With doors opening, and your help, now is the time for an unreached tribe in Indonesia to hear about Jesus
MAF pilot Jeremiah Hartin banked the KODIAK aircraft, and his passengers’ hearts began to beat a little faster. Far below them, tucked into the edge of trees near the shore of a lake, was a single grass-roofed hut. This was what they had been hoping to find!
Hartin noted the GPS coordinates and limestone karst topography—alternating peaks and valleys that look like a giant egg carton. It’s here in the rugged Bird’s Neck region of Papua, Indonesia, that MAF is partnering with another Christian organization to reach an isolated tribe that still needs to hear about Jesus.
Before starting out on this aerial survey, Hartin sat down with missionaries, Peter, Josh, and Andy, to map out specific locations. Back in the mid-1990s, MAF worked with several mission groups to survey and identify locations with unreached tribes. This resulted in a map marking specific areas, and assigning them a number. The map is still referred to today. Some locations now have missionaries working there, and tribes are being transformed by the Gospel, like the Korowai and Moi tribes, and the people of Esrotnamba, whose stories have been told in previous FlightWatch issues.
This organization has been looking for a gap, a place that has been missed because it’s more difficult to access. “Area 13” is one of those areas, and that’s where the grass-roofed hut was spotted. There’s a tribe there with between 800 and 1,200 people.
“The tribe we are pursuing, as well as a few neighboring tribes, had never had foreign missionaries work among them,” said Josh. “On two occasions that we know of in the past 15 years, missionaries had flown into the remotest village by helicopter but the people had turned them away. We also learned that some Indonesian denominations had tried doing outreach in this area but found it really difficult.”
This team was praying specifically for the Lord to show them where He wanted them to work. As they began researching and building relations with government and church leaders in the nearest towns, doors began to open—they were well received.
“It seems that the Lord is showing us it is finally time for these people to hear His truth,” added Josh.
While they had this initial approval, they still needed an invitation from the tribal leaders themselves before the missionaries could come and live among their people. It would seem a tough sell since this people group is particularly isolated and closed to outside influences.
“They enjoy the reputation of having strong pride in their traditions,” said Josh. “They’re respected by neighboring tribes as many believe their languages originated from this people group.”
So the team set out to visit a certain village in the hopes of meeting with the tribe’s leaders, and MAF’s airplane played a crucial role. First, MAF flew them to the nearest town. From there they hired a local guide to take them upriver a few hours to the location they had identified. However, when they got there they discovered they were at the wrong village; they had traveled on the wrong river. On top of that, they arrived during an important ceremony that was taking place for a leader of the tribe who had passed away 100 days earlier.
But God works in mysterious ways, and it turns out that everybody they needed to meet with was together in this one place—for the ceremony! Not only did they get to meet with the right people, but they also met with the heads of other tribes who knew about the good work and reputation of other missionaries in Papua. Those people advocated for the missionaries, telling the tribe’s leaders, “These are good people. You should invite them in.”
So the Lord had orchestrated the whole thing! They ended up right where they needed to be.
Imagine the stories the team had to share after this trip. And share they did, along with the fresh crabs they had gathered from the river. Together with the MAF Nabire families, they enjoyed a New Orleans-style crab feed. Afterwards, the maps came out and the excitement grew as the missionaries talked about where they had been and all that they had seen.
“We are grateful not only for MAF’s aerial support, but also value the fellowship and spiritual camaraderie that we share with MAF missionaries,” said Josh. “Even though the village won’t initially have an airstrip, we still will most likely rely on MAF to bring our supplies from Nabire to a location where a helicopter can then make shuttle flights. It is a wonderful picture of God’s people working together to get the job done!”
Just as you’ve partnered with MAF to bring the Good News to other tribes, you’ll also play a role in the work that will be happening in Area 13. Imagine several years into the future, when the team has learned the language and translated portions of Scripture. One by one, God’s Word will come to each hut, and entire families will be transformed by His love—from this generation to the next.
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