Mercy Flight with Impact

Brad McFarlane, a pilot who serves with our Indonesian partner YAJASI recently provided an unusual service: He flew the body of Rudy*, a local believer, home for burial. Fellow missionaries who work in that area wrote YAJASI to express gratitude and explain why the flight was so meaningful.

“… I have become all things to all men, so that I may by all means save some. I do all things for the sake of the gospel …”
—1 Corinthians 9:22b–23a

The missionaries, who work in a remote community of the area, explained how Rudy had moved his family from his home village to that community to hear God’s Word preached. Upon hearing the gospel message, Rudy believed and decided that he and his family would stay—in part so that he could minister as a Bible teacher. In addition, Rudy and his co-teachers began working on a plan to carry the gospel message to his extended family who live in a village a hard day’s hike away.

Rudy in the back, left corner, discussing the upcoming Sunday’s lesson.

Rudy was a shy, quiet man by nature, so leading wasn’t easy for him. It was a blessing to observe him relying on God to use him as he taught. Rudy was also a good testimony of a loving husband and a caring father of four who valued God’s Word and wanted his children to know it. It was a joy to see his two older children always eager to share what they were hearing and learning from God’s Word. 

Rudy and his wife reading the Bible in the evening with their kids.

When Rudy became sick it became apparent that surgery might be necessary, so YAJASI flew him out to the hospital in town. 

The flight arrives to take Rudy and his wife to town, so he can go to the hospital.
Rudy’s three older children hanging out, waiting for news of their parents.

An ensuing biopsy showed that he had cancer. The cancer seemed particularly aggressive, causing Rudy’s health to decline rapidly. Within two weeks’ time, he was absent from the body and in his forever home.  

Rudy receiving care at the hospital in town.

As Rudy was dying, he shared that he wasn’t afraid because he knew he would soon be home with his Lord and Savior. At the moment of his death, Rudy’s wife shared that she knew all that remained in front of her was rotting flesh. It was no longer her husband. This is HUGE. 

Several years ago Rudy and his wife would have been filled with much fear and uncertainty concerning his death. Rudy’s wife would have been obsessed with following their traditions, which dictate that the preparation of the body, the wake, and the burial all have to be done in a specific manner in the hope of appeasing the spirits and preventing others from taking ill.

So, considering Rudy and his wife’s faith in God and her acknowledgment that no death rituals were required to keep everyone safe, the missionaries wondered if it was necessary to transport his corpse back to his home village. Their concerns were based on the fact that Rudy’s extended family members are not believers.

Rudy’s family’s worldview states that no one dies of disease or natural causes. A death is always the fault of someone. As Rudy’s death drew near, his brother began performing the ritual to determine who was to blame for the sickness and impending death. He lashed out at Rudy’s wife and began spreading word that she was to blame. He also threatened to take her as his second wife and their kids as payment for his brother’s leaving the family to go teach God’s Word in another village. 

Upon hearing this news, the missionaries began praying for the situation. The idea of transporting Rudy’s body back to his home area for burial kept coming to mind. Would paying for the flight and returning Rudy’s body to his brother help smooth things over so that the brother would cease demanding Rudy’s wife and children as his own? In addition they wondered if organizing a flight would help keep doors open for a team of teachers to preach God’s gospel in Rudy’s brother’s village. 

After wrestling in prayer, they decided to pursue organizing a flight to transport Rudy’s body back to his home area. The good news is that since burying Rudy in their home area, accusations toward Rudy’s wife have stopped, and his brother has stated that he will not seek to take her as his second wife nor keep her children as his own.

The missionaries wrote to YAJASI: “We are very thankful for YAJASI’s willingness to take on the ministry. And we give much thanks to God for these temporal blessings. We also look to God with hope that the flight and return of Rudy’s body will be a tool for opening the door for the extended family to receive a team of evangelists and the gospel message of God’s Word.

Unloading Rudy’s coffin in his home area. Photo by Brad McFarlane

Join with us in prayer that God will use this act of kindness on behalf of his Church toward Rudy’s extended family to make them receptive to hearing God’s message of redemption.





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