The Gospel Impacts a Runway

Photo credit: Tim Harold

Lundo, a very remote community of Ketengban people, nestles in the beautiful, rugged mountains of Papua, Indonesia. Not many years ago the people of this area lived in fear of their enemies and the spirits. They didn’t go out at night and, in fact, didn’t even venture out of their valley for fear of being killed by enemies. Early missionaries trekking into the area had to change out their guides and porters along the way as they passed from one tribe’s territory to the next. Women were treated as property to be used and traded and weren’t allowed education or spiritual knowledge. One in four men died a violent death as the people warred against one another. But … all that was pre-gospel.

Wycliffe translators Andrew and Anne Sims spent 18 years working in a Ketengban village not far from Lundo, helping translate God’s Word for the people into their own language. Once the people had the translated Scripture and understood its message, the gospel took root among them and transformed their way of life. Ketengban believers then assisted with the translation work, completing the New Testament. They pushed on to translate more and recently finished the Old Testament, which is currently heading to the printers.

These believers also traveled to neighboring communities, including Lundo, and shared the Good News with other Ketengban speakers.

Sharing the gospel with neighboring villages like Lundo meant traversing primitive trails like this. Photo credit: Tim Harold

Meanwhile the people at Lundo had recognized how much they needed air service to provide important community support: for schools, health services, government officials, and transport of household goods and food stuffs. Like many of the Ketengban villages, the only access to their community was along primitive, steep trails, which were often muddy and slippery. So over a period of 12 years they worked hard to build a runway for Lundo—a huge job in a place where bulldozers aren’t available.

They tackled this job with determination, elbow grease and hand tools like wheelbarrows, pick axes and pry bars!

Without mechanical tools or machines, all work was done by hand using simple tools. Photo credit: Jonathan Schultz

Four years ago YAJASI* pilots Tim Harold and Jonathan Schultz flew into Weime, the closest airstrip. Then, guided by a group of men from Lundo, they hiked two-and-a-half hours to the village to survey the new runway.

Video credit: Jonathan Schultz


Tim and Jonathan hiked into Lundo crossing rivers and navigating slippery trails. Photo credit:  Tim Harold

When Tim and Jonathan conducted the survey, they determined it was much too steep—19% slope at the initial touchdown zone. It needed serious work to bring it to the YAJASI safety standard—15% slope for the touchdown area.

Measurements of the runway showed significant slope. Photo credit Jonathan Schultz

So the community continued their work to meet the requirements. Three years later, YAJASI made their first landing at Lundo, only to find that the runway was still too steep.

Still too steep. Photo credit: Tim Harold

That’s when the impact of the gospel was demonstrated in a very tangible way. Churches from six surrounding villages sent workers to help their Lundo neighbors finish the project. Over 200 people went to Lundo to serve! Pilot Kars Kroneman says, “I flew over [Lundo] multiple times and saw 50–100 people working down there.” With a lot of hard work, they raised the bottom of the runway 2.5 meters/8 feet in two months’ time! Quite an amazing feat!

Now Lundo is open and being serviced by YAJASI planes.  Check out more info and photos of Lundo here.

Photo credit:: Tim Harold

This spirit of cooperation among these communities would have been unthinkable before the good news about Jesus and his work for us all freed them from fear and warfare.  They cooperated and collaborated with each other because they now see one another as brothers and sisters in the Lord.

*YAJASI is a long-term mission partner of JAARS

Thank you to Tim Harold, Kars Kroneman, Brad McFarlane, Jonathan Schulz and Andrew Sims for the information and photos for this remarkable story about the transforming power of God’s Word.