Missionary Diary: when God guides the sky way

MAF Australia’s Richie Axon has served as a pilot in Papua New Guinea since 2010. Along with his family, he is based in Telefomin, an outstation in the west of Papua New Guinea.

Today was only supposed to be a half day to complete one flight that I couldn’t do on Tuesday because I was sick, and then a quick trip to Tifalmin to do the airstrip survey there.

My wife Bernie went to the dentist at Kompiam for a problem tooth (which is another story), so after she left, I was looking after the kids. I planned to take the kids and Raymond, one of our traffic officers, from Tele to Tifalmin to help with the survey.

The kids are a big help, with Tim and Steve using the rangefinder and handheld GPS to do the measurements, which frees me up to take note of the more subjective issues of an airstrip, such as soft areas or damage caused by pigs digging. Emily helped with measuring and repositioning cone markers correctly.

Richie Axon, MAF Australia pilot based on Telefomin, PNG.

This all went according to plan and I was ready to go home, but when we landed back at Tele, Eugene, our base manager, said there was a stroke patient at Eliptamin who needed to get to hospital. I asked him to confirm with the health officer at Eliptamin that the woman was okay to travel, while I calculated whether or not I had enough time to do the flight and get back before dark – since Bernie was away overnight. I would be home about an hour before last light, which seems like a lot, but with PNG weather, it’s only just enough.

I made a quick request to God to show me a way.

Thankfully, we have aviation oxygen in the aeroplane, but I didn’t like the look of the weather. It might force us to take the long way to avoid climbing higher, which would be bad for the patient because our aeroplanes are not pressurised like the air ambulance in Australia. As I flew to Eliptamin, I made a quick request to God to show me a way.

After leaving Eliptamin for Kiunga, I was thankful to see the storm had rained out and left blue sky. After an uneventful 30-minute flight, we landed in Kiunga and were met by the ambulance.

The base team in Kiunga quickly unloaded and reloaded the plane, while I filled out paperwork and supervised refuelling. I was back just before 6pm and Vero, who works in our garden, very kindly had stayed to make sure the kids were okay. The kids and I had a late dinner, with hearts full of thankfulness that we had been able to help the lady get to medical care.