Stranded in the city. Shut out of the city. Which was worse for groups of indigenous students on both sides of the COVID-19 restrictions in Indonesia?
These precious kids — mostly children of indigenous missionaries and church leaders — come from churches we have been privileged to support and watch grow from the time they first heard the gospel. Options for higher education don’t exist in their remote locations. So they come to the city for high school and college. Unfortunately, a group of 12 got stuck in Palu when COVID began. Four months later, Ethnos360 Aviation had permission to fly them back to their island to tearful reunions. “I was fighting back tears myself,” said pilot Jamin Peck, recalling his own childhood as a missionary kid travelling off to school.
Though these students were relieved to return to their remote homes, students from another indigenous church wanted Ethnos360 Aviation to fly them to the city of Palu to continue their educations as restrictions lifted.
One huge obstacle faced them: To enter the city of Palu, a person needed to test free of COVID-19 and have a letter of health. But the city did not have enough test kits. Instead, they required all arrivals to bring a letter of health and a negative COVID test from their point of origin.
“This is just not possible in the remote locations where we serve,” said Jamin, “and even if we provided the test kits, there’s no one with the authority to administer them interior.”
Our aviation staff took action, going far beyond their normal aviation roles.
They contacted a doctor in Palu, and, with the permission of the Palu airport, worked out a deal to have her perform the tests and generate the letters of health right there in the airport. Ethnos360 Aviation agreed to provide the test equipment. With documentation in hand, the students could leave the airport and enter the city.
Jamin saw the importance of these flights. “Investing in the next generation is essential for a mature church,” he said. It helps them prepare their young people so their churches can thrive despite the inevitable approach of civilization into isolated areas.