Let them give glory to Yahweh, and declare his praise in the islands. (Isaiah 42:12 WEB)
Working with electronics on the mission field is a different type of ministry than most people consider when thinking about mission work. With the modernization of mission work there is an increasing need for electronic technicians, computer programmers and others to support and bring the messages prepared by teachers and preachers to the world. These skills provided me with an opportunity to help other missions and ministries in the Pacific region.
Beth prayed for chances to see other islands and countries in the region. The only problem was she didn’t specify who would do the traveling so I was the lucky recipient to her answered prayers.
One of my first trips was to the small island of Yap. This is one of the many islands in the Federated States of Micronesia. The island boasted one paved road from the airport into the capital city. It was a beautiful road to handle the dozen or so vehicles existing on the island. During WWII the island was occupied by the Germans who built a canal right through the middle effectively making two islands out of one.
Pacific Missionary Aviation maintained a passenger and cargo service for the residents to the smaller outlying islands and atolls. These small planes provided a vital link for the residents as well as the missionaries serving in these remote areas. Their radios needed occasional service and no one on the island was available for such work. Not being an avionics technician but being familiar with radio I was asked to come and install their repaired radio and adjust the antenna system.
Landing on the small runway was a thrill. Going through the grass hut they called the International Airport Terminal was also interesting. Due to drought conditions there was water only thirty minutes a day. The pilot had duties to attend so I had some free time.
I was taken on a small tour of the island by the pilot’s assistant, a local Yapese youth, in one of the few trucks on the island. I experienced the wonder of the villages spotted about the island and some of the culture as he explained things in his halting English.
The next day I completed the work on the radio and a test run was necessary. Packing the plane we scheduled a trip to the atoll of Ulithi. Each bag, and passenger, were carefully weighed on an industrial scale. (Some of the rather large island ladies didn’t like this idea.) With this information the weight was distributed about the passenger seats and cargo hold for a smooth flight. I was permitted to ride in the copilot seat as there was no copilot. We flew northward over endless empty ocean until a small dot appeared on the ocean. That was our destination.
The runway went from one shore of the narrow island to the other. Just enough room to stop the plane, if all went well. We circled as I thought about the short runway and the big airplane. As the pilot lowered the plane and our wheels touched ground we heard a series of smacking sounds. Rolling past the small terminal we stopped, turned, and taxied back to the terminal. The pilot opened his window and shouted a number of commands to the boys on the runway.
When I asked what was the problem he turned to me and said, “They forgot to cut the grass like I told them last time I was here. That was what we heard, the grass hitting the propellers and the wings as we landed.” The boys dispersed, grabbed machetes and began to chop down the high grass before we returned to the relative safety of Yap.
God used this small plane to bring supplies and missionaries to the outlying islands. The silver plane was a symbol of hope and witness of God’s provision to these people. It takes an airplane to reach some people and radio to reach others. God works in wondrous ways and I’m glad He allowed me to see some of His handiwork.