MAF has been operating in Papua since 1952. Two mission organizations TEAM and UFM invited MAF to come with them to Papua (then called Dutch New Guinea) to provide their flight needs. At that time, the Island of New Guinea remained largely untouched by the outside world. It is really exciting to read some of the accounts of how early missionaries went to Papua following God's calling & literally risking their lives - not in an attempt to bring their culture to Papuans, but to bring the Gospel of Christ.
I recently read "The Peace Child" by Don Richardson, a story of how the Richardson's spent years of their lives living with, building relationships with, & learning how to communicate with a Papuan people called the Sawi (group #242 on the linguistic map on my last post). The result was a translation of the bible in the Sawi language and a growing vibrant Sawi church. As our family prepares to serve in Papua, it is amazing to think of the generations that have gone before ours, and have served in many different areas, roles, and organizations - all with a common goal.
Today, MAF has about 38 full time missionary families based in Papua, along with about 80 Indonesian staff. Currently with a fleet of 13 aircraft MAF operates out of 6 different bases located around the province.
MAF supports churches and mission efforts, and also provides medical assistance, disaster relief, education opportunities, and community development. Who and what MAF carries in their planes from landing strip to landing strip has become much broader since 1952, but one thing that hasn't changed much is the reliance on aircraft. For example, the city of Wamena located in the Baliem Valley in the center of Papua has a population of 10000 plus and is the largest 'urban' centre south of the capital Jayapura (Wamena is also the location of one of MAF's bases). If you want to travel to Wamena, and don't want to spend weeks to months walking, you have one option - air travel! Considering this, you can imagine the challenge of transportation to and from the hundreds of smaller villages scattered throughout Papua.