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.