Yesterday, I saw a spider the size of my hand. I met two Indonesian pastors who are descendants of headhunters and now spend their lives reaching out to Indonesian Muslims. I ate two lunches—in two different villages some 50 miles apart—though it took just 15 minutes to get between them by airplane. And I flew in two different airplanes—both small enough to get into tiny airstrips deep in the jungle, but big enough to carry some precious cargo.
For this mother of (almost) two little kids, it was certainly an unusual day. For my husband, a pilot with Mission Aviation Fellowship in Indonesia, it was all in a day’s work.
About once a year, I get to spend the day riding along with Brad as he goes about his normal (though certainly not usual) day. So, yesterday, we took off from Tarakan in a Cessna 208 Caravan with the two pastors aboard. They grew up in Borneo, but live on another island, where their job is to start churches among a 90 percent Muslim-majority population. While Brad prepped the airplane, I got to hear some of their interesting stories—as they have dealt with differences in culture, language, etc in this diverse country, even though they are Indonesian.
These pastors were headed to Long Ampung—a village 200 miles away—deep in and the heart of Borneo, to hold some church services for several villages in that area. Though they grew up in other villages on Borneo, this was their first trip to the 600-resident Long Ampung.
It was mine, too.
The weather yesterday was beautiful. We flew over dots of fluffy clouds, which floated above the lush green jungle below. Brad spent his first three years here flying the smaller Cessna 206 airplanes. Several months ago, he started flying the bigger Cessna 208—and this was my first ride-along with him as its pilot. Of course, he handled the aircraft like a pro (not that I’m biased or anything). I’m always amazed at how this quite dangerous job of flying single-engine airplanes over dense rainforest is just a normal workday for my husband.
An hour or so later, we arrived at the airstrip next to Long Ampung. Mountains surrounded the picturesque spot. I, being nearly 8 months pregnant, appreciated the cooler weather. I’m used to spending my days in 90-degree weather on the flat coast.
The pastors got off, the villagers unloaded several boxes of stuff, and I chatted with the villagers. Brad met, greeted and passed on some newspapers and magazines to a soldier he knows who is stationed there. Brad has befriended a small group of soldiers stationed at this spot to guard the border between Indonesia and Malaysia. They also patrol the area, looking for illegal logging. With Brad’s past military experience, they all have something in common. And Brad loves chatting with them when he stops there.
I made a quick stop in the squatty potty in a nearby building, not at first noticing the huge spider on the wall next to the toilet. Brad pointed it out later and he bravely stuck his hand next to it so I could snap some shots.
A few minutes later, a team of builders who had been in the village working on an elementary school got on the airplane. They were heading home to Tarakan, having finished their project. Brad tried to start the airplane, but unfortunately, it just wouldn’t start. For the next hour or so, he worked to trouble shoot the problem, trying different things and talking on the village’s radio to our MAF head mechanic back at home base in Tarakan. Brad is a mechanic, too, which is certainly handy in these types of situations.
Finally, he and the other mechanic figured out that they needed an airplane part—one that our MAF hangar doesn’t have. It would have to be ordered from another MAF program on another island—and would take several days to get here. I began having pleasant visions of spending a few days in this village, exploring the rainforest, getting to know villagers, and hoping my friends back in Tarakan wouldn’t mind taking care of my 2-year-old, who I had left behind. But then we got word that another MAF pilot—Brad’s buddy Paul College, could come pick us up.
When Paul arrived in a Cessna 206, he and Brad worked to remove the part that appeared to be broken so they could bring it back to Tarakan in case it could be fixed. They worked for over an hour in the now-hot midday sun, while I sat in a nearby building with other villagers.
I got to find out a bit about life in this village—what they eat; what they do for work; how they get money, clothes, supplies; their education and medical options, their traditions, etc. etc. Finally, the wife of the pastor (who is also MAF’s liaison there) brought us lunch from her house. I’m always amazed at the spur-of-the-moment hospitality of Indonesians. I had just heard about how much work it is to put a meal on the table in this area, and then this woman kindly fed us one of those delicious meals.
Finally, we got on our way in the Cessna 206 (locking up and leaving behind the broken Cessna 208). We made a stop in Mahak Baru—a village 50 miles away, but only a 15-minute flight—to pick up a couple other passengers. While the plane was unloaded and re-loaded, I chat with a couple of the villagers who I know (we spent the night there as a family a couple years ago), and ate a second lunch of fried rice and yummy pineapple. My friend there sent along another pineapple (some of the best I’ve ever had) and I carefully guarded my treasure. I’ve had a craving for these pineapples throughout my pregnancy and couldn’t wait to get it home and eat it.
The weather was beautiful on the way home—rather unusual at this late afternoon hour. Usually, the MAF pilots are fighting weather all the way home. But yesterday, the ride was smooth and I got to snap shots of the jungle below. We made one more stop at a small town interior, then got home about 5 p.m.
I was glad to see my little boy and get one of his tight hugs. For dinner, we ate food that my Mahak Baru friend had sent along. I went to bed early—just a couple hours later, completely exhausted and amazed that my husband could still hold a conversation after such a long day. I mentally promised to give him a backrub the next day to show him how much I appreciate the difficult job he does everyday.