A New Airstrip in Mokndoma
As we circled over the Wano village of Mokndoma in a small Kodiak, I suddenly felt my heart rate increase and my breathing pick up a bit. The airstrip had opened recently and only a handful of planes had landed there. It was so new, there were only two MAF pilots allowed to fly there. We had flown into more than 20 different jungle airstrips since we arrived in Papua but all of those places had been visited by hundreds of times. There was something adventurous and scary about a new airstrip.
As the mass of broccoli below began to transform into individual trees, I kept myself occupied by focusing on videoing the landing. Little wooden huts soon became visible and the closer we got, the faster it felt like we were moving. Then the tires hit and we were whizzing past structures and shrubs along the airstrip. Like the sudden deceleration at the end of a roller coaster ride, the plane quickly slowed down and soon we were waving to the crowd that had gathered at the top of the airstrip to welcome us. I breathed a little sigh of relief as I unbuckled my seatbelt and climbed out onto the freshly laid gravel. What a beautiful sight!
The airstrip had taken the people of Mokndoma two years of hard work to complete. A long rectangle of thick jungle trees and shrubs had to be cleared first. Then came the digging. Large rocks had to be removed and part of the mountain had to be dug out and flattened with pick axes and shovels. Then a motorized stamper turned the rocks left into a compact layer of gravel.
There was a great celebration on the day an MAF plane landed there for the first time. Many villagers in Mokndoma were motived to build the airstrip to reach out to areas that had never heard of Christ’s love. Already two local missionaries, Liku and Dugwiru, were out in another village telling others about Christ. For the village, having air service meant better access to food, medicine, and building materials as well as safety in the event of a medical emergency or a natural disaster.
The two missionary families that serve in Mokndoma, the Ingles and the Wilds, were very excited for all of the benefits of living near an airstrip for the first time. Both families have served the Wano people for over ten years and have always used a combination of hiking and helicopter/plane flying to get to their village.
We stayed in the village for three days and got a small glimpse of what missionary life interior is like. Tim Ingles told us about his and Mike Wilds’ work translating the Bible into Wano and developing a chronological teaching system that led the first Wano believers to Christ. Rebecca Ingles explained how she helps to teach literacy classes and runs the local clinic, giving out basic medical treatment.
It was easy to see how much the Ingles and the Wilds love the Wano people and give so much of themselves to meet their basic needs and see them come to Christ. We were so blessed by our time spent there and the amazing examples of the missionaries’ sacrificial life.
As our little plane barreled down the runway and soared up and over the tall trees at the far end of the airstrip, I gripped my camera tighter and felt grateful for the chance to take pictures of the little huts below from such a beautiful angle.