Generation by Generation

Lifetimes of service make a lasting difference in Papua

 

It’s May 2010. MAF aircraft have brought visitors and copies of the first Kimyal New Testament to the village of Korupun in Papua, Indonesia. The people have celebrated and given heartfelt praise to God, overjoyed to finally have His Word in their heart language.

A small group of village women crowds into a tiny wooden building. A young woman glances around the room and speaks.

“You look at these older ladies. They will receive the Word of God. They will pass it on to their children and grandchildren. I will pass it on to my children, and it will keep them on the path of righteousness. And once we’re gone, our children will pass it on to their children.”*

Gospel transformation rarely happens in a generational vacuum, and she knows it.

So does MAF. Because this moment has been generations in the making, and God has graciously allowed us to play an ongoing part in it, along with our faithful supporters.

A Fatal Trek

It was September 1968, and missionaries Phil Masters and Stan Dale were hiking to reach certain members of the fierce Yali tribe of Irian Jaya (now Papua, Indonesia) with the gospel.

Missionary Phil Masters setting up camp in Korupun Papua Indonesia

Phil Masters sets up camp in Korupun. Photo courtesy of the Masters family.

The two men had begun their journey from the village of Korupun, where Phil and his family served with Regions Beyond Missionary Union (RBMU, now World Team) among the Kimyal people. Stan had joined him in Korupun, leaving the village of Ninia where he and his family served with RBMU among the Yali. A few believers from the Dani tribe accompanied them.

As they traveled, a group of Yali warriors ambushed them with bows and arrows. Scores of arrows found their targets, and Phil and Stan were killed.

Three of the Dani missionaries escaped to a nearby village and reported what had happened. MAF—who had earlier helped locate the Yali tribe and had supported Phil and Stan and their fellow missionaries for years—hired a helicopter to pinpoint the area of the killings. When they found it, all that remained were arrows and debris. The men’s bodies were never recovered.

Phil and Stan left behind five children each. Phil’s wife, Phyliss, was pregnant with their fifth child.

Sorrow and Redemption

In a few short paragraphs it is impossible to communicate the depth of grief and dismay experienced by the families of the two men. The whole community of believers in Papua mourned as well—missionaries from various organizations who had labored together for years; MAF pilots and families who had come alongside them; Dani villagers who had recently experienced a miraculous awakening to the gospel.

But God, who walks with His children through every nuance of their pain, also felt the anguish of those who had never known the light of the gospel. He was lovingly writing their story too.

The Masters family at Korupun. Phil and Phyliss (back) with (L-R) Curtis, Becky, Rob and Crissie. Photo courtesy of the Masters family.

Phil Masters’ wife, Phyliss, though heartbroken, was convinced God had not revoked His call on her life to be a missionary. She shared the love of Christ among the Dani people for decades. The Dani have sent out their own missionaries since the early years of their conversion, and through their efforts God continues to draw many fellow Papuans to Himself.

“God’s purposes were not stopped by what seemed at the moment a devastating blow to the gospel,” says Crissie Rask, Phyliss’ daughter.

Crissie was in eighth grade when her dad was killed. She went on to marry MAF pilot Dave Rask. In 1983 the two of them began serving with MAF in Papua. Today, Dave is MAF’s director of Aviation Resources Division, and Crissie is manager of Mobilization.

Stan Dale’s family moved back to their native country of Australia, but years later his son Wesley returned to Papua to live in the village of Mamit and serve as a missionary among the Dani people. Wesley and his wife Esther live in Mamit to this day, where Wesley lectures at the Bible college and Esther teaches children of the students.

As for the Yalis, other laborers courageously took up the call to reach them, and through the power of Jesus Christ, this once-fierce tribe traded their violence for God’s peace. The first translation of the entire Bible in the language of the Yali people of Ninia was dedicated in 2000. A complete Bible translation for another Yali group was dedicated in 2018.

Yali women in traditional dress celebrating the arrival of a complete Bible translation in Apahapsili, Papua, Indonesia. Photo by Mark Hewes.

Full Circle

In May of 2010, poignantly aware of those dedicated missionaries and local believers in Korupun who had taken up where her husband had left off, Phyliss Masters joined in the celebration of the first Kimyal New Testament. MAF celebrated right alongside her.

We are honored to have come alongside countless faithful followers of Christ in Papua since 1952. Wesley and Esther Dale sum it up like this: “MAF is our lifeline. We really feel part of their team, and they’re an essential part of our ministry.”

You are an essential part of this kingdom work as well. We look forward to many more years of partnership as, together, we reach future generations with the love of Jesus Christ.

*This quote is taken from a World Team video about the Kimyal New Testament dedication.

 

Story appeared in the May 2020 FlightWatch, a special 75th anniversary edition:

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