Part 1: An Interview with Joseph Tua
Interview by Mandy Glass. Photos by Joseph Tua (JT), Andrea and Joël Rominger (AJR)

Hello, I’22-year-old old Papua New Guinean and I just finished all my flight training at Nelson Aviation College in New Zealand.
Could you give me the contact details to which I can hand my CV to?
I really wanna start off my career by flying for MAF as that would be me saying thank you to God for helping me thus far in my flight training.
Thank you.

About two years ago, on 19 August 2017, this message was received on our MAF Papua New Guinea Facebook page. The inquiring person was referred to MAF Australia’s website (https://maf.org.au/transformation/) for more details about a career as a pilot with MAF in PNG and encouraged to take it from there, to hand in his CV paired with a letter of interest and to file an application. The response ended with good wishes, “All the best and God bless – and maybe you’ll soon become part of our MAF PNG team!”
And now, in September 2019, Joseph Tua, from Pangia in the Southern Highlands Province, is indeed part of our MAF PNG team!

Joseph spent most of his life growing up in Port Moresby and has been accepted to join MAF PNG as a low hours pilot. He is currently being trained by pilots Volkher Jacobsen and Simon Wunderli from the Queensland based MAF Mareeba Aviation Training Centre to fly in Western Province, specifically for the Aerial Health Patrol Programme.
At the end of 2018, Joseph successfully completed the MAF standardisation programme at Mareeba which was the last big hurdle before being accepted as a MAF pilot. In January 2019 he completed the conversion training for the Cessna Caravan C208 as this was going to be the aircraft he would fly in Papua New Guinea.
By July 2019, Joseph had finished the MAF PNG orientation programme and his initial operations training at the Mt Hagen base and hangar. Now he was ready for take-off!

What does it mean for you finally to sit in the left-hand seat of a Cessna Caravan, beginning your training to become an MAF PNG Pilot? Share a bit about your history of how you started to become a pilot.
I didn’t expect to be flying an aircraft as big as the Caravan so soon, to be honest! At the flight training school, we were used to flying the smaller, lighter ones and then to go from that to a relatively bigger and heavier aircraft was quite something. I was a bit nervous at first – not sure if I would be able to fly the Caravan – but then I was also excited! I’m someone who loves a good challenge and this felt like a good challenge – hehe – and I mean, everything happens in its own timing and if this was the time, then bring it on!
To be sitting in the left hand seat of a Caravan and starting my training to become an MAF Pilot is a big privilege and a huge honour! I don’t think many people get a chance like this and I am just blessed. But at the same time it is stressful – I feel the need to perform to a high standard and sometimes I question myself if I am able to do this or if I am worthy to be doing this, you know?
But my biggest drive right now is to serve God and the people of Papua New Guinea. And so far, flying around the Western Province bringing medical staff from the Aerial Health Patrol Project to villages, doing medevacs, and shuttling people in and out of various isolated places has just been a joy.

Joël Rominger, Joseph Tua and Volkher Jacobsen on their first training day out of Rumginae (AJR)

What’s the biggest difference between your previous training experience and now flying with MAF in PNG, flying as a pilot–in–command under supervision (ICUS), but also already being involved in flight operations?
The biggest difference so far is that now you actually have passengers on board that you have to manage and be considerate about, as well as dealing with the MAF Agents at the airstrips we fly to. So it’s not so much of a difference in terms of actually flying the aircraft but more on the side of dealing with people, loading cargo and, oh my goodness, the paper work! Haha! But in terms of flying it’s getting out of that training mentality, where your instructor tells you what to do and you do it without questioning, and you actually make decisions and either sticking by them or making new decisions and dealing with the consequences of those decisions, being in command of the aircraft and making it work for you.

Joseph flying his first commercial passengers as Pilot in Command under Supervision by Volkher Jacobsen; Joël observing from the 2nd row (JT)

In these past weeks of ICUS training, was there a special Aha or Wow–effect, a training lesson you won’t never forget?
Hahahaha, aahhhh, where do I begin???? I swear, my mind has been blown so many times by so many different wow moments I’ve seen so far! I think the one that sticks out so far is our flight to Dahamo. We had two PNG missionaries on board that were bound for Dahamo and the Dahamo area was just covered with cloud and isolated showers here and there and it seemed like we weren’t going to get there. We had tried the day before already, but could not make it in due to rain so we were trying again the next day. The instructor was flying and so he slowed the plane down and navigated past the showers and low clouds. We stayed within our limits the whole time but even flying close to the limits made me nervous! So anyway, I was sitting in front observing from the right hand seat and we worked our way around the clouds and showers and guess what? There was Dahamo – in sunshine!!! Like what??? It was literally grey all around except for where Dahamo was!!! It was magical! Beautiful! Divine! The approach followed the tree line down to the threshold and the instructor flew it down perfectly! But the weather was changing fast and so we landed – and oh, the strip was wet and slimy and short! We dropped off the two missionaries and were back up in the air and out of the grey as safely and quickly as we could. But wow! What an experience! What motivation! I was just overwhelmed!

Flat and green, meandering rivers and low cloud cover – that’s Western Province (AJR)

What are the challenges of flying in Western Province?
The main challenges of the Western Province would be weather and the airstrips themselves. We are in the wet season, so there’s always low cloud and isolated showers here and there, everywhere. And judging how wet the airstrips are and whether they are safe to land on or not? And if you do land, just trying to manage the aircraft on the ground and not get stuck is another challenge.

You are a fully trained Commercial Pilot, as your licence says; would you rather just go flying on your own or are you glad to have an instructor pilot sitting in the right hand seat now that you’ve seen quite a bit of the country and MAF’s operations already?
I am very, very, VERY happy to have our instructor pilots sitting in the right hand seat and teaching and guiding us through the different types of operational situations and pouring their knowledge of weather and navigation and their experience of flying the Caravan into us. Especially their knowledge of weather and navigation around PNG. The stuff they know and have taught us so far is just amazing!

What was the most joyful experience you had flying in Western Province so far?
It’s just flying the people around and seeing how grateful they are to be going home or to be receiving their supplies. The smiles on their faces – I live for that.

What was the most challenging interaction at a remote community/with passengers?
The remote communities are all very welcoming and we haven’t had any challenges with them so far. With passengers, my most challenging interaction was handing a passenger the sick bag while they were throwing up and then cleaning up after. It was a huge mess! I feel like throwing up just thinking about it as I’m writing. That day was honestly not the best day for me, but then, what could you have done and who else would clean it up? It’s part of the job so I didn’t mind. I still felt like throwing up though.
What are you looking forward to?
I’m looking forward to getting to know the aircraft and reading the weather and navigating around the Western Province and the rest of Papua New Guinea a whole lot more and a whole lot better. Because then can I go all out in serving the isolated people all over this beautiful country.

Joseph, being a Papua New Guinean flying in your own home country for people living in remote communities – how does that feel?
It’s an honour! A privilege and a joy! You can see how much these people rely on air services and just how grateful and appreciative they are when you land and park up. It’s more than just flying – it’s about the people. PNG is more than just the province I come from, it’s everyone from the Highlands to the Coast and we do our small part by providing an air service and I hope – sooner rather than later – that proper roads and services reach these isolated communities. Some of these communities are just so isolated you get taken back to the past when you land and see them.

Loading and unloading cargo is part of a MAF pilot’s duties (JT)

How do you manage being a bachelor living on your own and training, studying, being away from family to focus on your flying career?
Well, I have to cook for myself because mama is too far away (Port Moresby), haha. But it’s not so bad. This part of the journey helps or trains me to be independent and take care of myself; and it’s a chance to find out which path I want to take as life progresses. And like living on your own, you start to notice all your habits – the good ones and the bad ones – and sort of discover yourself. You have the chance to fine tune yourself and build yourself with a little less influence from your friends and/or family. You kind of learn to survive and stand on your own two feet and make your own decisions and figure out that life won’t end if you make mistakes. It’s okay to make mistakes, just as long as you clean up after yourself and learn and grow from it. You notice a lot about yourself when you live alone – your thought patterns, emotional triggers, what motivates you, what sparks your interests. The new interests that you develop along the way can sometimes surprise you, haha. Yes, I miss my family – but this time away from them is necessary so that I can become more capable of taking care of them and I am sure (well, I hope haha) they understand this.

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.

Gerhard Stamm with one of his friends and the local MAF Agent at April River in November 2016 (LAC)

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.

April River from the air: the village Niksek and the airstrip next to the river (JMD)

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.

Tesnia (JMD)

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.

Gerhard and Michael in discussion (JMD)

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.

Judith selling grille medicine (JMD)

Judith selling Bibles to the people at the April River airstrip at discounted prices (JMD)

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!

Disembarking the aircraft at Telefomin: Gerhard with Tesnia, one co-worker, Brigitte and another co-worker
(JMD)

And my God will meet all your needs according to the riches of his glory in Christ Jesus.
Philippians 4:19

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.
Philippians 4:20
(more…)

It’s a milestone for our flight training department: Thursday morning our recently installed Redbird Flight Simulator was dedicated to enhance and improve our in-house Caravan training.

On Thursday, 22 August 2019, during the little dedication ceremony, Markus Bischoff, MAF PNG’s Crew Training Manager, explained the advantages of the ‘sim’, as everyone is calling the Simulator, “Compared to a real aircraft, the sim is much cheaper to operate and we can use the actual airplanes for operations serving our customers. In the sim, you can practice things that cannot be done in the real airplane, like certain engine failure procedures. These scenarios help us to deal with emergencies from beginning to end. Because of the latter, we as pilots will become much more familiar with the Caravan and thus better equipped for dealing with real emergencies. Through training, we become better pilots as we move from simple exercises to the more complex ones. Training in the sim also builds trust in the systems and capabilities of an aircraft.”

Then, Markus continued his speech by comparing the trust build through the training in the simulator to our Christian life, “In order for our trust in God to grow we need to go through what you could call training. God will give all of us situations in our lives that require trust. As with the simulator, these might be simple things at first and will become more and more challenging as our trust grows. God will give you a challenge, e.g. a call into missions or just to step out in faith and leave your comfort zone. You can accept it or dismiss it, but only one of the two options will make you grow closer to God. And as you go on, the challenges might increase, but with every step, you become more intimate with God (spiritual growth). Just be aware that this no automatically means all will be fine.”

The MAF Mt Hagen team then came together in a circle around the simulator to pray, thanking God for providing the resources through a Dutch business club to purchase this awesome piece of equipment for our program, for the people who prepared the room and where involved in the logistics to get the sim shipped to PNG, through customs, up the highway and built together. May this simulator be a blessing in the training of our next generation of pilots and increase the safety of our operations.

Now, Hansjörg Schlatter, MAFI’s Single Engine Turbine Training Captain, is teaching our Caravan instructor pilots how to use the simulator for training. Hansjörg flew many years for MAF in Uganda and trained pilots to fly the Cessna Caravan. The MAF Uganda program has become an international hub as its training base expands and participates in pilot’s type conversions to and standardisation on the Caravan.

L-R: Mathias Glass, Luke Newell, Hansjörg Schlatter

In one scenario, Luke Newell was flying around Switzerland in fast-changing weather to get familiarised with the simulator. Luke is also one of our instructor pilots who in the future will use sim session for training specific emergency procedures before actually fly them in a real aircraft.

At the moment, Glenys Watson who until recently flew the Twin Otter is the first pilot whose Caravan conversion training is done using the simulator. This week, she started her ground school with Mathias Glass, one of our Caravan Training pilots. Mathias was one of the first instructor pilots getting to fly the Redbird under supervision of Hansjörg. Mathias said that “the principles to fly the Redbird Simulator are the same as flying a real Caravan. No difference there. However, some little bits and pieces take a lot of concentration. The controls feel heavier than in the aircraft itself. The sound is different. The view through the computer screen windows is great, but I can’t see my wingtips… But I got a really good impression that this tool will be a great asset to train pilots for normal and emergency procedures.”

Having the simulator operating here in PNG will enhance our training program and help with the growing needs in the future.

Two days full of joy and singing, sharing of memories and experiences from about 50 years ago, catching up with old and new friends, praising and worshipping God!
At the end of June, Telefomin and the Min people celebrated the 70th Anniversary of the Baptist Work in the Min tribe of PNG.

Guests of honour were Lindsay and Meryl Smith, who lived amongst the Min people from 1964 to 1979. Now, 40 years later, God provided the strength and opportunity to come back to where they spent “the best 15 years of their life“ as they said at one point.
Lindsay was involved in the construction of many airstrips in the Min area which until today are an essential lifeline for these communities. After planting churches in the area, they then started Bible Schools in several of the Min communities to train pastors.
So much more can be said about this wonderful couple, who have such a big heart for the Min people, their devotion to further the kingdom of God, their dependence on MAF, and above all, their dependence on God’s guidance and care.

As part of the celebrations, Lindsay presented the Min people with 100 copies of his Tok Pisin book “Wokabaut Long Rot Wantaim God Long Telefomin: God i givim laip long husat i bilip.”
“Every Step of the Way: Strengthened and Led by God’s Mighty Hand,” as the English version is called, is the life story of Lindsay Smith including missionary service in the highlands of Papua New Guinea at Tekin and Telefomin, and later at Kew, Rowville and Sydenham Baptist churches in Victoria, Australia. It also includes personal anecdotes and reflections on his life experiences and God’s leading in them.

Encounters with pioneer missionaries like the Smiths are so valuable, very special and impactful, but also becoming more and more rare. They encourage us and spur us on to faithfully continue one’s own calling and ministry to build God’s kingdom and to win people for eternity, through the clear message of God’s love for us as human beings, his suffering, and death on the cross. But also being a witness in practical ways to help and train people to pursue a better life. Lindsay and Meryl did this by constructing new runways, preaching the Gospel and setting up Bible schools, teaching all sorts of craftsmanship skills or hygiene, listening to and praying with people, giving godly guidance in tribal or marriage conflicts to name a few.

Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses,
let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us,
fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer, and perfecter of faith.
Hebrew 12:1-2a