MAF fly over 2,500 Bibles to Papua’s Yali tribe, 55 years after MAF helped discover them

Published: 20 Aug 2020

Thanks to Christian martyrs, the Yali people have the Bible in their own language.

MAF Pilots flew more than 1,100 Bibles and 1,400 children’s Bibles to the remote Papuan villages of Holuwon, Oakbisik and DeKai. Following in the footsteps of Christian martyrs – World Team missionaries, Phil Masters and Stan Dale - MAF continues to bring Good News to the Yali in their own language. MAF Papua's Linda Ringenberg reports…     

'There were not enough Bibles for this southern Yali community, so last year, their church ordered more to be printed in Jakarta and shipped them to MAF’s hangar in Papua, Indonesia.

MAF delivered the Bibles to the villages of Dekai, Oakbisik and Holuwan. In Dekai, the Bibles were distributed to church evangelists and pastors. In Oakbisik, people from neighbouring villages walked for a whole day just to receive a Bible.  

The rest went to Holuwan where the ladies were waiting, excitedly swaying back and forth, chanting in their Yali tongue. They were waiting for the MAF plane to land, which would bring them Bibles in their own language. 

The Cessna Caravan touched down and taxied to the top of the mountain airstrip. As MAF Pilots, Dave Ringenberg and Peter Santana, climbed out of the plane, the colourfully dressed villagers continued to chant and sway.

Chief Pilot, Dave Ringenberg

Dave Ringenberg, Instructor Pilot and Director of Papua Operations, recalls that special moment:

“It felt like we were on holy ground. It was a holy moment - one to be remembered.”  Dave Ringenberg

55 years earlier in 1965 – with similar excitement and trepidation - it was again MAF pilots, with local partners, who first discovered the Yali whilst undertaking survey flights. 

Only God knew the trials, tribulation and fruit that would follow…

Two members of the Yali tribe

The southern Yali Bible translation took 32 years

The villagers helped to unload the precious cargo - boxes wrapped in hessian sacks containing newly printed Bibles in their own language.

This edition was a reprinting of the original southern Yali Bible, which had been completely translated in June 2000. It has taken some thirty years to translate the Bible into southern Yali by linguists and missionaries.

The very first book of the Bible to be translated into Yali was the book of Mark by World Team missionary, Stan Dale, and a Yali man named Luliap Pahabol. Luliap was the very first Yali man to receive the gospel.

Stan and his family lived in Ninia among another southern Yali group where they had established a fledgling church. 

Stan was translating the book of Acts into southern Yali when he was tragically killed in 1968.

World Team missionary, Phil Masters, in Korupun Village before heading off to Yali Seng Valley where he was tragically killed.

Stan Dale and Phil Masters martyred for their beliefs

Stan and his World Team colleague, Phil Masters, had arrived to scout out a place for a new airstrip in order to evangelise this particularly hostile Yali tribe.

These Yali men were renowned jungle warriors and cannibals who lay in wait for Stan and Phil. Bow and arrows in hand, they hid near the path that wound through Yali Seng Valley territory.   

They had heard that these two strange-looking white men had brought a new message to the surrounding tribes - one that went against their witchcraft and warring. 

The southern Yali ambushed Stan and Phil near a place called Lolat, and began mercilessly pelting them with arrows. At first, the two missionaries stood their ground and began pulling the arrows from their bodies, breaking them in two. 200 broken and bloodied arrows later, Stan and Phil fell and died.

Apahapsili Village is where the northern Yali live who speak a different dialect to their southern counterparts. The northern Yali received their complete Bible translation in their own dialect in 2019. This film documents that momentous occasion:

God uses evil for good

Three months after Stan and Phil's deaths, a MAF plane crashed tragically killing the pilot and the Newman missionary family, with the exception of their youngest son, Paul. 

Paul stumbled out of the burning wreckage and found himself in the very same valley where Stan and Phil had been martyred.  Paul miraculously happened upon the home of a southern Yali man who had been against murdering missionaries. That man thankfully kept Paul safe until a search party arrived. 

These events led to new interaction with the Yali tribe. Amazingly, they believed this second visit from white strangers was a positive sign and therefore invited them to stay in their village. 

Five years later, the first 35 believers in the Seng Valley were baptised - the church was born. 55 years after MAF and partners first discovered the Yali tribe, God has faithfully worked through a killing and a plane crash.’

Today there are over 100 churches among the Yali.

Since discovering Christ, the Yali tribe have built their own church