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God’s Boat

By Jennifer Wolf

Your support is enabling the light of Christ to reach a dark place on the south coast of Papua

“Can you please come to the south coast?”

This was the request of Pastor Simson, who had gone to great lengths to seek out missionaries interested in serving the swampy south coast of Papua, Indonesia.   

The MAF floatplane supports mission work in the south coast of Papua, Indonesia. Photo by Lemuel Malabuyo.

Through a series of providential connections, God led him to Sam and Kari*, a missionary couple living in Sentani at the time.

“He just showed up on our doorstep one day and said, ‘Every single Sunday I preach the gospel from the pulpit and the people go home and worship demons. I want to help my people know who Jesus is. I want to help my people be free from fear of spirits. But I’m failing to do that because we don’t have a Bible that makes sense in the Asmat language,’” said Sam.

God had already placed it in Sam and Kari’s hearts to minister on the south coast. Now they had an official invitation from Simson.

Sam and Kari with their children during a visit to Bali, Indonesia.

Knowing that MAF flights would support living in such a remote place, Sam and Kari began serving the Asmat area seven years ago. The community warmly welcomed them and helped them build a house, by hand. Sam and Kare are raising their three children here—now twelve, ten, and four years old.

Two Boats

“The only airplane on the island that can bring us in and out to our location is the MAF floatplane. The ground here is so swampy and muddy that essentially an airstrip is not possible,” said Sam.

Sam described the spiritual needs here as “enormous.”

“Church for them is like a shirt. It’s something you put on,” he added. “It’s not a heart change. It’s not a deep understanding of who God is.”

An MAF floatplane has been serving the south coast of Papua for the past 50 years. The current one, PK-MAG, is a Cessna Caravan—the only floatplane in all of Papua, and the only one in all of MAF. Photo by Lemuel Malabuyo.

Since the Asmat travel by boat, Sam uses boat illustration to explain God’s redemption versus those who are separated from God and under wrath.

Unfortunately, Sam says the majority of Asmat people are in “Adam’s boat.”

There is a young group of believers who are in “God’s boat,” which is how Sam describes those who’ve been redeemed and hidden with Christ Jesus (Col. 3:3). But it’s hard for them to grow spiritually since they don’t have God’s Word in their southern Asmat dialect. 

Sam and Kari desire to see a mature Asmat church that’s alive and growing, that has the Word of God, that’s discipling its own people for the next generation.

From left, Ernes, Simson, and Sam translate a portion of Exodus. Photo by Lemuel Malabuyo.

Today, Simson and other church leaders are working alongside Sam and Kari to translate portions of Genesis and Exodus. Then they’ll tackle Mark and Luke. They’re also leading literacy classes, which have just started.

One Airplane

The MAF floatplane is the only one in all of Papua, and it’s critical to Sam and Kari’s mission.

“The fact that the floatplane can land right on the river, pick us up in the case of emergency, and take us directly to a hospital … That is a really key thing,” said Sam.

The other option is a four-hour boat ride on the ocean to the nearest airstrip. And that’s not even possible in certain seasons. When the wind kicks up, massive waves cause boats to capsize.

The boardwalks in Asmat range from three- to eight-feet high. Living along a tidal river means that water flows in and then out, twice a day—and leaves behind deep mud in its wake. Photo by Lemuel Malabuyo.

“When you think about a snakebite or a compound fracture … four hours is a lifetime. We couldn’t be here without the organization flying us in,” added Sam. “It’s almost impossible for us to function and be here.”

MAF medical evacuations have saved Asmat lives. The medevacs are vital, but they’re a last-ditch effort.

A new Siloam Clinic opened here last summer, which will help with day-to-day health and treat minor illnesses and injuries before they become a problem.

Asmat villagers fill the waiting room of the Siloam clinic. Photo by Sam.

“The clinic here is going to allow the entire village to be healthy, to move towards wholeness, to move towards health,” said Sam. Malaria and parasite prevention, vaccination—these are the things that keep people alive and functioning well.”

“The fact that the floatplane can land right on the river, pick us up in case of emergency, and take us directly to a hospital … That is a really key thing,” said Sam.

MAF brought in a generator, a chainsaw, nails, tools, medicines, and other supplies so the new clinic and school could be built and open in time for the school year. Finally, MAF brought in the team of teachers, nurses, and a doctor.

“After five flights in two days, the Asmat crew is in and ready to do ministry work. In this picture you see people caring for the spiritual needs, medical needs, and educational needs.” Quote/photo by Jack Gandy.

God’s Blessings

When he reflects on the new school and clinic, Jack Gandy, the MAF floatplane pilot who did all of those flights said, “No one in the U.S. knows that the Asmat people even exist. But the Lord knows about them and He cares for them.”

“From no school to educating the next generation in less than two months. Buckle up!” Jack said in a post to his teammates last June when he heard about the school and clinic coming to Asmat. Photo by Lemuel Malabuyo.

Now, the Asmat children are receiving an education. The people will lead healthier lives. And, most importantly, hearts will change when they come aboard “God’s boat.”

As more missionaries—including families with children—are called to take the light of Christ to the swampy areas of Papua, they too will depend on MAF.

“Without the MAF floatplane, it would just be so impractical that it wouldn’t work,” said Jack. “The floatplane opens up so many more doors that would be closed otherwise. It opens up the whole south coast of Papua to the gospel.”


*Some of our partners request that identifying information be withheld for security reasons.

Story appeared in FlightWatch Vol. 2 2023. Read the entire issue here:


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