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

16 Aug

Every second week, MAF flies a team of medical and dental workers from the Kompiam District Hospital to one of their satellite health facilities to conduct a 24 hour clinic. In May, a team of 5 went to Yambaitok. There they’ve seen 58 patients for medical needs, immunised 47 people and attended to 6 people with dental problems. Besides this, they’ve done oral education and dental hygiene awareness talks, including tooth brushing activities with 30 children and 15 adults.

One of the patients seen, was Josephine (name changed), a first-time mother who had a difficult labour and whose baby didn’t survive. Reflecting on Josephine’s story, Dr Rebecca Williams, a residential doctor at Kompiam District Hospital pondered a few “If only…“-thoughts. Below, she shares Josephine’s story (name changed to protect identity).

Josephine, perhaps 18 or 19 years old, had got married recently, had fallen pregnant and as far as I could tell had carried her pregnancy to term. On Friday 3rd May, she thought she had experienced a rupture of her membranes and was anticipating that she would go into labour shortly. However, she had minimal pain over the weekend and by Monday (6th May) morning nothing much was happening, so the Community Health Worker (CHW) Buka, who is from the same village as Josephine, made a decision for them to walk to Yambaitok, where they would be able to refer her on to Kompiam on the MAF flight which would have dropped us on Tuesday (7th May) for our patrol. The walk from Josephine’s village to Yambaitok takes a full day. About 30 minutes into their journey, Josephine could no longer walk, thus CHW Buka directed some of the people who had accompanied them to build a traditional stretcher from bush materials so that they could carry her to Yambaitok.

In the evening, when they arrived in Yambaitok, Josephine’s contractions started and CHW Buka encouraged her to push. Her labour took a long time and after a few hours, Josephine became very weak. With minimal obstetric experience or training, almost no delivery equipment, by torchlight, in a cookhouse, CHW Buka did all he could to help. Around 11pm that night, a decision was made to do an episiotomy (this is an incision in the perineal region which is sometimes used to create more space for the baby’s head to pass through). However, despite the episiotomy attempt, the baby did not deliver. After another two hours of struggle, finally Josephine was able to deliver her baby; by now it was 1am on Tuesday morning. Josephine’s baby only took two gasps of breath before it died. With the infant now deceased, CHW Buka then sutured the episiotomy with whatever available suture he had. Also, some antibiotics were given to Josephine before she could rest.

When we came a day later, I saw Josephine lying on the grass in the house where she had delivered, pale and with a forlorn look on her face. There were so many “if onlys” about her story: if only we had come sooner, if only she had made the decision to come to Kompiam earlier… But then we are reminded that the outcome could have been tragically worse: if nobody had carried her to Yambaitok, if CHW Buka hadn’t been there and had not done the episiotomy and sutured her afterward.

Unfortunately, Josephine’s story is just one among so many others who have had to face similar situations, some of whom have not survived.

After examining Josephine, we took her back to Kompiam with us to replace the sutures and do a proper surgery on her in the theatre. We repaired the episiotomy cut. We were keeping Josephine in the hospital to see how she recovers and to educate her in regards to reproductive health as well as offering family planning for her. She recovered well and did not develop any fistula’s. We put in an implant for her, which will cover her for five years before she is able to fall pregnant again.

We operate on women with obstructed labour to prevent a fistula and thereby preventing them from leaking urine and often being treated as outcasts in their villages. We encourage all pregnant women to come to the hospital two to three months before their expected delivery so that they can deliver their baby with the help of medical doctors and midwives.

3 Jul

Saksak, Waterfalls, Leeches and a delayed Pick-up
Story and Photos by Rickson Poki

Earlier this year, Rickson Poki, the Executive Assistant of MAF PNG’s Country Director’s Office, and Joseph Tua, a new pilot, had the privilege and opportunity to spend a few days at Bosavi village.

Rickson, who everyone is calling Ricky, spent most of his life growing up in Port Moresby where his father was working as a paediatric surgeon at Port Moresby General Hospital. Originally he comes from Mt. Hagen.

Joseph from Pangia in the Southern Highlands Province, spent most of his life also growing up in Port Moresby. Joseph got accepted to join MAF PNG as a low hour pilot and will be trained by pilots from the QLD based MAF Mareeba Aviation Training Centre to fly in Western Province, specifically for the Area Health Patrol Programme. He arrived in the programme in April and part of his MAF Orientation programme was a village trip in order to see first hand how a community profits from its airstrip.

As both, Ricky and Joseph, are more or less city-boys their time at Bosavi was a real eye-opener. Below, Ricky shares some of the highlights.

The missionary home at Bosavi where Ricky and Joseph stayed

Learning about Saksak
Tammy Maiyo became our local guide. He looks after the missionary home that we stayed in which was built and used by Australian missionary Keith Briggs and his family. Tammy previously worked as a Bible translator for the missionaries living there, where his wife Betty was the ’hausmeri’. Tammy is also a local church elder for the Evangelical Church at Bosavi.

EC PNG Church in Bosavi, the church Ricky and Joseph attended during their time in Bosavi

Tammy in-front of a kaukau garden, pointing towards the cloud covered Mt Bosavi

One morning, Joseph and I went with Tammy to his land in the bush where he keeps his pigs and has a plantation of ‘saksak’ trees (Sago Palms). He showed us how ‘saksak’ gets prepared and made. We took some pictures and about two hours later we returned home for lunch prepared by Betty, Tammy’s wife. Betty prepared some saksak for us; but to be honest, it was too dry for us. We ate it anyway.

Tammy’s saksak plantation

Ricky watching how saksak is made

Mowing the Airstrip
The next day, around 11 in the morning, Joseph and I decided to help Tammy with clearing up the runway in preparation for our Thursday pickup. Straight after breakfast, we got the old lawn mower out of the shed, which Tammy has used for 15 plus years now. We headed off to the far end of the runway and started mowing the patch of grass that was growing too high. After getting a rundown from Tammy on how to use the lawn mower, Joseph and I took turns working our way up and down the airstrip. We finished around 1 pm, had lunch and then headed straight to a watering hole nearby called ‘Wara Semen’. It was a good day!

Ricky mowing the airstrip

Enjoying the Waterfalls despite the leeches
The following day, Joseph and I decided to go and see the waterfalls of the Semen River. A local landowner, his name was Tonsi, took us to see the falls with his son Ali.
After a quick briefing about the walk we were to go on, including some information about blood-sucking leeches, I made up my mind that I was not letting these bloodsuckers get on me. Now, all dressed up and covered, we headed out to the falls. Joseph had a good wash under the waterfall and we took some amazing pictures there. Two hours later, we arrived home just in time for lunch which was already prepared by Betty. Then, to my surprise, I found a leech on my left sock! I was going to make sure is would not have any of my blood; so I gave it a good clean death – a fiery death!

Enjoying the beautiful scenery and waterfalls of the Semen River

Flying back to the city
Today, Joseph and I woke up really early. We switched the two-way radio on for MAF’s sched’ time. It’s been a week, and even though it’s been fun here, we were looking forward to heading back. There was a lot of rain last night and the clouds were still hanging fairly low, but we were hoping for fairly good weather today. Overall, God has been good to us!

Low cloud cover over the airstrip

Looking back, and reflecting on the various conversations we had with the people there and my observations, I learned a lot about my own country and people. Bosavi has taught us a lot during our week there. We learned many things about the people, their culture and way of life, their struggles, and how they can cope with the simple necessities of life. It was also a time for me to reflect on how truly blessed I am.
I also left with a burning desire in my heart: to see my fellow Papua New Guinean people – the Bosavi people – experience a better life and to see their lives transformed not only spiritually but physically also.

The people of Bosavi are caught in between the highlands culture of the Southern Highlands Province and the lowlands culture of the Western Province. In the early years, before Western influences, the people of Bosavi were cannibals. Now, due to missionaries – one of the first missionaries in Bosavi being an Australian called Keith Briggs – they have changed their ways of the past and are now a peaceful, loving and hardworking community.

A traditional house in Bosavi: It is above the ground for ventilation purposes and to keep cooler because in Bosavi it is very hot

The Bosavi people are very simple people. They speak a native language called ‚Kululi’, meaning ‘language of the real men‘. They survive mostly on Sago or ‘saksak’ as their main source of food. The more saksak one has, such as a plantation of Sago Palms, the higher one’s status is in the community. Other food includes sweet potato, corn, banana, wild ferns and greens. Meat is very rare and only when necessary is hunted for in the wild. Water is easily accessible as they have many fast-flowing streams around their area.

The people of Bosavi are very peaceful and keep to themselves. Given Bosavi’s location – being in between the two provinces (Western and Southern Highlands) there is always a continuous movement of people back and forth through Bosavi. Travelers of all sorts come through – some traveling for days to go to the nearest store to buy food, others are looking for medicine at the nearest aid post, and then you have notorious gangs that travel from Southern Highlands to the Western Province to steal from the companies there. Because of this, the people of Bosavi are used to having unfamiliar faces pass through their community. This also poses a threat to the young folks of Bosavi as they can be easily influenced to join the gangs to look for an ‘easy’ life.

Money has little value. The people are content with their garden food and saksak, fresh flowing rivers and the wild animals they hunt for as meat. They do need a few store goods such as salt, oil, flour, noodles and tinned fish but these are not necessary if they cannot get them.
Contact with the outside towns is almost impossible as there is no network coverage in this part of the country. Their only way of communicating is through a two-way HF radio that is kept at the mission house near the airstrip. It’s used by agents to communicate with other agents near the area and call for medevacs or contact small airline companies such as MAF, SIL and NTM for booking requests.

The village’s basketball court

This week-long Bosavi experience was truly incredibly – at the same time quite challenging for me, even as a national Papua New Guinean. I am not used to seeing life so difficult, growing up as a city kid. Yet I see the people in remote areas are content. They do not complain for power or water or other things that we consider necessary; instead, they embrace what is available and make the best of it!

It hit me!
My final experience in Bosavi sums up what I think my MAF village orientation was supposed to teach me. It was Thursday morning, the day were we were scheduled to return to Mt Hagen. Joseph and I had gone through all our food stock that we brought with us for the week. We were looking forward to going back and getting home in time for the Easter celebration with our families.

The weather that morning did not look promising as we waited on the radio (two-way radio) for the MAF Mt Hagen base to let us know when the aircraft would come to pick us up. I was so looking forward to seeing our MAF plane land! At around 11:15 am, we heard a plane pass by over us, but it was too foggy and it was not possible to land. My heart sank as I heard its sounds getting smaller and smaller until there was complete silence – I was lost for words. I gave one last radio call to check, and sure enough, Reji, our Flight Scheduler and Logistics Officer, came back with the news that another MAF aircraft would be able to make one stop at Bosavi sometimes in the afternoon.

I remember watching as the fog was lifting. It was 2 pm now. What looked from afar like a big bird was all too familiar to me. As it got closer I felt my heart start jumping for joy as the engine roar of the MAF plane got louder and louder. As MAF joined the circuit, I could see the distinct colors on the aircraft.

There is the plane!

My heart felt like it was going to jump out my chest, but there was also an overwhelming sense of peace – something deep inside telling me that everything would be okay. That was when it hit me: „So that’s what they feel like“ I thought to myself. I thought of mothers in the remote villages, parents walking their sick children for days, families needing food supplies, materials and other necessities. I could finally see from their perspective – MAF is important to them, it is their lifeline, it brings hope, it brings life, it brings change; but most importantly it spreads the love of God through the help of aviation and technology.