It was late in the afternoon on Tuesday, 11 December when Dr. Erin Meier from Kudjip Nazarene Hospital called my phone, “Todd, what are our options for a medical evacuation to Port Moresby? We have a very critical patient!”

The rugged mountains and rain forest of the highlands of Papua New Guinea do not lend themselves to safe single engine night operations.

Dr. Erin would go on to describe a young man around 25 years of age who had suffered what appeared to be a significant heart attack while playing rugby. As Dr. Erin described the case my mind was weighing the facts. It was already late in the afternoon. The rugged rain forest jungle over which we fly does not allow for safe operations at night, and given the 45 minute drive from Kudjip station to our airstrip, a late afternoon departure for the two hour flight to the capital city was already out of the question. Dr. Matt Woodley (ER Doctor at Kudjip) and his team had already resuscitated the patient four times. Would he be able to survive the high altitude non-pressurized flight that is required to clear the high mountains of the highlands on the way to the coast? We agreed that at this point, the best plan was to see if the patient could remain stabilized through the night at Kudjip and then plan for an early departure on Thursday morning.

The red line denotes the route to be flown by P2-SDP from Mount Hagen to Port Moresby.

 

Shortly after 0600 on Thursday morning, Dr. Erin called. The young man had stabilized through the night and although still critical, they felt he could survive the flight. They would be on their way shortly. A quick call to our Flight Operations Manager, Captain Brad Venter put the plan in action. P2-SDP was readied and the base team awaited the arrival of the patient from Kudjip.

Kudjip Ambulance at MAF Mount Hagen Base

 

 

Dr. Matt Woodley from Kudjip Nazarene Hospital arrives with the patient.

At 0850, the ambulance from Kudjip arrived at the MAF Mount Hagen Base with the patient, family members and Doctor Matt Woodley along with Anesthesia Specialist Officer (APO), David Wan. The team quickly went to work to prep the patient for the flight. Simultaneously, our team at MAF headquarters continued to do their part – praying for the patient, family, doctors, and pilot team as they prepared to launch.

 

Team transporting patient to the aircraft.

Arriving at the aircraft with the patient.

At 09:49, pilots Brad Venter (South Africa) and Andy Symmonds (UK) lifted off with their valuable cargo on the wings of P2-SDP and much prayer from both the Kudjip Nazarene and MAF teams. Touching down 1 hour and 59 minutes later in the capital city of Port Moresby, the patient was transferred to the waiting ambulance and rushed to Pacific International Hospital.

Pilot Brad Venter and Dr. Matt prep patient in the plane.

 

Dr. Matt preps patient.

Dr. Matt and Dr. David work with patient.

 

Final preparations.

 

 

Pilot Andy Symmonds makes sure that family members are properly secured.

Church and Community Partnerships Manager, Godfrey Sim, helps to make sure all is in order.

 

On Friday morning our Mount Hagen team met for morning devotions as we do every morning. When it came time to list our praises and prayer requests, Nancy from our operations team said that she had received news from the family. Our patient had successfully undergone surgery, was in the Intensive Care Unit, and it was expected that he would make a good recovery.

“Seeing isolated people physically and spiritually transformed in Christ’s Name.” This is why we do what we do in one of the most remote countries in the world. Accomplishing this Vision requires a team. Doctors, nurses, pilots, ground operations, flight operations, finance, IT, engineers, and on an on. It also requires you!!!

Thank you so very much for praying for and partnering with us as a family, and our greater MAF and Nazarene Team!

Together we can do so much more!

Thank you to Mandy Glass for the photo journalism!

by Todd Aebischer

Two German medical students spent their semester break volunteering at the Kompiam Hospital. They’ve had the privilege of flying with MAF to two remote villages for a clinic patrol with some team members from the hospital. This is their written account of their experience of rural clinics and flying MAF.

Medical Patrols to remote Villages in the Jungle

As medical students, we have to do internships during the semester breaks anyway, so we (Leni and Clara) thought to ourselves: Why not combine it with a little adventure?! Our idea: a one-month internship in the highlands of PNG!
The Kompiam District Hospital, which can use any amount of support, welcomed us with open arms. The Australian doctor, David Mills, has been there for 20 years and has established a lot during this time: a hospital in the middle of the jungle, offering inpatient care for about 50 patients and an additional two hours of consultations for outpatients with minor ailments on two afternoons per week. Despite their suffering and pain, the sick often walk for hours from the surrounding villages to Kompiam, to the “tall white doctor”, with the hope of alleviating their symptoms.

But what are patients doing in more remote and distant regions in PNG?
Thanks to MAF, even some of the tiny and remote villages in the PNG highlands have access to medical care.
Through cooperation with MAF, medical staff from the Kompiam Hospital, as well as medicines and equipment, regularly reach these jungle regions.
During our stay, we experienced two of these “patrols” of two days each. The Indian MAF pilot Satish picked us and our equipment up at Kompiam airstrip next to the hospital and, after a 20-minute flight (with stunning views over PNG’s jungle) lands safely in the village of Yenkisa.

The sound of the MAF Cessna Caravan’s engine announces that it is time for the people of the surrounding area to head for the runway and report their complaints to us. What we see most often there are malaria, pregnant women for monitoring, inflamed wounds, contraceptive questions, joint pain from hard physical labor, tuberculosis.
Seriously ill people can fly back to the hospital for further treatment with the MAF aircraft as an ambulance.
After two days of a huge variety of diagnoses, we get picked up by the German MAF pilot Mathias Glass and his Dutch copilot Piet and get safely flown back to Kompiam.
With us in the aircraft flies a highly pregnant woman, who will give birth to healthy twins the next day at the Kompiam District Hospital.

With many new impressions and some interesting experiences richer, we return to Kompiam and later to Germany to finish the last semesters of our medical studies.

Thank you, MAF, for this experience! Your engagement and services in PNG are valuable as gold.
Magdalena (Leni) Bonleitner

In this story, Volkher Jacobsen, one of our training pilots who regularly comes from Mareeba, shares how the need of our MAF aircraft is so obvious out in remote communities, even more so when some airstrips don’t get regular service. Considering that MAF is serving more than 200 airstrips across mainland PNG with currently a total of 9 aircraft someone can understand that some places, especially those where travelling or shipping cargo is hard to afford for individuals or communities, only get to see a MAF aircraft very rarely or in emergencies only.
Landing on such a randomly served airstrip our pilot was confronted with a wall of people desperate for help. The attached story will give you more details…
Reflecting on his encounter the pilot said that this gave him some glimpses into what it must have been for Jesus coming to a new place where people knew that they could be helped by Him for their physical and spiritual needs.
As Jesus was confronted with a wall of the inform, broken, sick and unwell so are often our pilots.

Here’s Volkher’s story:

Early September, Flight Instructor Volkher Jacobsen from our Mareeba based Flight Training Centre was back in Papua New Guinea to continue training for our two low hour pathway pilots Joël Rominger and Joseph Tua in Western Province flying P2-MAL, back then the newest of our Cessna Caravans, C208.

On 12 September, Volkher’s second last training day before returning back to Australia, he was flying with Joël from Lake Murray to Kiunga/Rumginae, reporting to Flight service “POB 12,” meaning 12 person on board.
12 passengers? How can that be on an aircraft which only has … seats?
Volkher recalls:

We had changed the programme to allow for this initially unplanned Kiunga – Lake Murray – Kiunga – Rumginae flight at the end of the day, a reaction to a medevac call for a woman with a retained placenta. We planned a dedicated flight and landed at Lake Murray empty. We expected to have only one patient to transport.

After shutting the engine down in the parking bay, and hopping out the cockpit to meet the MAF agent and the customers we just saw a “wall” of the sick, unwell and infirm plus their guardians slowly hobbling, shuffling, limping towards the aircraft. A few needed to be assisted walking as they were so week. In the distance, a large community, forty plus people or so, carrying a made shift (bamboo) stretcher, on it, the lady with the retained placenta.
She was very weak and mentally like in a fog, barely able to perceive what was happening to her. The only thing she seemed to be able to focus on was her tiny little baby in the baby-bilum. Her ‘was-mama’ (guardian) was a mother who had a newborn baby herself in a bilum. She only seemed to understand ‘tok ples’, so everything was translated to her; our passengers 1-4.

There was another woman with pregnancy complications and her guardian; our passengers 5+6.

Then, there was a middle aged man wrapped in a ‘lablab’, barely able to walk himself and assisted by his ‘was papa’. The man seemed to struggle with a catheter or artificial drain; our passengers 7+8

Then there was another ‘lapun’, who was on a drip which was held by his guardian; our passengers 9+10.

Glad we had the extra single seat on board!

The flight back to Kiunga saw us fly between 500 and 1000’ above ground level and we had to dodge and divert around thin but ling lines of the rain showers. At Kiunga, we refuelled and carried on to Rumginae with passengers 1-8.
On the ground at Rumginae, we were met by a dozen Rumginae hospital staff having three stretchers with them. The next set of professionals took over

Did you know that MAF PNG has a ministry team? The team goes out on invitation of churches and communities and as capacity and flight programming allow. The ministry is one of sharing information about MAF, encouragement of the local congregation and community, evangelism, teaching and training.
The team forms itself by invitation of its coordinator and can include any staff member and there’s always a rich variety of personal skill sets, experience of God’s grace and work shared.

This story is one account of such an outreach of our MAF ministry team, shared by Timon Kundig.
Enjoy the read!

Late Friday morning on 30th September, the MAF ministry team set out for Yambaitok; our captain Mathias Glass flew us out bush to take part in a conference organised by the local church of Saluk. When MAF PNG’s Ministry Team leader Kambowa Kukyuwa invited others to join the outreach Kalex, Felix, Nevin and his adopted son Rocky and I joined the team.
After landing in Yambaitok safely and seeing the plane leave we set out on a three-hour hike through the hot and humid jungle. We stopped a few times, resting and cooling off by the Yuat River.

Upon reaching Saluk we were welcomed with songs and tears of joy. This heart-warming welcome set the stage for what was to happen over the next few days.

After arriving and unpacking we walked around the village to greet the people and get a feel of the place. Saluk is an isolated village where there is no mobile phone reception, no radio, no school, no electricity and no healthcare, nothing to make life easy. People live in houses made of plant materials such as bamboo mats for floors and walls, wood and leaves for roofs. Life out there is so different it’s hard to describe; all I can say is that you haven’t truly experienced PNG until you’ve stayed out in a village and seen the people, how they live and what they call home. Only then can you start to understand the culture.

The community had built a conference centre on the airstrip that they have been building for the last six years. They realise that MAF’s vision is to help them and so have decided to build an airstrip. They are hoping to open it next year.

We set up the ministry team equipment for that evening’s programme in a tent-like structure built out of bamboo and a tarp. While enjoying an early dinner the cool, late afternoon breeze felt nice in this hot climate.

The evening came and Kambowa started by talking about MAF and followed by showing the Jesus movie. People gathered and the tent was quickly overflowing with people. The crowd watched and was amazed. Amongst them were people from neighbouring villages but also people from areas much further away. In the end, we prayed to finish the evening. That night was a late night as we packed up and had a cup of tea before sleeping on the bamboo mat floor.
The next day we woke to a beautiful morning. After breakfast and a bush shower, we returned to the meeting tent where the people were gathering again. After the local pastor finished the welcoming message and the worship songs, I preached.
The message was about the gospel and its significance in our lives. It continued to talk about our Christian walk equipped with the armour of God and the fruit we bear if remaining connected to Christ.

At lunch, we took a break until nightfall. In the hot afternoon, we spent time with the locals and went swimming in the river. After a rain shower, we returned to get ready for the evening. Again we were given food to regain strength. Food such as cucumbers, pineapples, water melons, peanuts, bananas, veggies were abundant. Our coming was truly appreciated.
In the evening we continued the programme with an HIV/AIDS awareness talk that Kambowa gave and a subsequent HIV-related movie that was also well received by the community. Following that we showed the “End of the Spear” movie that depicts true forgiveness in the toughest life situation that some early missionaries faced in South America. As the night before, the tent was full and overflowing again. The programme came to a late end again and we headed to sleep.
On Sunday was the closing service for the whole conference. It had started earlier in the week and had gone on until then. We joined the service and Felix preached on the covenant promise that David made with Jonathan in the Old Testament writings.

This was used to illustrate how God’s promised covenant through Christ is for us as well. At the closing of the sermon many people were moved to make a change in their lives and as a sign went to kneel in the front of the church. It was encouraging to see so many people respond to what they had been a part of for the last few days and humbling to realise that God had used us to grow his kingdom amongst the people of Papua New Guinea.

Later that day we went on our way back to Yambaitok and arrived late afternoon. We set up the equipment once more and in the evening Kambowa proceeded to talk about MAF. After that we showed the Jesus movie in Engan, the local language there. The community gathered under large trees and watched the depiction of the story of Christ. The next morning, we spent time waiting for our flight out. Hours passed and we quickly came to realise that this community has no way of communicating with the outside world. This makes it impossible to coordinate medical evacuations with MAF or to relay weather information or planning-related things . The people we conversed with regarding this made us realise a sense of helplessness. We encouraged them with ideas to help them sort things out.

Finally the plane was flying over our heads and proceeded to land – its first time in the bush of Papua New Guinea. After the pilots Jan Ivar and Mathias got out, the people greeted them and the new, shiny aircraft. P2-MEW is the latest plane to join the MAF fleet in PNG. Its mission is to be used to bring physical and spiritual transformation to PNG. This maiden flight was a great way to see it bring spiritual transformation.
Your prayers were part of life-changing moments in many lives. We want to thank God for the opportunity we have been given to go out on this outreach trip in the communities of Saluk and Yambaitok. We also want to honour him by saying that we were moved to do this for his glory alone.

Thank you for your prayers, donations, skills and all that it took to make this trip happen. We have all been part of the spiritual transformation that is taking place in Saluk and Yambaitok.