With MAF’s help, a once-primitive tribe shares the Gospel in the Papuan jungle
When the MAF airplane first soared over the small village of Mulia in Papua, Indonesia, back in 1958, only the Dani chief was brave enough to remain outside and watch. “There is a man in the bird!” he exclaimed to the other members of the Dani tribe.
The people were amazed at the things the “bird” began to drop from the sky: food, trade items, cowrie shells (which were used as currency), and building supplies for a young missionary couple who were just beginning their mission work there. After two months, MAF made its first landing at Mulia while the Dani people hid behind boulders.
Leon and Lorraine Dillinger, missionaries with CrossWorld, remember well these early flights. Through the years, they have witnessed the progression of MAF’s ministry, from Leon’s first flight in a cloth-winged Piper Pacer to Cessna 180s and, now, the KODIAK.
“MAF has transported us to our ministry at Mulia for 56 years and counting,” said Lorraine. “We are very grateful to MAF for making the ministry to the Dani people possible.”
When the airstrip was first opened, MAF brought in supplies once a week. These deliveries included penicillin and other medicines to treat various diseases.
Physically, the Dani needed a great deal of medical care. They suffered from tropical ulcers, goiters, and other ailments. MAF flew in a team of Dutch doctors and medical experts to treat them.
The needs were even greater, spiritually. Animism, evil spirit worship, and wars with neighboring clans mired the Dani in darkness.
Just a few short years later, in 1960, the Dani people whom the Dillingers were ministering to burned their fetishes, a sign that they had renounced the worship of evil spirits to follow Jesus. This movement began to spread in the area from valley to valley.
The Dillingers began to teach the young couples Bible, literacy, and Bible verses—lessons they then took back to their home areas on the weekends. In this way, they were prepared to share their newfound faith, and the Word continued to spread throughout the tribe.
These early classes were the precursor to what eventually became the Mulia Bible Institute, founded by the Dillingers in 1964 for young Dani couples. Today, over a thousand couples, and some singles in recent years, have gone through the school’s three-year program. As early as 1970, MAF began flying its graduates—Dani teachers, pastors and missionaries—to evangelize other tribes in Papua.
From Mulia to Derapos
Today, many of those Bible school graduates are utilizing the services of MAF.
Daritin and Yogele are a Dani couple who went through the Mulia Bible Institute and were sent by their home church to minister to the Tause people in the lowlands of Papua. Like so many others, they rely on MAF to get in and out of the remote village of Derapos, where they’ve ministered for the last 14 years.
In addition to delivering supplies and providing transportation, MAF is their only link to medical care.
Yogele flew with MAF to get treatment after being attacked by a wild boar. The couple’s daughter, Yulince (8), received three separate flights so she could receive blood transfusions at the coast when she suffered from a serious illness.
Today the couple is one of several Dani missionaries in the region. Daritin teaches literacy and brings in medicine from Mulia, and acts as a medical worker when needed. There are a large number of baptized believers in the Tause tribe. There’s a church, as well as a clinic and school that now wait for a medical worker and teacher. They’re also hoping for a Wycliffe translator for the Tause New Testament.
While many of the challenges facing this generation of Dani missionaries are similar to those faced by their older counterparts, MAF’s service still addresses the same types of needs in order to bring the transforming love of Jesus Christ to those who have yet to hear, and to encourage and grow new believers in their faith.
These Dani missionaries rely on and appreciate MAF just as much as the Dillingers have for decades. Now the MAF plane lands in Derapos three times a week . . . and no one is hiding. The people look forward to what the plane brings and to the pilots who have, as Daritin says, “iniki yanggonak”—servant’s hearts.