The people of Wetap in Oksapmin, Telefomin, in the Sandaun Province of Papua New Guinea (PNG), witnessed the landing of an Adventist Aviation Services (AAS) plane for the first time right in their village.
Captain Jeff Downs, AAS CEO in Goroka, made one of his last flights to test the newly built airstrip in Wetap on May 1, before he ends his service in PNG and returns to the United States at the end of the month.
Downs was accompanied by his son, two surveyors, Charlie Ikosi and Osera Tairen, from the Rural Airstrips Agency (RAA, Goroka), who went to survey the airstrip, and Adventist pastor Ronald Luke, a local Wetap man who resides in Goroka.
With no road infrastructure available, the people of Wetap have been deprived of basic services such as schools and hospitals for the past 43 years.
“For the first time after long years of negligence, we are so happy to see a plane landed in our village,” said Hohai, an Adventist pioneer who was baptized into the Adventist faith when the first missionaries arrived in Wetap in 1964. He said his children would have long-term benefits from this project.
The project took the community one-and-a-half years to complete using a mix of manual, traditional and modern tools. They have a few more final touches to make until the airstrip is fully completed in June.
Local ward member, Dipop, and other youths, like Oiken, Shedric, and Kerema, were in the frontline in driving the community to put their heads and hands down to the earth with the hope of seeing a light shining from above and that effort paid off. “Talk about the goodness of God and praise His name for the blessing He has provided,” said Downs when asked his opinion on the project.
The people of Wetap expressed thanks to God and AAS. “Now we can also benefit with basic services like any other citizen of PNG,” they said.
About Adventist Aviation Services
AAS has been operating in PNG since 1964. According to its website, its mission is to support the work of the Seventh-day Adventist Church in PNG by offering low cost, reliable transportation. It also provides various services to surrounding communities and access to remote areas of PNG that are inaccessible by road.
In its specific work to support the mission of the Adventist Church in that South Pacific nation, AAS provides transportation to pastors, teachers, and Bible workers. It also flies regularly building materials for the construction of churches, schools, and clinics.