From Death to Life

“She is not dead yet,” replied one of the villagers, “but will die soon.”

A 15-year-old girl was pregnant and trying to deliver, but the baby had turned. There was no healthcare at the time in the dense jungles of Kalimantan, Indonesia, on the island of Borneo. The people in her village had no hope that this girl, named Lihut, would live.

So they turned to the local witchdoctor.

He and a few other men decided to jump up and down on the girl’s belly, thinking this would help. Of course, it only caused further damage.

On a nearby grass airstrip, a small airplane—a Cessna 185—touched down and John Hook, a pilot with Mission Aviation Fellowship (MAF), stepped out.

“As I landed and shut down the engine, I thought it was strange no one from the village was there to meet me—usually the whole village came out to see the airplane! That’s when I heard the crying and wailing,” said John.

Back in the late 1970s, John and his wife, Nancy, lived in Kelansam in West Kalimantan, Indonesia. This particular airstrip was one of dozens hand-built by the local Dayak people in the first half of that decade. Like other grass airstrips, the villagers cut the grass on this one by hand.

John’s flights were normally to bring in supplies, like food and medicine. He hadn’t landed here in a while and only stopped in that day to make sure the grass wasn’t getting too long.

He hopped down from the small aircraft and followed a path through the thick jungle, which led to the village.

When he came into the clearing he saw a group of people surrounding a dugout log, where the young girl was lying. (This Dayak tribe was known to put their dead in these logs.)

John checked for a pulse and found one. “Let’s get her in the airplane and I’ll fly her to the mission hospital about an hour’s flight away.” he said. This trek would have likely taken days by foot or dugout canoe.

“No,” they replied, “just let her die.”

Ignoring them, John scooped up the girl, carried her down the path to the airplane, and secured her to the floor of the aircraft. Then he took off for the hospital—praying hard.

The Old Way

“At that time in West Kalimantan, everyone was animistic,” explained Yusmanto Luis, an Indonesian pastor who grew up in that area and now leads a church in the city of Palangkaraya.

Animism is a belief that inanimate objects contain spirits that can affect human affairs in helpful or harmful ways. It involves witch doctors, superstitions, amulets, and charms—to placate the “good” spirits and protect from the evil ones.

“The Dayaks depended on witch doctors, whose power was strong, when they were sick due to their strong beliefs in the spirits of their ancestors,” said Yusmanto.

“MAF helped many people who were close to death by taking them to [mission hospitals at] Serukam or Sintang,” said Yusmanto. “The roads were not good and taking a boat would take at least a week or maybe even a month. MAF opened many landing strips that served as a connection between the villages and the cities.”

A New Thing

A doctor at Bethesda Hospital in Serukam was able to save Lihut’s life. Unfortunately, the baby did not make it. Lihut spent a little over a month recovering at the hospital.

While there, she heard the Gospel and became a Christian.

John flew her back to her village, and when the people saw the girl they couldn’t believe it. They thought she was a ghost! They wouldn’t come near until John rubbed her arm to show them she was flesh and blood. Then they came close and welcomed her home.

“That one little girl, with Jesus in her heart, led her family and then her village to the Lord,” said John. “And if you go there today, there is a large church and they even send out their own missionaries! My ministry was flying an airplane, and yet God used that airplane to bring Christ to one girl, saving one village to become a part of the Body of Christ in Indonesia.”

Change the Ending

Lihut’s story was nearly over. Her fate would have made her just one more statistic among people who are cut off from the outside world—cut off from medical care, from education, from hope …

But thanks to people like YOU, MAF was able to be there for Lihut—giving her the chance at a future. Because the ending of her story was changed, her life, the lives of those in her community—and surrounding villages—were transformed.

You can Change the Ending for many other people like Lihut who face sadly predictable final chapters. Find out how you can open doors of hope to create endless possibilities.

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