Originally published in Christian Today
A remote Papua tribe has received 2 500 Bibles 55 years after two missionaries trying to reach them with the Gospel were slain.
Some Yali tribespeople walked an entire day to reach the Oakbisik airstrip in the mountains of Papua, Indonesia, to receive the shipment of Bibles in their own language from Mission Aviation Fellowship (MAF).
It was in 1965 that MAF pilots first located the Yali people in the Seng Valley region of Papua after conducting survey flights in what was then Dutch New Guinea.
The Yali were at the time marked by violence, being masters in jungle warfare, and practised witchcraft as well as cannibalism.
Three years after they were first found by the MAF pilots, World Team missionaries Phil Masters and Stan Dale made plans to start a church in the Seng Valley and share the Gospel with the tribe.
But when they arrived in the area to scout out a place for a new landing strip, rumours spread in the villages of two strange-looking white men bringing a new message.
Yali warriors lay in wait for them near a jungle path and ambushed the two missionaries, raining down arrows on them.
The two missionaries stood their ground, pulling the arrows from their bodies and breaking them in two in front of the warriors. They are reported to have died after being shot by some 200 arrows.
When the Newman missionary family went in search of them three months later, their plane tragically crashed in the Seng Valley, killing everyone on board except their youngest son Paul Newman, who managed to escape the burning wreckage and find shelter in the hut of a Yali man who did not agree with the killing of missionaries.
When the Yali found out Paul had survived, they took it as a sign and invited missionaries into their village at Holuwan. Five years later, 35 new Christians were baptised there and a church was born.
Today, MAF continues to serve the people of Papua, flying eight aircraft to 160 remote locations and supporting rural church plants, as well as local Bible translation projects.
The August shipment brought 1 160 Bibles and 1 400 children’s Bible stories translated into the Yali language to the villages of Dekai, Oakbisik and Holuwan.
Linda Ringenberg, whose husband Dave co-piloted the Cessna 208B aircraft carrying the Bibles, said: ”When the MAF pilots asked the Yali if they could pull out a Bible and open it for a picture at Holuwan, the villagers immediately chose Psalm 119:105: Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light for my path.
“Now, instead of waiting for war, the Yali church has been waiting for more Bibles in their language. Because God in His far-reaching love worked through a killing, a plane crash, faithful missionaries, translators and organisations like MAF, these Yali tribes no longer walk the path of darkness. Their path is lit by the Word of God.”