Story by Judith Dupuis. Photos by Judith and Michael Dupuis (JMD), LuAnne Cadd (LAC) and Mandy Glass (MG)
Judith and Michael Dupuis served with MAF in Papua New Guinea for almost 4 years, first based at Mt Hagen, later on, based at Wewak. Occasionally, Judith joined Michael on flights to get out into the communities to bless the people at the various airstrips. Our pilots are usually very busy working long programmes to serve as many communities as possible, which results in busy turn-arounds and less time actually to have a decent chat with people and passengers on the ground. Judith coming along on some of Michael’s flights when there was space available, with her enthusiasm to share her faith, wanting to get to know individuals and just encourage people, could easily compensate for this lack of time to interact with people due to flight logistics. Everywhere she went, she was quickly surrounded by a crowd, as she opened the Bible Box and chatted to people in a mix of Tok Pisin (local trade language) and English. Usually, these flight days held some divine moments to be remembered.
Michael and Judith left MAF PNG a few months ago and are resettling in Canada. In their latest and last newsletter to their supporters, they share one of these divine interactions:
To Witness God’s Work in Action
As long as we have served with Mission Aviation Fellowship, we have striven to communicate adequately about the amazing things that we have seen God do; sometimes mere words seem empty and pale compared to how vibrant and spirit-filled the people are who have benefitted from the work of MAF aircraft in remote, isolated villages.
Together we toiled, many times at day’s end we would be physically and mentally tired with our clothing pungent from sweat. However, despite the occasional hardship, we never doubted that we were part of something that would have an eternal impact. The Lord granted us not only strength for the tasks He had set before us but also gave us glimpses into how this work was building His Kingdom. What better motivation and encouragement could one wish for than to witness God’s work in action and be able to tell His stories.
The Tragic Passing of a Much-loved Missionary, and Frequent MAF Traveller
This final story that we want to share with you was brought to mind due to the tragic passing of a much-loved missionary, and frequent MAF traveller, Gerhard Stamm. Gerhard served with the Liebenzell Mission, another organisation that also had a profound impact on the people of the Sepik region as well as the community of missionaries in PNG. On July 3rd of this year, Gerhard slipped from a tree-trunk while on a hike with his youth group; sadly, he was internally injured very badly and succumbed to his injuries. Gerhard will be greatly missed but we have no doubt his smile radiates even more in our Lord’s presence.
God’s Answer to One Little Girl’s Prayers
This story happened in March 2018.
Gerhard, his wife Brigitte, and two short term co-workers arrived at April River village by canoe from an outreach to another remote village they were visiting as part of their mission work in the Sepik area. The April River airstrip was the nearest place they could catch a MAF aircraft back to their mission home in Mt. Hagen. The Stamms had been at the village for longer than anticipated due to poor weather conditions. It had rained for several days such that MAF aircraft could not risk landing safely on the airstrip’s wet-grass surface. It was during this unplanned lay-over in April River that they came to know a young girl named Tesnia.
Tesnia’s parents had left their daughter behind in the care of her grandparents while they relocated outside of Mt. Hagen to attend a 2 year Bible school programme at the SSEC Bible School Popun. As with most children in PNG’s remote villages, Tesnia spent most of her days running around on bare feet. Unfortunately, bare feet offer little protection in the jungle.
Stuck waiting in April River for the MAF aircraft to arrive, Gerhard observed that Tesnia moved around with a limp and asked her if he could look at her foot. Upon close inspection, Gerhard realised Tesnia’s swollen foot was now badly infected. Gerhard’s concern increased when he realised Tesnia would not get any additional medical attention she needed here in the village apart from cleaning her wounded foot and wrapping it a bandage.
Gerhard, Brigitte, and the community prayed for the arrival of the MAF plane; poor communications prevented conveying the improved airstrip conditions to MAF Base staff. Prayers uplifted included Tesnia; beyond medical care, a trip to Mt. Hagen would also mean Tesnia could be re-united with her parents.
That evening Gerhard encouraged Tesnia that she could also pray to Jesus that there would be a seat for her on the plane when it did arrive. The excitement on the little girl’s face, for a moment, hid the pain of her bandaged ankle.
The next morning, the faint sound of a MAF aircraft could be heard in the distance and then it appeared flying overhead. A lower-level field inspection was flown and Michael assessed that the airstrip conditions had finally improved enough for the MAF plane to land safely. After an uneventful landing, the aircraft came to rest, was unloaded of its passengers and cargo; Michael began preparations for the departure flight onto Telefomin. Gerhard immediately came over and inquired of Michael if there would be room on the plane to take Tesnia to Mt. Hagen via Telefomin.
Michael carefully weighed the baggage and considered the addition of Tesnia as a passenger. Due to recent rains, the airstrip surface was softer than usual which negatively affected the take-off performance. While Michael checked the Cessna Caravan performance charts I distributed some Grille (skin disease) medicine and also sold some Bibles.
With the calculations completed the aircraft’s usual payload needed to be reduced to compensate for the soft-surface conditions. However, Michael shared the good news that the MAF flight could safely accommodate Tesnia’s weight. Michael determined the plane would be operating at its maximum take-off weight limit and was mindful there was no room for error in pilot technique during the take-off roll and climb out.
Later that day, we spoke to Gerhard and he told us that when he had seen Tesnia that morning, she still had a worried look on her face. He asked her if she had prayed, and she replied “YES!” Gerhard reminded Tesnia of God’s faithfulness, and encouraged her to trust in Him!
We were so encouraged that God used each of us to answer a little girl’s prayers!
And my God will meet all your needs according to the riches of his glory in Christ Jesus.
This verse, written by the apostle Paul while he was imprisoned, was the same scripture verse Gerhard shared with me that same day as one of his favourite verses. Our flight that day stopped briefly in Telefomin with our hope to connect “in time” to transfer our unexpected passenger onto another MAF aircraft destined for Mt Hagen.
Trusting in God’s Provision
As I popped into the MAF Telefomin office to confirm Tesnia would indeed be able to continue her travels that same day to Mt Hagen I noticed the same scripture verse Philippians 4:19 hanging above the MAF dispatch desk but written in the local language of Tok Pisin. In my mind a prayer of gratitude went up to our Lord and a quick photo of the scripture verse captured the moment in time now past.
Trusting in God’s provision is a must when serving on the mission field. Keeping the faith sustains all of us as we live this life on earth. Writing from prison, the apostle Paul wrote to encourage the church in Philippi about the peace, joy, and contentment he found in Christ, regardless of his situation or circumstances.
As we read these words, we will always remember Gerhard’s legacy of love for the people of Papua New Guinea, and how that love impacted their lives for Christ for generations to come.
Although we have only been back in Canada for a short time, we already dearly miss what we have been so privileged to be a part of with MAF. Nevertheless, we rest assured in the knowledge that His plan is to prosper and not to harm us; to give us hope and a future.
Now unto God and our Father be glory for ever and ever. Amen.