Ivan: Why spend multi-million kinas on the Balimo airport construction? Where is the economic development here to warrant such?
(The questions went on and on.)
Me: We’ve lived in the Gogodala area for 14 years and continue to hear a desire for development, for opportunities to improve lives. There hasn’t been a doctor at the Balimo Hospital the whole time we have lived here, except for a brief period. For development to happen, you need infrastructure, including roads and airports. Infrastructure and amenities increase the chances of attracting doctors and businesses, bringing more jobs and services to the area.
Ivan: Thank you ever so much for your assistance in giving. Agreed, my questioning, in particular, is to stimulate serious economic thinking, then get up and do it with commitment and dedication, like people in other provinces.
Ivan: Yes, you lovely family out here at Kewa; thank you ever so much. Are you returning sometime?
Me: We are in Moresby now doing our quarantine.
Ivan: Welcome back…the community has been missing you. See you after isolation.
So went our conversation on the Gogodala Community and Friends Facebook page. I only occasionally check the posts to see what is happening in our area. When I saw this man questioning the plan to develop the Balimo airstrip, making it a paved runway with a terminal building, I could not keep silent. It has been years since we have had any major commercial flights to Balimo. The airstrip was completely closed for nearly five years but re-opened for smaller aircraft two years ago. When the airstrip closed for improvements, PNG Air, the one major airline which serviced our area, quit flying to Balimo, making it more challenging to get to and from Port Moresby, where we get supplies.
There remained only one small airline specializing in flying to out-of-the-way places. We are thankful we at least have them, but prices are steep with no competition, and we cannot afford to fly them. So we usually take Mission Aviation Fellowship to Daru, stay overnight, then fly a major airline back to Port Moresby as soon as possible. Airport improvements in Balimo would likely attract a major airline to include Balimo in their destinations, making flights to Port Moresby much more affordable.
I chuckled as I read Ivan’s comments and heard his tone change from negative to upbeat. Everyone there knows that we are building a training center in Kewa Village, a 40-minute motorboat trip from Balimo. But as the comments continued to come in, it warmed my heart that he asked if we were returning soon and that the community missed and appreciated us. The Gogodala community is happy we are there because it shows someone from the outside cares for and is interested in them and their needs.
There is One who cares for them even more than we do. Our Heavenly Father longs for them, and us, to miss Him, appreciate Him and ask when He is coming back.