Going the Distance

At 7 a.m., the wheels of the PC-12 said goodbye to the runway and tucked up into the belly of the plane, ready for a two-hour nap. Destination? Inanwatan. I had never been there, but the team promoting the Papua Malay Scriptures needed to get there for some meetings, and I was happy to take them. We traversed 500 miles of swamps, mountains, and ocean, arriving in two hours and ten minutes at which time the wheels came back down to do their job again on arrival. Softly, of course. After saying goodbye, I climbed into the PC-12 and worked my way back to our home base in Sentani and arrived in early afternoon.

The Papua Malay language team paused for a picture before boarding the PC-12 for their journey to the other end of the island. They were headed to the “Bird’s Head” to promote Scriptures they have translated and to teach the Sunday school teachers how to use the Papua Malay materials. Photo shared by Brad McFarlane

The return trip for the Papua Malay team wasn’t quite so easy. Due to schedule and funding limitations, they took a different route home after all their meetings and Scripture-training workshops. First came five hours by large canoe navigating through mangrove swamps, followed by open ocean with waves spraying them and rain adding to the soaking of waves. After the five-hour boat ride, came a four-hour pickup ride and an overnight. The trip finally ended the following day after a two-stop airline flight home. Which trip would you prefer? Two hours or two days?

The red line is our flight from right to left, reducing 500 miles to just a couple hours. The other lines are my return trip home moving other passengers along the way. Photo shared by Brad McFarlane
One of the team members gave me a photo of their boat ride home through the mangrove swamps. Anybody a fan of salt-water crocodiles? Photo shared by Brad McFarlane

Susan recently had her own opportunity to go the distance with a group of students from a Christian high school on their Outdoor Education (OE) trip. Susan was the cook for OE again this year, feeding 70 people in a remote village without running water, electricity or refrigeration. And she got to go on a hike too. A long one! They needed an extra adult to accompany a group of kids so they employed the cook. She was game! Eight hours later after traveling on a narrow, muddy, slippery, steep-up-and-down, winding trail over rivers and through dense jungle, they arrived at their remote village and home for three days. Amazingly, they were the first white people to step foot in that village since an initial survey was done in 1973! Quite primitive! Very remote!

The eight-hour hike to the remote village was not for the faint of heart. Quite slippery and steep seemed to be the norm. Photo shared by Brad McFarlane

As they approached the pig fence at the edge of the village, they were greeted by a surprise welcome when a war party sprang out of the undergrowth, fully decked out in war paint and bows and arrows and chanting loudly. There were varying responses to this surprise among the kids, but Susan thought it was pretty cool.

I snapped a picture out my window as I cruised by one day. This was Susan’s destination and home for three days. Photo shared by Brad McFarlane

In the village, they did Bible club for the kids, studied culture, and showed the JESUS film which had been dubbed into the local language.

Remote village accommodations were grass huts called honai. Photo shared by Brad McFarlane

Better keep your mosquito net tucked in tight at night in these huts, or you will have a gazillion unwanted guests … cockroaches!  Not tens. Not even hundreds, or thousands. But tens of thousands! Cockroaches! Yep, quite persistent and pesky little fellows. Susan was a trooper, as were all the kids!

Back in the main village Susan (in the back) with an eager kitchen crew preparing another meal for 70. The kids were great helpers, and Susan is very organized! Photo shared by Brad McFarlane

The 10-day OE experience stretched everyone in physical, social and spiritual realms. Students dug ditches, moved earth, taught kids’ clubs, worked together with the people and helped in local schools. They prayed and saw God provide for two students who came down with typhoid and needed medical evacuations back home. Each morning and evening, they were challenged as they worshipped and studied Scripture together. It was a time away from their regular lives, and students expressed that it was a great experience and opportunity to focus on an attitude of service, not circumstance.

Sometimes God calls us to service in new directions, in ways that are untried and unfamiliar. It’s a great blessing to realize that he is always present, providing the stamina and strength we need to finish the task. We feel privileged to be able to go the distance to remote places and play a part in spreading the Good News as we serve here in Indonesia.

Brad McFarlane

Brad McFarlane

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