New airstrip in Indonesia could plant church

By December 22, 2009

Indonesia (MNN) — It begins…the steady clanking of metal against hard rock. The sun beats down hard. Beads of sweat collect and fall to the ground from weary bodies. Wheelbarrows dig long ruts as they are moved from place to place, carrying the heavy loads. This is brutal work for machines, not men.

A chain gang? A prison sentence?

No…a remote people group carving a path through which the Gospel can reach them. This is what it took to construct a new airstrip near the village of Kiyage, Papua, Indonesia.

A national clergyman, Pastor Wupu, saw the great need for Mission Aviation Fellowship air service to his remote village, so that every person in the area could hear the Gospel. The villagers agreed to work on the airstrip–he let them know the plane would link them to the outside world, giving access to medical help and economic opportunity. But he's praying that the MAF ministry will provide so much more.

MAF Pilot Dan DeSalvo flew the first flight into Kiyage. "Apparently there is no church in Kiyage, but they're hoping that by building an airstrip in their very remote village and their valley that this will promote evangelism among their people."

He says this airstrip is unique. "They started it back in 2000. So, it was just about nine years that it took, from the time that they started building until the time that they completed the airstrip."

DeSalvo says it wasn't easy. "They had to remove a large hill, and also there was a large area near the bottom of the airstrip that would have to be filled in with rocks. They filled in this area with several yards of rocks. The people only had shovels and pick axes and basic hand tools in order to build this airstrip."

At last, the time came for the final inspection. MAF pilot Dan DeSalvo flew in via a Helimission helicopter. He walked the strip, surveyed the land and approach, and took careful measurements. Before leaving, Dan was pleased to tell the villagers they'd done well. Their new "airport" was ready.

Piloting an MAF Cessna 206, DeSalvo spotted the airstrip, descended steadily, and skillfully landed the plane in Kiyage. "It's a little bit longer than an aircraft carrier, but with the special training and the special equipment that we have at MAF, we're able to make a successful landing."

DeSalvo says, "The villagers were wildly excited after I shut down the engine. As soon as I stepped out of the airplane, a mob of people grabbed me. They were singing, dancing, jumping, and whooping and hollering in celebration of the first landing. I could barely stand on my feet. Even though it'll be extremely challenging to add serving another airstrip to our already very busy flight schedule, MAF is very excited about ministering to these people. All of the MAF pilots here share the vision and prayer of Pastor Wupu: that the people of Kiyage will know Jesus."

DeSalvo says with some minor modifications, the airstrip will be able to accommodate MAF's new Kodiak airplane.

Enabled by your financial and prayer support, MAF will help evangelists, Bible translators, medical workers, and others to overcome barriers for years to come, by transporting them in and out of this remote region.

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