Looking Back over 75 Years of MAF: A Story from Grace and Earle Greaves

Grace and Earle Greaves served for over thirty years with MAF. Most of that time was spent at the MAF-AIR training base situated in Ballarat where they were involved in supporting and encouraging many others to ‘go forth’ to other lands. In this excerpt from ‘Wives Within Missionary Aviation Fellowship’ by Raelene Hawke, Grace writes of her delight in the opportunity to ‘go forth’ for a few months to Papua New Guinea and the seeds of friendship sown.


Excerpt from ‘Wives Within Missionary Aviation Fellowship’ by Raelene Hawke

It was a ‘sparkly’ sunny afternoon as I made my ‘escape’ out through the compound gate. This was the time of day eagerly looked forward to, when I walked the short distance from the Kagamuga compound near the aerodrome at Mount Hagen to the MAF headquarters to meet my husband Earle after his day’s work.

We had been in Papua New Guinea only two weeks and had come from the Ballarat training centre to relieve the accountant and his family while they returned to England for furlough. Some of the other wives felt it was a little unwise to go on this walk each afternoon by myself, but I had never felt any difficulty and my smile and greeting ‘Apinun’ were always met with a warm smile and a return greeting by dozens of folk on the road.

This day as the gate closed behind me, I noticed a young national lass also walking up the road watching me and called a friendly ‘Apinun’ to her. When the greeting was returned, ‘Good afternoon’ in cultured English, I was most surprised. So as we walked and talked together up this rough dirt road I discovered she was from the coast, educated to the final year of High School, had received a scholarship to go to University and very much desired to study law. However she had married instead and come to live in the Highlands.

As we were approaching a small roadside market I asked her if that was where she was headed. “No”, she replied, “I am going to meet my husband, he works at the MAF headquarters”. “Well, what a coincidence!” was my stunned reply. “I too am going to meet my husband, and he too works at MAF”.

It was then I discovered my new friend’s name was Greta, married to Jim who was training to be a MAF pilot in his own country to his own people. I remembered then hearing exciting reports about this young couple and how Jim was likely to be the first National pilot to fly with MAF in PNG.

I can still remember the thrill as I turned to look at Greta and saw a slim, attractive Papua New Guinea young girl, dressed in the usual ‘Meri Blouse’ and skirt, the cultural bilum bag slung over her should and her dark shoe-less feet. Then I glanced at my modern western attire, completely different from hers, along with my white skin and culture.

Yes, we were completely different, as were our husbands in many ways, but God had called us all into his family and into His service with an organisation called Missionary Aviation Fellowship. We were from different countries, different cultures, different time frames but united in our desire to reach out with the Gospel to needy people.

We saw quite a lot of Greta and Jim from then on: (more of Greta as Jim was busy in his training). I remember one night Jim was caught in bad weather and had to stay the night away from home. Greta came to stay the night with us and we were fascinated to learn about her culture and childhood growing up. In the Highlands when a marriage takes place, many valuable pigs are given to the bride’s family but in Greta’s case, being from the coast we learnt that valuable shells were given.

We were sad but satisfied when our time came to pack and say goodbye to the people and land of PNG, which was growing special to us and needing to say a teary farewell to Greta also…. Or so we thought! Imagine our surprise and joy to learn after six months of settling back to Australian materialism again that Jim was to come to the MAF-AIR Australian training base to undertake extra flying, and that Greta was coming too.

So we joyfully greeted them one cold wet day in Ballarat as they stepped from the small MAF plane ferried down from PNG for major repairs. Then it was our turn to show them something of our hospitality and culture. They took it all in their stride, as they did when sent to fly with MAF in the Northern Territory amongst the Aboriginal people.

We will always remember Jim and Greta as a special couple to us, and a special time in MAF-PNG history as Jim went onto become the first of a number of PNG National Pilots serving in their own country.

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