A Chance at Life

Story by Joel Geaslen, an MAF pilot serving with his family in Papua, Indonesia.


For the first time in a long time, I sat behind the controls of the airplane. My instructor began to teach me the unique aspects of flying in Papua such as navigating between mountains, learning new weather patterns, and most of all, how to land. I have landed an airplane thousands of times, but I have never needed to be as precise as I do now. Landing our airplane at most of the more than 100 airstrips we fly to is like landing on a postage stamp. Hand-carved out of the mountain face, these airstrips are often located in deep valleys near rugged mountain cliffs surrounded by dense jungle vegetation. Precision is required. After landing in the remote villages, I love to greet as many people as I can. Hundreds of people gather around to see the spectacle of the arrival and departure of the airplane that brings more than just food, medicine, and supplies—we often bring a chance at life.

The call came to us over the radio. A mother had given birth three days before in Lelambo, but due to complications, she had still not passed the placenta and continued to bleed. The mother was not able to walk, becoming dehydrated, and both mother and baby were in danger of not surviving.

A woman arrives on a makeshift stretcher for a medevac flight in Papua, Indonesia. Photo by Kees Janse.

My instructor and I were in the middle of a busy day of flight training, but after hearing the request for help, we altered our plans. As we neared the airstrip, it became very clear to me why she needed a flight out of her village to reach medical care. Geographically, the mother and her newborn baby were located deep in a mountain valley with few other villages nearby. Jungle and rugged terrain stretched out for miles in all directions.

Desperation was written across the father’s face as we greeted him and the crowd of locals that gathered around the airstrip. Wrapped in a small satchel, the newborn baby cried and cried. The mother was brought to the airplane in a makeshift stretcher and we quickly loaded her into the airplane. Carefully, I strapped her to the floor as she could not sit in a chair, and then I paused. I paused for a moment to pray for her and the baby in the name of Jesus. This is why we have come here.

A concerned father waits as MAF pilot Joel Geaslen straps his wife to the floor of the airplane. Photo by Kees Janse.

My mind was racing. My heart was pounding. I could not help but think about all the years of flight training and preparation, hundreds of people giving and praying, and now here we were—face to face with people who just needed a chance at life.

Launched from the steep mountainside, our small airplane was able to swiftly bring them to medical help. Help that is impossible in the tiny, cut-off, and isolated village deep in the jungle.

May we never lose our compassion for our fellow humans. Instead, may we be moved to act, love, and serve as Jesus has demonstrated His love to us.

Joel and Christy Geaslen and their adorable children with MAF in Papua, Indonesia.





  • Joyce R Shirley says:

    Thanks for your willingness to answer God’s call to join MAF. God Bless you and your family.

  • Nancy Christiansen says:

    What a powerful story! Will we ever know what happened to the mother and newborn baby? The story leaves us hanging…

    • Miles Fagerlie says:

      My son, Nathan, is a MAF pilot in Papua, Indonesia. He says that not knowing the end of the story is quite common in his experience. There are so many similar flights that it’s just not possible to follow up with the local hospitals to learn all the outcomes. Sometimes they pass away. Sometimes they walk home. Sometimes another pilot flies them home. Sometimes, though, he gets to fly the people back to their villages and then he learns the outcome.

      • Joel Geaslen says:

        It is nice to meet you Miles! Nathan and I have been flying together recently. You are correct, many times we don’t know how the story ends. However, this story has a great ending. Last week Nathan and I flew cargo into Lelambo and asked how the family is doing. Mother and baby are doing well! Praise the Lord! What a joy it was to help them.

    • Skip Howard says:

      God Bless You and Your Family for the good you are doing. If you know how the mother and baby are, please let me know.

    • Joel Geaslen says:

      Thanks for asking, Nancy! Just last week we flew back into the village of Lelambo. When I asked the villagers how the mother and baby are doing, their faces lit up as they shared the good news that mother and baby are doing well. Praise God for His mercy upon this family! What a privilege it is to serve here in Papua and help in such a practical way.

  • LeRoy Kinzel says:

    This story makes it so vital to continue to support MAF ministry. I couldn’t qualify as a missionary pilot, but God led me to support those that can for the long haul.

  • Patti Robertson says:

    Thank you for being the hands and feet of Jesus! God bless and be with you and your precious family.

  • Dan Futrell says:

    I frequently pray for the pilots and mechanics that God would give you wisdom, skill, safety and health as you minister in His Name. Thankyou for what you do. I do would like to know how they are doing.

    • Joel Geaslen says:

      Thank you Dan for asking about the family. They are doing well! Thank you for your prayers! God is still at work.

  • Doug McDougall says:

    Thanks for sharing your story. Every soul saved through your work makes what you do vital and a large part of God’s plan for the church. Blessings!!

  • Richard says:

    A BIG thank you to you and all the dedicated, courageous MAF pilots.

  • Anita Schaeffer says:

    Beautiful real life story.

  • Joel Geaslen says:

    Thank you LeRoy for your partnership with us in this ministry! We are so grateful for each and every person that helps us serve around the world.

  • David Keiper says:

    You young people know that our Lord Jesus is your Co-Pilot when you go into those tight strips all the time. My gosh
    I am impress by your skills. I am a commercial pilot and A/P
    mechanic, but at 82 years I could never qualify, keep up the
    good work for the Lord young men and women.

  • What you do has always touched me. I flew for a doctor in SA many years ago. Much like you, God was my “Captain”. I may have occupied the left seat but often ask for his guidance. He kept me and my passengers safe for almost fifty years. I know his presence! Even flying over the “…stans” in the B-777 he was my guide.
    But then this is your story and it touches me deeply.
    You will remain in our prays and thank you for what you have chosen to do!

    God Bless You!

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