I fly to Silimo at least once at week and sometime almost daily. It’s a short 15-18 minute flight from Wamena as long as the weather is good. Its short but not very steep. The hardest part about the runway is that the abort point is over half a mile away from the touchdown point. That means that once you’ve passed that point you have to land or accept an accident.
I’ve had my fair share of fun in Silimo, and even a few scary moments. Generally though I thoroughly enjoy flying there. The folks on the ground are friendly and there’s a deep missional history there. That history wasn’t always so friendly though. In fact, it started with an ambush.
Years ago a missionary who was looking for a certain village was attacked by the local tribe. He had hiked into the valley and the men were waiting there for him. When he realized what was happening, he did the last thing his attackers expected.
He laid down. Lying there on the rocks and mud he told them he wouldn’t stop them from killing him because he loved them. The spears and arrows never flew.
Now, that man’s son visits Silimo regularly continuing on the work his father started. Creating an alphabet for the tribe, teaching them to read, giving them a school, bringing access to medical care, establishing a church, and giving them the Bible in their own language.
Like many villages in Papua, Silimo’s history of connection to the modern world starts with a western missionary appearing in their village. The history continued with the construction of the airstrip. And now, I’m helping write that story as I fly to those villages. Reflecting on this makes me hope I can write a chapter for these villages in the example of that first missionary, one of love and care.