Bibles to Holuwan: A Light For their Path by Linda Ringenberg
The ladies of the village of Holuwan were waiting. They were dressed up, excitedly swaying back and forth and chanting in their Yali tongue. They were waiting for the MAF plane to land, bringing them Bibles in their own language.
The Cessna Caravan touched down and taxied to the top of the mountain air strip. As pilots Dave Ringenberg and Peter Santana shut down the engine and climbed out, the colorfully dressed village women continued to chant and sway. Dave remarked, “It felt like we were on holy ground. It was a holy moment—one to be remembered.”
Fifty-two years before this moment, other Yali men were waiting—but not in the open. These renowned jungle warriors were hiding, bow and arrows in hand, near the path that wound through their Seng Valley territory. They were waiting to ambush the two strange-looking white men whom they had heard about. These men had brought a new message to the surrounding tribes–one that went against their witchcraft and warring. Finally, they ambushed missionaries Stan Dale and Phil Masters and began mercilessly pelting them with arrows. The two missionaries stood their ground and began pulling the arrows from their bodies and breaking them in two. Over 200 broken, bloodied arrows lay on the ground before they fell and died. They had come to scout out a place for a new airstrip in order to begin evangelizing this particularly hostile Yali tribe with the gospel of Christ.
Three months after the deaths of Stan Dale and Phil Masters, a tragic MAF plane crash claimed the lives of the pilot and the Newman family, with the exception of their youngest son, Paul. Paul miraculously stumbled out of the burning wreckage and found himself in the same valley where the missionaries had been martyred. He happened upon the hut of a Yali man who had not been in favor of killing the missionaries, and that man kept Paul safe until a search party came looking for survivors. This second contact with Westerners opened the door for interaction with this Yali tribe. Amazingly, they believed this second visit from strange white outsiders was a sign and asked for missionaries to move into their village. Five years later the first 35 believers in the Seng Valley were baptized, and church was born in this previously hostile area.
In present day Holuwan, the villagers helped unload the precious cargo from the MAF plane: boxes wrapped in gunny sacks that contained newly printed Bibles in their own Yali language. This was a reprinting of the original Southern Yali Bible that had been completed in June of 2000, translated over a span of thirty years by different World Team missionaries and Yali language helpers. The very first book ever translated into the Yali language was the book of Mark by Stan Dale himself and a Yali man named Luliap Pahabol. Prior to his death in 1968, Stan and his family lived in Ninia among a different Yali tribe where they had established an infant church. Luliap was the very first Yali man to receive the gospel. Stan was working on translating the book of Acts when he was killed.
And now, instead of waiting for war, the Yali church is waiting for more Bibles in their language. There are not enough Bibles for the community. So last year, their church organization (GIDI) ordered more to be printed in Jakarta and shipped to the MAF hangar in Papua.
MAF recently delivered some of the Bibles to the Yali villages of Dekai and Oakbisik. In Dekai the Bibles were divided and given to church evangelists and pastors. In Oakbisik people from neighboring villages walked for a full day to receive the Bibles. The remaining load needed to go to Holuwan.
After the Bibles were unloaded in Holuwan, MAF pilots Dave and Peter asked the people if they could open one box and pull out a Bible to use for a picture. As the villagers agreed, Dave asked, “Which verse of the Bible do you want it open to for the photo?” A Yali Pastor named Minus immediately responded, “Psalm 119:105. ‘Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light for my path.’”
Because God, in his far-reaching love, worked through a killing, a plane crash, faithful missionaries and translators, and organizations like MAF, these Yali tribes no longer walk the path of darkness. Their path is lit by the word of God.
WOW … what a story!!! TEARS!!!! Thank you for sharing!!!
Amazing story of brave, dedicated MAF pilots and missionaries to Gods service in our world.
My prayers and appreciation for all!
Brings back great memories especially since I know Phyliss Masters and also got to know Paul Newman as an adult. This whole story continues to be a blessing and a reminder of how amazing the Lord is in the way He works. I Praise God for His faithfulness to the Yali people. I saw Him do that as I served the Dayaks in Kalimantan (with World Team). Thank you for all that you do.
This is a wonderful story of how God is faithful & does wonderful
Marvelous things for His kingdom to advance!!!!!!
Not only does He take care of His own but He brings salvation
To a LOST world!
What a truly inspiring story! Thank you MAF for all you do and will continue to do.
The above report gives us the confidence to know the work to establish contact and the building of an airstrip is never in vain and God’s Word will never be in vain.
This story and the many others connected to it continue to inspire missional action and those in pioneering contexts. In June this year (2022) I was sharing Stan Dale’s story (again) with the Eritei folks (near Lumi on the east side of the border in Papua New Guinea.) Stan and Pat Dale had opened up the work there in 1951 before moving to “West Irian” to work amongst the Yali. Two years before Stan was killed he’d been wounded by the same Yali people with about 6 arrows. He was recovering in the Wewak hospital when my Dad (Walter Sim) took me as an 8 year old to see him and tell me this was the man who had started the work amongst the Wape people who I now called family and where I am at ‘home’. So today the churches which have been planted from the Eritei church are celebrating 72 years after Stan and Pat Dale’s arrival, and they continue to thank God for his courage and passion for the the sake of the Gospel. I have just retired from MAF Papua New Guinea and have been privileged to see profound transformation of communities the result of MAF’s partnership with pioneer mission enterprise. During this time it was a moving privilege for me to meet one of the GIDI leaders who shared with me that he is the son of one of those warriors who had killed Stan and Phil with “many arrows”. We cried together, expressing a mix of emotions, as we honoured the bond of love that connected us as God’s children first and foremost.
Thanks MAF for all you do and will continue to do. My prayers go out to you and your beautiful works for the Haluwan community. Thanks again for all you do!!
Thank you for sharing this story of the triumph of the Gospel. I read “lords of the Earth” years ago and it is tremendous to hear some of the rest of the story!
This complete and miraculous story is told in the book Lords of the Earth, by Don Richardson.
My goodness! What tremendous sacrifice is required to enlighten & save lost people living under the clouds of superstition. Some of the originals never got to see it & experience the joy while the later ones now live in the joy & share their salvation.
They now know that their saviour Jesus had to be sacrificed for us too. What a beautiful story of transformation & work for Christ & the wonder of it all in His Glorious Name.
God is SO loving. Thank you.
What a great encouragement it is for me to know this is going on has i trudge through life. So many terrible things going on tearing down people around me in the usa. So encouraging to hear the gospel making a difference
I have had the privilege of knowing Paul Newman as a young man, his wife and daughter. His love for the Yali never faded.
I have lost contact with him, since he moved away after his wife died. He and his wife and daughter did visit the village, but were unable to stay.
Thanks for the story, it brings back precious memories. As an MAF Australian pilot family, we were to fill the gap left by the loss of Menno Voth. Over 50 years ago, I landed at Holuwan with a contingent of Indonesian police to quell a riot. Stan Dale had stayed with us in Wewak, PNG following an earlier hospitalisation.
Just so wonderful to hear of fulfilment of bible translation by missionaries over the ensuing years