“Though there is a strip nearby, this is definitely not the place to land. A few years ago, the Yali invaded a former village and chased all the inhabitants out. The missionaries barely escaped. For a while, a few neighboring villages had their missionaries pulled back to Tiom,” said Steve.
“That sounds pretty hairy. Have any missionaries been killed by natives?” John asked.
“Our policy is to not go into an area or village if not invited. God has opened a lot of doors, but there is still resistance. The missionaries in that village over the ridge were killed by head hunters, and we were never able to get back in. Our airstrip is still there, and the locals are pretty friendly, but the neighboring village is still reluctant to accept outsiders. Also, one of the villages you’ll be serving has a missionary there named Marta Springer. A few years ago, after she and her husband Raymond arrived, they were able to establish a great relationship with the village. They built a church, held Sunday school, as well as an academic school for teaching English and the basics of the three R’s. About two years after their arrival, Raymond was killed by the Asmat, a tribe of headhunters.”
“Did they ever recover...you know... his…” John dreaded the answer.
“Oh yeah, they all walked away after the confrontation. But Raymond bled to death on the way back to Tarampurah.”
“That’s terrible. He could’ve lived with the right first aid, it sounds like,” John said.
“Yeah, but there were no helicopters out here,” Steve said, concentrating on the decaying weather.
“I know that story. A lot of our boys could’ve survived in Vietnam if they hadn’t bled to death waiting for evacuation.”
They continued with the clouds graduating ever lower. Sheets of rain forced them to turn toward the south attempting to find better weather. However, maneuvering between mountains proved too dangerous.
“Remember that airstrip I was telling you about?” Steve asked.
“Yeah, the abandoned one?”
“I don’t think it’s all that desperate, but help me look. The visibility is too bad and I’m afraid we’re going to have to set her down. I’d rather take my chances with an enemy I can see, than a mountain I can’t,” said Steve.
“You’re the boss,” John said, nervously searching for anything resembling a runway.
“Maybe the rain will cover our landing.” Steve put in a call to Tiom. But he realized they were too low to be picked up. He’d given up trying to reach them when the radio suddenly came to life.
“N7724V, this is Tarampura, over,” Marta Springer said.
“We have a problem. Can you relay to Tiom and tell Jason that we have to set down because of the weather. Our present location is over the abandoned airfield at Wampe. We’re going to try hold out until the rain lets up, over.”
“Steve, be careful ...I can’t handle another tragedy, over.”
“Don’t worry, Tarampua. I’ve got that new pilot with me, and we’ll be very careful. You might say a prayer for us anyway; it’s awful messy up here, over,” Steve said.
“Please be careful and promise to let me know when you get home safely, over.”
“Will do, out.” That was enough chatting. Steve had a plane to fly.
Jeffrey W. Bennett, is the author of Commitment-A Novel and other non-fiction books, novels and periodicals.