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Milestones

Tags: Kodiak Aircraft, Papua New Guinea
POSTED ON Dec 07, 2017 by Wonita Werley

“12-12-2012 @ 12:12 pm.” Five years ago, pilot John Meerstra wrote the date and time as he shut down the engine of a Cessna 206. He had just moved the first two missionary families into the Amdu village in Papua New Guinea.

Amdu is far from everything, cut off from the outside world. No roads reach it. As one consultant says, “There is no practical way to hike. Period.” So the Cessna 206 was a lifeline, assuring reliable cargo runs as the missionary team put their strength into the mind-bending task of learning a totally new unwritten language.

But the 206 had its limitations. For the trip to Amdu, the pilot took on round-trip fuel, which limited the amount of passengers and the weight of cargo it could carry. In case of emergency, spare barrels of aviation fuel were stored at another airstrip along the way. To get into the village, each family required one flight for themselves and a second flight to bring in all they would need to live on for the next three months.

Fast Forward to September 2017

Things have changed dramatically. Today, John Meerstra is piloting a Kodiak airplane to Amdu. This specially designed aircraft can fit each family and a hefty load of their cargo in one flight – plus sufficient fuel for the round trip. Using its updated navigation systems, the pilots can fly by instruments, making it all the way out to Amdu on cloudy or rainy days that would have thwarted the 206.

As missionaries Bart & Emily Allen and Ben & Missy Hatten waited in the village today for the pilot to land, they were just a little nervous. They knew he was bringing a couple of language consultants with him. It was “test day”! They had spent the past five years wrapping their minds around the Amdu language and mindset. Now with this consultant visit, they were hoping to pass their final language and culture evaluation before they could begin translating and teaching the Bible.

A New Milestone

Turns out they didn’t need to be nervous. John learned the good news when he flew in to pick up the consultants: “All four of them passed their language test to a respectable level, and they can stop formal language and culture study. We as their support team are rejoicing with them in this milestone and giving God the glory.”

But the work is far from over. It’s time to teach literacy. The Allens and Hattons are holding classes so the people of Amdu can learn to read and write their own language. It’s a tall task for a people group who has never seen their language written down. Few of them have even held a pencil. While the villagers work on reading and writing, the missionary team will start translating and preparing Bible lessons.

You might wonder why the missionaries don’t start teaching the Bible lessons right away, since they can communicate well in the Amdu language. Why do the village folks need to be able to read first? John says there’s a good reason: “When scripture gets translated, the people will be able to read God’s Word for themselves.” The missionaries want the people to follow along in the scripture to verify everything they teach. This is God’s written, unchanging Word – not a temporary message made up by foreigners.

Your involvement with NTM Aviation has undergirded the Amdu team to get to this point. They couldn’t have accomplished so much in so short a time – actually they couldn’t have done it at all! – without the air service and supply flights God used to sustain them as they studied. Celebrate this language milestone with them – and pray for great progress in literacy, translation and teaching God’s Word. Thank you!