High FliersMAF Operations

MAF pays tribute to pilot and friend, the late Joyce Lin

11th May 2020

MAF Pilot and friend - the late Joyce Lin

Having completed her first solo flight for MAF in March, 40-year-old Joyce Lin from Colorado, was looking forward to living out her God inspired dream – serving others in far-flung places through aviation. For reasons only known to God, Joyce was tragically killed in a plane crash in Papua. We celebrate her life…    

On 12th May at 6:27am, MAF Pilot and Flight Instructor – Joyce Lin, took off in a Kodiak 100 aircraft from Papua’s Sentani Airport, bound for the remote highland village of Mamit.

She was scheduled to deliver coronavirus test kits, but never made it. Two minutes after take-off, she made a distress call and fatally crashed into nearby Lake Sentani. Due to coronavirus restrictions, there were no other passengers on board.

Joyce was leading an anti -coronavirus campaign at the time and planned to distribute Covid-19 test kits, PPE, soap and medication to aid workers and missionaries across twenty villages.

Following God’s calling

Joyce was raised in Colorado and Maryland by Taiwanese Christian immigrants. She became a Christian through a children’s outreach programme run by her local church.

Joyce graduated with a degree in computer science from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and worked in IT for a decade. Joyce envisioned her life as a computer programmer, but God had other plans. In an MAF US interview from the archives, Joyce recalled how God changed her life:

‘When I was at college, I went to a summer programme where I got to fly gliders. I had no thoughts about becoming a pilot, but I loved it and convinced my parents to let me get a pilot’s license. Then God called me to go to seminary.’

‘Everything kind of clicked’

On her quest to do God’s will, Joyce enrolled at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary:

‘A year in, I was exposed to what one normally goes to seminary for –a pastor or missionary, but I wasn’t interested in those things.

One day, when I walked into my room, I heard the words, “You should google ‘missionary pilot’” and I was so shocked because that was the only time that I had ever heard a voice like that and it was so loud, I couldn’t ignore it.

The first hit was MAF’s website and when I started reading it, everything kind of clicked. I knew from that moment, this was what God had for me.’

‘It felt amazing to land the Kodiak on my own for the first time’ Joyce Lin

‘I was convinced that God was calling me to be a pilot’

Listening to God’s prompting, Joyce had finally discovered the perfect vocation that would combine her interest in flying, computer programming skills and her faith.

Joyce interned with MAF in 2010 and visited Papua that same year to find out what life might be like there as a MAF pilot. Joyce had no doubt in her mind:

‘I was convinced that God was calling me to be a missionary pilot and work towards getting different licenses to become a flight instructor. I had to pass the technical evaluation, raise support and go to language school.’

Although Joyce had finally earned her private pilot license whilst studying at MIT, she still needed an instrument rating, a commercial pilot license and endure months of training to meet MAF’s standards.

A long and arduous journey

Joyce finally earned her commercial license in 2015 and moved to Sentani, Papua in 2019.

In her December newsletter last year, Joyce recalled the thrill of landing her first MAF plane by herself:

‘It felt amazing to land the Kodiak on my own for the first time. This has been my dream airplane ever since I found out about mission aviation. It’s been a long road of training, but I’ve enjoyed every step! Thank you so much for your support and prayers during this lengthy journey.’

In addition to flying out essential supplies to remote villages, Joyce also helped to complete a fibre cable network project, giving partners across Papua access to the internet.

Joyce in the MAF Papua Office doing what she loved

Making the most of every God-given opportunity

In her MAF US interview, Joyce was keen to dispel the commonly held myths surrounding missionaries:

‘When people think of a missionary, they don’t think of what I do – flying planes or fixing computers. They think of someone out there evangelising and that’s just not we do most of the time.

My prayer each morning is that I would be sensitive to the Holy Spirit – that I would be a blessing somehow to someone that day. It might not be through flying or IT. It might be through a 30 second conversation. The more I’m in tune with God’s leading for my life, the more there are opportunities each day to make a difference in other people’s lives.’

Right time, right place!

God created such an opportunity when bad weather forced Joyce to divert from Danowage to Wamena – the largest town in the Papua highlands.

At the airport, she found a woman in desperate need of major surgery, but due to the coronavirus lockdown, all flights had been cancelled. Unbeknown to Joyce, on that same morning, the Wamena MAF team suddenly got clearance to fly medevac flights.  God’s amazing timing enabled Joyce to fly the woman back to Sentani, where Joyce was based, for life-saving surgery.

The patient and her husband were ready to leave in 30 minutes. Joyce had the privilege of piloting the first medevac flight out of Wamena since lockdown began. It was also Joyce’s first ever medevac flight.

Vital work during a pandemic

Even during a pandemic, Joyce was convinced she was in the right place as per her email update on the 6th May:

‘It may sound strange, but these trying times have enhanced my feelings of purpose in Papua. With every flight, I see first-hand how MAF is connecting isolated villages with vital supplies and medical care.

This can’t be taken for granted in normal times, but especially now with the travel restrictions, the people remind us of how thankful they are every time an airplane is able to land in their village.’

‘Joyce was extremely generous, giving of herself and her treasures selflessly’                    Brock Larson, Regional Director of MAF Indonesia

‘A dedicated teammate and well-loved’

Joyce’s colleagues, like Brock Larson – Regional Director of MAF Indonesia, remember her fondly:

‘Joyce was extremely dedicated. She was committed to being used by God and sharing His love with others, especially with those who were less fortunate. She was also extremely generous, giving of herself and her treasures selflessly.

Joyce was a light reflecting Jesus, and she will be deeply missed.’

David Holsten, President and CEO of MAF US agrees:

‘I’ve been inspired by so many elements of Joyce’s story. She embodied so much of what we love to see in MAF staff. She was a professional and invested in the local culture. She was a dedicated teammate and well-loved by those she served.

Her accomplishments were remarkable, but the thing that so many people talk about was her humility, her intentionality to connect with others and her sense of joy and contentment in the work that she was doing. She was a remarkable woman.’

Joyce died ‘doing what she loved to do’

David continues:

‘We feel a great sense of loss, but also a great sense of comfort because Joyce was doing what she loved to do. She was faithful to God’s calling. She gave her life serving the Lord in a way that was impacting others.’

Before her passing, Joyce encapsulated her sheer joy for serving God through MAF:

‘I can’t explain why I get such a thrill out of flying or programming a computer – it seems to be the way my brain is wired. I’m so fortunate to be able to do this. Each day I fly is a gift.

I’m privileged to be serving the churches and missionaries in Papua who continue to reach out to isolated villages so that people can be both physically and spiritually transformed.

While I will always be excited to fly planes and work on computers, I am most excited about sharing the love of Jesus Christ by helping to transform other people’s deep discouragement and mourning into dancing and joy.’

Joyce is survived by her parents and two sisters.

A memorial of roses on the runway of Mamit Village, Papua marks the spot where Joyce was scheduled to land