At MAF Papua’s bases, all hands are on deck—at the hangar, in the air, at home, and in the community.
The coronavirus has impacted our overseas programs in a variety of ways. In some places, flight requests have dropped off because many of our partners have evacuated back to their passport countries. In other areas, our flights have been restricted to cargo only, except for critical medevacs. This is the case in Papua, Indonesia, where our pilots have been able to deliver food and other supplies to isolated villages, including medicine, COVID-19 test kits, personal protective equipment (PPE), and soap. MAF families here are also finding many ways to help during this time of crisis.
In Nabire, MAF staff and a Wycliffe worker, plus his helper, recently prepared medicine kits at the request of missionaries working in two remote villages. One request was precautionary–there hadn’t been any cases yet. But in another isolated village, a man had trekked in from another area and brought with him a constant dry cough. Now many in this village have symptoms of the virus–the cough, fever, and fatigue – including several members of the missionary team there. MAF had recently flown a regular supply including fever reducers and partial medicine kits for treating symptoms of COVID-19, but the kits were missing chloroquine.
Fortunately, when MAF stopped to deliver the kits to the first village, they were able to pick up the medicine. MAF offered to airdrop the meds to the second village, since only a helicopter can land there. These medicine kits won’t cure COVID-19, but they will help ease the respiratory symptoms associated with it.
Many Hands Helping
In Wamena, some of the MAF women and other wives in the mission community learned there was no protective gear at their local clinic. With donations from their supporters in the US and the Netherlands, the women began a huge push to get 300 masks with filters to the hospitals, 30 face shields (3D printed), and 60 hospital gowns. They also enlisted the help of local tailors to sew 1,600 face masks, which they’ve distributed to their local community and to the villages. And more are on their way!
“The people have been in awe that people far away care enough for them to provide masks. It has been a testament to the Lord and His love!” said MAF’s Joy Bryant.
MAF families at Wamena, Nabire, and Sentani have also been purchasing bars of soap. Then, the pilots are delivering boxes of soap when they land at an interior village. These include an instruction sheet since many isolated Papuans have never used soap before.
The Pieces Come Together
There have been a few requests for serious medevac flights lately, including one for a woman who needed to get from Wamena to Sentani for a major surgery.
As MAF staff were scrambling to make this happen, pilot Joyce Lin was on her way to Danowage. “I ended up diverting to Wamena due to bad weather,” said Joyce.
What Joyce didn’t realize is that she was part of a puzzle that God was working out.
That morning, the Wamena team suddenly received permission for the flight, just as Joyce was unexpectedly landing at Wamena. Now they had the approvals and an airplane that would be headed back to Sentani, where Joyce is based.
The wife and husband packed their bags and were ready to go within 30 minutes! Theirs was the first evacuation out of Wamena since the COVID lockdown.
Please pray for permissions to allow for critical non-COVID medevac flights in this area of Papua. Also pray for those others who have been impacted by this pandemic—from Indonesia to Africa, Haiti, and restricted countries.
Over the next few weeks, we’ll be collecting more stories of how MAF is responding in the midst of COVID-19.
Update May 13, 2020: We are deeply saddened to tell you about the loss of our colleague and friend, Joyce Lin, who reported an emergency shortly after taking off from the Sentani airport the morning of May 12. The aircraft descended into Lake Sentani, and Joyce did not survive the accident. Click here for more details, including how you can pray.