Special Delivery

MAF delivers letter of encouragement to new believers


By Natalie Holsten


“You Dem there who have put your faith in Yagwe*, trust him. Yagwe has not forgotten you. He loves you so much. You also are now my family and I want to be there with you but right now I can’t.”

These heartfelt words, written from a missionary to a group of new believers from the Dem tribe, are reminiscent of the letters the Apostle Paul wrote to the early church 2000 years ago.

Nowadays, with Zoom, email, Facebook, and texting, sending a letter on paper seems almost antiquated. But for the Dem people living without cell service or electricity in the highlands of Papua, Indonesia, a letter is sometimes the only option for communication.

Last summer, the body of Dem believers in the village of Bina was brand new. After months of hearing the teaching of the redemptive story of Christ, many had made decisions to place their faith in the Lord.

It was time for the missionaries to take a break – some for a longer time of furlough in their home countries, and for Jay† and his family, a short vacation on the island of Bali.

But that short vacation turned unexpectedly long because of COVID-19 travel restrictions, and Jay began to worry about how the new believers were doing.

Like the Apostle Paul writing to the early church, Jay wanted to write the new believers and remind them of the good news they had heard and believed, and to reassure them that they were not forgotten.

But how to get a letter to the Dem believers?

Missionary Jay and his family are greeted by Dem in the village of Bina. Photo by Peter Santana.

Jay happened to see on the MAF flight schedule that a flight was going to Bina that week, so he reached out to MAF pilot Peter Santana.

“He sent me a message and said, ‘Is there any way if we email you a letter, can you print it out and drop it in to Bina,” Peter shared. “I said ‘yeah, we can figure that out.’”

Jay wrote out his letter of encouragement in the Dem language and emailed it to Peter, who printed it and delivered it to Bina, along with a load of cargo.

“It was pretty cool,” Peter said. “We brought in this letter, kind of like Paul writing a letter to the church, but it’s from Bali to the Dem in the middle of Papua.”

In his letter, Jay told the Dem believers that the missionaries were coming back soon, and the believers should continue to trust the Lord.

“I wanted to make sure they knew that we hadn’t abandoned them,” Jay said. “The letter…reminded them of what God had done for the Dem in sending a payment for their sins and that they are now children of God and how God knows all things and we do not, so we need to trust the Lord and follow His words that we have learned.”

Not only was the letter meant to encourage, but also to convey their regret that they couldn’t be there to help with medical needs.

The first morning after Jay and his family took off from Bina, they received word that a close Dem friend of Jay’s son was seriously ill. MAF flew him to a nearby town for treatment, but sadly, the boy died a few weeks later.

“We felt so burdened because we were supposed to be there to help with meds and there were some other health issues going around, and so in the letter I addressed that as well….just that we were sad we weren’t there to do medicine, but God is in control and knows all things,” Jay said.

Delivering the encouragement letter is just one way that MAF has supported the work of Jay and his coworkers in Bina. Through the years, MAF planes have flown in cargo and done medical flights, and MAF staff have assisted with the construction of the building where the teaching is done.

“We have such a unique role as the transportation arm of missions and the church,” Peter said. “Sometimes that comes in the form of flying in church leaders, sometimes missionaries, sometimes pigs, and occasionally we get to deliver a message for the young church in Dem. One flight like this is such a boost not only to their work leading a group of new believers, but also for each of us that God allows us to play a part in His story.”


Want to read the letter that Jay wrote? Here is the Letter to the Dem believers.



*Yagwe is Dem for Yahweh

†Some of our partners request that identifying information be withheld for security reasons.


Story appeared in the FlightWatch Vol. 3 (summer), 2022 issue:


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