Excerpt from the book Airborne at the End of the Earth
After the long, early-morning flight from Sentani, I climb out of the Pilatus Porter at the top of the Dabato airstrip. I am delighted to find Piato there waiting. I'd brought two missionaries in, and the plan is to fly one of their colleagues in Dabato out to the closest town. There's also a pile of fragrant wood called kayu masohi, which the Moi people harvest from the forest as a cash crop. I'll take those sweet-smelling bundles out to market on the coast to help generate some income for the community.
But soon the missionaries are telling me of a woman, one of the Moi chief's three wives, who is very ill, and hasn't been responding to medication. This morning she's taken a significant turn for the worse. Under the wing of the airplane, the Moi people conduct a long, drawn-out community discussion and eventually decide they want to send her out to receive medical care. The chief and one of his sons will go along.
Over the years, I've seen Papuan ingenuity produce a variety of innovative stretcher designs, using nothing but jungle materials, but this one was a first for me: they carried this poor woman up to the airplane in a noken. Woven out of bark fiber, these net bags are incredibly strong, but I'd never seen a full-grown adult carried in one.
This dear woman is in obvious pain. Unable to walk, covered in soot, and wearing only a grass skirt, she's a picture of misery. She carries the image of her Maker and is a picture of one of "the least of these" that Jesus called us to seek out and love.
We lift her up into a seat, and as I get things ready to go, I notice that it's gone quiet on the opposite side of the airplane. I walk around to the other side and find Piato earnestly communing with his Creator, asking for healing for this desperately ill woman. No one asked him to pray. None of us "professional" Christians had gotten around to doing it ourselves yet. Piato just wanted to pray. Spontaneous. Natural. It was just what occurred to the former killer to do.
I'm thinking, Look at this man who once killed so easily now praying so easily. The transformation still stuns me. A violent man encounters Jesus and becomes a man of peace, a man of prayer. Forgiveness. Redemption. Transformation. Jesus has brought all these things into Piato's life. And this is surely true for the rest of us. As you and I continue to cultivate our own encounters with Jesus, he'll continue transforming us into beautiful reflections of himself.