The white board has gone! Where the white board was is now a large computer screen, bright and shiny. Next to it a small computer which runs v2track, Wingman and other computer apps. v2track tells our traffic officers precisely when a pilot is returning to Mt Hagen base for the next sector; hence how much time they have to prepare the next load manifest and when they have to go out on the tarmac and marshall the aircraft to the parking position.

But the major revolution is that all the bookings are now online, available via Wingman. Every time Matilda or Sharlene change a sector it will be automatically displayed on the big screen for everyone to take notice.

Even pilots will benefit from the big screen. When they do their flight planning, they enter their fuel requirements and available payload online via Wingman and it is displayed on the big screen for everyone to see. And it really does not matter if the pilot does this from the pilots’ room, another office at the HQ or from home.

Even notes like “Take freezer goods”, “Check fridge”, “Take veggies“ or “Don’t forget the mail“ are now easily entered from anyone on Wingman and displayed on the big screen.

But what do we do when the power fails? There is a standby UPS next to the computer running the big screen, bridging the time until the main generator comes on line.

But what if the internet fails or if there are other things not working as they should? There will be a small emergency white board next to the big screen, where notes can be left.

Now is this the bright and shiny future? Well, we shall see if the new high tech device withstands the daily challenges. However, it is definitely a step into the 21st century where digital is becoming more and more part of our daily life. And yes, it is definitely bright and shiny!

The photos show Sharlene Coker, our Flight Operations Coordinator, doing one-to-one training sessions with each traffic officer and making sure everyone understands and utilises this new technology to the full

Story & photos Natalie & Matt Barrett-Lennard

Mid July, after endless work permit and visa delays Matt Barrett-Lennard finally arrived in Mt Hagen. His wife Natalie and their children Leah, Annie and Isaac, followed 15 July. They have been flying with MAF in PNG a decade ago and now they came back to assist flying out of Rumginae.

Little Has Changed

On Saturday July 22nd, the five of us arrived at our former base of Rumginae, Western Province. Last time we were here, Isaac was only 14 months old and the girls had barely started kindergarden. We were delighted to be back and surprised how little had changed since 2008.

Matt flew us here in the Airvan P2-MFM, which the kids have dubbed Matt’s Flying Machine. In typical PNG style, the weather closed in behind us within minutes of landing, and what followed was a downpour that lasted 48 hours and filled the local river (The Waimeri, or ‘Water Lady’) to worrying levels. Locals of more than 15 years report never having seen her so full and fast. This heavy rain has damaged gardens and made it difficult for us to buy veggies at the local market.

A Medevac on Matt’s 4th Day

Matt has already, in just four days of flying, done a medevac from Lake Murray. A 10 year old boy had fallen out of a coconut tree and broken not only both his arms, but a leg too. The pain must have been excruciating, however this brave boy had suffered quietly like this… for two weeks. Matt couldn’t believe it – no one was able to fix their Digicel towers or radios to connect to the outside world, so no one knew of the need until Matt was there anyway for a routine passenger pick up. We pray that the little boy is now recovering after surgery and will not be permanently affected by his twisted broken arms.

Family Adventures

As a family, we have had some great adventures and new experiences, including an amazing jungle trek to see Birds of Paradise. This was a dream come true, as we are avid bird watchers and the Bird of Paradise is really up there on the list of sightings! We were able to see at least eight magnificent Greater Birds of Paradise showing off for the girls and the trip included a free bonus leech bite for me. That was a good way to overcome fear of the unknown. What does a leech feel like? Answer: gross!

Other fun times have been asking how to eat a flying fox bat that someone had shot with a poison arrow (it was lying on the ground, tongue hanging out, next to all the other market produce. It was so hard to keep a straight face!) and joining on with the local
Aekyom school’s Religious Instruction morning.

At the end of the same day, two local Aekyom women who are very active in women’s ministry came and sat with us, sharing coffee and teaching us some simple phrases in their tok ples. It was a wonderful time of fellowship with our new kire (friends).

We have really missed this beautiful, complicated place. It smells of wood smoke, rain, mould, cooking and … home.

It’s nice to be back!

 

Have you ever watched an aircraft marshaller wave his arms around a ’plane and wondered what he was doing? Well, simply, he is communicating with the pilot to guide him to the correct space to park his aircraft. Using sign language, the marshaller is able to guide an aircraft away from other aircraft or ground obstacles to an assigned parking spot. Marshalling is also done when starting up and dispatching an aircraft. These fancy and somewhat weird signals give instructions for actions such as “Start engine(s)”, “Turn left”, “Turn right”, “Set brakes”, just to name a few. Both the pilot and the marshaller must know what the different signals are and what they mean in order to avoid any misunderstanding that may result in apron incidents or, as one pilot made a comment, “I didn’t quite understand what signal the Traffic Officer was using because it wasn’t a standard one”.

Beginning in Mt Hagen, the Ground Operations Dept has started carrying out supple-mentary aircraft marshalling training for Traffic Officers of the correct marshalling signals set out by ICAO (International Civil Aviation Organisation). This training is aimed at keeping marshallers well informed of the correct signals, especially when we are facing increasing overcrowding on the apron which also increases the chances of an incident as a result of wrong or incorrect use of a marshalling signal. It is planned for this training to be rolled out to other Bases where marshalling is needed. As part of this commitment, large posters with the ICAO marshalling signals are being supplied to all Bases to be readily available for staff to use as reference. Already the benefits of the training in the different actions and their corresponding marshalling signals is being appreciated by Traffic Officers in Mt Hagen, including those who know marshalling but have not done it for a long time.

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)