“A man’s discretion makes him slow to anger, and it is his glory to overlook a transgression.” —Proverbs 19:11
MAF pilot Nathan Fagerlie got the request for a medevac flight over the radio while he was en route to a remote airstrip in Papua, Indonesia. A young boy had fallen from a tree and was impaled by a branch as he fell. Nathan let the base know that he was going to handle it, then continued on to land at his original destination. He dropped off his load there and told the people he couldn’t take any passengers because he had to do a medical evacuation. A short 15-minute flight later, he arrived in the village of Daboto to pick up the patient.
Upon landing he greeted the people and asked about the patient, who was not waiting at the airstrip. They assured him the boy was down in the village, getting ready.
Fifteen minutes passed.
“The weather was good,” said Nathan. “I wasn’t in a hurry.”
He enjoyed chatting with the people, as he was friends with many in the village. When he inquired about the patient again, the villagers assured him he would be there soon.
More time passed and Nathan started to notice the people were acting funny. They weren’t looking him in the eye; they were shuffling their feet and mumbling to each other. He could tell something was up.
“Guys, what’s happening? Is he going to need a flight out today or what?”
“Well, his mom says he can’t go,” they replied.
Nathan could have vented his frustration to the villagers, as a medevac is a serious thing. MAF works hard to dissuade villages from making false medevac calls because it means MAF’s services are diverted from other legitimate needs elsewhere. But Nathan could tell they were embarrassed. So he simply said to call him when the patient was ready, and he would come back and get him. He said his goodbyes and headed off to finish his flight schedule.
Two days later Nathan got another call–the kid was ready this time. Nathan returned, picked up the young boy and the boy’s father and took them to Wamena, where doctors could treat the boy.
Unbeknownst to Nathan, back in the village he had created quite a stir. This particular tribe dealt in favors. It was like a form of currency. Whoever has done the most favors is owed in return, and is rich. So when Nathan came back for the boy and was happy about it, not bothered and not expecting anything in return, they were amazed.
The missionary in this village had been talking to the people about God’s love and how He loves sacrificially. And after Nathan departed that day, this missionary said, “That’s it! That’s God’s love!”
“It was like ‘lightbulbs’ went on in the village. It finally made sense to them,” explained Nathan.
So, while he thought the medical flight for the boy was his ministry, Nathan realized it was much more than that. It was his loving response to the people in the midst of an embarrassing, awkward situation.
“Half an hour of not getting angry or upset did a lot more for them than most of the flying I’d done,” said Nathan. “Reading the situation and being open to the Spirit’s leading made a big difference.
“We can easily get wrapped up in the airplane, but what we do on the ground matters as well.”