Starring: Mark Jobe, David Platt
Runtime: 84 mins. Reviewed in Nov 2022
Reviewer: Fr Peter Malone msc
The new, faith-based documentary brings viewers face-to-face with hard-to-reach villages, awe-inspiring landscapes and the incredible people who are willing to risk it all for the sake of sharing Christ’s love.
This is an enthusiastic documentary made by and featuring the work of the Mission Aviation Fellowship. It is a record of work in Indonesia for the members of the Fellowship and a tribute to some of the workers. It also serves as promotional material, especially for a US audience.
The film shows the origins of the Fellowship in the work of a World War II pilot, Betty Greene, who transferred her talent for flying in the war to flying in the service of Christianity and mission.
The particular focus of this film is work in Indonesia, in Western Papua, here referred to as “Papua Indonesia”. The work began in 2014, the film tracing the work of the pilots, in the highlands of Western Papua, meeting with the people, the service that planes and helicopters could do in terms of travel, cargo… But the pilots were committed Christians and evangelised the local people who responded, especially some of the elders becoming missionary in their outlook and behaviour. It is an optimistic presentation of the mission.
However, there is a sad human element when a young pilot, Joyce, interviewed throughout the film and shown working, is the victim of an accident. Then there is Covid and subsequent closures, but also resumption and the enthusiasm in 2021. And there is a lot of fine aerial photography.
The pilots are lay missionaries, no sign of any ministers or clergy for leadership of the communities that they establish. The film was also sponsored by the Moody Bible Institute of Chicago (the leader appearing on screen with exhortations and explanations) which means that the missionaries are lay Christians with a literalist interpretation of the Scriptures.
Another difficulty for some audiences will be the focus on Indonesia – especially for Australians and those close to Timor-Leste and its struggle for independence, and the role of the Indonesian government and forces. There is no mention of this film of independence movements in Western Papua – no reference to this name but a description of this area ‘as the easternmost part of Indonesia’. In fact, a map of the area is shown, and on the other side of the border with Papua New Guinea, simply blank. There are political implications here.
Although there is no mention, audiences would be interested in missionaries going to the Dutch East Indies, to Indonesia in the past, the established churches and whether they are established or not, the nature of their mission.
And audiences, surprised and delighted by the missionary work from 2014 by the Fellowship, may also be surprised to know that this kind of missionary activity, and the use of planes and helicopters has been long in use in Papua New Guinea itself.
And, while the indigenous people are shown to be very harmonious, we realise that across the border in Papua New Guinea there have been long traditions of animosity and fighting. However, this is a positive presentation of mission.
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