HUNTINGTON BEACH, Calif. Wycliffe Associates, which last year celebrated Bible translation in 73 countries, is hoping to expedite their work through the addition of a plane tailored for jungle regions.
The plan will be used for translation work in Papua, Indonesia. The Pilatus PC-6 airplane will be the second for the organization.
"A specialized airplane like the Pilatus PC-6 is needed to safely transport Bible translators through the island's treacherous terrain," said pilot Bruce Smith, president and CEO of Wycliffe Associates. "These planes were designed specifically to operate in harsh environments and take off and land from short runways carved out of thick jungles."
Once purchased, the plane, commonly known as the "Pilatus Porter," will serve Papua, which is slightly larger in area than California and occupies half the island of New Guinea, the second-largest island in the worldn and is home to more than 6.7 million people.
Translators serving the area must combat the region's nearly 400 inches of annual rainfall and rugged, volcanic terrain with its high mountains and coastal lowlands. The need for air access is further complicated by the fact that the local roads that are unpaved and treacherous. About 80 percent of Bible translators working in Papua must travel to and from the villages by air.
Inaccessibility, he said, not only inhibits translation by keeping translators at bay, but it also blocks effort to provide supplies and essentials to remote communities.
"The PC-6 has the reliability and performance needed to operate safely in the world's most demanding flight environments and into the most challenging airstrips," Smith said.
Last fall, the ministry, faced with an aging air fleet, placed its first PC-6 plane, manufactured by the Swiss company Pilatus, into service. It can carry as many as 10 passengers, with a maximum payload of nearly 2,100 pounds.
One translator called the new plane "a white-winged angel."
Since their work in Indonesia began, 400 of the 700 language groups now have some sort of Bible translation. The remaining 300-plus lack a single word of Bible translation. In a letter to supporters, Wycliffe acknowledged that "Without God's Word in their own language, the people have no choice but to turn to animism and the worship of dark spirits."
"The spiritual need of the people of Indonesia is overwhelming," the Wycliffe website said of the project. "Yet, the light of the Word of God shines brightly in the spiritual darkness. Courageous and committed translators have already brought the Scriptures to life for the speakers of some of the Indonesian languages. Many have come to faith in Christ having read the Scriptures in their own heart language."
In addition to carrying the translators, the planes are used to provide remote villages with access to health care and education.
Founded in 1967 by three men who were concerned that Bible translation was taking a back seat to the more practical aspects of missions work like facility maintenance, accounting and vehicle maintenance, Wycliffe's goal is to have Bible translations in every language group by 2025.
To accomplish that goal, the organization partners with nationals, mother tongue translators, staff, volunteers and supporters to direct and fund these efforts, as well as provide logistics, networking and technical support.
Last year, it mobilized 3,103 volunteers and staff members to complete Bible translation in 73 countries.
For more information, visit www.wycliffeassociates.org.