An Airstrip for the Hewa Tribe

August 26, 2013 • Papua New Guinea

Through the help of Samaritan’s Purse, the Hewa tribe of Papua New Guinea is building an airstrip to bring medical and other access to their remote village

By Jonathan Kopf, who has worked with New Tribes Mission in Papua New Guinea for more than 12 years. After hearing that the tribe Jonathan works with has an infant mortality rate of more than 80 percent, Dr. Allan Sawyer, who travels on short-term trips with World Medical Mission, decided to visit the tribe. That visit produced a partnership that has led to continued support from Samaritan’s Purse for the Hewa tribe.

Hewa Tribe Papua New Guinea

The infant mortality rate in the Hewa Tribe is more than 80 percent. With an airstrip, newborn babies would be able to receive better care.

When the Hewa village leaders asked me to help them build a runway in the jungle, I had no idea how we could ever accomplish such a daunting task. I knew it would dramatically improve their lives, especially giving them the ability to get proper medical attention in time of need, and I also knew it would be a tremendous blessing to my wife and me because we were continually struggling with the huge expense of chartering a helicopter for ministry.

I prayed together with Fato, Waina, Yanis, and other village leaders, and together we asked the Lord for wisdom and guidance. I told them that if they wanted an airstrip, it would require an incredible amount of work and that it would likely take several years to complete. I told them I had no money to purchase a tractor but that I would do my best to help them by buying shovels, axes, picks, and digging bars. I told them I felt confident if they gave the project to God and did their very best, He would provide what they needed and show Himself powerful in their lives.


Even women with small children have helped build the airstrip for the village.

We chose a somewhat level area in the jungle, and I measured out the 600 required meters. The village men, women, and even children set to work clearing the dense undergrowth. When that was finished, they started the incredible task of digging around the base of the large trees. We didn’t have heavy machinery to dig out massive stumps later, so we started by digging around the base, using the weight of the falling trees to jerk the root ball out of the ground.


Children in the Hewa Tribe are seeing changes in the villages. Better healthcare will improve life for future generations.

Once that was underway, the Lord provided chainsaws and the fuel required to cut up the fallen logs so they could be burned or rolled from the site. During that process, a ministry called Friends In Action donated a small Kubota 4X4 tractor. We didn’t have the funds to have a helicopter airlift the tractor into the tribe, but through generous gifts of many people, the Lord provided the necessary $20,000, and the tractor arrived in the village!

As I worked together with the Hewa people to build this airstrip, the Lord provided what we needed, always just enough and just in time. In addition to all this, He even provided us with two new families to join us in the effort to minister to the Hewa people.

Every step of the way we have been amazed and in awe of the Lord’s provision. As we looked ahead, we had no idea when or if the finances would come in. As we have looked at the next stages of constructing a tractor/fuel-storage building; erecting a fence; and ordering grass cutting equipment, fuel, and other supplies, we have been floored by how much money will be required to purchase the supplies as well as for them to be flown into the tribe.

When we heard that Samaritan’s Purse had plans to help us with these projects, we were amazed and very grateful. Now that you have sent us your gift of $20,000, we are overjoyed, and we are praising the Lord for His incredible mercy in our lives and His overwhelming display of affection for the Hewa tribal group. Thank you for your huge part in sharing the love of the Lord Jesus with the Hewa people and us!

Hewa Tribe Papua New Guinea

Jonathan has been ministering to the beautiful people of the Hewa tribe for more than 12 years. Although the tribe is still primitive in many ways, most members want to see some advances such as the airstrip to improve their quality of life.