New Airstrip, New Opportunities

A few years back we did a story about the Korowai people of Danowage [FlightWatch Winter 2012] and how the MAF floatplane was serving them, and how they had begun clearing an area for a land strip. Your prayers and gifts have helped MAF serve this area for several years as the Korowai have grown in their newfound faith. Thank you! Here’s a new story about how a land airstrip is bringing even more opportunities for Christ’s love to be shared.

“This tree has no power. Only Jesus has power over us,” announced Salomo, a young Korowai believer.

As the Korowai people worked on a new land strip, they encountered an obstacle: a tree they considered sacred, and worshipped, needed to come down. It was one of the trees recommended for removal in order to have a safe amount of clearance for the pilots.

No one else wanted to harm the tree for fear of being cursed, but Salomo knew that His Savior was stronger than any spirits—and he promptly cut it down. Here was another opportunity for the Korowai believers to grasp that the things they once revered no longer had power over them. It’s one unexpected side benefit that came from building the land airstrip at Danowage. Another is the growing unity it’s brought about among the tribe.

“This might be the largest gathering of Korowai I have ever seen,” remarked another Korowai man back in 2010 as he shoveled dirt with around 150 other tribal workers. “In the past, we could never gather like this. We were often enemies and stayed in our own places or among friendly clans only. But now we are all together working for the same thing.”

Recently, MAF brought in the Cessna Caravan to do a flight checkout to inspect the new airstrip. Takeoff and landing tests were performed to ensure that MAF’s safety standards were met. After that, the airstrip was officially opened for MAF to begin landing here. The purpose of this flight was twofold: to inspect the airstrip and to bring some unusual cargo to the village—two canoes that barely fit through the rear doors of the airplane.

These canoes will be used by missionaries Paul Snider and Trevor Johnson, based here with their families, and co-workers to travel to other Korowai villages in the area—to treat the sick and share the Gospel through Bible stories.

Having the land strip open will allow for more MAF planes to be able to land there. In the past, if the floatplane was unavailable, that posed a problem, especially in the case of a medevac request. Or, if the water was too low, that meant the floatplane couldn’t land. Now, with the new land strip, MAF service is ensured. Flights will originate from Wamena rather than the floatplane base at Merauke, which is over twice the distance; this will help keep costs down for the missionaries.

Up until now, the floatplane has been the only MAF plane able to serve the Sniders and Johnsons, and the entire village, by doing medical evacuations, bringing in supplies, and building materials for homes, a new school, a medical clinic and to renovate the church; as well as transportation in an out of the village for furloughs, etc.

“We will miss the floatplane pilots,” said Snider, “but are also glad to see what the Lord will do with this airstrip.

“Young men, like Salomo, are a shining testimony in a dark, spiritually dead jungle. May the Lord use the Korowai believers, us, this airstrip for the fame of His name until he returns.”

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