Overcoming Isolation in Mamit
“First you hike down from here into that valley and then up and up over that mountain… it would take the Lani four hours but it’s more like eight hours for a white person. Then it’s an hour motor bike ride on dirt roads to Karabaga and then another three-hour, white-knuckle, terrifying ride in a public vehicle to Wamena.”
Esther Dale explained the non-plane route to get to the nearest town from where we stood overlooking the Mamit airstrip. I’d written and heard the words “isolated” and “remote” hundreds of times to describe the places where MAF serves, but they meant so much more looking at that empty airstrip and to the mountains beyond. By now, the plane that dropped us off that morning was long gone, hundreds of miles away. Uneasy thoughts came to mind. What if Mark or I fell down and broke a leg out here? What if one of us got sick? What if we got caught in the middle of a tribal war? Would the plane make it back in time?
I realized that if I felt a little irrational anxiety being left in a remote village for a day, those that live out here all the time must feel lonely watching the plane fly away. In many of the mountain strips like the one in Mamit, there is a short window of time that the plane can actually fly in due to gusty winds. Bad weather can keep a village closed off for days.
Wes and Esther Dale have served the Western Danis for many years and have hundreds of stories of hardships and bad-weather days. In their little corner of the world, they’ve seen tribal wars and epidemics, earthquakes and even a plane crash (not an MAF plane, thankfully.) At this point in their lives, they have faith that God will take care of them and seem ready to take on anything to serve the people.
Wes teaches at a Bible school in Mamit and works on translation projects. There are about 75 families attending the school from many other villages in the area. Both husbands and wives are taught at this school so that they can be a strong ministry team together.
Esther watches and teaches some 130+ children, all too young to attend school themselves while their parents study the Bible. 130 children by herself!!!! These missionaries are tough! Besides the many other hats that they wear to serve the community, Wes is also working to install a hydro-electric system to generate power for the community.
The Dales are such an amazing example of the kinds of missionaries that MAF serves out here in Papua —those sacrificing and giving so much to reach the people with God’s love. It was a privilege for us to spend time with them, hearing their battle stories and victories of how God is using their ministry and MAF’s to change lives in this remote place.