Traveling Light*

A recent flight for pilot Jonathan Federwitz in Papua New Guinea reminded him that sometimes God intervenes and opens an unexpected door. As originally planned, it was a routine assignment: transport a load of New Testaments to Daru for the Gizrra language group in preparation for their New Testament dedication.

Boxes of Gizrra New Testaments wrapped in tarps to protect them against salt water spray during boat travel down the coast to their final destination. Photo shared by Jonathan Federwitz

On his return trip Jonathan was scheduled to stop off at Bosavi in the middle of thousands of acres of jungle. There, he planned to pick up three Kaluli men—Yalibi, Heli, and Sidawo—and fly them to the mission center in Ukarumpa. The three men had been especially chosen by Kaluli church leaders to participate in a consultant check for a translation of 2 Peter, Jude, and part of Genesis.

When Jonathan landed at Bosavi, Yalibi was waiting and ready to board the plane. Heli was there, too, pleased to be going out to Ukarumpa for the first time. However, Sidawo wasn’t there. Jonathan learned that at the last minute Sidawo couldn’t make the four-hour hike to the airstrip and had not been able to let anybody know about his change in plans.

Jonathan radioed the center that Sidawo wasn’t coming and asked what he should do. Andy Grosh, the translation project advisor, replied that, for the Scripture checks to go well, they really needed a team of three men, one Kaluli translator and two individuals who had not previously worked with the translation. These two men were needed to respond to comprehension questions.  Andy gave Jonathan several names previously suggested by the Kaluli church leaders and asked him to check whether Usu, who lives in the village adjacent to the airstrip, might be available to replace Sidawo. The situation was now urgent because darkness would come in three hours and possible heavier weather was expected. Jonathan couldn’t wait there very long.

That’s when a chance meeting from earlier that morning became an unexpected blessing: Heli knew where to find Usu! As he was hiking out to the airstrip that morning, Heli had met up with Usu and his wife hiking into the jungle to cut and process sago to share at an upcoming pastors’ meeting. (Sago is a starchy staple food substance obtained from Sago palms.) Usu had told Heli good-bye, hoping he would have a good time at the mission center. With this in mind, they sent a young girl to run and find Usu and ask him if he would be willing to go to Ukarumpa in place of Sidawo at short notice! 

Usu was surprised to get this sudden message, but he and his wife talked it over and made a very quick decision. Yes! He ran directly from the sago swamp to the airstrip, without even stopping at his house along the way. As soon as Usu arrived at the airstrip, Jonathan loaded him into the plane with Yalibi and Heli, and they took off for their return to the mission center. What a demonstration of true flexibility and the real meaning of “traveling light!” Jonathan commented, “I love flying all the time. But the reason that I’m here is to support Bible translation and it’s always extra special to see the fruit of these teams that have worked many, many years to get to this point.”

Jonathan with his three passengers, Yalibi, Heli, and Usu. Photo shared by Jonathan Federwitz

Andy, Usu, Heli, and Yalibi hold portions of translated Scripture checked and ready to distribute. Photo credit Sylvia Grosh

*Based on information provided by Jonathan Federwitz and Andy Grosh.