Papua: The Final Frontier

Over the years it’s been called Netherlands New Guinea, West New Guinea, West Irian, Irian Jaya, and West Papua. Most people around here now call it just Papua. The island of New Guinea was split down the middle and Papua, the western half, became part of the country of Indonesia in 1969. The separate country of Papua New Guinea makes up the eastern half of the island.

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Papua has been dubbed the final frontier by many guide books and adventurers for it’s vast uncharted areas and undiscovered people groups. Over 300 different tribes speaking between 200 and 700 different languages developed over the years in isolation from each other here because of the extreme terrain. Mountainous highlands, swampy lowlands and dense jungles rich with wildlife make up this remote area. MAF specializes in hard-to-reach places so that’s why we’re here!

For now, we are living near the northeastern coast in Sentani, at MAF’s largest base here on the island. We’ll fly out to the interior (as everyone here calls the remote villages, sounds more mysterious, right?) and MAF’s other bases from here.

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We’ve spent the past few weeks settling into our little apartment, acclimating to the heat, learning Indonesian, and getting to know the other MAF folks here, as well as missionaries from other organizations living in Sentani.

Last weekend, we struck out on our own and walked four miles out of town to explore Lake Sentani.

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Our walk took us along the end of the airport past an abandoned plane, by rows of houses built over the water and across a boardwalk to a little island.

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We were even lucky enough to find a lady selling donuts and banana chips. It was a pretty perfect first outing for us and a good chance to practice our very limited Indonesian. Many motorcycles passed us along the road and nearly everyone yelled “Siang!” (good afternoon) to us as they zoomed by.

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We are looking forward to exploring this big, beautiful final frontier, especially if we can find a donut or two along the way.