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

Since when have you been with MAF and what brought you to MAF?

I first joined MAF in May 1998 when I was in Madang. Back then I attended the same church as  Olavi Kumpulainen and his family, a Finnish MAF pilot based in Madang. He asked me if I was interested in assisting with ticketing and other office duties. I’d never heard of MAF until that particular conversation with this MAF pilot at our local church. I agreed and worked as a ticketing officer at the Madang base until April 2011. I had to resign because my family moved to Port Moresby, due to my husband’s new job. However, Titus from HR contacted me at the end of 2013 and I re-joined MAF, this time in Port Moresby in January 2014.

What is your role?

My current role is as Admin Officer/Base Manager at the Port Moresby MAF office. I do have one co-worker here in the office.

Basically, MAF POM represents MAF Headquarters Mt. Hagen’s various sections/offices in timely delivery, e.g. follow up and collection of pilot/engineer/aircraft licenses and quality documents with CASA PNG, PNG Air Services and the Dept. of Transport, and MAF PNG land/property documents with the Dept. of Lands. We also assist with fuel logistics in the arrangement of returning empty fuel drums from Kawito from the wharf to Puma Energy. Now and then we meet and assist new MAF/CRMF staff at Jacksons Airport International terminal and help them transfer to the Domestic terminal. We process MAF staff work permits, entry permits, Australian visas, passports and expatriates’ police clearances.

What is your favourite part about this role? 

I love to do staff work permits and entry permits as this means that our MAF PNG work force increases.

What are the challenges?

It’s a challenge when requirements change with no notice. Then I have to return to the office, inform MAF HQ, find a way to fulfill the requirements and return to the respective office depending on the time and urgency of the matter.

How does your job support MAF’s purpose and vision to see isolated people physically and spiritually transformed into Christ’s name?

Making sure of details in required documents for new MAF staff coming and timely reminders for current staff make it possible to have a pilot to fly the plane, an engineer to fix/maintain it, managers to approve and sign documents so that a Bible is given to a remote village or a very sick child makes it to hospital. It all makes “Flying For Life” possible.

How have you seen God at work in your role? Or how was God revealing his ways and his glory in surprising and unexpected ways?

When the PNG Labour and Immigration is very slow regarding our MAF staff application processes, I share it with other colleagues (like Jacinta and Merna at Mt Hagen). Then we pray and let God take control of the situation. It works out in the end.

God’s timing is always PERFECT. His PEACE surpasses all understanding.

Anything else you would like to add…

I want to encourage every one of my MAF friends and co-workers to live this principle: DO YOUR BEST, AND TRUST GOD WITH THE REST.

Also read Isaiah 26:3 & 7.

9:00pm (the night before) I receive a phone call from a pilot. He fell while he was playing basketball that day. He believes he has injured his elbow and won’t be able to fly the next day. Normally this causes problems, but this time it was a bigger issue for I was fairly certain he was our only pilot in-country that could go to Yimnalem, where Pioneer Bible Translators (PBT) were waiting for their pick up. There is nothing I can do at 9:00 at night, so I have to wait until morning to try and sort it out.

6:45am I receive a text from a missionary in Daru (Western Province) wanting to change from a one way trip to Wipim, to a charter to Wipim and back to Daru. I call the pilot on duty for this flight to ask if there will be enough time in the schedule to do this.

6:55 Brandon, my husband, and I get on the bus to head to work with our fellow staff. I text two other pilots, who are headed to Mt. Hagen, to find out if either can go to Yimnalem. Unfortunately they cannot. I then text SIL Aviation and ask if they could possibly help with this flight. They say they will get back to me.

7:30 We arrive at work. I get off at the base to talk with pilots. I ensure that three pastors who came by road on the weekend, are prioritized on the flight preparing to depart to Kawito (ahead of “walk–in” passengers), since they had contacted me on the weekend about coming. They are now checked in on the flight.

7:40 I speak to the pilot and receive confirmation that if he leaves by 8:15 he can do the charter Daru-Wipim–Daru. I contacted the missionary and explained the situation. Now it is time for everyone to pray for beautiful weather and no delays.

7:45 I walk back to the office to call SIL back to see if they are able to work out anything for the Yimnalem flight. While on the phone waiting for them to sort out details, three people come into my office with questions. Then SIL asks, “was that answer for us or someone else”. I have to laugh and say “for someone else in my office”. SIL say they can do the flight, just sorting out which pilot. I call PBT and confirm that SIL is helping them today. They are happy with this arrangement; they just need their passengers to get back to Madang.

8:00 Time to start the Operations Meeting, which I am leading and taking notes for.

While I was busy with all the above, Brandon, who works as Maintenance Controller, was sorting out the aircraft for the pilots to use. There were unexpected problems with one, so another needed to be provided. He was also beginning another busy day, organizing current and upcoming maintenance to keep our aircraft safe to fly.

The pilot who injured himself is now going on leave early because he won’t be able to fly for 2-6 weeks. We normally have about 18-20 pilots in-country, with others on leave. For the next 6-8 weeks we will only have 5-7 pilots. This is due to many factors such as unexpected illness, injury, or visas not yet received. It is going to be hard to cover all the requests that come in, but God is in control and will continue to lead us in His ministry.

We know why we are here and praise the Lord He has the ultimate plan for the people of PNG. We hope and pray they come to know Him personally and grow in their faith. In His strength we will continue to do what we can to reach them, and to enable others to reach them with His love.

Our Goroka Twin Otter crew, Brad Venter and Jason Marsh, arrived for work that particular Monday morning expecting a normal Goroka Twin Otter program. Their first run was a drop off for some passengers and cargo in Guwasa, from where they would then fly to A*, a nearby airstrip where a group of missionaries are based. One of the missionary ladies there was relocating and they planned to take her and her cargo to Aiyura. However, things didn’t go so smoothly. The following is an unfolding of the morning’s events, as told by Brad and Jason.

Jason: By 8:30am, we had still been unable to get any weather reports, and this delay was pushing our planned return to Goroka past 6 pm, which is close to our last light limit. 95% of the airstrips in PNG are not lighted for night flying, Goroka included. I talked with our programmer to see if he could come up with another plan to allow us to maximize what we could complete that day. A little while later, he told us we should just go straight to A* – Aiyura – Goroka, and then continue on with the rest of our program. He also reported that the weather at A* and Aiyura was good, so we quickly prepared everything for these flight legs.
Brad: After completing our checks, we taxied out for take-off. On take-off we noticed that the auto-feather system on the Otter was not working. This is a critical system used for taking off at short airstrips. In fact, if it is not working, then taking off is prohibited. We aborted the take-off and did some more tests and the system seemed to work fine. We attempted the take-off again and this time everything seemed to work without a problem. However, we were a little concerned because if it failed on the ground in A*, we would be stuck. However, we decided that it would be fine.
After a short 15 minute flight, we arrived at A* and met the missionaries there. One of the missionaries quickly pulled Jason aside and told him that, as well as our booked load, they wanted us to put a young woman, Susan*, on the aircraft and take her to Goroka. She had been abused and brutally beaten by her husband over several days and he was intending to kill her. Susan had managed to escape and had found refuge at the mission station. The missionaries had hidden the woman in their house, but now they needed to move her and had arranged a safe house for her in Goroka.
After loading the cargo, we prepared the aircraft and Jason started the left engine. The missionary had gone to fetch Susan from his house and they had concealed her in his Land Cruiser which has tinted windows. His wife had also wrapped Susan up in a scarf so that no one could recognise her. He reversed the vehicle right up to the aircraft door and Susan quickly jumped into the aircraft. I closed the door and ran around the aircraft to get in.
Jason: Brad climbed in and we taxied to the top of the airstrip, lining up for take-off. This allowed us to have a good view down the runway and to see if her husband was coming. Here, we completed the rest of our check list. I applied power but, due to the steepness of the airstrip, the plane started to slide. The Auto Feather Arm Light was not lighting, and so we had to abort. Without the Auto Feather Arm light coming on, we cannot take-off. We maneuvered the aircraft around so that we could test the system again, and everything was working as it should. We repositioned ourselves at the top of the runway, applied power, let out a prayer to God, and everything worked fine with just a short delay before the Auto Feather Arm Light lit up. Off we went to get Susan to a women‘s shelter and to safety.
Brad: We had an uneventful flight to Aiyura and then flew back to Goroka where Bryan Matthews (from CRMF) and his wife Pam were waiting to take Susan to the safe house. Michelle and Melanie, our wives, were communicating with Bryan and Pam as to whether Susan had clothes and food and other necessary supplies for her stay in the safe house. Together they packed a few boxes to give to her.
Jason: God knew about this issue with our aircraft, but He allowed to do this one flight to get Susan out to safety.
Brad: We had also been communicating with engineering regarding the state of the aircraft, and it was decided that, after this flight, no more flying would happen that day until the aircraft could be flown to Mt Hagen the next morning for repairs.
Later we had a chance to speak with Bryan and Pam, and we found out a bit more about Susan’s story. She is 27 years old, was married at age 17, and has five children all under the age of 10. Her husband has been repeatedly abusing her and beating her for many years. She has feared for her life to the point of considering suicide. Susan recently managed to run away and seek shelter with the missionaries. Her story is even sadder because she has survived breast cancer and was recently diagnosed with cancer of the uterus which seems to have spread to other parts of her body, making her blind in one eye. She still fears for her life, despite being in the safehouse, because even if her husband is arrested, once he is released from prison he will come looking for her again. Being a mother, Susan of course is also very concerned about her children who are still in the village with her husband.
Getting the police to do something is a challenge. They are very busy, and this story is unfortunately an all too common occurrence. Not only that, funding is limited and so the police do not have the fuel to drive to the village (which fortunately has a road) to go and make an arrest.
This story is far from finished. Susan can only stay in the safe house for about one month. Following that, it is unclear as to where she will go. During this time, Pam Matthews is trying to get the police to follow up on the case and make an arrest. She will have to find the funds to pay for the fuel for the police vehicles. If they can make an arrest, then hopefully they can bring the children to be with Susan in Goroka. Even if all this is successful, we can’t be sure that the husband will be convicted, and then how many years he will spend in prison. On top of that, Susan still has the battle with cancer, with medical treatment in Papua New Guinea being very limited. That leaves five children with a very bleak future indeed.
Unfortunately, abuse of women is common in PNG, and the government is almost powerless to do anything about it. Something else that happens frequently in PNG is witch killings, where people (usually women) are accused by someone of witchcraft or sorcery. If this happens, then it is virtually a death sentence for the person who has been named. They are usually tortured and then killed. This is something that is happening in PNG regularly and not much is being done about it.
Looking back on the flight that saved Susan, we can see God’s hand in it. Had we flown to Guwasa first, it is possible that due to the problems with the auto-feather system, we may have chosen to return to Goroka and thus would not have complete the flight to A*.

Please pray for Susan and her children. We are at a loss as to what to do, and we can only trust that God will bring something good out of it all.

 

* No photos of the actual flight are included to protect the identity of the persons involved. Accordingly, names of people and places have been changed or abbreviated