I had just hit snooze on my alarm when my phone rang. “I need an extra flight in the Kodiak to Malinau. My mother died last night,” Nelson told me. Pak Nelson is one of our karyawan, or Indonesian staff, who has worked in our hangar for quite a long time. He is the kind of guy who you can call on to wrestle a 16 foot python (yes, he did), yet also call on to give a devotional at the last second. He’s the kind of guy who will pray for you and your passengers before you fire up in front of the hangar for the first flight of the day (which he does almost every time), yet also point out an unsafe condition on the airplane that I missed on the inspection (he’s very mechanically gifted). He’s the kind of guy you’re glad to have on your team. And it’s not just us, that trust, love and respect Pak Nelson. Just days before his mom passed away, Nelson was called in, along with the mayor of our city and some other prominent members of the community, to help mediate a skirmish between two tribal groups that could have turned into an all out riot, which is exactly what happened two years ago. He was at the police station early into the morning helping to mediate; thankfully no riots ensued. He’s just an all around awesome guy who loves the Lord, is humble, a strong but gentle leader, respected by his community of both believer and non-Christian alike, and is a shining testimony for Christ.
I wasn’t sure why he was calling me to request a flight, since I had stopped doing flight scheduling several weeks ago, but I told him we’d make it happen. I called Dave and told him about Nelson’s mom, since he was flying the Kodiak that day. When I got to the hangar, I learned that he had lots of family members in Long Bawan, where I would be passing through (about an hour flight from Tarakan), who also needed to get to Malinau for the funeral. Thankfully, the weather in the Apo Kayan, where I was supposed to spend a majority of my day, wasn’t good, so I canceled my flights in that region. This worked out well, since there was more than one load of Pak Nelson’s family in Long Bawan that needed to get to Malinau. I spent most of my day between Malinau and Long Bawan, carrying his family to the funeral of this lady. Though I’d never met her, she left quite a legacy. In addition to Nelson, he also has brothers and other family members who are pastors, evangelists, and laborers for the Gospel all across Kalimantan. And though he is “one of our own,” it’s people like Nelson and his family that MAF is here to serve. I counted it a privilege for the small part I played in serving them that day.