Dear People of Low’s,
As we enter the fourth month of the COVID-19 pandemic we are approaching the tragic mark of 100,000 dead Americans due to the current illness. As the weeks have gone by we have discovered much about our communities, our nation, our world, and ourselves. Like any crisis we find both the best and worst of humanity coming forth. We see those who choose to bully others, whether over the internet or in person, for either wearing or not wearing a face mask, maintaining or not maintaining social distancing, etc. Even the issue of whether congregations should resume in-person indoor worship has sadly become a political issue. Worship had been the one place to find refuge from the divisiveness of our current political and cultural climate, but that sense of solace has been steadily eroding. This pandemic has dealt yet another blow to the worship space as neutral place amidst the intensely partisan poli-tics of our age.
Sadly, examples of real faith and courage aren’t to be found in most of the political class in our nation, or among many of the others who are the major decision makers. But there are examples elsewhere. Faith and courage are found in the healthcare workers, including many who were retired but returned to service, who practice medicine among those infected with COVID-19. Other examples are found in the simple acts of service workers who keep our society going, those deemed “essential” but who are often treated as “expendable”. Those who keep our grocery stores stocked, those who produce our food, those who keep places clean, and those who carry and deliver our mail, food, and other goods have kept people not only fed but also connected, in some cases with risk to their own health. While we in our area aren’t dealing with the great impact of the pandemic, we still know what has been occurring in New York, Italy, Brazil, and Ecuador, among other places hard hit by COVID-19. Even some rural areas have been impacted with infection, especially among those working in the meat packing industry. The uneven impact of COVID-19 has led to some deeming it a “hoax” or “conspiracy”. Such talk dishonors the deaths from the illness and demeans the sacrifices made by many in the face of it.
One hero of faith who made a great sacrifice during the pandemic has not received the attention she deserves. Joyce Lin took off from the small airport in Sentani, in Papua Province, located in that part of the island of New Guinea under Indonesian control, the morning of May 12. Ms. Lin worked as a pilot for Mission Aviation Fellowship (MAF), an international organization founded by veteran military pilots following the Second World War to provide support for Christian missionaries and humanitarian organizations, especially in remote places. Lin was on one of those humanitarian missions, taking COVID-19 test kits to a clinic in the remote part of the province. As with many indigenous people (such as inhabitants of the Amazon rainforest, and the Navajo in the United States), COVID-19 is proving to be more fatal than to the population at large. Getting the test kits to the remote village would help bring any outbreak under control. Unfortunately, not long after takeoff, Lin reported that she had an emergency. Her aircraft crashed into a lake, causing her death. Lin had just turned 40-years old. Sadly, she joined a list of pilots working with MAF who have also lost their lives piloting the small prop planes used by the organization to reach remote areas with the gospel and humanitarian aid.
Several of things stand out about Joyce Lin. She was a graduate of the esteemed Massachusetts Institute of Technology with both bachelor and master degrees. With her education Lin could have obtained a high-paying job. But she decided instead to join the US Air Force, serving as an officer. After leaving military service she spent time working as a computer specialist. Feeling a call to Christian service, she earned a seminary degree at Gordon-Conwell. While in seminary Lin discovered missionary aviation. Having obtained a private pilot’s license during her college years, Lin became a pilot (after earning a commercial license) and IT specialist with MAF. Missionary aviation pilots are largely men, so Lin was exceptional in that regard. During her three years with the organization she performed medevac flights, delivered supplies, and maintained the organization’s computers in Papua province. Lin found it to be a fulfilling calling, enabling her to be Christ to others doing things she enjoyed.
In one of the organization’s newsletters Joyce Lin shared the following:
“I am most grateful to personally know God, who has never forsaken me in my lowest times (as there have been many) and has repeatedly turned “mourning into dancing” (Ps 30:11) in ways I could not have brought about on my own. While I will always be excited to fly planes and work on computers, I am most excited to share the love of Jesus Christ by helping to transform other people’s deep discouragement and mourning into dancing and joy.”
God loves you and I do too, Pastor John Mark