By Karin Allrich
Doug and Karin Allrich are MAF missionaries who are serving as a pilot/mechanic family in Papua, Indonesia.
We sometimes get asked, “What’s a typical flight day like there in Papua?” It’s a great question, and because we have lots of typical days here, allow us to share our answer with all of you.
Some days flow exactly as planned, but in this faraway place, where so many factors are out of our control, we often need to make adjustments. When things do go as expected and all of our passengers and pilots end their day in the place they wanted to be, it’s an extra blessing that we don’t take for granted!
A normal day starts with Doug beginning the preflight inspection on his plane at about 5:20 am. It’s still dark out, but the sun is already just below the horizon and by the time he’s ready for take-off, daylight will have arrived. Doug’s load on departure from our home base in Wamena is usually a mix of people and cargo. Outgoing cargo often consists of 100-pound bags of rice and sugar, mattresses, cases of cooking oil and ramen noodles, sacks of cement, sheets of plywood, buckets, cooking pots, blankets, and a wide variety of other items purchased here in town on behalf of the remote villages. From clothes and shoes, to corrugated metal roofing and Bibles—every single man-made article in these villages was flown in over the mountains. What an incredible tool the airplane is!
All 200-some villages with an HF radio faithfully listen in as the MAF flight schedule is read over the radio several days in advance. It’s kind of like an old-fashioned “party-line” because everyone seems to know everyone else’s business. When a village hears that a flight is coming their way, it’s an exciting time. They are very aware of what is currently being stored in the MAF hangar for them, and who will be on the airplane when it arrives.
Knowing the schedule in advance enables the airstrip agents to be on the radio at the time of the flight to give a weather report for the pilot. Other villages not on the day’s schedule will often chime in with their own weather status; if they have good weather they’ll offer for the pilot to land there if needed. Or if the airplane will be going near their area and they have a patient needing to get to medical care, they’ll report that information along with how many passengers and the amount of cargo to expect. The radio is a happening place to hang out – it’s the jungle’s very own version of social media.
Flying over the mountains of Papua is always a reminder of the incredible beauty of God’s creation. There are hundreds of small villages and a handful of small towns that our pilots fly to regularly. Seeing the airstrips firsthand is a humbling experience. Almost every one of them is cut out of or into a mountainside. Depending on the underlying surface, it can take anywhere from a few years to over ten years to build an airstrip; almost all of the work done is by hand.
We’ve been serving with MAF here in Indonesia since 1990, so we’ve had opportunity to see a lot of changes. But one thing that hasn’t changed is the fact that we are only able to minister here because of the people in the U.S. who pray for us and support us financially.
Thanks to generous donors who make “typical” days possible for MAF missionaries, like the Allriches, and others—so they can bring help and hope to remote areas around the world.