Not Your Typical Classroom

The crucial role MAF plays in Outdoor Education.

We sit in a circle on the damp grass, the smell of woodsmoke cutting through chilly mountain air. As we play a wild game of duck-duck-goose, laughter and excited shouts bring more and more kids running to join our group. These Papuan children and I don’t speak the same language, but we’ve connected in a way that’s deeper than spoken words. Here in the village of Pogapa, both the locals and students from my high school realize that despite our differences, our worlds are closer than we think, as we learn from each other, share in each other’s pain and joy, and worship the same God. 

 

I attended a small international high school in Indonesia, which—though far from perfect—was a unique experience that shaped me into the person I am today. One of the most impactful events my school participates in is called “Outdoor Education” (OE).  Every year, my high school takes a two-week trip into remote villages deep in the heart of mountainous Papua, Indonesia. Its primary purpose is to educate the student body on the vibrant cultures of indigenous people in interior Papua.

Not only do we go on OE to learn from and interact with locals, we also go to serve. Work projects-from installing water tanks, to digging ditches for airstrips, to fixing roads-are always a key component of OE. Running kids’ clubs and HIV/AIDS awareness programs, setting up clinics, and showing the Jesus film are also important aspects. Worship sessions and personal reflection fill the mornings and evenings.

I went on OE four times throughout my high school career, and MAF played a significant role in every one. Without MAF airplanes, we couldn’t have gone to most of the villages we did. MAF was key in transporting my high school and the other volunteers in and out of our OE locations, as well as carrying loads of vital supplies needed for the trips.

Through MAF, I was able to meet people and experience cultures that I normally would never have the chance to connect with. I came face to face with the harsh conditions that thousands of Papuans live in, and yet simultaneously encountered profound beauty as the villagers graciously welcomed us into their lives.

Thanks to the patience and diligence of MAF pilots and hangar staff, we bridged the gap between two distinct worlds, as we strived to live out the radical love of Jesus through OE.

Whether it was eating sweet potatoes in a honai (traditional Papuan dwelling), singing in a local church, or helping give vaccinations to children, OE transformed the way I see and relate to Papuan islanders. I realized that we are all more alike than we assume, united through the body of Christ. At the same time, the depth of our human brokenness weighed heavily on me. We should seek to serve others as best we can, but in the end the grace of God is our only rescue.

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