By Jeanelle Reider
Eight anxious young passengers gave one last hug to their hopeful parents, took a deep breath as the MAF pilot buckled their seatbelts, and watched their village disappear from view. As the airplane rose higher above the mountains, tears trickled down their cheeks. Each child silently wondered: what will happen to me now?
An hour and a half later, the airplane landed in the coastal city of Sentani and the children stepped into a world they could not have imagined.
What if …
Over a decade earlier, Wally Wiley—then MAF program manager for Papua, Indonesia—had a growing desire to see Papuan children become future MAF pilots/mechanics and leaders in their society. But he faced a major obstacle: these kids, so full of potential, belonged to a marginalized culture with little opportunity for formal education.
Wally’s idea was to form a school where village kids could receive a quality education and be discipled in Christ-like leadership qualities, while retaining their cultural identity and family connections.
Papua Hope School (Sekolah Papua Harapan—SPH) was born a few years later. And eight wide-eyed children from the Moni tribe stepped off an airplane to become the school’s first kindergarten class.
Imagine never having seen a car or TV or lived in a home with electricity. When the youngsters first ate ice cream, they were shocked—how could something be cold and seem to have smoke rising from it at the same time?
MAF staff helped the students acclimate to their new surroundings by welcoming the students into their homes, flying them back and forth to their villages, giving them opportunities to learn aviation skills, teaching English, and mentoring them.
Because of the commitment of devoted families in the village, passionate teachers, and faithful missionaries, the students grew in their relationships with Christ.
When they reached ninth grade, the students took an important national exam with a roomful of other students. After the test, the proctor offered everyone a chance to cheat. Tegi, one of the SPH students, refused to change his answers, and the other SPH students followed suit. They all passed the test with their integrity intact.
As the students grew, so did their understanding of God’s plan for them.
Ester discovered the career she was meant to pursue after Willem Jonkers—an MAF pilot and host family dad —took her to visit an air traffic control tower. “Willem is the one who told me to have a plan B and C for my future.”
Erik remembers the moment he knew God was calling him to be an MAF pilot. It was when pilot Alex Ludvicek let him take the controls during a flight as part of an MAF internship. “I felt like, ‘This pilot role fits!’ Praise the Lord—I’m so thankful for MAF’s ongoing support!”
The stage is set
On May 9, 2020, seven beaming young adults in blue caps and gowns stepped onto a stage (the eighth will follow next year). An aspiring doctor, government leader, community developer, health care worker, air traffic controller, MAF pilot, and MAF mechanic.
Erik rose to speak. “When I was a little kid in the village, I had no idea that we would be chosen to be a part of SPH. And now look at us standing here! When we’ve succeeded in our educational journey, let’s invest to make Papua an even better place!”
These graduates are grateful for these life-changing opportunities. They stand on the shoulders of people like you whose prayers and financial gifts helped open their future. Today, they are joined by 1,000 other children who attend seven sister schools in the mountains of Papua. Schools that depend on MAF flights.
This story ran in the Fall 2020 edition of FlightWatch. Read the entire issue here: