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Jungle Trek

Two MAF pilots on a jungle adventure gain a greater compassion for those they serve

It’s one thing to tell people that airplanes save missionaries days of travel; it’s another to discover it firsthand. Over the past several years, MAF pilots Dave Forney and Paul College have committed to experiencing the jungles of Borneo in Indonesia. As a result, their appreciation for air travel into remote areas has grown.

They began their yearly trek because they were curious about the jungle they had only seen from above. Since then, it has grown into a more challenging venture––and one that has helped them truly understand the need for MAF.

“Nothing proves the validity of our ministry like one or two hours of hiking through virgin Bornean jungle––let alone two weeks,” Forney said. “Almost every day that we fly, we’re overwhelmed with far more flight requests than we can possibly meet. And for those people, there are only two choices––wait for another plane or do it the old fashioned way.”

Photo by Dave Forney.
Photo by Dave Forney.

Last year, Forney and College flew into the village of Data Dian in the Apo Kayan region before traveling by motorized canoes into the headwaters of the Iwan River. This was their starting point, the beginning of their adventure.

“Any signs of a trail or human contact had long since vanished,” Forney said. “One of our three guides thought he remembered the ‘trail’ from his early childhood. He was 60 and strong as an ox, but hadn’t been there since he was six. It was obvious after a few days that this trip was going to be unlike any other we’d taken.”

“We were trying to replicate the initial Borneo exploration trial––doing what the missionaries had to do back in the day,” College added. “We kept going up and around, and we missed parts of it.”

In the end, the eight-day journey turned into 14 days.

Even for fit pilots, such a trek is challenging. Aside from the rigors of traversing a jungle with thick vegetation and few trails, there are also other obstacles to manage.

“This year we came across three sun bears (or honey bears) during our trek,” Forney said. “Last year a pack of monkeys went screeching over our heads like they were being chased by something, which we later learned was a spotted leopard. We also saw a 10-foot python once, which isn’t that large by python standards.”

Managing those dangers along with the physical challenge of navigating the jungle and the emotional struggle of being away from family for a week or more isn’t easy. But these two have seen the fruit of these excursions pay big dividends in unsuspecting ways.

“A side benefit of all this has been how the people all over this part of Kalimantan have heard about the two crazy MAF pilots who hike all over the jungle,” Forney said. “They’ve grown to respect and appreciate the fact that we understand their life and challenges on a deeper level.”



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