Prayer over Kodiak plane on departure day. (Photo courtesy New Tribes Mission)
Indonesia (MNN) ― New Tribes Mission has great expectations for this month.
The aviation program's first Kodiak aircraft is finally on its way to overseas service. It's currently in Wichita, Kansas, being prepped for the ride over. NTM's Jim Sims says, "We're hoping that on the 16th of this month, this aircraft will be headed over to Indonesia. This will be our first Kodiak going into service, and we're very excited about that."
Four years ago, an AV gas scarcity forced a switch to the cheaper jet fuel, which also forced a decision to replace NTM's fleet of 14 planes. Raising money for the project seemed like an overwhelming task with each aircraft costing over half a million dollars apiece.
A special deal with Quest Aircraft meant that out of every 10 planes sold, one was provided for missions at a significant discount. NTM raised money for the first plane. In the Spring of 2010, the first of 14 Kodiak airplanes NTM ordered was dedicated at a ceremony at the ministry headquarters in Sanford, Florida.
Why has it taken two years to get from dedication to service? Sims explains that the need changed. "Indonesia has some areas that have not had aviation service in years. We have new believers in some of these areas."
The plane was originally destined for service in Papua New Guinea. However, with the new believers in Indonesia, there had to be some way to get a team there who could disciple and teach. That meant tools and translation projects. The issue, says Sims, was location. "We had some people in Indonesia that were in very remote places, and we were going to need to fly over large amounts of open ocean with a single engine airplane (Cessna 206). We just said, 'Ya know, this is not the best.'"
The Kodiak is significantly larger than the Cessna, and the change of plans meant quick alterations to things like hangars and airstrips. The Indonesian government owns those airstrips, and widening them meant getting permits and permission. Enter: red tape. Sims says, "The government had to actually give us permission to import the aircraft. Then, the governor of the province had to give his blessing. Then we wanted to bring it in duty free and import customs free, which was a huge item, and it took a long time to do all of that."
The new airplane will mean fewer complications in a crucial aspect of ministry. As the Kodiak can carry more people and cargo, this means missionaries and missionary aviators alike no longer have to take as many trips.
There's still a lot of work to do in the meantime. The team will need to construct a new hangar to house the plane, and flights aren't stopping. Sims says, "In the day of the smartphone and all the communication aids that we have, it's hard to imagine that there are still people that have never heard about Jesus. But that is the case, and these people are located in some very remote locations."
Aviation saves mission and translation teams weeks of travel into an untamed jungle interior. That time is better spent doing language and culture study for the purpose of church planting. "We feel very privileged to be a part of that and to be able to help the missionaries get in to where they can actually start to learn the language, learn the culture, [and] prepare their lessons."
Please pray for the aviation team to remain encouraged as they work through this transition time, and for the health of those in the tribes.