Thursday, March 24, 2011

Piato Needs To Pray

In this line of work one tends to collect a pretty eclectic bunch of friends.  Perhaps one of my more interesting acquaintances is a fellow named Piato.  His story, from stone-age killer to follower of Jesus, is fascinating and I only know a small fraction of it.  For some interesting backstory to what follows in this blog entry, check out more of Piato's story here.

Last week I found myself back in the little hamlet of Daboto.  Climbing out of the Pilatus Porter at the top of the airstrip, I was delighted to find Piato waiting for the airplane.
Piato and his young son at Daboto last week.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

This Is Gonna Hurt

To believe is not enough--the demons do that much and don't seem to get a lot of Sunday school credit for it.

Jesus calls us to something much more difficult than belief.  He calls us to follow Him.  And one thing He makes abundantly clear:  in the short term, this is gonna hurt.  The long term?  That's looking pretty spectacular.

I'm still immersed in the riches of the Gospel of Luke.  In chapter 9 of the story, Jesus, having just finished a time of communion with His Father, tells His followers:

[I] must suffer many things...and [I] must be killed

And then He immediately adds:

If anyone would come after me, 
he must deny himself 
and take up his cross daily 
and follow me.

Jesus is saying to me, "Nate, I'm going to go pick up this cross of wood, lug it up a hill, allow myself to be stripped, ridiculed and then stapled to it.  You want to follow?  Go grab a cross and let's go."

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Not All Here

For years, we've gone to church with a woman who is often referred to, in less-than-politically-correct terms, as 'the crazy lady.'  She's not all there.

Her name is Yemima.  She's probably around fifty, dresses in rumpled 1970's era dresses with lots of not-always-clean lace and frills.  She wears lots of lipstick, some of which actually ends up on her lips.  Last week the dress was an unwashed dirty-white and the lipstick was metallic gold.

Our church services always have a time when anyone can share a story about how God is working in their lives or simply sing a song.  Frequently, different groups in the church will have practiced a number and come up front and share it with the rest of us.  Yemima always joins these groups, even though she isn't a member of the group nor has she practiced with them.  When the youth go up front, she's right there with them.  Men's groups?  You bet.  She adds her soprano to the basses and tenors.  Sometimes she goes up by herself, grabs the mike, and sings a shrill, wavering acapella hymn.

She's not all there.

So where is she?

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Belated Update On Our Sick Guy...

Should have posted this a while ago.  A week after we prayed for Anius under the wing of the airplane (see previous post here), I was making my "five minutes out" call on radio for landing at an airstrip called Lumo and I heard Andi, the pastor from Omban, on the radio.

I quick asked him, "How's Anius?"

The immediate response was, "You won't believe this, but from the moment we all prayed for him at the airplane, he's been well!"

Oh me of little faith.  I really had been worried that he would go down hill.  Praise God...when you live in an environment where the dark spiritual forces exercise very real power, seeing Jesus demonstrate Himself as Lord over everything is huge for the young church.

Saturday, March 5, 2011


Been flying a heavier flight schedule than is normal for me the last two weeks...great fun.  Also been really fun to get into a airstrip that I hadn't been to before...and an approach that has quickly become one of my favorites, perhaps the prettiest approach and landing in Papua.  Last Thursday we were privileged to serve Lois Belsey--picking her up in the lowland airstrip of Faowi where she had been serving the Iau people and dropping her off at her 'home base' of Hitadipa, among the Moni people.

I had 'checked myself out' at Hitadipa the day before with no passengers, and on Thursday had another of our pilots along, riding shotgun.  He took the following footage of the approach and landing.  A common thing when landing at mountain airstrips out here is that you become committed to the landing at some point along the approach...which is to say that you've passed an airborne point of no return beyond which the aircraft is no longer capable of out-climbing or out-turning the terrain that you have lowered it into.  You will now contact terra firma no matter what you do--you can't go around and you're committed to the landing regardless of what happens.

Hitadipa has a committal point that is really early in the approach--it occurs a full 30 seconds before you're able to see the airstrip that you're landing on, 60 seconds before touchdown.  Take a gander at the video--what you'll see is the airplane lowering itself into a tight river valley with no airstrip in sight--it's in a spur valley off to the left at the far end of the canyon and you won't see it for the majority of the approach.  If you watch the video timer, we become committed to land at the :35 second point of the video.


Makes me think about commitment in terms of following Jesus in the ministries He calls us to.  Some of my forbears in missions used to pack their belongings in coffins as they headed to the mission field--they knew they weren't coming back--they stepped onto ships and passed their committal points.  Now?  We try things out ahead of time, make sure a ministry is a good fit for us, wouldn't think of leaving our home shores without a good retirement plan, health insurance, life insurance and above all, an exit plan: we actually get counseled to have a fall back plan in our home country in case this missionary thing doesn't work out.

I'm a slow reader.  Still in Luke.  I just camp out in this stuff.  Chapter 9, Jesus says to us,

If anyone will come after me, he must deny himself, take up his cross daily, and follow me.

I have decided to follow Jesus.  No turning back.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

The End Is Never The End

It’s not often that my day starts in a VIP room and ends in the mud of a mountain airstrip, but hey, this is Papua and you never know what a day will hold.

Our little Pilatus PC-6 stood out like a sore thumb on the tarmac of Sentani’s airport, parked in front of the VIP arrival lounge, dwarfed by the Boeings. Eventually the Vice Governor of Papua and his entourage made their way to our aircraft.  Our mission?  Deliver them to the celebration of the Kimyal people receiving the Word of God in their own language.

An hour later, with the aircraft safely parked at the top of the Koropun airstrip, the Dedication Ceremony is in full swing.  A pastor is speaking to the assembled crowds. I wander about with my camera, watching faces, taking it all in.  Under the brilliant blue sky and towering mountain walls that surround us, the Kimyal are resplendent in their best dress.  Here’s a guy in his warrior finery standing next to a man in the uniform of a government civil servant.  In Papua, the Stone Age and the 21st Century dance together with a tentative step and uncertain rhythm.  

Then, through a maze of Bird of Paradise plumes I notice it.  A simple, chest-high monument with a tiny brass plaque embedded in it.  I quietly maneuver to the point where I can read the engraving.

Philip J. Masters
April 9, 1932
Sept 25, 1968
"My Faithful Martyr"
Rev 2:13