Thoughts from Godfrey Sim, MAF PNG Church and Community Partnership Manager, July 2017

In part 1, I promised: “But more of that ‘cultural interrogation’ in episode 2 of this story!” It’s taken some months to get there and sorry to those who have been waiting.

Before I explore the impact of Planim Pos, also known as the “Creation to Christ” (C2C) approach, I’d like to share a picture of culture that I found helpful during my community development experiences in the 1990s, as well as some filtered observations since. These are personal thoughts and not necessarily the view of MAF, but I hope will help to grow an understanding of the complex context of the “Planim Pos Phenomenon” (as I call it) and its potency in Christian transformation in rural Melanesia. Meantime, Jim Tanner (*Ethnos360), and the teams he has helped train to perpetuate the courses, continue with this amazing work in some of the most remote areas of PNG, areas in which MAF assists by providing access to, through our subsidised flying.

Jim Tanner with Planim Pos resources (GS)

What is Culture?

Culture is made up of all those things we do, wear, build, eat, and all of ‘how’ we do life. But it’s also all those things that are in the next level down; the ‘why’ we do what we do. Many attitudes that drive behaviour are often the same the world over, but the values that give those attitudes more or less authority, more or less permission or inhibition, are important to identify if deep change is to occur.

However, there is actually another layer below the values layer that is fundamental to human change. This is the source matrix from which values derive. This is known as the world view, or rather it’s a set of basic assumptions that people may not even know they hold, but which defines the way they see; what is real, what is good, what is bad, what is the cause and effect of any particular phenomenon. Take our own Western world view and how (false) assumptions of where illness came from gave rise to superstition, and practices such as witch killing, before medical science gradually unravelled the scientific causes (and effects) of many illnesses.

Culture is like an Iceberg

This is the picture I was going to share. What you see (of culture) is ‘above the surface’. The large part is both ‘invisible’ and hard to unravel. What a people group or society ‘show’ (what you as an outsider see and hear) of their culture, will have deeper layers of; attitudes, values, and assumptions, that their behaviour and practices are based upon. As I said, this makes up their world view. But then there might be few ‘pure’ and untouched cultures anywhere. Most isolated people groups have been influenced (or imposed on), to varying degrees, by foreign cultures, and so have formed both ‘fusions’ of world views and/or parallel ones existing side by side. Members of the society often jump between these, adopting values that often seem in conflict with each other, but for them are merely appropriations of alternative values, as they ‘decide’ or opt for which will be more useful or be safest for them in the circumstances.

Collision on Culture Street

However, when cultures ‘collide’ there are inevitably key areas of ‘damage’ as a result of the collision. I see damaged areas as those negative patterns of behaviour, and their impact, which come from the confusion and conflict between two strong belief systems. Sadly these become norms in a society.

In the early stages of the cultural clash and in the absence of education and rational thinking oral societies must both interpret the ‘new’ through their own cultural grid (world view) and must assign ‘cause’, (their own ‘logic’), to the new phenomena. They rationalise these by incorporating the invading ideas and events into their myths of origin and stories of their ‘history’, all safely encased in their framework of beliefs. Many stories then spread as explanations of the changing world. These remain present and actively evolving in the background in spite of the progress that is happening through education. In any case, the rational approach Westerners may take to interpreting new phenomena or ideas is far from the Melanesian way of making meaning out of a changing world.

“Alive” Myths of Origin

A live myth is one that is actively providing reasons for the current existence of a people group through the adaptive process of incorporating a rationale for new phenomena. (my definition)

I remember while growing up in the West Sepik that the myths of origin started including the new phenomenon of the Waitman, (Europeans), by the explanation that there were always (originally) two brothers, one of which departs, learns much, and returns as the ‘white brother’ – the arrival of white people with much secret knowledge and goods. Then later, the character of Misis Kwini (the Queen) was incorporated and later still in 1974, another person called Indipendens, (Independence), who was “coming soon”, and would “change everything for the better”.

Nason Naleap, aka “Mim Rot God” (AL)

And still, for many, the validating stories for the current influences and phenomena are contextualised in and through the tumbuna stori, (ancestral narratives), and have to be connected to them and the spirit realm. Recently two cults, with charismatic leaders, claiming to be “Black Jesus” and “The Way” (Mim Rot God), are adaptations of the animistic world view with a modern and validating Christian twist in a millenarian framework. Followers believe their ‘new’ Jesus (messiah) will usher in a new and better era/world, and so they worship and practice gross acts to be part of the select. These cults are wreaking havoc in their respective areas of influence.

After escaping from prison, “Black Jesus” was eventually hunted down and shot by police and the influence of that cult is thankfully in recession. (Not that I condone the killing.) Meantime in remote west Enga ‘The Way’s (Mim Rot God’s) cult is spreading at an alarming rate.

Cause and Effect…the Superstitious vs the Scientific Rationale 

In the area of physical health, there is a base-line (false) assumption that it is normal to live from birth to old age, with no one dying before old age. So even when medical causes of diseases are clearly evident and known, people living with two belief systems will still cover their bases by consulting with the Glasman (an animistic diagnostician and healer) for the ‘actual’ reasons why someone is sick. One possible cause for their illness could be that there was a contract out on them for their’s or a family member’s misdemeanours. Contract killers (sorcerers) are often engaged.

The crazy-stupid Jesus

So the challenge of bringing the Gospel to this context doesn’t start and stop with the seemingly crazy man called Jesus (who stupidly let himself be killed) and to the Melanesian mind, the foreign and strange ideas of “love” and “grace”. I am oversimplifying the issue but only to make a point that for many rural Papua New Guinean’s the tumbuna stori bilong Jisas (the ancestral origins and narrative of Jesus), holds the key to contextualising this Jesus and how His story connects with, and addresses, the Melanesian world view. This is a window through which God’s truth can penetrate and bring light into animism and the syncretism (the ‘fusion’ of beliefs and practices).

So it’s easy to see how fundamentally different world views, operating or active in a society, can create huge tensions between the values that derive from them and which become visible in behaviour that lacks consistency with and within its own source matrix. Welcome to cross-cultural ministry in general. But many of these ‘value tensions’ are felt acutely by those working for change in PNG society now, whether that is in the context of Christian transformation or in civil and community development contexts!

So what then is the Relevance and Impact of the Planim Pos Phenomenon?

The approach (the ‘how’), and content (the ‘what’), of C2C (Creation to Christ) is ground-breaking in the context of PNG’s rural churches, but it’s all there in the canon of scripture! It should not be a surprising new discovery. God revealed His activity with regards to creation and the world of mankind, His character, His plan (of salvation for all) and His purpose (for all eternity) through chronological narrative, and with other types of writing.

Teaching pastors C2C (Planim Pos) at Kelabo (JT)

It is this chronological approach in the C2C material which is particularly powerful in the Melanesian context, as it resonates with the deep connections that Melanesian societies have with their ancestral origins and the narratives that drive their everyday beliefs, practices and behaviours.

Generally for Melanesians, the historical context of any important relationship is paramount to that relationship’s validity, and shapes the expectations for its ongoing value.

My PNG West Sepik ‘brother‘, whom I grew up with, might say:

Godfrey’s ‘brothers’ in his home village of Eritei, Lumi (GS)

So if the God of creation really has a story for, or with me involved, then it’s from the beginning that I want to hear what that is, and understand what that means for me (individually), but more importantly for my clan, my people (the collective).

If I can understand the connection of all the sub-stories, that will enable the big story to make sense. And when that makes sense of who we are and our present reality, I (and my family) will “chose life”, and not stay in the darkness of ignorance.

Also, when I have experienced a trust relationship with the messenger through the shared experiences of doing life together, I will have all the validation I need to accept the message.

3 parts Context and 1 part Content??? The Balance or Ratio is important.

C2C material unpacks both the historical context and the content of the Gospel of Christ! It is a guide through the purpose of the events and stages of Old Testament narrative, the Law and the Prophets, the nature of sacrifices and all the other aspects of God’s relationship to humankind. It is merely unwrapping the context for, and nature of, salvation through grace by faith in Jesus alone. In short, time spent on context is vital.

Prescription or Freedom?

A common trend in PNG’s churches is the reversion to an Old Testament based belief system where a prescriptive ‘rules based salvation’ subverts the very heart of the Gospel.

So the explosion of excitement from rural Christians on receiving the C2C training and the freedom it offers, is to be noted and broadcast, as they indicate to us all, the potency of this approach in revealing the nature and expression of God’s love and grace.

Reinforced Building Foundations

Training groups of pastors (JT)

As groups of leaders from rural Christian Brethren Churches (CBC) of PNG receive the C2C training in programmes run in both the Hela and West Sepik Provinces, the impact is starting to become evident. They are excited about having a ‘strong foundation’ (Planim Pos), re-established on which to build their haus (house or collective lives), and the basis from which to rebuff the false teaching of sects and cults.

This foundation training, together with courses on the Acts and Epistles, and many other resources produced over the years, will help Christ followers and congregations stand counter-culturally on critical issues that are fundamentally opposed to the Gospel. Issues like retribution and superstition that form the foundation of fear, which drives scapegoat violence. Issues like the greed that drives the abuse of the traditional ‘big-man’ leadership in politics, church and business life. Issues like the distortions of gender, marriage, and family. These devastate many communities.

Why write?

Godfrey Sim, Church and Community Partnership Manager – MAF PNG

My response to seeing C2C’s impact and God’s transforming power, is simply the strong desire to tell others, and unpack some reasons why we need more partners to pray for and support this particular extension of God’s Kingdom and enable MAF and its partners access the remotest places.

Contact your in-country MAF office through www.mafi.org  and check out how you can support MAF PNG’s subsidised flying programme. Your support will in turn, help to mobilise Planim Pos and other subsidised flying initiatives, and so assist in increasing their effectiveness as agents of transformation.

 

Photos courtesy: Uwe Kils (iceberg photomontage), Anton Lutz (AL), Jim Tanner (JT), Glen Sim (GS), LuAnne Cadd (LC)

More than Essays – Insights into a Community Depending on their Airstrip

In preparation for this year’s exam, Glenda gave her 10th-graders the topic “If Aeroplanes Had Never Come“. Printed below are two complete essays and a few more quotes from other students about what life in their valley would be like if aeroplanes had never come.

 

If  Aeroplanes  Had  Never  Come by Glen

My home valley is on the Northern side of a craggy mountain and that craggy mountain is found in Tekin Valley. The airline that helps people in the Tekin Valley is MAF and the small Airvan plane. The airline brings in businessmen’s cargo, sick patients and takes out the vegetables we send to other places and it brings pastors in and out too.

I think if aeroplanes had never come to our valley most of the businesses would close down. I think the people in this valley would find it hard to get store goods and most of their vegetables would go bad. Most of the people in this valley would never earn money because their only way to earn money is through the aeroplanes’ services. I think my family and community would face a lot of suffering. My body would be trembling with fear if no aeroplanes were landing in our valley.

I would like to say thanks because sixty years ago we didn’t get aeroplane services, but now aeroplanes are landing in our valley.

I think that when there is a crisis it goes back to normal when the aeroplanes bring people to help us. 

 

If  Aeroplanes  Had  Never  Come by Nasep

If there had been no aeroplanes coming to my valley from the past until now, I think I would not have a good living standard today. I would be someone who does not know how anything works and also what kind of thing anything is. My family, my clan and I would be living in the dark age without a single glimmer of light. This means there would be no knowledge of God and no technology available in my valley. 

Unfortunately, I would be living without basic services. I would be struggling harder and harder wearily carrying my brimful bag of kaukau (sweet potatoes) from one end of the valley to the other. Luckily, the aeroplane has landed in my valley and started making things easier. It has lifted the burden of carrying heavy things. My valley is located in the thick, dense bush at Gapka, one of the small villages near Bimin. 

This is how the first plane came. I heard a strange noise buzzing overhead like a huge bird talking to me. I thought it was an enemy coming to attack but it didn’t. My family and I were totally blank in our minds when we saw that strange thing. Fear clutched my heart so strongly that we tried to shoot the plane. Suddenly, a white man came out and told us, “Please, please, don’t shoot us! We are coming to bring good news to you.“ We were utterly shocked because it was new to us. 

I am very pleased to have an aeroplane today. In the past we need to live like a child whose father has died. Now, fortunately, I am living in a better life with hope in God and a lot of things which help me to survive.

 

If there had been no MAF aeroplanes coming to our valley, then we would be like a desert, waiting for the rain to come. This means that we would be primitives, not knowing God and without civilisation. We would not know about the modern technologies. Because of no proper supply of health facilities,(…) We would not have a proper education. – Demala

 

In such a bushy and mountainous village like this I can’t imagine what it would be like if MAF had never come. Nowadays we have good buildings which are made of milled timber, plywood, roofing sheets and nails which can last for a long period of time compared to the past houses which were made of bush materials and never lasted long. – Clay John

 

This is what my village would be like if the plane had not landed in my valley. As men we would wear a penis gourd and women would wear grass skirts. If it hadn’t landed we would not have bush knives or an axe. These things are essential for survival and with all those materials it makes our work easier. Finally, I am gratefully appreciative and say thank you to God for the plane that landed in my valley because it has provided us with all sorts of modern things such as education, health and very importantly the Word of God. – Ralph

 

The first airline that came here was MAF. This airline helps us with many things such as sheets of roofing iron, iron posts and other building materials. It also helps us by bringing manufactured foods into this valley. It also brings us the clothes that we are wearing now. However, if the plane had never come to this valley, the people of this valley would be suffering now. People might be wearing traditional costumes. They might also have no aid-post to get treatment, no church to attend and no schools to learn at. People in this valley might not know who God is and what a school is. We, people in this valley now know most of these things and we learn many new things that we didn’t know before. – Gondo

 

Imagine what life for YOU would be like if your village or town was cut off from civilisation for whatever reason…

The exam papers arrived in time for the students of remote Oksapmin High School at Tekin. A pastor took the sealed box on a PMV (Public Motor Vehicle) from Tabubil to Kiunga. This was a wise decision as MAF PNG currently faces an immense pilot shortage and would not have been able to schedule a flight from Tabubil to Tekin in time for the exams. Central Aviation, another third level airline operating in this part of the country, was able to deliver the exam papers three days before the actual exam when a cargo flight was going to Tekin with store goods in and vegetables out of the remote valley. Praise the Lord!

Glenda reported back that the exam went well. The students wrote on two topics, firstly they wrote an adventure story where they were the hero or heroine; then a discussion about wether politicians should buy their votes. With the national election just around the corner the latter topic was quite up to date.

 

Happiness is a Chair Provided – When the Aeroplane comes

Glenda’s Facebook posts in the past months give proof of the fact that the airstrip is so essential for the remote Oksapmin High School at Tekin.

19 January 2017

“They’re loading the plane for my flight back into Tekin now. I’ve enjoyed my break and am looking forward to the new school year. Paul and Ryan will be the pilots and Ludmer and Jacob are doing the loading.“

Airvan P2-MFM getting ready for the day’s flight (GG)

 

24 January 2017

“MAF planes have been in and out of our small airstrip many times in the last few days taking our students who graduated last year off to new schools within Sandaun Province to do their year 11 and 12. Sad and exciting! Tekin is a long way from Provincial Headquarters. Planes have taken 13 students to Aitape, 13 to Green River, 2 or 3 to Vanimo (all very hot lowland places totally different from our mountain valley!) and 9 to Telefomin.

This year there is an MAF Twin Otter aircraft and three pilots based at Telefomin which has been a tremendous help with the movements. None of the parents like planes swooping in and taking their kids away, but they know they are in safe hands and if emergencies occur it will be possible to go to them or have them flown back home.“

This year’s Grade 9 students students (GG)

 

3 February 2017

“High School education is in high demand in PNG so I have 69 students in my dirt floor grade 9 English classroom. The behaviour and cooperation of these keen young students is exemplary!“

 

28 February 2017

“Only in rural PNG would someone text you saying “I’m bringing 6kg of books for your school on the plane today!” In rural areas where we normally pay air freight on everything weight is more important than number. Thanks Mandy Glass and David and Pam Condie for the books and for not charging us freight. These kids hadn’t seen pop up science books before. The earthquakes and volcanoes really came to life.“

Students enjoying pop-up science books (GG)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

7 April 2017

“Young Papua New Guinea learns to debate in English class, girls too, of course! Maybe a political career started today!“

Students learn to debate in English class (GG)

12 June 2017

“Pau Woodington flew in from Wewak this morning in the MAF Caravan. We were delighted to receive a big load. Thank you, Brian and Rachael Montei and boys, for the set of encyclopedias and other books. Like your boys, Rachael, our students love animals so the book selection was great. The new plastic chairs also came. Now the students won’t need to carry their chairs from room to room. Happiness is a chair provided!“

Story Mandy Glass. Photos Glenda Giles

Only Accessible by Air – Building an Airstrip in the early 1960-ies  

“And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come.“ (Matthew 24:14 NIV)

Reading about Jesus telling His disciples about the day of his triumphant return, we might wonder when this might actually be. The world is so big, all nations are not merely established countries but all people. So is it possible?

Tekin, a village nestling in the Star Mountains of Papua New Guinea in Sandaun Province, is a wonderful testimony to the grace and election of God when, decades ago, the Gospel was firmly established in this remote valley only accessible by air.

Tekin airstrip, mission station, school and village from the air (MG)

“In 1950 during the first conference of Baptist Missionaries at Baiyer River (in the Western Highlands of PNG) it was agreed that the mission should seek out a second area of missionary activity. A Dragon aircraft was chartered and (…) flew west towards the then Netherlands New Guinea border to see about establishing a work at the recently opened Patrol Post at Telefomin. About 25 minutes before getting to Telefomin and just after leaving the magnificent Strickland Gorge they flew up and down two valleys that were obviously settled and occupied by a reasonably large number of people. Upon arriving at Telefomin they found out in discussion with the Patrol Officer that these must be the Oksapmin people who had not been contacted at that time. Subsequently, when the work was established at Telefomin in 1951, the aim was to evangelise both the Telefomin and Oksapmin people.“ (Keith Bricknell, The Baptist Recorder, Journal of the Baptist Historical Society of NSW Inc., No122, July 2013)

What started with this survey flight in 1950 became reality a good ten years later, when in June 1960 the first Baptist missionaries moved to Oksapmin. By the end of that year a missionary family had also settled at Tekin.

“On 29 & 30 June 1962, MAF allocated a Cessna 180 aircraft piloted by Max Meyers to enable the mission to move into Oksapmin (…) to establish the work. The next day, …, they set out for the Tekin valley and after looking at the Kusanap/Sembati clan areas were given permission by the owners, to establish the Baptist Mission in that area. … (A few weeks later they) began to clear the land for an airstrip and for building the mission station. By late 1962 the Bricknells were living at Tekin some 2 to 3 hours walk from the Oksapmin Patrol Post in the next valley and now concentrating on getting an airstrip built to enable them to have a supply route and contact with the outside world. (…) For their first time the Bricknells spent their time in supervising work on the airstrip, getting to know the people, language study, organising some simple church services at Tekin and Oksapmin and dealing with a hundred and one other things that cropped up during that period.“ (ditto)

Miss Glenda, a Mother to the Nation

Since the last permanent missionary left in the mid to late 1990s, the Baptist Churches in the Oksapmin Valley and Tekin Valley have remained strong and have grown over the years.

Miss Glenda Giles (MG)

The legacy of the missionaries continues there with Miss Glenda Giles, originally from New Zealand, who founded the Oksapmin High School 10 years ago. She turned 75 in May and has a long-term history of mission and education in Papua New Guinea. The school at Tekin is actually the fourth High School which she has set up in various remote corners of PNG. She came to PNG as a Bible translator with the Christian Brethren Church in 1967 and after translating a New Testament switched her focus to education. In 1976 she started a High School at Koroba in Hela Province and in 1987 another Hela Province High School at Margarima. After a few years as a Secondary School Inspector at Vanimo, in 1991, she started Green River High School in Sandaun Province and then in 2007 another Sandaun Province school, Oksapmin High School, where she is currently teaching. She is still going strong with a passion to educate another generation for a better Papua New Guinea.

Recently I had the pleasure of running into two of Glenda Giles’ former students, Hensit Wila and Yuda Dafatap, both now working as teachers at the Secondary School at Telefomin, Sandaun Province. I asked them to tell me about their career and the influence and impact of Miss Glenda’s teaching on their lives.

Hensit Wila (MG)

“It was during that time when we had to finish Grade 6 and go straight to high school to do our Grade 7,“ Hensit started explaining. “We two were privileged to go to Green River High School where Miss Glenda was the Principal back then. Being a student under Miss Glenda as an expatriate was really, really good. When I compare that time with this time, education was very interesting. So it was through Miss Glenda, who is from New Zealand, I got my education from Grade 7 all the way to Grade 10. She was the one who taught us in English. That must be one of the reasons that we are now able to speak better English. From Green River we went to St. Ignatius Secondary School at Aitape to do Grade 11 and 12. From Aitape we went to the University of Goroka and became teachers. By the time we completed our four years study at university, Miss Glenda was then appointed to head the new Oksapmin High School. As former students of hers she arranged for us to go and teach at Oksapmin High School. So I did my first two years of teaching at Oksapmin High School from 2007-2009. I am one of the pioneer teachers of Oksapmin High School.“

Yuda Dafatap (MG)

“Back then I also was at Green River High School,“ continues Yuda. “I think a lot of students throughout the country have a lot of testimonies about Miss Glenda. She is not just a Principal she is also a mother to the nation I would say. She started a lot of high schools and she brought a lot of students to be who they are today. Some are ministers in parliament, some are doctors, some are nurses, … everyone is sharing the same testimonies as I am. I am thankful that Miss Glenda came not just to be a teacher but also came to be a mother of so many young people in Papua New Guinea. She has brought so many young people from remote places in Papua New Guinea to be who they are today – and I am one of them. I am teaching at Telefomin Secondary School. A principle I learnt from Miss Glenda is to be there on time, get the task done and teach the students. She was very tough, when it came to administration. Her job was to make sure that we were in the classroom, teaching the students the right things and preparing them to pass their examination. That’s exactly what we are doing here. She trained us well to be administrators of our own profession and career. I am very thankful indeed.“

 

The Exam Papers haven’t arrived yet!  

“Pray for the students as they do their Written Expression exam next Thursday. The papers haven’t arrived here yet and they are all a bit nervous that they won’t understand the questions and write off the topic!“

Those are words from Glenda, written just five days before the actual date of this year’s Grade 10 Written Expression exam. The papers needed to arrive from the National Department of Education in Port Moresby and the only way to get them to Tekin was by air.

Highly focused Students (GG)

The school at Tekin has about 120 students who are all boarders. It is made of bush materials with mud floors and pit-pit grass matting on the walls and roof. The roof includes a layer of black plastic sheeting for weather-proofing and turf to hold it down.

This school, as do many others across PNG, works with minimum resources, is understaffed and has crowded classrooms and yet many of these students will out-perform those of the most prestigious colleges in PNG. The school’s performance has consistently been in the top 10 in PNG and in 2016 the school came fifth!

People from a nearby community brought firewood for the school’s cooking needs placing it near 
the girls’ dormitory (GG)

Mandy Glass. Photos Keith Bricknell (KB), Glenda Giles (GG), Mandy Glass (MG)

It was Good Friday morning, Michael and Judith Dupuis were enjoying some quiet reflection when a phone call from the Deputy Flight Operations Manager, Brad Venter, interrupted them. Then their morning took a different turn. A medical evacuation flight (medevac) was needed for a man who had been brutally attacked by a wild pig the day before. Michael and Judith quickly changed into their MAF uniforms and went to the Mt Hagen airport to get ready for their Good Friday medevac mission. The following are the morning’s events told by Judith.

Although the man’s injuries were not considered to be immediately life-threatening the patient was unable to walk the almost 30 km through the bush to the nearest hospital in Kompiam. Dr. David Mills, Medical Superintendent for Enga Baptist Health Services working at Kompiam District Hospital, inquired if we could also do another landing at the nearby airstrip called Pyarulama. Our quickly prepared flight plan had us overflying that airstrip on the way to the hospital anyway, so we agreed to pick up an out-patient who needed some follow-up medical attention.

Our flight this day was a rare opportunity to sit alongside each other serving His purpose. While Michael completed his preflight inspection and arranged for the Cessna Caravan to be refuelled I grabbed a few different ‘medevac care-bags’ supplied and prepared by MAF-PNG wives’ support ministry and threw them into the plane’s cargo pod.

As the aircraft seemed to leap into the air with extra resolve, we climbed into the unusually clear blue skies hoping that the wind would cooperate at the very short, one-way airstrip where we were heading at maximum speed. As we took to the skies and saw the glorious scenery that is usually shrouded in cloud we recognised this was another of God’s blessings we could experience together as a couple.

Navigating a track of 337’ from Mt Hagen it took a mere 20 minutes before we were aiming for the earliest touchdown point at Megau’s very short 420m steep runway. The aerodrome chart cautions the rising terrain of 8% upslope give the visual illusion of being too high.

On the ground the aircraft rapidly decelerated with the assistance of reverse thrust and the steep upslope. ‘My‘ Captain landed skillfully and uneventfully. From our cockpit window, we could see many people gathered near the top of the airstrip where there is a crude parking area just large enough for the MAF Caravan.

Our patient, was sitting on the grass among family and obviously suffering in silence. One could only imagine the excruciating pain he was experiencing as we could see several large gashes in his side, thighs, lower leg and foot. The need for care was well beyond the capabilities of the basic medical aid-post which had been built only a few months ago. Even with bandaging, Maku was still bleeding from the attack the day before. Within minutes, we had our 20 year old patient in the aircraft along with his wasman (helper). Outside of the major hospitals in the capital city of Port Moresby, smaller hospitals and clinics are not able to feed, bathe and offer much more than standard medical treatment. When a person goes to a hospital, usually someone will accompany them to take care of food and other basic needs. Our patient’s wasman was his uncle.

Overflying the lush, dense bush below, one could not help but consider the impossibility of our young patient traveling the 30km to the Kompiam Hospital with his severely injured foot and open wounds. Maku would have had to be carried along narrow trails through dense jungle, up and down steep mountain passes and across countless streams and rivers in deep valleys.

Shortly after arriving in Kompiam, our patient was carried, piggy-back style to the ambulance that was waiting to drive the short distance to the hospital.

 

After the patient got off the aeroplane I noticed a blood stain on the floor where Maku had been sitting. It reminded me of the blood shed by Christ on Good Friday some 2000 years ago. For a moment I imagined the difficulty of Christ’s walk to the cross, whipped and beaten. Jesus probably would have struggled to walk.

Praise God the Good Friday story didn’t end there; three days later, the only begotten Son was resurrected from the dead, proving His divinity. The Bible tells the story in Luke 24 of how two disciples, walking on the road to Emmaus that same day, did not recognise the resurrected Jesus. Later, only after Jesus broke bread, were their eyes opened to the truth. He lived!

My thoughts drift back to verses from Luke 24:33-40, “They got up and returned at once to Jerusalem. There they found the Eleven and those with them, assembled together and saying, “It is true! The Lord has risen and has appeared to Simon.” Then the two told what had happened on the way, and how Jesus was recognised by them when he broke the bread. While they were still talking about this, Jesus himself stood among them and said to them, “Peace be with you. Why are you troubled, and why do doubts rise in your minds? Look at my hands and my feet. It is I myself! Touch me and see; a ghost does not have flesh and bones, as you see I have.” When he had said this, he showed them his hands and feet.“

The wounds of Jesus’ hands and feet were proof to the disciples that Jesus, the Christ, was indeed resurrected and alive.“

We completed the short flight to Mt. Hagen. Our flying day ended and we resumed our Good Friday holiday at home, but my heart felt full and at peace. Maku would receive the medical attention he needed.

Three weeks later, Michael returned Maku and his uncle back to their village. The airstrip at Megau presents many challenges but not as many challenges as the two happy passengers had faced since they were now returned from Kompiam Hospital.

How wonderful it is to be able to do this work and be the hands and feet of Jesus in PNG and see the difference MAF aircraft make in people’s lives as we wait for His return.

 

Story and photos Judith and Mike Dupuis