Mountains ensconced with carpets of green, skies bursting with rainbows, and waterfalls shedding jeweled water drops: the tableau of beautiful Papua, Indonesia. But even more beautiful than God’s physical wonders are the people spread across the mountains.
Jonathan Schultz and Molly, his wife, serve the remote language groups in Papua. Jonathan, a JAARS-trained pilot-mechanic, flies with YAJASI, our aviation partner, in Indonesia. While on furlough in the States, Jonathan came to JAARS for some recurrent training. This two-week training “gave JAARS a chance to see how our pilots in Indonesia and different organizations are doing in terms of their flying,” Jonathan says. It also gave him a chance to brush up and remember things he might have grown fuzzy about, since it had been seven months since he last flew the Pilatus Porter—the aircraft he flies in Indonesia.
Besides classwork, the students also practiced flying and doing steep turns. “It’s just to give us a feel again for how the plane responds,” Jonathan explains. They progress to incorporating emergency procedures, like what to do if the engine quits and how to glide the plane to a good runway.
One day they did six takeoffs and landings, practicing touching down in the same zone consistently. “Some of the runways where YAJASI operates,” Jonathan says, “are as short as 350 meters (just over 1,000 ft.), so it’s necessary to be consistent with where you land so you touch down there every time.” Because the terrain surrounding some of the runways in Papua is so steep, pilots can reach a point on approach to landing where the aircraft can’t go around and out-climb the terrain. They have to commit to landing at that point, and they want to make sure it’s where they need to land.
Although Jonathan is not yet able to fly into some of the runways in Indonesia, he enjoys flying with YAJASI’s more experienced pilots into some of these isolated, mountain-top airstrips. Besides the spectacular views, he enjoys the people who live in these areas: “The people are very kind and gentle, especially in the mountains.” In the Ketengban area, where the people have some of God’s Word, thanks in part to Andrew Sims, “There are so many people who have hearts of gold,” Jonathan declares. “You can tell where the gospel has made an impact in their lives, because there’s been so much change in them.”
Molly practices English with some ladies in their town of Sentani. A woman from the Ketengban village told her, “Before the gospel came to us, we lived in darkness.” The people lived in fear of spirits. But when the people began to have access to Scripture and have it explained, they began to see the power Jesus holds over the spirits. And the people began to trust in his power over and above that of the spirits. Their belief in Jesus and his Word set them free from their choking fear!
Jonathan’s recurrent training will enable him to better serve these people by bringing them Scripture, teachers, building materials, and food. As another part of his training, JAARS sent him to Upset Recovery and Spin Recovery Training in Morrisville, North Carolina. In a single-engine aerobatic plane, Jonathan practiced single-turn spins, three-turn spins, and six-turn spins as the plane fell and learned how to recover from them. “This upset recovery training helps me recognize when a stall is about to happen.” Training like this can help YAJASI pilots recover from encounters with potentially dangerous turbulence, like the wake vortices behind larger airplanes, the swirling air currents near mountain ridges on a windy day, or the updrafts and downdrafts around rain showers.
Jonathan and Molly hope to return to Papua after the birth of their baby so they can continue serving these people with hearts of gold and watching as God continues to free them through his life-transforming Word.