Flying Snapshots

I’m not particularly fond of paperwork, but it comes with flying.

We use “flying purpose” codes to help us track exactly how we utilize our planes. Recently, I found myself flying the code for “village people community development”—a loose translation from Indonesian. Securely tied down in the back of the Porter were three rolls of heavy cable, some rebar metal, and a few bags of cement, altogether weighing almost 1600 pounds. Purpose? Bridge building.

The Ketengban people live in very rugged mountains, and bridges make their foot travel much safer over the deep and rushing rivers. The cool thing is that since the gospel has penetrated their hearts and culture, they can walk to neighboring villages without fear of being eaten. At the destination, I asked how the villagers were going to carry the heavy cable for two miles to the river. The answer? “Unroll it and with a whole bunch of people carry it like a long snake down the trail.”

There, I also saw an impact of the “Bible translation” purpose code. I talked with an old man named Philip standing at the top of the runway. He didn’t speak a lick of Indonesian. But with a bit of translation from a younger kid, mixed with some hand signals (pointing to his heart, thumping his chest, and pointing up to heaven) I learned that he had killed five people. He now believes that Jesus died and rose to save him, and when he dies he is going to heaven to be with his Creator. Wow.

On departure I received a radio call about a patient in a nearby town about 30 miles away who had fallen off a motorcycle and “cracked” her skull. Yikes. So I headed over there, now flying on code “medivac”. Thankfully for my queasy stomach, the gore had already been carefully bandaged. She was in really rough shape as we cautiously laid her across the front bench seat of the Porter. Her husband and two kids climbed in as well. And while we were there, we learned that another lady had been bitten by a snake. Could I take her to the hospital too? Of course. She also was doing poorly—unable to walk, see, or speak because of the poison in her system. We prayed for the patients, and I headed toward home on a 50-minute flight to a waiting ambulance.

We have nine purpose codes to describe the flying we do. Some days are predictable and go according to the schedule. And some days are full of variables. But no matter which code I’m flying, it’s always my joy to be extending the hands and feet of Jesus to those in need.

Brad McFarlane

Brad is a missionary pilot with YAJASI, our partner in Papua, Indonesia. He and his wife, Susan, have served there since 1997.