Indonesia (MNN/WAS) ― If you’ve ever flown on a commercial flight, you might marvel at the skill of a pilot who puts in a smooth landing on the runway.
For pilots serving in mission aviation, that smooth, paved runway is a luxury. President and CEO of Wycliffe Associates Bruce Smith details a typical runway in the jungles of Indonesia. “The airstrip is carved into a mountain. So the people that built the airstrip actually required nine years of manual labor to carve a flat surface out of the angle of their mountain.”
You might call that a “rustic” airstrip. The added challenge for the pilots involves not only the shorter distance, but the fact that most of these airstrips are built on a fairly steep angle. “It’s an advantage to build the airstrip on an incline, because it requires less distance to stop when you’re stopping uphill and less distance to take off when you’re taking off downhill. So, typically, it’s built intentionally on a slope.”
Mechanics and skill aside, you need a special plane built to deal with the rough terrain. Wycliffe Associates, an international organization that involves people in the acceleration of Bible translation, plans to raise funds to help place a second Pilatus PC-6 airplane into service in Papua, Indonesia. Smith notes, “This design of airplane is actually not that common anymore, but because of this aspect of the design, it’s uniquely suited for the unimproved airstrips and environment of Papua, Indonesia.”
It’s a workhorse, too, squaring both power and balance. “It can carry up to 10 passengers–any combination of passengers and cargo, up to 2000 pounds. So it’s a very capable tool, and it’s one that’s enhancing the outreach and expansion of Bible translation into more remote locations in the Papua provinces of Indonesia.”
Papua, slightly larger in area than California, occupies half the island of New Guinea, the second-largest island in the world. It is home to more than 6.7 million people. The area’s nearly 400 inches of annual rainfall and rugged, volcanic terrain–consisting predominantly of high mountains with coastal lowlands–makes it difficult, even impossible, for Bible translators to reach the language groups with whom they work.
Smith says, “Hiking through trails or trying to use surface modes of transportation are just not going to be adequate. It would add years and, in fact, decades to the process of Bible translation. Having an airplane that is suitable for the task is a concept that people are excited about, but because of the size of the project, it’ll take a lot of people to work together to make this kind of project succeed.”
Adding a Pilatus PC-6 to the fleet will come with the price tag of roughly $2 million. It’s steep, Smith acknowledges, but “when you realize that the life of the airplane can be 20, 30, even 40 years long, people understand that that kind of investment is invaluable for a long period of time.”
The vision has already caught. With the help of funds raised by Wycliffe Associates, one PC-6 airplane already has been purchased for use in Papua, and the organization is currently working to raise funds for a second aircraft.
Who will these planes impact? Surprisingly, it’s not an unreached people group. In fact, says Smith, it’s the people have been very responsive to the Gospel. They’ve heard it, received it, and they’re moving forward on their journey of faith. However, “the challenge is that they’re trying to survive on the milk of the Word.”
Smith explains, “They don’t have the Bible within reach. They don’t have the whole Gospel. They don’t have all of the richness that we enjoy in our Scripture. So, bringing that meat of the Word to them is a part of building the Church, building their faith, and enabling them to mature as Christians.”
As they grow, they impact other people groups. “They’re welcoming the translators that they’re working collaboratively with, and by God’s grace, it’s bearing fruit in generations in Christians where they didn’t previously exist.”
Prayer support is necessary, but so, too, are the funds needed to provide the tools for a rough terrain. Will you consider helping?
Wycliffe Associates partners with nationals, mother tongue translators, staff, volunteers, and supporters to direct and fund these efforts, as well as provide logistics, networking, and technical support. Through a growing global network, Wycliffe Associates is striving to overcome local limitations of time and resources to achieve the goal of beginning the translation of God’s Word in every remaining language that needs it by 2025.