When the MAF aircraft first soared over the small village of Mulia in Papua, Indonesia, back in 1958, only the Dani chief was brave enough to remain outside and watch. 'There is a man in the bird!' he exclaimed to the other members of the Dani tribe.
The people were amazed at the things the 'bird' began to drop from the sky: food, trade items, cowrie shells (used as currency), and building supplies. After two months, MAF made its first landing at Mulia while the Dani people hid behind boulders.
Leon and Lorraine Dillinger, missionaries with CrossWorld, remember these early flights well. They have borne witness to decades of MAF’s ministry, from Leon’s first flight in a cloth-winged Piper Pacer to Cessna 180s, and now, the Quest Kodiak.
'There is a man in the bird!'
Dani village chief, 1958
'MAF has transported us to our ministry at Mulia for 56 years and counting,' said Lorraine. 'We are very grateful to MAF for making the ministry to the Dani people possible.'
A gateway into the community
When the airstrip was first opened, MAF brought in supplies once a week. These deliveries included penicillin and medicines to treat various other diseases.
Physically, the Dani needed a great deal of medical care. They suffered from tropical ulcers, goiters, and other ailments. MAF flew in a team of Dutch doctors and medical experts to treat them.
Spiritually, the needs were even greater. Animistic beliefs including the worship of evil spirits, mired the Dani in darkness along with a culture of violent conflict with neighbouring clans.
Movement of grace
In 1960, within a few short years of the arrival of missionaries, the Dani burned their idols and renounced the worship of evil spirits to follow Jesus. The movement began to spread across the area from valley to valley.
The Dillingers began to teach the young Dani couples about the Bible and help them with literacy so they could read the bible for themselves. The Word spread further as the Dani couples shared what they learned in their tribal home areas at the weekends.
'MAF has transported us to our ministry at Mulia for 56 years and counting. We are very grateful to MAF for making the ministry to the Dani people possible.' Lorraine Dillinger
These early classes were the precursor to what eventually became the Mulia Bible Institute, founded by the Dillingers in 1964. Today, over a thousand couples, and some singles in recent years, have gone through the school’s three-year program. As early as 1970, MAF began flying its graduates — Dani teachers, pastors and missionaries — to evangelise other tribes in Papua.
From Mulia to Derapos
Today, many of those Bible school graduates are using the services of MAF.
Daritin and Yogele are a Dani couple who went through the Mulia Bible Institute and were sent by their home church to minister to the Tause people in the lowlands of Papua. Like so many others, they rely on MAF to get in and out of the remote village of Derapos, where they've ministered for the last 14 years.
As well as delivering supplies and providing transport, MAF is their only link to medical care.
Yogele flew with MAF to get treatment after being attacked by a wild boar. The couple’s daughter, Yulince (8), now fully recovered, joined three separate flights so she could receive blood transfusions at the coast, after contracting a serious illness.
'MAF Pilots have “iniki yanggonak” - servants’ hearts' Daritin
No one is hiding
Today Daritin and Yogele are among several Dani missionaries in the region. Daritin teaches literacy and brings in medicine from Mulia, and acts as a medical worker when needed. There are a large number of baptised believers in the Tause tribe. There’s a church, as well as a clinic and school currently awaiting a medical worker and teacher. They’re also hoping for a Wycliffe translator for the Tause New Testament.
Many of the challenges facing this generation of Dani missionaries are similar to those faced by their older counterparts. Dani missionaries rely on and appreciate MAF as much as the Dillingers have for decades. Now the MAF plane lands in Derapos three times a week . . . and no one is hiding. The people look forward to what the plane brings and to the pilots who have, as Daritin says, 'iniki yanggonak'— servants’ hearts.