“I’m an old man. I’ve expected to die now for many, many years. But if I had died, I would have gone to hell. I know that now.”
MAF pilot Nathan Fagerlie shared this man’s testimony recently at MAF headquarters when he and his family were visiting on furlough. He was updating staff on what has been happening in Puluk, in Papua, Indonesia, following the release of the MAF movie Ends of the Earth.
Back in early 2020, while filming for the movie was still taking place, MAF had been close to opening the Puluk airstrip. But then COVID-19 hit and everything shut down. Because of a significant health event previously, MAF leadership thought it best for Nathan and his family to return to the states. While Nathan trusted their decision, it was still hard.
“I remember thinking, we are so close to opening Puluk,” said Nathan.
Foremost on his mind was how death was ever present in Papua. For instance, infant mortality rates are 80 – 90 percent in villages where there are no missionaries.
“There are so many times that I fly into a village and there’s a funeral going on,” Nathan explained.
It made him question: “Lord, what are you doing? These people are excited. They’re motivated. We’re so close to the finish line. Please help me understand.”
Nathan accepted that people would die while he was gone. He realized God had chosen whom He’d chosen. If someone were going to die, there was nothing Nathan could do.
It was 15 months before Nathan could return to Papua. When he did, he discovered an astounding fact. From the time he evaluated the airstrip, to the time he got back and opened it up, not one person had died! Even the people of Puluk were surprised by this.
“It shows my lack of faith,” Nathan said. “I just assumed some of them were going to die. But our God, in His infinite wisdom during that time, kept them all alive. Partly to show His power and partly to keep those that He’s called alive and ready to hear His word.”
He learned other things upon his return, like how even if the airstrip was opened back in April 2020, the Wano evangelists wouldn’t have had anyone to send to Puluk. But then God worked in Liku’s heart to answer that call, and Anut’s as well, along with their families. So a short time after he’d been back, Nathan had the privilege of flying them into Puluk so they could share the gospel.
It took a few months of teaching from creation to Christ and his sacrificial death, burial, and resurrection. Throughout that time, God’s Word enthralled the Wano people. They never wanted to leave. They stopped going to their gardens and had nothing to eat. They were hungry, but even hungrier for the bread of life.
It wasn’t long before a church was born there in Puluk, with some 80 initial followers of Christ. And today there are likely more than that as the teaching and discipleship continue.
As Nathan finished up his talk at MAF headquarters, after he’d shared about the ways God had used him, imperfections and all, in reaching the Wano people of Puluk, he closed with some amazing news.
Missionary Tim Ingles, who was also featured in the film, told Nathan: “I want to impress upon you, if it weren’t for the MAF documentary, Puluk would not be reached right now. That was not even on our radar. That was like five, six years down the line. So as much good as this documentary may have done to those who’ve seen it, it did way more for those who are a part of it.”
Of course, MAF staff were greatly encouraged to hear these words. And I hope you are as well. As Flight Crew members, your generosity has played a role in the gospel arriving in Puluk. Thank you for your ongoing support that has enabled the love of Christ to reach the Wano people.
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