Papua (MNN) — An international aviation ministry is helping a national outreach initiative establish a relationship with an unreached people group in Papua, Indonesia. The unreached people group is known as the Weserau people who live in what's called the "bird's neck" of the Island of Papua.
The Weserau were identified in the 1990s but went without any contact for a long time. Now, because of Petrus Giay, an Indonesia missionary, Christians are now attempting to reach them with the Gospel. And they're doing it with the help of Mission Aviation Fellowship.
Unfortunately the only way into the region has been by helicopter, or by hiking three weeks through rugged terrain–which is how Petrus Giay first reached the Wesarau village earlier this year. But then, MAF's Pieter van Dijk traveled into the area and discovered a lake there which could be served by a floatplane.
On September 3 and 4, MAF’s Tom Bolser–piloting an amphibious plan–flew four flights into the village of Esrotnamba on the edge of a lake that is several miles long. His 12 passengers included two local doctors, a pastor, a few evangelists, a construction worker who formerly built many of the MAF houses around Papua, and a local government leader who has been sponsoring much of the work with this tribe.
Bolser also delivered building supplies to construct a house for the evangelist and his family, as well as a drum of gas and 500 sheets of zinc roofing.
When the plane first landed, only the men met it at the shore. The next day, the women and children ventured near. Most of the people wore a covering like a loin cloth made out of soft tree bark, though a few women were wearing a kind of a tube dress out of the same tree bark material. One of the doctors noted that the people were very healthy and there were no mosquitoes even though the elevation is only 700 feet. Bolser says it was exciting to see the plane used in a new way and to anticipate future interaction with these people who have been quite isolated for so long.
While Petrus has only been going into the region for a short time, Bolser says they're seeing God work: at least one man has come to Christ. "At the end of my second day of flying there, I actually flew him and his wife and child out because they wanted him to start Bible school out on the coast."
The Bali Missions Center, an indigenous ministry, is facilitating the work. "They've connected with Petrus and really given him the financial means and support to be able to do outreach to these people, especially when aviation is involved because the cost is way beyond what he can afford."
Bolser says MAF is scheduled to go in again this month. "We're going to be dropping off a team of about a half-dozen guys who are going to stay in for an entire month to help build some buildings for the evangelists to stay in. We're going to be pulling them out in December."
This is not an MAF effort, says Bolser. "I'm really excited about it because it's all been nationals doing this. As far as the foreign missionary involvement, it's only been through the aviation, and that's it. Everything else has been the nationals. It's really neat to see that."
Mission Aviation Fellowship (www.maf.org) has a singular mission: to share the Gospel through aviation and technology so that isolated people may be physically and spiritually transformed. Serving in 32 countries with a fleet of 142 planes, MAF supports the efforts of some 1,500 Christian and relief organizations. You can support their efforts at http://www.MAF.org/MNN.