One helicopter pilot inspires another in the family, to bring the love of Christ to the least-reached areas of Papua.
“There were a lot of questions in our minds. Was the Lord really calling us back to the States?” said Mike Meeuwse, a former MAF pilot.
Mike and Carol served with MAF in Papua from 1982 to 1990. Mike started as a fixed-wing pilot during his first two years, then became a helicopter-only pilot after the couple’s first furlough. The lack of schooling options in Wamena at the time led them to make the tough decision to return to the U.S.
But in a fun twist, God called their son, Matt, to the mission field as well—as a helicopter pilot! Today Matt and his family are serving in Papua with Helimission.
“It’s ironic,” said Mike, “I’m home and God’s using my son to go out there again. It’s cool to see how God works in our lives.”
Matt was just three years old when his family left Papua, but there were plenty of family videos of his dad flying with MAF to inspire him.
Matt says he knew in middle school that God was calling him into missions, but he didn’t know at that time what that would look like.
“My dad actually tried to talk me out of aviation a couple times,” said Matt. “But once I was committed to the path God was calling me on my parents backed me 100%. My dad was making sure God was calling me to aviation not just because he was into it. I really appreciated that.”
Matt was enrolled in A&P school in 2004 when a catastrophic tsunami struck Aceh, Indonesia. He left school to join his dad and Samaritan’s Purse to help with the relief efforts.
“We worked very closely with MAF there, and this is really when I got to see how useful helicopters are for saving lives,” said Matt. “God really showed me that this was the road I was being called to. I have a love for aviation, for people, and seeing the gospel break through areas that seem unbreakable.”
An Ongoing Partnership
Helimission and MAF work closely together to serve the people of Papua and open up the last of the unreached or under-reached areas. Like a throwback to earlier days when Mike Meeuwse flew MAF helicopters to bring missionaries into primitive villages—before airstrips were built.
His son and Helimission are doing similar work today. And MAF’s fixed-wing aircraft still play a part in that process.
“We are currently helping a missionary team to establish long-term contact with the Wolani people,” said Matt. “They do not yet have the Bible in their own language. This is a great example of mission teamwork as MAF flies in supplies to the closest airstrip.”
MAF airplanes can carry a much higher payload than a helicopter, so it’s cheaper for the missionaries to have MAF deliver the supplies all at once to a nearby location. Then the helicopter brings the cargo the rest of the way—saving a lot of money in the long run.
Recently Matt has been collaborating with MAF, but in a different scenario—during the disaster response efforts for the Sulawesi tsunami.
“Disaster relief is always a way we work together. A helicopter is so important, especially in the beginning stages of disaster relief, as most of the time it’s difficult to find places to land an airplane,” said Matt. “It’s very fun to work with MAF in what seems like chaos. But to see so many people get much needed support is very amazing.”
Matt’s father also had his share of disaster relief flights during his time in Papua. Mike and another MAF helicopter pilot, Dave Marfleet, responded after an earthquake rocked Papua in August of 1989. Over a period of four days following the quake, the two men were responsible for airlifting 16 people to local hospitals and evacuating hundreds more—which earned them the Helicopter Association International’s “Pilot of the Year” award for 1990.
Mike and Carol returned to Papua a few years ago to visit their son and daughter-in-law, and the grandchildren. A flood of memories came back as the couple stepped onto Papuan soil. And along with the memories, a sense of gratitude for the way the Lord has been leading in Matt’s life—as he carries on the family legacy of taking the gospel to isolated places.