Indonesia (MNN) ― Brian and Holly Underhill, along with their children, Hattie, Isaac, and Eli, are missionaries with Mission Aviation Fellowship, assigned to Indonesia as a pilot/mechanic family.
As a pilot, Brian has seen a lot of unusual cargo. Aside from transporting dignitaries and medical emergencies, he's carried mail, livestock, plants, crops, food stuffs, parts, motorcycles, and hope.
You may ask, "What does all that have to do with what a missionary is supposed to do?" Missionaries have long gone by a stereotype of intrepid travelers, living in and among the people they're serving, teaching, and a host of other pictures.
That's really not unlike what the Underhills do...they just do it with a plane. Brian says they have a three-pronged approach to ministry in Tarakan and to the isolated people of the interior. They share the love of Christ through serving communities, supporting churches, and showing compassion.
As they've gotten to know people better, Brian noticed that "the people of the interior are always looking for people to come and share with them, to preach, to come and speak in their churches. "
After seeing the enthusiastic response to a men's conference in the remote village of Long Layu, another idea formed. Brian says, "We held a seminar at the Bible school that we serve. I have a friend who's a teacher with Crown Financial Ministries. I took a friend of mine who's a businessman here--he served as a translator. And I took another friend who does Information Technologies work with MAF."
Crown Financial Ministries? What could they teach in a region where people live on a couple of dollars a day? As it turns out, quite a lot, says Underhill. "The concepts that Crown teaches are what the Bible teaches about wealth and possession. It's really above culture." The financial concepts will help support churches to come.
Another priority for Underhill is his work with Wilfinger Bible College. "We provide transportation for them. They're completely cut off from the outside world. A 10-minute flight for them can mean a three-day trip on foot and by canoe." The school is strategic to evangelism and discipleship in the rural areas. "Their unique position in Indonesia is that they train, specially, people to come from village areas that will then go back and evangelize their people."
There will come a time when foreign missionaries will not be needed in this area, but until then, MAF pilots like Underhill are still needed to serve many transportation needs of the national churches in Kalimantan. "This is a remote place that they're living in. It's become a center for evangelism and training for pastors and evangelists all over the region."
However, being a small rural school with a big reputation has its own trials. "Their school is in a bit of a difficult time right now. They rely on churches from outside in the larger city areas to help them provide the funding for this school. The teachers at this school haven't received a paycheck for the last eight months."
The school is supported by the indigenous church. Without it, training for pastors and other church leaders will be extremely difficult for the rural villages. Underhill says, "It sort of felt like my job, after going there, was to raise awareness for this school, that they can continue to operate. It's very unique in the position that it is--there's not another school located in a setting like this."
The recent seminar proved to be a shot of encouragement to the staff. Underhill says you can pray for the staff, for better cooperation from the national church, and for students to continue coming. Ultimately, "It's just like anything: pray, give, go. Some people can pray, other people can give in the way of financial support, and other people get to go. That would be my encouragement. Which of those things will you do? In what way will you be involved?"
To learn more about the ministry of Mission Aviation Fellowship, visit www.maf.org/mnn.