Jason Russell is an independent Baptist missionary from California, serving as a church planter in PNG. In 2005 Jason and his family moved to (the very small) Wipim station on the mainland of the Western Province.
It’s fairly safe to say that most of us haven’t been in a place quite as remote as Wipim station – a town which receives power from 6pm to 10pm, supplied by a single generator.
In Wipim you’ll find a small unpaved airstrip, a primary school (years three to eight), and a health centre. But what you won’t find are any shops or post offices. Getting supplies is not an easy thing to do.
Wipim is accessible via a dirt/mud track (road) in the dry season. All heavy equipment, building materials, gas bottles and such are brought up this “road” from the Oriomo River. By four-wheel-drive truck, the stretch from Wipim to Oriomo is travelled in two hours in the dry season. In the wet season, the journey may take all day and usually extends into the night hours due to the bad road conditions.
During the heavy rains of March and April, the main bridge usually floods, and the road is impassable until the waters recede and the rains abate. There is no exact timing on this; it all depends on the weather conditions. At that time, people (including school children) are forced to walk the muddy road and swim across the flooded creeks in order to travel.
This gruelling ground travel is reality for a lot of these small stations dotted throughout PNG. MAF’s light aircraft have the ability to provide some relief for these communities and for missionaries like the Russells. In a letter written by Jason, he summed up well the just how important MAF in these situations. Check it out:
Mission Aviation Fellowship is the only means of air transport for Wipim as well as the other bush airstrips in our district. We rely on them heavily in the rainy season for getting food and other supplies to Wipim. We are able to raise chickens as our major protein source because MAF is able to bring in day-old chicks. MAF is also the only form of emergency medical evacuation available to our area. Without their help, many people would die needlessly.