Story and Photo by Richie Axon
After completing my initial endorsement on the Caravan in February, our family moved back to Telefomin. There I started my Line Oriented Flight Training (LOFT) with Markus Bischoff. We were going to all the different airstrips around the Telefomin area just to get familiar with how the Caravan handles and the challenges particular to it at each of them. The LOFT process starts with easy airstrips and as a pilot gets a feel for the aircraft, it progresses to more difficult ones.
On the 12th of March 2020, the program for the morning is Telefomin – Tifalmin – Tekin – Telefomin. Two men, Peter and Immanuel with their families, want to travel from Tifalmin to Tekin to attend the Bible School run by the Min Baptist Association. It was a beautiful day for flying although, with only five minutes from Telefomin to Tifalmin, I didn’t really have time to look about much. On this day, I am still very busy settling into operations of the new aircraft. Add to this the fact that this is only my second day on an aircraft with different avionics (instruments) to those which were in the aircraft I flew earlier in my training.
There is very little wind in the circuit, although it has rained overnight so we consider the impact of that on landing performance. Many of these airstrips can be very slippery when wet, so it’s something to take seriously. This landing goes according to plan and we taxi into the parking bay. The two families are waiting and their luggage is soon loaded, with paperwork filled out. I am greeted by Dennis Awanim, a pastor with the Baptist Union of PNG, who runs a small village Bible School here. I have flown him many times in the three years that we have been based in Telefomin, but haven’t seen him in several months since we just got back from home assignment. It is a great pleasure to be a partner with men like him in the work of God’s kingdom.
With the two families strapped in, and a quick prayer for God’s blessing on their study, we start and take off for Tekin, only 15 minutes away by air, but 4-5 days walk over rugged mountains for a family with kids. Here, Markus does the landing because it is above my company authorisation level for this stage of training. We are met by the head of the Tekin Bible School and other friends of the two families, who welcome them back (this is their second year of study).
After checking with the agent if there are any passengers wanting to travel to Telefomin, we depart for the rest of our program.
These small villages and district Bible Schools are vital for the spiritual health of the believers here in Papua New Guinea. These people who later become pastors and Bible workers, cannot afford to study at a formal Bible College and many do not have the academic background either. These local options allow them to have a garden and feed themselves, while at the same time applying themselves to a deeper study of God’s Word. They remain connected to local communities while they learn and the benefit is great.
Thanks to the support of many people around the world, we are able to do our bit in the work of sharing the good news about Jesus and helping his people to grow.