Unexpected Opportunity

In a remote area of Papua New Guinea, an occupied casket plus a weather-induced overnight provide an opportunity for Jamie to encourage people to read God’s Word.

Recently, I flew some passengers and a coffin containing a body to a village where people have the New Testament translated in their local language. The airstrip is nestled in a bowl far up in a valley at over 6,000 feet in elevation. The terrain around it rises a few thousand feet higher. The weather was poor, with clouds in the valley and bowl. I could see the airstrip but could not fly a standard pattern; even a modified pattern would not be safe. After circling in the valley for a period of time, I diverted to another airstrip and landed.

As I discussed our options with the passengers, we received a phone call saying the weather had improved. But I didn’t have enough fuel to go directly back to the airstrip, so we returned to my home base, refueled, and tried again.

By the time I got back to my destination, the weather was quickly deteriorating. As I flew down final, it occurred to me that if I landed, I would probably be spending the night. But at least the passengers and body would be where they needed to be. So I passed my airborne committal point, touched down, and continued my rollout up the 6% slope of the 1,540-foot airstrip. As I turned around at the top, I immediately looked back out at my departure path and realized that a takeoff even at that point, might not be safe. After I prayed—that God would make it clear whether I should take off or not—I shut down and unloaded my passengers and the coffin as quickly and gently as possible.

I taxied to the bottom of the airstrip to check visibility, but it was poor with clouds rolling up over the bottom end of the airstrip. So I taxied back to the top, shut down, and got out of the airplane.

A heavy mist was falling and clouds blew past as I stood under the aircraft wing. A group of people of various ages were also huddling close, trying to get a bit of shelter under the wing. As I waited for the weather to improve, I talked with the people about death and what God says about it in the Bible. It was a great opportunity to share the gospel and also encourage people to use their New Testaments.

The clouds didn’t lift that afternoon, and a man graciously offered me a place to sleep for the night in a beautiful little hamlet with a small stream flowing past. I spent a chilly and restless night and didn’t get a lot of sleep, but the opportunity to share the gospel and encourage people to use their New Testaments was well worth any discomfort.

Jamie Halverson

Jamie Halverson

Jamie has served in Papua New Guinea with SIL Aviation PNG since 2006. Lisa, his wife, came to PNG in 2007 as a language intern. They were married in 2009 and now have four children, Thad, Thea, Zeke, and Ziah.