You are making it possible for one MAF wife to bring hope to isolated people with just a radio connection.
It’s 4:00 on a Friday afternoon and Heather Marx makes her way to the HF-Radio at the MAF base in Nabire, Papua, Indonesia. She has a weekly date with another missionary wife based in the remote village of Ottodemo. An HF-Radio gives her a chance to offer emotional support and just to check in and share life together—sort of like a coffee date with a friend, but without the coffee. Heather sees these radio dates as part of her hospitality ministry, one that complements her husband Brian’s—an MAF pilot—flight ministry.
There are no roads leading to Ottodemo, and there’s no dirt airstrip. The best way for Heather’s friend, Maggie Boersma, her husband Iwan, and their two young children, to get to their home in Ottodemo is by MAF’s Caravan floatplane. Earlier methods (before kids) involved traveling two full days by motorized boat or canoe over risky crocodile-infested rivers.
By floatplane, they can make the trip in half an hour.
MAF started flying here in 2013, which allowed the Boersmas to spend time in the village as they worked on building their home, learning the culture and language of the Sudate tribe, and doing some medical work. Everything the Boersmas needed—building materials, appliances, supplies, and extra hands to help—all made their way into the village on MAF’s Caravan floatplane.
When the Boersmas aren’t in the village, they stay in Nabire. They attend the same church and have become friends with everyone on the MAF team.
“We love the Nabire MAF team. We feel like family,” said Maggie. “Often when we leave to go to Ottodemo or come back from the tribe some of the MAF families are there to say good-bye or welcome us back.”
“Being able to support and serve them is something that we get excited about,” said Heather. “Not just with the airplane, but with friendship and radio dates and having them over to our house all the time—just being there for them.”
When the connection counts
Last August, MAF flew the Boersma family to their village for a three-month stay at their newly completed home. There’s no cellphone service—no way to communicate other than a basic radio, which is kept at the local church across the way from their house. Before the Boersmas went in, Maggie and Heather set up these weekly radio dates.
“I’ve loved my Friday check-in chats with Heather! It’s been such an encouragement,” said Maggie, “especially because we don’t have any co-workers. I always feel uplifted and like I get a bit of a booster when I’ve talked with her.”
When illness spread through the Boersma family, the radio connection became even more important.
Salomé, their youngest, had a cough that wouldn’t go away. Iwan got malaria. Everyone was sick. Heather knew they were all sick, so when no one came to the radio one Friday, she got really worried.
“We were going through a tough patch, emotionally and health-wise,” said Maggie.
MAF pilot Kevin Lynne was in Nabire filling in because they were short-staffed for one reason or another. At church that Sunday, the team gathered with Kevin and prayed for the Boersmas. The floatplane was at another base and unavailable, so they came up with a plan.
The next day, Kevin flew over Ottodemo in a (non-floatplane) KODIAK, circling until someone got on the radio.
“I heard the plane circling above and quickly ran to the radio,” said Maggie. “What an encouragement to realize that our friends in Nabire were so concerned about us!”
Maggie reported that they were all on medicine and were improving, much to Heather’s relief.
Everyone in the tribe noticed the airplane overhead and wondered what was going on. Maggie says it must have been a testimony to them of brotherly love amongst Christians.
For Heather, it’s been another way to serve, through friendship, and it provides additional support to complement MAF’s flight service.
“It’s been exciting for me to be able to have this neat ministry with her, to have Friday dates on the radio,” said Heather. “It feels very old-school missionary, like Nate Saint days, talking on the radio—over and out!”
Radio dates, flight support, and MAF missionaries coming alongside the Boersmas as they strive to share the love of Jesus with the Sudate people—it all adds up to one big Kingdom connection.
Story appeared in the spring 2018 issue of FlightWatch.