry of MAF in PNG as well as around the world. After the video, it was time for the two of us to give our testimonies.

Click to see photos of Ialibu

Click to see photos of Ialibu

Michael was first, telling his testimony in English and Tok Pisin while a local pastor translated his story into the Tok Ples. Judith followed, reading her testimony in Tok Pisin and reading from the Buk Baibel. During the testimonies, members of the congregation called out praises of Hallelujah and Amen as the stories resonated with their own experiences or when the Holy Spirit touched them. Some could be seen crying and there was often some pleasant laughter as the congregation patiently listened to each of us stumbling through a new language.
Pastor Kambowa’s message followed through with the theme of God’s word reaching out, transforming, shaping and directing our lives. It was a message of hope that strongly demonstrates the power of the Holy Spirit and the Word while at the same time reflecting the ministry of MAF. Pastor Albert also used his powerful voice to reinforce the message and to give a rousing prayer that came through, loud and clear to us despite our limited knowledge of Tok Pisin.
After the service, many men and women came to great us. We were surprised at how many went beyond a simple handshake and smile. We were hugged and thanked by both men and women who were looking deeply into our eyes in a knowing and familiar way that expressed gratitude beyond words for sharing our stories. More than that, we were like true brothers and sisters. It was clear that were being accepted as more than a visiting group of church workers.

Judith receives a gift of a Bilum (string bag) from Emanuel

Judith receives a gift of a Bilum (string bag) from Emanuel

During the drive back to Mt. Hagen, we reflected on the events of the day. We had started off with the expectation of getting to know some of the MAF staff members and to learn a little about their outreach ministry. We thought that we would get to see some village living and to experience a worship service in another language. We believed that this cultural knowledge would be useful to our service as pilots. The Lord had a different plan. He showed us that He is alive in the hearts of His ministry workers that have been faithfully reaching out to small communities, sharing the Good News. We saw how the Holy Spirit can bring a message from different parts of the world and deliver it directly to the hearts of those who were meant to hear that the need for Salvation is universal, regardless of age, race, wealth or country of origin. He showed us that we have many brothers and sisters in Christ and that there are more ready for the Harvest.
We are thankful to the team for inviting us and giving us the blessing and the privilege of being part of the worship in Ialibu.