I wrote some thoughts about bucket lists a while back. Andrew, the man who has spent most of his life translating the Bible into the Ketengban language, told me in a recent email,
Onya is a place I always had on my “bucket list” but could never get there on foot.
Getting the airstrip open at Onya has been on my own list for some time. Now, with Ketengban Old Testaments piled high in our hangar, a full complement of pilots, and four operational Pilatus Porters, it seemed like the right time to get in there.
So last week, on an early Tuesday morning, my colleague Tim Harold and I flew a full load of Scriptures into Omban, the closest Ketengban airstrip to Onya. We unloaded the majority of the Bibles in Omban, but left 10 boxes of Old Testaments on the airplane for the people of Onya.
|On the ground in Omban, tying down the Bibles for Onya.|
With the GPS showing us within a half mile of the airstrip, we still couldn't see it. Having never been there before, I wondered if perhaps we had the wrong coordinates...but I didn't have any reason to believe our data was wrong. Besides, we'd followed what I remembered of Andrew's instructions to a tee: "From Omban, go out into the Long Valley and hang a left."
Just as my worry motor was firing up, Tim spotted the airstrip through the dissipating morning fog.
When the weather in these mountains calls for patience, patience is what you give it. With plenty of fuel on board, we circled overhead and got to know this little cul de sac off the Long Valley better. As we circled, the fog steadily lifted and soon the approach path was clearing nicely.
Perched on a picturesque ridge line, the community at Onya had done an excellent job subduing their mountain into an airstrip. After a couple of practice approaches, we were soon touching down on the smooth, firm surface.
As soon as the prop stopped moving, the reception committee started a high speed spin-cycle around the aircraft with the now familiar Ketengban whooping overpowering our senses.
Once the mayhem settled down a bit, we had a short time of prayer thanking God that these Scriptures had come to the people of Onya. After more than fifteen years out here, I'm finally catching on that ceremony is important, so we made one up on the spot.
On a remote ridge line in the Star Mountains of Papua, under the wing of an airplane that God's people gave specifically for this task, pastors and elders from the seven churches in the Onya valley received boxes filled with books that held the very words of their Creator.
Looking at the crowd pressed in around the airplane, I guessed there were about a hundred Ketengban folk cheering each time a box came out of the airplane. My spiritual eyes don't work very well yet, otherwise, who knows... I might have been able to count the angels cheering.
|Yusup, a Ketengban Pastor at Onya.|
|Organizing the impromptu ceremony.|
|Tim passes a box of Bibles to an elder from one of the churches in the Onya valley.|
|One last look at beautiful Onya.|
Tim Harold took the photos for this post.