The landing siren went on as the KODIAK I was in flared across the bottom end of the runway, and then touched down on the rough, grass airstrip of Silimo, Papua. We were the last of 66 students and 10 adults from Hillcrest International School in Papua, Indonesia who were arriving for Outdoor Education (OE).
OE is a two-week trip to an interior mission station where our high school has the chance to do work projects, teach kid’s clubs, give presentations on issues like HIV/AIDS, and help with medical aid. It’s a time for us to grow spiritually as we rely on God in less forgiving environments. And, we get to visit with the missionaries who have been working there for decades, and hear stories of how God has worked in their lives.
After a week of hauling rocks to help protect some houses from river flooding, pulling teeth and giving dental care with guidance from a professional dentist, teaching kid’s clubs, cooking meals, and learning about God, we felt the rush of wind as rotor blades swirled over our heads. Helicopters arrived to take us to even more remote villages, where an airstrip doesn’t exist. Through a translator, we were able to share about the dangers of HIV/AIDS, which is becoming a big problem in the highlands of Papua; and we learned from them too––about their culture and beliefs.
For our return trip to Silimo, we hiked for five hours, over ridge after ridge. I realized what a blessing it is to the missionaries and Indonesians who live in these remote areas to have air service like MAF. We finished up the last of our projects––building a stone wall and restoring a school building––and then it was the last day. There was the roar of airplanes over our heads, and I wished we had spent twice as long in the village. We were able to bless the people of Silimo in so many ways. But we were blessed in just as many ways as we learned to work together with one another and the community.