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A Chance at Life

Story by Joel Geaslen, an MAF pilot serving with his family in Papua, Indonesia.

 

For the first time in a long time, I sat behind the controls of the airplane. My instructor began to teach me the unique aspects of flying in Papua such as navigating between mountains, learning new weather patterns, and most of all, how to land. I have landed an airplane thousands of times, but I have never needed to be as precise as I do now. Landing our airplane at most of the more than 100 airstrips we fly to is like landing on a postage stamp. Hand-carved out of the mountain face, these airstrips are often located in deep valleys near rugged mountain cliffs surrounded by dense jungle vegetation. Precision is required. After landing in the remote villages, I love to greet as many people as I can. Hundreds of people gather around to see the spectacle of the arrival and departure of the airplane that brings more than just food, medicine, and supplies—we often bring a chance at life.

The call came to us over the radio. A mother had given birth three days before in Lelambo, but due to complications, she had still not passed the placenta and continued to bleed. The mother was not able to walk, becoming dehydrated, and both mother and baby were in danger of not surviving.

A woman arrives on a makeshift stretcher for a medevac flight in Papua, Indonesia. Photo by Kees Janse.

My instructor and I were in the middle of a busy day of flight training, but after hearing the request for help, we altered our plans. As we neared the airstrip, it became very clear to me why she needed a flight out of her village to reach medical care. Geographically, the mother and her newborn baby were located deep in a mountain valley with few other villages nearby. Jungle and rugged terrain stretched out for miles in all directions.

Desperation was written across the father’s face as we greeted him and the crowd of locals that gathered around the airstrip. Wrapped in a small satchel, the newborn baby cried and cried. The mother was brought to the airplane in a makeshift stretcher and we quickly loaded her into the airplane. Carefully, I strapped her to the floor as she could not sit in a chair, and then I paused. I paused for a moment to pray for her and the baby in the name of Jesus. This is why we have come here.

A concerned father waits as MAF pilot Joel Geaslen straps his wife to the floor of the airplane. Photo by Kees Janse.

My mind was racing. My heart was pounding. I could not help but think about all the years of flight training and preparation, hundreds of people giving and praying, and now here we were—face to face with people who just needed a chance at life.

Launched from the steep mountainside, our small airplane was able to swiftly bring them to medical help. Help that is impossible in the tiny, cut-off, and isolated village deep in the jungle.

May we never lose our compassion for our fellow humans. Instead, may we be moved to act, love, and serve as Jesus has demonstrated His love to us.

Joel and Christy Geaslen and their adorable children with MAF in Papua, Indonesia.

 

 

 

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