Today in Papua New Guinea, it is March 3, 2015 (that would be tomorrow still for our friends in the States). Yesterday, we officially scheduled our first helicopter survey trip for March 30th and 31st.
This is a big step, possible one of the biggest steps of our whole strategy as a team short of actually preaching the gospel, since it will decide to which tribe we will go and, Lord willing, where we will live for the next ten years. Right now, we have a short list of languages to visit, but we need prayer, prayer, and more prayer.
Our team strategy—dubbed The Big Picture—consists of ten phases to do what we came to do and Surveys is the fourth step. It’s hard to believe that in just twelve weeks we are already at this step! Here is a snapshot of what we have accomplished in the Big Picture thus far:
Training: Completed in the US from 2008-2014
Support raising: Completed from October 2013-November 2014
Arrival on Field and Orientation: December 7, 2014 (twelve weeks ago)
Surveys: Scheduled for March 30-31st, 2015
How to Take a Survey in Three (not so) Easy Steps:
- Book a Helicopter Pilot
- Negotiate the Cost/Cargo
- Decide Where to Go
Step 1: For the last several weeks, we have been exchanging emails with pilots from New Tribes and SIL in the hopes of finding a pilot to take us on surveys. The goal is to find one already heading to the general location we want to look (the Finisterre Mountains). This can be difficult since you first have to find a pilot whose calendar is not already full. By God’s grace, we found a New Tribes pilot making a supply run to Mibu on March 30th—the tribe of the missionary who trained us—who is willing to take us on surveys.
Step 2: The next part of this gets tricky. Though we’re sharing the cost of the helicopter with the family in Mibu who scheduled the supply run, we will have to not only pay for the pilot’s extra fuel to fly us around for surveys, but are responsible for getting that fuel to him. Our options in this case were to either position drums of fuel for the pilot from Madang (a city) to Saidor (another city) or pay the airplane charges to fly the drums of fuel from Goroka (a city) to Nankina (a tribe in the Finisterre Mountains). In addition to working this out, we also have to pay for flying time by the hour. In total, our estimated cost for this first survey trip is around $4,000—a slightly lower figure than if we were not sharing the cost of the helicopter with the family in Mibu.
Step 3: Finally, mapping out the actual time spent going to tribes is challenging because so much depends on the weather. The weather in the Finisterre Mountains is unpredictable and it is not uncommon for helicopters to be shut down by it by 10:30 in the morning. This obviously limits our flying time. Because of this and the other circumstances involved, we are looking to survey only two tribes during this trip. Our plan right now is for the men to visit one on the 30th, spend the night there, and get picked up the next morning (the 31st) to be flown to another village. If the weather cooperates, we might be able to do more. But right now, that is the plan.
As is becoming par for the course here in Papua New Guinea, things haven’t gone exactly as we planned, but we know they are going exactly as God planned so we are content. Here are the tribes we are considering flying into as of today: the Ndo (pronounced ‘Do’) tribe and the Gusan tribe.Please pray that in the next few weeks we would be diligent to research and pray, that we would have wisdom as we sift through all the data on languages, and that helicopter rides, boat rides, etc. would work out well. Pray too that God would make it clear to which tribes we should go for surveys and that we would be faithful to seek him for our own hearts’ sake as well as for this purpose. In short, pray that we would find a tribe that we can preach the gospel to and that they would hear and repent and turn and believe.