Reaching the Nukna by Helicopter

In Morobe Province, rugged mountains ascend more than 13,000 feet above sea level within just a few miles of the ocean. Those mountains, laced with countless rivers and waterfalls, mean that the homeland of the Nukna people is accessible only by steep, narrow foot paths or by helicopter.
Story by Karen Weaver, photos by Gavin Jones

Pilot Gavin Jones has been well trained in navigating a helicopter over and through these mountain chains. As he approaches, he must take into consideration not only the steadfast mountains, but also the ever-changing wind and cloud conditions.

In May, he flew seven people to the Nukna language area for the weekend. Even though the Taylor family has arrived by helicopter many times over the past 13 years, each time is a cause for excitement in the tiny village of Hamelengan. On this particular occasion, the passengers came for a special celebration, the dedication of Luke and Acts in the Nukna language.

As the festivities began early the next morning, Gavin looked around on a crowd of several hundred people who had hiked over the mountains to celebrate the recently completed Scriptures. They listened attentively to the speeches and tapped their feet to the rhythm of the music as worship leaders adorned in strings of small shells sang and beat their drums. However, the event that evoked the most response was when translator Matt Taylor rose to address the crowd. The Nukna people yelled out with enthusiastic voices as they listened to Matt speaking their language.

Following the ceremony, Gavin had the privilege of uploading audio Scriptures for those who requested it. Some people already owned Audibibles with the previously recorded books of Mark and Ruth on them. As they handed their well-worn players to Gavin, he updated them to include Luke and Acts. Some of the young people purchased SD cards with the audio Scriptures that could be played on their phones. Nearby, written versions of these Scriptures were available as well.

As the blades whirled and the helicopter rose above Hamelengan village the following morning, Gavin circled the aircraft past cascades of water falling from sheer rock cliffs. He was thankful that his years of training and experience as a helicopter pilot had allowed him be part of bringing the life-giving message of the gospel to people hidden within these mountain ranges.