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Airplanes, Helicopters and Excavators

Chief pilot Jamin Peck was pilot-in-command for this first landing on the Saluan airstrip.

What a mix of tools for the gospel! But they work together well.

As the Wana people and the Saluan people, located on one of the main islands of Asia-Pacific, expand their gospel outreach ministries to reach their own people, all three of these machines do their part.

The helicopter in question is a Bell LongRanger, owned and operated by Helimission. They are graciously keeping the helicopter in service until the Ethnos360 Aviation R66 (waiting in the AZ hangar for paperwork to be completed – please pray!) can be imported.

The excavator is a cute, small, but powerful machine, generously provided by donors to expand ministry opportunities in the wake of the 2018 earthquake in the area. One of the original missionaries to the Wana people group, Ed Casteel, explained, “We can disassemble and sling load it by helicopter into remote locations for building and updating our airstrips.”

Bambang conquered some rocks with the excavator.

The airplane is, of course, the Kodiak that God provided for Asia-Pacific in 2012. With flight sponsorship making it affordable, thanks to Missionary Flight Sponsorship donors, indigenous missionaries in central Asia-Pacific can afford to utilize aviation to reach their own people.

The first airstrip that the excavator made is in the territory of the Saluan people. “This airstrip,” wrote Ed, “is a new outreach area in the Saluan tribe which up to now has only been accessible by a long hike or by helicopter.” Already having tried to make the airstrip with only hand tools, missionary Yunus exclaimed, “This excavator is the best! It’s worth every penny!” Yunus joined aviation personnel Stiven and Bambang Kadir in spending three weeks away from their families to complete the airstrip in record time!

“Weather and maintenance issues delayed the schedule by almost two weeks,” wrote Carol, wife of pilot Jared Kresge. “But finally, Wednesday afternoon [June 5], Jared and fellow pilot Jamin Peck were able to land [on the strip] for the first time.”

The Saluan missionaries have a good motivation for their effort. “Traditionally, the 18-mile hike from the nearest airstrip takes local Bible teachers eight to ten hours in the dry season. It takes 15 hours during flood stage, with no less than 21 river crossings along the way, a few of which are very dangerous. The airplane cuts this same trip down to less than ten minutes, and passengers even arrive with dry feet!”

With the excavator purposefully small enough to be loaded even into the Kodiak, it will be flown next into the Wana people group where existing airstrips need renovations such as straightening and leveling. “We may also use this excavator to reopen our very first airstrip in Wana, which we abandoned many years ago due to a threatening landslide,” explained Ed. The Wana and Saluan groups used to be bitter enemies, he noted. Even when Ed first came to the island, the groups were still fearful of each other. But “the Lord has been all the difference in their lives,” wrote Ed, “and now they are best of friends and serving the Lord together in reaching out to others on this island with the gospel!”

The Saluan people take time to thank God for the airstrip.

“This is one of the highs of missionary aviation,” wrote Carol, “seeing local missionaries initiate work on a new airstrip to enable them to reach other people groups more efficiently with the gospel.”

When you give to Missionary Flight Sponsorship, you make outreach so much more do-able by your gifts. Ed said it clearly: “Thanks so much for being a part of this great work! It is SO VERY EXCITING to see what the Lord has been doing, and then to realize that He has invited all of us to be a part of it!”

Tags: Asia-Pacific region, Helicopter, Kodiak Aircraft, Saluan People, Wana People
POSTED ON Jul 07, 2024 by Wonita Werley
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