Dear faithful ones at Evangel,
These are strange times in our world. Just as we passed a milestone of serving with MAF for 30 years, a worldwide pandemic has caused us to make significant changes to the ways we serve the people of Papua. After that many years one might think that nothing could surprise us – we’ve seen it all. This current COVID19 situation defies that thinking, we’ve never seen anything like this. Over the last 4 weeks, we’ve been forced to find new ways to keep serving at a distance – just like many in your church and community. We are very grateful to be healthy and have a safe, comfortable home in which to isolate. All three of us are well, trusting in God’s sovereignty for peace and grace in this new normal.
Dick is officing from home these days. He is able to get quite a lot of his daily duties completed by internet, and still allow distance from others. Our MAF flying has changed a great deal. On March 24 the govenor of Papua closed all passenger arrivals at airports and sea ports in the province, hoping to slow the curve of infections enough here to avoid overwhelming the limited local health care system. Given that 2 week closure, MAF followed suit and stopped flying passengers, focusing only on cargo flights. That two week plan has now been extended an additional 2 weeks, until April 23rd. Interestingly, these changes have served to protect the interior villages from exposure to the virus by and large. Only coastal cities seem to have cases of the virus at this time. As often as possible our pilots try to give information to the villages receiving flights of cargo – hoping to help them understand about social distancing and hand washing. Below is a photo from an interior village. One of our MAF pilots is explaining the basics of how each person can help minimize the spread of this virus. You can see the village gather and then disperse after learning the importance of distancing.
Like you, we are facing unusual times and are doing our best to be flexible; finding new ways of serving and meeting the needs around us here. Would you pray for us, that we might do so with a calm, and compassionate spirit, using our past experiences to help others?
We are grateful to you for partnering with us as we reach out to the isolated people of Papua. MAF cargo flights are meeting crucial needs and we stand ready to return to passenger service as soon as the Governor permits it. Papua has hardly any medical facility capable of responding to critial care needs – we pray this pandemic would end before capacities are exceeded. Thank you for your faithful prayers and support which make this possible.
As I close this note It is Good Friday here, the day that we remember how God in his great mercy gave his Son to die on a Roman cross as the ultimate sacrifice for our sin. While we are humbled and saddened at the death that Jesus endured, we remember the end of the story. Perhaps by the time you read this it will be Sunday! We serve a risen saviour, who is in the world today! Sing his praises and marvel at his grace, our King Jesus is alive and because he lives we engage our world with love in his name. (Mt. 28:6)
Dick and Mary Martin, together with Joel