When pilot Wilfred Knigge lands at an airstrip, he brings his well-established routine and friendly Dutch personality with him. His routine begins by helping the passengers disembark from the aircraft and sending them off with their luggage. This is followed by the normal after-landing checks; walking around the aircraft and weighing and logging passengers and freight for the next leg of the flight. All the while, Wilfred chit-chats with the airstrip agent and bystanders.
Before Wilfred climbs back into his pilot’s seat, he pulls a black toolbox from the Caravan’s back cargo pod. Don‘t worry, he doesn’t intend to fix anything on the aircraft. On the contrary, there aren’t even any engineering or mechanic tools in the box! The tools contained in the box are of a completely different variety; the kind of tools used to adjust and guide a person‘s life. Wilfred’s black box holds brand new Bibles, in both written and audio versions, as well as other Christian resources. These are sold at highly subsidised prices to people Wilfred encounters at the airstrips.
This act of opening his Bible Box, after all flight and safety-relevant tasks are completed, comes naturally to Wilfred. As he says, “It is just part of normal ops every day, so it is not something special or big and I don’t really register it, except for the sales record.”
He refers to some villages as Bible sales ‘hotspots.‘ One such hotspot is Nungwaia. Wilfred reports:
“Earlier this year, I took two full card boxes of Bibles to Nungwaia. That is 80 Bibles in total. Nungwaia has a very active church and is also helping and serving a community in the Highlands, Yatoam. Currently, they support Yatoam by building a mission house there.
“A couple of weeks later, we flew the route Wewak – Nungwaia – Sibilanga. Nungwaia is closer to Wewak, it always comes first on the schedule. They always buy me empty! Every time I landed in Sibilanga, they asked me for Bibles, but every time I was sold out. In a way, it is kind of funny, but also a little bit sad. Luckily we also had flights straight to Sibilanga, so we could bring Bibles, glasses and dictionaries.”
Another Bible sales hotspot is Moropote, especially for the solar-powered audio Bibles. Wilfred continues:
“Many times when we get there, they want them. At the end of January, we as a family spent a weekend at Moropote with my parents and a few ‘orders’ for audio Bibles came in. Unfortunately, we were out of audio Bibles, as was CRMF. So it took a bit of time before we could ‘complete the order.’
“On the 30th of January, I landed again at Moropote, and straight away the people asked for the audio Bibles. But I did not have any. On the 6th of February, I landed again at Moropote, but still had no audio Bibles. On the 10th of February, the same, I landed at Moropote, but still had no audio Bibles. About a month later, on the 16th of March, my wife Harriëtte went to Moropote. Together with her friend from Liebenzell Mission, they facilitated a trauma healing course. We used this opportunity to stuff a lot of audio Bibles in the Bible box so she could finally give them to the people.”
According to Wilfred, Yatoam has a fairly high demand for Bibles, especially since the Wewak plane doesn’t fly there very often. People at Anguganak also regularly want Bibles. Likewise, Oksapmin and Ok Isai regularly request Bibles, though at a slightly lower rate. The people at Ok Isai purchased a lot of audio Bibles last year and seem to be fully supplied now.
Let‘s have a closer look what Wilfred means when he says he runs out of Bibles very quickly on a day’s flying. At the beginning of a day’s flying, Wilfred’s Bible Box contains 8 Tok Pisin Bibles, 3 English Bibles, 6 audio Bibles, 2 dictionaries, 2 concordances, 2 Bible handbooks, 8 reading glasses, and a few packs of grille medicine for adults and children, although they are not part of the Bible sales record and more of a personal addition to the box’s content in response of this basic medical need by the people in these remote communities.
Did you know these facts about MAF PNG’s Bible Box Ministry???
MAF PNG pilots have carried Bibles into remote mission stations and communities since 1951 (the birth of MAF in PNG). Historically, such transport has been in response to requests from MAF‘s mission partners. However, since nationalisation of the church denominations and subsequent reduction of funding for the import and distribution of bulk Bible shipments, isolated peoples‘ access to Bibles has reduced significantly.
MAF is improving accessibility to Bibles, both printed and audio, by carrying a “Bible Box” onboard most flights. The Bible Box is literally a plastic toolbox filled with Bibles, Bible commentaries, and dictionaries of different types which the pilots take on their flights to distribute to people in the bush. Each Bible Box weighs approximately 10 kgs.
The Bibles, both audio and written, and soon solar radios, are sourced from MAF Technology Services PNG, known in PNG as CRMF, via bulk imports. The Bibles and resources are “sold” to the local people at remote airstrips; often for less than half the price at location-appropriate prices. It is unwise to give the Bibles away for free as, culturally, only things you buy are of value.
MAF PNG bears the cost of the freight of these Bible Boxes as part of its operational expense. Therefore, the funding of this project will help MAF PNG cover the cost of the Bible Box’s freight.
Your contribution to keeping the Bible Box in the air is making lasting spiritual transformation throughout one of the most geopolitically complex nations in the world!
Story by Mandy Glass. Photos by Andy Symmonds (AS), Wilfred Knigge (WK) and Mandy Glass (MG),