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After two years, missionary fleet replacement underway

By July 10, 2012

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.

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