I started to get this post ready several weeks ago now and it quickly was pushed to the back burner as we navigated the loss of a friend and teammate. Now that things are getting back to a new normal of sorts, it feels like it would be okay to share this post.
As our family transitioned to Sentani as of late March to ride out what we thought was going to be a couple weeks, now couple months and maybe more. An opportunity arrive to do a medical supply run back to Merauke from Sentani. Merauke was the first location in Papua to have a confirmed positive cases of Covid 19. April 4th Jack Gandy, and our load crew loaded up PK-MAG “MAGGIE”. Pictures and summary below credited to Jack, due to the high quality of his write up I’ve elected to use his work opposed to reinventing the wheel with a likely lower quality product :).
The world is different today than it was a month ago. A month ago things were still pretty normal for us. We were busy connecting people with their ministries in the normal way. We were cultivating relationships with communities and individuals. And the way we cared for the most part was the same as it has been. But now, the way MAF Papua Connects, Cultivates, and Cares has been shifted. Like the rest of the world, we have seen our ministry radically affected by this pandemic. We have officially been limited to flying cargo for the past 2 weeks, and our leadership wisely elected to stop flying passengers a week before that. But as we are doing everything we can to limit the spread of COVID-19, it has been difficult to know how we can be an effective force to address this crisis in the unique ways that Mission Aviation Fellowship is gifted.
When you are facing pandemic, isolation seems like a good thing. But when isolation prevents you from receiving the supplies and resources which are needed to effectively combat this pandemic, it quickly becomes dangerous. This was the case with Merauke. Merauke is considered the furthest east settlement in Indonesia. As a large town, it can be deceiving. There is reasonably good access to resources, it has a port, and with a few scheduled airline flights each morning it isn’t terribly difficult to get there. But what happens when the airlines stop? Mail stops, supply chains dry up, and with the most confirmed COVID cases on the island the situation can become dire.
No one knows the situation better than Greg Dole, pilot/mechanic, Base Manager of our Merauke base, and our future teammate. Greg and his family have been in Sentani, waiting for passenger flights to open up again so they can return to their home in Merauke. To get to Merauke from Sentani would take 5 days according to google. That includes taking several ferries and a lot of walking. It’s practically impossible. The only way to reach Merauke in this uncertain time is using our God given tool, the airplane.
On Friday, Greg and I received word that the government had asked MAF to fly vital supplies to support the fight in Merauke. 700 pounds of Rapid Tests, surgical masks, gloves, medicine, and other crucial supplies would be delivered later in the day, we would load it up and take it first thing in the morning. There was no doubt that this was a divine appointment; an opportunity to serve the people of Merauke in a tangible way. The boxes seemed ordinary enough when they were received, but there was a palpable sense of gravity as they were loaded into the plane.
The next morning we departed Sentani and headed south. We crossed high above the mountains that isolate so many, descended and landed in Merauke uneventfully. Our local team met us and unloaded the cargo with urgency. The masked medical team was waiting outside the airport fence to receive the crucial supplies and take them to where they were needed.
It would be easy for the importance of this “mission” to fade. To lose sight of what was delivered. On our manifest it says 700 pounds of medical supplies. But look at what changed because of this one flight. Before this one flight, tests had to be sent all the way to Jakarta, and results took weeks to get. Hospital stock was low on medicine needed to treat patients who were critically ill, and personal protective equipment needed to protect the medical workers was almost gone. Now they are restocked, and test results can be received within a day. Our prayer is that those supplies will allow more to live long enough to hear the Good News of Jesus. Our mission is to share the love of Jesus Christ through aviation so that isolated people can be physically and spiritually transformed. Yesterday our mission was lived out.