‘Seeing a young boy fall and scrape his knee, I walked over to check and see if he was alright. But the attention of the “whiteskin” captain was too much, the young boy was afraid and ran off’. States Richie Axon.
Although this is a typical reaction to our expat pilots, Richie decided to try another approach. He pulled out of his Bible Box (link to story on Bible Box) a Children’s Bible with pictures. He sat down in the shade of the airplane wing and opened the book. Immediately several children as well as a few mothers gathered around him as he slowly showed the pictures and read the Tok Pisin words and storied a little with them about it.
Finding meaning beyond simply flying here is at the heart of Richie and his wife Bernie’s desire to work here in Papua New Guinea. Based out of Telefomin, a small community nestled in the remote highlands of PNG, they have a passion for ministry beyond the use of aircraft. Bernie’s passion is children’s books and Bibles and after starting with stock they bought themselves with help from their supporters in Australia MAF Australia found out about it, and she was blessed with boxes of such books sent on the container that comes up with aircraft parts every so often.
Since MAF Technologies (CRMF), who supplies the Bibles for our Bible Boxes, has had some difficulties getting their latest shipment in, Richie’s Bible Box has been filled with these Children’s Bibles and Christian Story Books. This day was no different as he was being checked into his final Class D (short and/or steep slope) strip in the Sepik river valley, Busilmin, with Paul Woodington. The technical aspects that make this strip a Class D are partly due to the fact that it is in a side valley, off a high valley and due to the steep terrain, from the parking area on the strip it is not possible to see down into the main valley to know if there are clouds such that would make a flight not possible. A pilot needs to be set up and prepared to make an immediate turnaround and land if when he pulls off the ground and gets a look down the valley and sees impenetrable clouds.
The village is a 20-minute walk from the airstrip, so unless they are expecting the plane, it will take some time before they show up once you have landed. Although typically you will always have a few kids there almost immediately, curious about the plane, what it brings and who is flying it. And this day was no different, thus, Richie’s opportunity to sit in the shade and read to the children, as a way to bring the injured boy closer to make sure he was OK, which he was.
Today they had a little extra time as well because they had been informed by staff when they left Telefomin that there was a medical patient needing transport to a hospital. Due to weather and the time of day, they decided that they could wait for 1 hour for the patient to arrive and still be able to drop the patient at a hospital and get back to home base before weather set in for the day and darkness fell. The patient arrived in time and the flight was completed as planned. And Richie went home thankful that he had packed the Bible Story Books and had an opportunity to share with them in the shade of the wing.