Facilitating a Trauma Healing Course
Part 2: Hope. Air. Life.

Story and Photos by Harriëtte Knigge

In the distance I heard a sound my heart recognised. Is it really him? My friend Caroline and I stared at the sky, but couldn’t see much. Yet we continued to hear the sound more and more clearly. Gradually, a dot grew bigger and bigger. It really is him! My heart breathed with relief. We looked at each other radiantly and Caroline gave me a hug. The MAF plane is coming. Only ten minutes ago, we heard that my husband Wilfred, an MAF pilot, was on his way to pick us up. Finally!

I realised that only in that moment I was getting a little sense of what the sound of our MAF planes mean for the people in remote communities like Moropote. I felt hope, air, life; and I wasn’t even injured or in need. I just wanted to go back to my husband and kids and my own familiar place after a week in remote Moropote with Caroline.

You may remember my story about the trauma healing course. You can read it HERE.

A full church: 40 to 45 students a day!

We had a great week, even if the end went differently than expected. I realised I would like to share that part of the story too. So here it is from the bottom of my heart…

It was 10am on a Monday morning in March when we heard the relieving sound of the plane. We were supposed to be picked up by one of Wilfred’s colleagues on the Friday before, but at the last minute this was not able to happen. For four days we had been unsure whether it would happen at all. Caroline, also ready to go home to her family, had been carefully checking whether there was enough petrol available to ‘rent’ a canoe boat to take us to a place where we could return to Wewak by bus. This would be a hugely expensive and adventurous two-day trip. Even as we considered this option, we kept in mind that I, the “wife-of”, was out here in Moropote. MAF highly values ​​its staff and so would never leave me, and Caroline, sitting here in the bush. It is a privileged position to be so valued, how did I come to deserve it?

Luke, the official MAF Agent who maintains the airstrip and monitors the radio traffic, sat at the radio every morning and afternoon for the past week to receive updates on what’s going on in PNG.

Luke, the MAF Agent, at the radio

We didn’t hear about Covid-19 through Luke, nor did we talk about it ourselves during the course. Why should we worry the people here? At the end of the week, the first sounds of Covid-19 arrived. Since there is no mobile phone reception in such a remote location, I could not possibly check what had happened in the world or how far the virus had already spread in PNG.

The trauma healing course ended on Thursday afternoon and, just as we said goodbye to the students, Luke broke the news about Covid-19. His message was vague and, again, I got a little feel for what it is like to live remotely. You just have no idea what’s going on out there. Is the news really true? What exactly does it mean? Caroline and I read Psalm 91 before enjoying our dinner of fish brought by local people: “my refuge, my fortress, my God! 
I trust you!”

Fish for dinner

On Friday, when we heard that MAF still couldn’t pick us up, I began having a bad day. Neither Caroline nor I are newcomers to the mission field; we know the word ‘flexibility’ through and through. However, I continued to find the uncertainty difficult. We made our portions of food a bit smaller and were extra grateful for what the local people shared with us. How long will this take? Saturday we heard that plans were made for our pick up. Caroline and I breathed a little easier. We decided not to be down anymore, but try to make the best of it; we laughed, made up our own games, and read Psalm 91 again.

I only brought some dice. How does Yahtzee go again?

Luke and his wife Esther take care of the little house Caroline and I stayed in together. We often sat in their ‘garden’ to chat and laugh. Someone gave Luke a cup-a-soup bag, but he had no idea how to prepare it. Is he supposed to eat the powder from the packet? He laughed at me when I tried some new food and pulled all kinds of faces.

Harriëtte with Esther and Luke and their adopted children

On Sunday we heard that, as of Tuesday, there will be no more air traffic over Papua New Guinea. The government decided to shut everything down so as not to spread Covid-19.

Monday morning we finally received the happy news: Wilfred will be here in 10 minutes! I was afraid I didn’t quite understand Luke’s Tok Pisin. Caroline happily gave me a high five, so apparently I could believe my ears. We quickly cleaned up the mess from our stay, then gave hugs and shook hands with these beautiful people who became so close to us in the previous week. We were happy and grateful to be picked up. But at the same time there was this realisation: When will we see them again? How does this continue with Covid-19? Should we as a family leave the country? What about the local people? Questions, so many questions. But for that moment, gratitude predominated.

Looking back, it was a beautiful week with a very crazy ending. I expected to learn more about the language and culture this week, which I did. But this week’s unexpected lesson was experiencing a little bit of what people in such remote communities feel when you are really in need and there are no highways to hospitals or home. I will never take the sound of our MAF plane for granted again. And I hope and pray that God will give hope, air, and life to many people through MAF.

Way-maker, miracle worker, promise keeper, light in the darkness. My God, that’s who You are!

Happy to be home bound to Wewak!