A Macedonian Call
“Are we making a trip, Dad? Why are you studying all those maps?” Valerie knew that maps usually meant a trip somewhere.
“Well, Val, you and Amy, Mom and Dad may be moving to Indonesia. See Indonesia, this big country just south of the Philippines? Millions of people there need to hear the Gospel too. Don’t you think we Andersons should go and share Jesus’ Good News with them?”
“All of us, Dad?” asked Ben. “What about me? I thought I was getting ready to go to Nasuli School like Hope did. Would I go to Indonesia too?”
Dad explained, “It looks like we pray–starting now. Let’s see how God opens the door. I received this letter from a Christian named Berhitu:
‘Dear Brother Anderson,
Why don’t you come to Indonesia and help us? We want to spread the Gospel here too.’
Kids, we call that a ‘Macedonian Call’. Do you remember the Bible story about the apostle Paul, when he didn’t know which direction to go to preach the Gospel?”
“What did he do, Dad? How did he know where God wanted him to go?” they asked.
“God sent Paul a special kind of dream. In the dream a man from the country of Macedonia was calling out to Paul: ‘Come over and help us!’ Paul packed up right then and set sail for Macedonia. He won hundreds to Jesus there because God really wanted him to go. Let’s pray and wait. Indonesia might be our Macedonian Call, OK?”
From that day on each of the Andersons kept looking for the Indonesian “door” to open. The kids talked about what Indonesian kids ate and liked and sang, and what games they played. Ben thought very hard because maybe he would have to stay behind in the Philippines while the rest of the family went to Indonesia. But each of the family members believed that Jesus died for the whole world, and since missionary work meant new places and people, they thought about going…at least, when they were not playing with their Filipino friends!
The door did open…v-e-r-y slowly. In 1973 Val was already 9 years old, Amy was five. Ben had already finished Grade Six, a big 12 years old now. The family felt lonely when he moved to Nasuli, the school for missionary kids. Then In October the Andersons boarded the Bouraq plane bound for a city called Manado. When they came down from the plane, many people smiled and greeted them. But, oh! “Mom, those strangers are speaking words we can’t understand. What are they saying? Is Manado going to be like this? We won’t be able to play with the kids because nobody knows what we are saying. They just smile and shake hands.”
At the first big house where they slept, another girl name Katarin stayed too. She was not like other kids. She walked kind of stumbly and she only kept calling, “A-my! A-my!…” all the time. Amy and Val felt nervous when Katarin would come around. Katarin did not know how to play. When Val and Amy tried to play, Katarin just kept calling out, “A-my…A-my…!” “What can we do with Katarin” Val asked Mom.
“Just be nice to her. Smile. Try to show her something she would like. Don’t worry. There will be other kids. Jesus loves Katarin too, doesn’t He?”
“Oh, Mom, of course He does…He loves all the children in the world!”
The Andersons moved to the next block, to a rented house. It was wonderful to be together in their own house, just their family, to eat food Mom cooked, to have Family Devotions again. In the girls’ bedroom Val chose the top bunk. “I’m bigger and I won’t fall out on the cement floor,” she said. The toys were unpacked and they began to play.
But one afternoon a bunch of noisy kids came running up the street from the market. They were chanting, “A-my! Val-ry! A-my! Val-ry!” Over and over. They leaned right into the open windows. They rattled the doors. They threw little stones at the glass windows. They circled the house and chanted until Mom and the girls hid inside the eating room because it had wooden windows. Still the kids kept shouting and chanting. One moment it suddenly became quiet. Mom looked into the frontroom and there she saw snails, big, oozy garbage snails, inching across the floors and up the walls. The kids had gathered them to toss into the open windows. Several days they came and chanted because “A-my, Val-ry!” was all they could communicate. The girls didn’t know even one of them and Mom couldn’t chase them away either. She didn’t know any word those kids would understand. It was not funny.
Later at Devotions they talked about Jesus’ words: “Let the little children come unto Me and forbid them not…” Ha! So Jesus knew all about noisy market kids too! And He loved them. Even when the girls walked outside with Mom and Dad, kids gathered, and oh, how they could pinch! A pinch with a twist that hurt so. Val and Amy tried not to cry, but they felt so sorry the kids were not friendly.
“Living in Manado sure isn’t the same as the Philippines.” School went on every day with Teacher Mom making lessons. Word by word Amy and Val began to speak Indonesian and they were so quick! Mom and Dad studied from books, but Amy and Val just began playing with Joyce and Engeline across the street. Somehow they talked together! What fun then! Two other sisters on the corner, Nopha and Nening, made good friends–it was now like a gang almost since Amy and Val spoke the words the other kids used. No more pinching and pulling hair.
“Mom, do think we could have a VBS in our house for all our friends? I would teach Bible stories and use the pictures. We have an Indonesian Bible–we could copy verses for the kids to memorize…could we, Mom? Could we even have refreshments like juice and that sweet, chewy ‘balapis’ that the kids like so much? Oh, could we, Mom?” Val begged. So when school was over, the schoolroom became the VBS room. Kids flocked in to sing choruses from the song sheets. They really listened well when Val taught the stories. “They had to listen, Mom–I told them no snacks if they make noise.” They were sharing Jesus.
They learned to play Main Goro, Chinese jump rope, jumping high over rubber bands strung together. All the neighborhood kids took turns jumping knee high, then hip high, then waist, chest, top of your head–even one hand above the head. Anyone who had a long string of rubber bands, played Main Goro, and every minute without lessons, or when Mom and Dad worked with students and visitors…the girls gathered friends and jumped! It was missionary work that kids could do!
The Andersons’ house was now a busy beehive most of the time, almost like a Youth Center. Besides the girls’ pals jumping rubber bands outside, many, many high schoolers and college students dropped by for meetings, for prayer, practicing songs for evangelistic meetings with Dad which took place every night. These young Indonesians began to speak boldly of Jesus Christ as their Savior, witnessing to everyone, all around Manado.
The Macedonian Call for the Andersons was Berhitu, the Indonesian man who wrote the letter to come and help Indonesia hear of Christ. Now day after day Bible Studies continued. Teams of youth volunteered to travel to other islands reaching their people with the Gospel, hiking far and facing persecution, even taken into jail sometimes. They became “heroes” for their faith. Jesus was calling them to preach the Gospel to everyone, teachers, parents, pastors, officials, complete strangers because, “Indonesia needs Jesus Christ as Savior!”
Dreaming to Fly
One day a message arrived at the Bible School campus: "Dear Vernon, would you like to fly with me up to Manila? I will be piloting a small plane and you are welcome to fly with me. Harley." That note and that trip started the Dream.
Vernon prayed always, "I’ve hiked these mountains on foot, rode so many rickety, overcrowded jeeps and buses…but Lord, the Philippines has over seven thousand islands. How can we reach out to the other islands?" Reaching islands means boats of every kind: long bankas like canoes with paddles, fishing boats, little sail boats, bigger pump boats with motors and outriggers. Then there were the commercial inter-island vessels carrying hundreds of passengers and cargoes…but always LATE! Late leaving port and late arriving at the next port. "But an airplane flies right over the water, and FAST. An airplane takes off when you want to go, no more waiting." Vernon thought, "An airplane for TCM–what a Dream!"
Harley picked up Vernon at the small airport. On the flight to Manila, Harley suddenly turned and said, "You fly the plane now, Vernon!"
"Me??" said Vernon.
"Try. Just pull the controls back…" the plane pointed up. "Now just push the controls…" the nose went down. "Turn left…turn right…" Vernon was flying the plane! Oh, could his dream really come true for a small plane to carry him and the evangelists, sound system, tracts and Bibles, to more and more places? By the time he returned from Manila, Vernon felt sure the Lord would answer his prayer.
But how? Ozamiz had only one small, grass, unpaved airstrip. No flying school, no instructors, no private planes, not even a plane to rent. Only water buffalo grazed on the runway most of the time. But God had said, "They that wait upon the LORD shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run and not be weary; they shall walk and not faint." Isaiah 40:31. Vernon wrote that Bible verse on a poster and put it on the wall by his desk, and the Dream stayed right up front in his mind.
Months went by. Another note arrived: "Vernon, here is a special request: my wife and my daughter along with 2 men from our company want to learn to fly. The problem is we need two more people to take lessons. The instructor will only bring the training plane here if there are 6 people, but not less. Would you be interested in learning to fly? Let me know. Harley" Without a doubt now…Vernon knew he was going to become a pilot! The instructor–the plane–all coming to Ozamiz! In August 1961 he wrote:
"6AM and the small L-4 trainer plane banked low over the school. This was the signal for the missionary to hurry to the airstrip. 10 minutes later at the airstrip, he found the instructor waiting to begin the lessons. In a couple more minutes they were off the ground and then the controls were turned over to the student-missionary…500 feet, left turn, 1000 feet, left turn 90 , right turn 90 , left 180 , right 180 , left 360 , right 360 …and so the exciting minutes flew by. The red and white plane went round and round and up and down for over an hour in the sparkling blueness of the tropical dawn."
But the Dream must include a plane, not just lessons. Out of the 6 who took those lessons, Vernon was the only one who finally got a pilot’s license. Then friends of the Mission began to send money, by $10’s and $100’s till it amounted to the price of one good, used Tri-Pacer. But the plane was to be sold in the U.S.A. and the Philippines was across the whole Pacific Ocean. What to do? Pray for the Dream. Then someone wrote: We can take off the wings and pack them with the fuselage into one big wooden crate for shipping." A whole airplane in a box? The Dream was coming true!
The day came for the huge ocean-going ship with the big airplane crate to arrive in Manila. Vernon was there and ready to receive it! "We are going to fly with the Gospel everywhere!" he told everyone. But the men who unload the ships were all on strike, nothing was moving, nobody working, there were picket lines marching. The pier area was not doing any business. "Lord, please show me what to do now," Vernon prayed. He went to the office of the union boss and explained that this plane was a missionary plane, not a plane for making money. The men listened because Vernon had been a member of an American labor union before. "OK, you type the letter and I’ll sign it," said the boss, "Then you can cross the picket line." Good. But then the truck driver was too scared to cross the line at the pier even with the letter. Vernon jumped down from the truck and took the letter up to the picket line. They motioned for the truck to drive through. Good. But now, with no one working, how could the big crate be lifted up out of the ship and loaded onto the truck? Vernon boarded the ship and found workmen who pointed to the very box marked for TCM, the box with a plane inside. When they heard it was a missionary plane…they hauled that big box up and set it over onto the waiting truck. Good. Away went the crate, the truck, and one smiling, laughing missionary!
"Now, Lord, how can we get the wings put back on the plane so we can fly it?" Out at the Manila Airport, another American pilot-mechanic said, "Sure, I can put the wings on for you. The only pay will be for you to let me keep the crate for my own use." Good.
"Now, once again, Lord, how can I get the Tri-Pacer back to Ozamiz? I’ve never flown that far before…and I’m all alone." An MAF pilot agreed to be pilot half way to Ozamiz to get Vernon used to flying the new plane… "Then you can take it the rest of the way!" Good. But the weather was bad and they were forced to return to Manila. The next day a different pilot volunteered to help Vernon part of the way. Good again. It was one scarey trip alone, but when Vernon saw Mt. Malindang on the horizon, he headed straight for it, because Mt. Malindang was the mountain just behind the airstrip where he’d learned to fly. Minutes later over the barrio school came a strange droning sound…like a motor…then a little red and white plane was in the sky above, circling. All the kids in the public school dashed from their desks outside to look up. Everyone was so excited to see an airplane flying low over their school.
So the Dream came true. THE HARVESTER flew the Gospel far and wide, to all the islands with airstrips. The evangelists flew out to preach, Bible School students flew out to teach Vacation Bible School, many sick people were airlifted to hospitals. No more being tired waiting for boats to move, but now…flying a missionary plane above the mountains…for the Lord!