Indonesia (MNN) — Ministry today in Papua, Indonesia doesn’t look the same as it did over 60 years ago, and that’s a good thing; it signals Church growth.
The Indonesian province of Papua sits on the west side of the island of New Guinea. The terrain is rough and extremely difficult to travel. There are also approximately 260 language groups represented on the island.
Mission Aviation Fellowship (MAF) serves Papua’s remote communities with flights providing humanitarian, medical, and spiritual support.
Dennis Bergstrazer, an MAF pilot in Papua, says MAF was there when missions work first started on the island around 60 years ago. In the beginning, missionaries hiked the interior of the area to build relationships and plant churches. He calls this time period “the pioneering years.”
Bergstrazer says, “Those first missionaries hiked and built airstrips, and then MAF would come in and support them. Finally, they’d get a house built and they’d bring their families in and then we’d support that family while they were interior.”
The next 20 years are what Bergstrazer refers to as “the efficient years.” Missionaries who were still around had more experience and the local Church was getting better established. MAF was growing its network and utilizing its resources well.
“Then, in the last 20 years, it’s been more where the missions have given over the work to the local Church,” Bergstrazer says. “Most of my flying is with the local pastors, not so much missionaries anymore because they’ve turned that over to the local Church.”
Today, as MAF works with the local Church and remote communities in Papua, they are seeing God move. MAF regularly supports church seminars happening interior. It typically takes a week to fly supplies and personnel in for a conference.
Bergstrazer and other pilots and staff enjoy the relationships they build with local churches and even have opportunities to share their own faith stories.
“As we get interior and spend a weekend, sometimes we like to go to a village called Pogapa and attend church with the folks there. They always give me an opportunity to share [and] to give my testimony. That’s really a neat experience for us to get in and worship with folks. They bless us and hopefully we bless them too.”
MAF currently needs more personnel to serve in Papua — everything from pilots and mechanics to IT technicians and teachers for the children of MAF families.
Bergstrazer asks, “Certainly pray for that — for teachers, for pilots, for mechanics, that they would be open the Lord’s leading as they would consider serving here with MAF; or if not serving, then maybe supporting MAF.
“Then, [be] praying that the Lord would continue to open doors and that the truth of who He is and what He did for us providing salvation would become a reality to folks.”
You can also give to support MAF’s ministry here!
Header photo courtesy of Mark and Kelly Hewes, Mission Aviation Fellowship.