”MAF is our main lifeline connection and continues to service the community through medevacs, bringing in medical supplies, taking out coffee, etc.” These are the words of Judy Young, a missionary, after her fourth return to Papua New Guinea to serve the people of Owena through a new missionary training school.
Owena is a village situated around a steep airstrip on a mountain range in the Eastern Highlands of PNG with no road access. The people often walk between one and one and a half days to the nearest road then catch a minibus to Goroka—a ride of about four hours.
50 years of calling to serve in PNG
The Young family came to PNG for the first time in January 1972 and stayed for ten years. Back then there was no airstrip at Owena and the Youngs either hiked six hours over the mountain from the nearest airstrip or, on occasion, came in by helicopter.
After being in the United States for four years they came back to PNG for another period of ten years before returning home in 1996 because of serious health problems in their family.
In 2008 they came back a third time for another seven years. “When we returned to the US near the end of 2015, we didn’t believe that we would return to PNG”, she says.
But in 2017 Lewis went back to Owena for a visit to challenge the Owena believers to take the gospel to other places. He got some positive responses to that ministry, but the people wanted someone to train them for that work.
”When Lewis returned home from the meetings, we began to pray together for the Lord to raise up a young couple or family to come and serve in Owena in our place”.
Meanwhile, the Lord was working in Lewis’s heart about coming back to PNG to help train those who had a burden for reaching other areas with the gospel.
Judy and Lewis Young returned to Owena in January 2019. It was not until they started settling in that they realized that there were some serious problems within the local church they attended and where they planned to start the training. Despite the challenges, they continued to make preparations for a training program while at the same time addressing the problems in the church.
Prayers for the troubled youth
Education in Owena is also still a challenge. During Judy and Lewis’ absence, the community school had added grades seven and eight, but when the schools closed due to COVID-19 and the government measures were put in place, teachers left the village and went back to their own homes since there was nothing for them to do there.
When school didn’t resume and the teachers did not come back, older students became idle and began to vandalize school property, and many turned to chewing buai, smoking marijuana, gambling, stealing and fighting.
”We are deeply concerned for the spiritual welfare of these youth and have been asking God to open a door for us to be able to minister to them”, says Judy.
Health challenges met with hope through MAF
Two of Owena’s own young people completed training at nursing schools and are now back in their own village serving their people in the clinic. Owena now has a number of medical workers; but much of the time, there is an insufficient supply of medicines and funds for paying the workers. “MAF is the main lifeline connection and continues to service the community through medevacs and bringing in medical supplies”, says Judy.
More than just an air service provider
When MAF had to shut down several airstrips due to COVID-19 and to re-survey airstrips, the Owena airstrip was one of those prioritized for reopening because of the long-lasting relationship with the missionary couple to benefit their work.
As Owena is one of the more challenging airstrips to land at with a big slope, pilots need certain in-country experience and special training to land there. However, it was on MAF’s radar to continuously train more pilots to be able to land on that challenging airstrip.
”One day when we were under a lot of pressure from the church we had just separated from, MAF pilot Brad Venter took time to come down to the house and lend a listening ear and also pray with us. We appreciated that so much and also appreciate all the MAF Goroka staff taking time to pray for us when they meet together for prayer.”
Judy and Lewis had to leave their original local church due to the challenges and today the training program, “Soldiers of Christ Missionary School”, is under the authority of Liberty Baptist Church in Owena.
“It is hard to express our thanks to MAF for giving us priority when they closed all the airstrips for re-survey; and even though there were some questions about our airstrip meeting the new regulations, we are grateful for MAF International allowing our airstrip to remain open for our benefit.”