Esrotnamba: The Most Remote Place

Since arriving in Papua six months ago, we’ve traveled to 35 different interior villages. Some of the more central places have developed into little cities over the years with paved runways and roads for motorcycles. Most still maintain dirt and grass airstrips and only occasionally see a plane.

But the most remote place that we have been here in Papua doesn’t even have an airstrip… just a big lake.

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In 2012, an Papuan evangelist named Petrus Giay reached the Weserau people living near the shores of a lake in the Bird’s Neck region of Papua. The extreme remoteness of the area kept them hidden from the outside world. They lived much as they had for hundreds of years and still wore traditional clothing made of bark. After hearing rumors about their location, Petrus hiked four weeks through the jungle to find them. He spent some time there with the people, then hiked back and began planning how he was going to reach this remote tribe.

He contacted a pilot with MAF and together with the help of a helicopter from Helivida, they did some aerial surveys of the area. There was nowhere suitable to build an airstrip, but using MAF’s amphibious Caravan—the only floatplane in Papua—Petrus was able to fly back to the remote tribe and land on the lake close to the village.

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Since then, MAF has been partnering with the Bailem Mission Center to transport doctors and nurses, teachers, and evangelists like Petrus as well as medicine and building supplies to the village of Esrotnamba. The children there are learning to read and many basic health problems have been eliminated among the people. The tribe has welcomed the Gospel, and a church is being built on the shore of the lake. The floatplane is also helping to develop self-sustainability within the tribe by transporting Massoia bark to be sold in the city.

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We had the amazing opportunity to spend time with people who had only been introduced to the modern world a few short years ago. They treated us to a lunch feast when we arrived that included fish cooked three different ways (boiled, fried, and bamboo steamed), crayfish caught in their lake, cuscus (the marsupial, not the grain), pumpkin, and of course, sweet potatoes. The leader of the village donned his traditional bark clothing and played a mouth harp for us.

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A teacher staying in the village took us around the lake in a wooden dug-out canoe. People paddle out in their canoes every day to fish, scoop clean water, and visit their gardens on the other side of the lake. The day before we arrived, one of the villager’s hunting dogs walked a little too close to the shore and was killed by a crocodile in the middle of the night!

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Despite the beautiful scenery, daily life is hard in such a remote place. We hope that MAF can continue to partner with others to share the love of Christ and improve the quality of life for the Weserau.

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