As MAF we fill a wide range of needs as we serve all around the world. Sometimes we are busy doing relief work in a country when disasters strikes. Sometimes we support the local church, missionaries, and other Christian workers in order to bring the light of Christ to the remotest reaches. Sometimes we are providing the simple service of safe and quick transportation from one place to another. Sometimes we fly all sorts of animals, including pigs, chickens, snakes, alligators, etc… Sometimes we are doing medical evacuation from remote villages to hospital in order to save lives. Sometimes we have the privilege and honor to help people in their darkest times. This was my job last week.
I was preparing to go to work the day in the hangar. I had flown three of the past four days and it was time to turn wrenches. I received the call from one of our hangar workers. An older gentleman had died at the hospital in a small town called Malinau. The family was requesting that we help them bring the body back to his home town to be buried with his family. While there are exceptions, it is common practice in Indonesia to bury a body within 24 hours of death. This is partly for hygenic reasons and partly because of the practices of Islam. The family I would be serving was a Christian family and I jumped at the chance to be able to serve them in this difficult time.
The weather, however, was not cooperating. When I arrived at the airport, the chief pilot called me on the radio. He was already flying and reported that the clouds were thick and low. There was widespread rain showers and he had to go way out of his way in order to arrive at Malinau, my initial destination. I finished getting the plane ready and then waited at the airport for the weather to improve. After 3 hours of waiting and catching up on paperwork, I received news that the weather in Malinau and Long Bawan, the destination for this man’s final resting place, had improved.
I did some last minute prep and then then took off for Malinau. It was a beautiful day and I could see how the bad weather was moving off to the north. I arrived at the airport in Malinau after 30 minutes and was met with a crowd of about 60 people. They were friends, family, and a local pastor. They brought out the casket, which was quite a task since it weighed over 450 pounds. It took 8 men to pick it up and load it in the plane. I quietly went about my duties while they loaded. After the casket was loaded and secured, a local pastor prayed for the people, the family, and the flight to Long Bawan. After the prayer, I joined one of the family members in the plane and flew off to Long Bawan.
It was a sobering flight because of the grief I could see in the face of my passenger. I was praying for the family, and also praying for the weather. I was dodging clouds and picking my way between them in order to stay clear and make it safely to Long Bawan. After about 15 minutes, the route opened up over a large river and I was able to make it without incident. We were met by a smaller crowd of friends and family when we arrived in Long Bawan. After I shut down the engine, I got out of the plane and let the people go about removing the casket. I could see they were having some trouble getting the casket out of the plane, so I climbed up behind the pilot’s seat and helped lift the front of the casket so they could maneuver it out of the rear door. Once the casket was out, we had to install the seats quickly because I needed to return to Malinau and retrieve the rest of the family before the weather closed the way.
I took off before the rain came into Long Bawan and I was praying that the shower wouldn’t be too big and would pass before I came back. I made it back to Malinau in 30 minutes and we loaded up the rest of the family. I am pretty sure the man’s wife was in this second load. I felt a bit of pressure to get the family out to join the casket, but I knew that being safe is always the best option. So, we took off with a prayer and made our way out to Long Bawan. There were a few more rain showers and I could see that I would need to approach Long Bawan from the south, instead of a little to the north. We made it through with ease, and with a little plane wash from the rain. The family was very grateful that I was able to get them all safely to Long Bawan. The flight home was sweet and a little sad. It is always hard to face death and to see these people who have lived hard lives. There is no doubt they have fought for all they have. But, it is also cool to see the legacy that they will leave behind as a result of their hard work.
As we serve here in Indonesia with MAF, it is such a blessing to be the hands and feet of Jesus in practical ways when people need us. Thank you for being a part of a bigger story!
Jessica was laid out sick for about a week, but this too has passed. We have no idea what she had, but she is back to her spunky, awesome, encouraging, and loving ways! The kids and I, especially me, are glad she is doing well. Thanks so much for your prayers for her and for our family. God bless!