Jamie and James

They are two special men, each with different stories and are the only Yolngu who currently work for MAF. Jamie (Buralatjpi) Wanambi and James (Ngulpurr) Marawilli are local men who come from the Aboriginal homelands of Yilpara and Barratjpi.  Although recently they have moved into the larger community of Yirrkala, so that they can be closer to their respective families and have opportunities to work.  Jamie and James bring a freshness and extra smile to the MAF workplace and their stories are worth telling:

Jamie: An artist, a hunter and a bushman at heart. From the city to the remote homeland; Jamie has spent time in living in Melbourne, Batchelor, the Aboriginal community of Yirrkala and the small homeland of Barratjpi. This means Jamie has a good understanding of different ways and types of living. For him the most special times have been in the homelands where he finds he is able to live a healthy lifestyle by hunting, fishing, working the land and spending quality time with family. The community life in the larger communities such as Yirrkala presents many struggles and challenges.

Prior to coming to MAF to work, Jamie was involved with Laynha working with a team of people whose job it was to care for the homelands. He also spent time with another local utilities company, installing power meter boxes and explaining to community residents in local language how power works.

Jamie came to know the Lord in the early days of his life and is quick to say that he owes his life to the Lord because numerous times He has saved him from deep troubles. Jamie is committed to growing his relationship with the Lord and is often heard round the community singing the gospel songs.

Jamie came to MAF in 2016 and has been part of the Building and Maintenance team. Jamie has been very busy with his hands, helping to make sure that the MAF buildings/houses are safe and liveable. In talking to Jamie it is evident that he is very happy to be part of the MAF team because he is able to find love and acceptance that he hasn’t found elsewhere. Jamie sees the door that opened up with MAF as a God thing, which he is forever grateful for. Derek Veale (Building and Maintenance Manager) sees the chance to work with Jamie a privilege and has much enjoyed the times spent with Jamie, working and sharing life together.

James: You might find him down at the beach using a spear to catch a fish. You might find him in the homelands sitting under a tree having fellowship with residents and MAF staff. You might find him in Yirrkala sharing over the loud speaker about the Good news of the Gospel. You might find him walking down the road with his grandchildren with a smile on his face. Or you might find him in the MAF office at Gove Airport proudly wearing his MAF shirt.

His name is James (Ngulpurr) Marawilli and he was born in the homeland of Garrthalala but spent many years of his life in the coastal homeland of Yilpara. James goes back a long way and remembers clearly the days when many more Pacific Island missionaries were in Yirrkala and the church was regularly attended by the Yirrkala community. He has clear memories of going to Sunday school and learning about the story of Jesus. Later in his life often he went with MAF pilots to conduct Sunday Service runs in the Homelands, which meant visiting two homelands on a Sunday to share the Word and encourage the residents.

James came to know the Lord at an early age yet, admits that in the later years of his life he struggled to remain strong in the Lord. However, the testimony of his journey is strong as he shares that it was some MAF staff that came alongside him that encouraged him to once again pursue his relationship with the Lord. He once again became more involved in Homeland Outreach ministry and through this grew in boldness to share his faith with others.

In late 2015 an event took place in the homeland of Gurrumurru. Brett Nel had gone there on outreach and while he was there a small number of men sat down with him and began to talk casually. The conversation turned to spiritual matters and the fellowship grew between them. At that point God clearly spoke to Brett and said, ‘This is the future church’. Since this time these men have remained in contact with each other and MAF. They have actively looked to increase their understanding of the ways of God. James was present at that small gathering and ever since this event it has been on his mind to gather together those who have a serious passion and desire to follow God.

James arrived to MAF in February 2016 with a vision and heart to work with MAF to see people transformed in Christ’s name. He believed in the work, saw the opportunity to be involved and responded. James currently works inside the bookings office and is responsible to arrange flights and talk to Yolngu people in local language. Over the past year James has also been instrumental in attending outreach trips with MAF staff and has grown in confidence in many areas.

MAF Operations Manager, Roland VanDerVelde shares this about James: “James is a real benefit to MAF as he brings knowledge of language, culture and geography to the operations office that many of us don’t have. MAF staff have grown in their understanding of how to work with and serve the Yolngu people through James and he has a rich faith in God. He shares at devotions and has a sound knowledge of the peace, hope and joy found in Jesus. It’s good to have him here.

Their stories are somewhat similar yet their individual testimonies are powerful evidence that when God works, people and things change. It is a privilege for MAF staff to work alongside these men and they are a blessing to MAF. Long may it continue.

Transitions Transitions

‘Transition’ is a word that is well known to MAF staff around the globe. It all begins from the get go as people transition from their familiar home towns and adjust to a new culture, a new place of residence and a new organisation. Many in MAF throughout their service will move from community to community on the field, simply so that MAF can continue to meet the needs of providing adequate staff to keep planes flying. For others transition will mean being transferred from one country to another that MAF is based in. This means a completely new culture, packing ones belongings into containers and moving away from what is known to what is new and somewhat daunting. This is the sacrifice that many MAF families have taken and are taking around the world with the hope of seeing lives being transformed through the work of aviation and technology.

An example of one of these families is the Beath family from southeast Queensland. They joined MAF in 2010 and have served in Arnhem Land for 6 years. At the beginning of their journey with MAF they both agreed that they would go where most needed and due to Michael having limited flight hours and experience, Arnhem Land was the place that best fitted their family.

Michael and Naomi began their service in Gove and then transitioned through to the remote MAF base at Lake Evella. Despite the many challenges of living remotely they connected well with the Yolŋu people and developed relationships that will last for a long time. After three years there they relocated to Nhulunbuy to rejoin the Gove team, involving themselves in a vast array of roles from flying to church and school involvement.

Michael and Naomi will soon relocate from Arnhem Land to rejoin another MAF program that is vitally in need of experienced missionary families such as the Beaths. Before it’s revealed where they are going, let the Beath family recap on how it has been over the past years in Arnhem Land:


During our six years in Arnhem Land Michael has been a pilot (flying Cessna 206, Airvan and Cessna Caravan), a base manager, safety manager, security manager, EFB (Flight iPad) administrator and the fire safety person. Beside the MAF specific roles, Michael has been involved with homeland outreach, discipling Yolŋu believers, organising a monthly combined church gathering and participating in the school council at the Nhulunbuy Christian School.

Naomi has been super busy mum, raising three children, which meant homeschooling while living in Lake Evella. Naomi has worked in a childcare as a mentor, facilitated the language part of the new staff orientation program, taught French and produced a book called MAF Miyalk, which shares wonderful stories and pictures from MAF wives in Arnhem Land.


In Lake Evella we were part of the kids club there and have great memories of our kids watching Christian films on the basketball courts under the stars with the Yolŋu kids. We also really enjoyed trips out with Yolŋu family at Raymangirr and having friends come to stay with us in Lake Evella. In Nhulunbuy we’ve been involved with the combined church beach services and there was something really special about worshipping together with a large group while the sun is setting over the sea. Our favourite holidays in Nhulunbuy have been camping at Cape Arnhem. For Mike, bringing the Caravan from Mareeba to Arnhem Land was a real highlight after waiting for it for such a long time!


In Lake Evella there was a 2-month period where we had our house broken into (while we were in it), the office broken into, a bag with credit card stolen (and a large amount spent on the credit card) and while away in Nhulunbuy someone threw a rock through the window of our car. Six police reports in 6 weeks! To top it off Naomi developed a (probably stress-related) mysterious illness where anything warm (water or sunshine) felt like stabbing pains on her skin! That was a challenging time for us…


It has absolutely been worth it. We’ve so valued our time in Arnhem Land and in many ways it’s shaped who we are as a family. Even the challenging times have developed in us greater resilience and we trust that God will use this in the future. Naomi believes she could not come at the idea of moving to another country if she didn’t have the experience of three years in Gapuwiyak.


It’s really valuable that MAF is in Arnhem Land. There is a trust that’s been developed over many years which enables us to speak into people’s lives with credibility. With the work that MAF is doing facilitating Yolŋu into Christian leadership, we really are supporting and enabling the work of the Gospel, which, at our core, is what MAF has always been about.


The MAF team in Arnhem Land has been family to us these last 6 years and it will be with sadness that we leave, knowing that we won’t often pass through Arnhem Land in the foreseeable future. We’ve loved living here; with the remoteness and wildness…it’s a real privilege to have called it home. All that being said, we’re excited to see what God has in store for us next and looking forward to being a part of a new team in South Sudan.


We have a 6-month sabbatical, which will be made up of 4 months in South East Queensland and 2 months travelling across the US. At the end of that we’ll arrive in Nairobi for a period of training, exams and paperwork (probably 3 – 6 months) before moving to Juba, South Sudan.

A big change for us will be the adventure of home-schooling…prayer for Naomi and the kids in this area would be great!


“Michael and Naomi have served faithfully with MAF in Arnhem Land both in Lake Evella and Gove.  They have gone above and beyond, taking on other areas of responsibility that have greatly benefited us all.  The will leave a big gap, but we celebrate their willingness to head into South Sudan to continue the significant work there.” Chris De’Ath – Arnhem Land Program Manager

Transitions often pave the way for God to use people in new and exciting ways for the growth of his kingdom and so it’s worth it!


There are countless needs in Arnhem Land just like everywhere else in this giant universe. There are needs for food, water, clothing, jobs, health care, transportation and the list goes on. MAF Arnhem Land is all about providing an aviation and technology service for the better of the people in Arnhem Land. Due to factors such as long distances between communities and lack of suitable roads, the need for aviation transport is vital.

This physical need has been recognised for a long time and MAF has been able to help meet this need by providing a service for over 43 years in the area. Nearly every day people are calling MAF to arrange flights for a variety of reasons from health to education and family. One recent request was from the NRCC (Northern Regional Council of Congress) asking MAF to help transport a group of eight church people from Elcho Island to Jabiru. This was so that the group could connect with a bus at Jabiru that would take them to the yearly Indigenous Christian gathering at Katherine.

In the past this type of request would usually not be possible, as MAF has only had one type of aircraft available; the seven seater GA8 Airvan. Even though it’s classified as a seven seater and has seven seats, often due to weight and remote airstrip restrictions this has meant passenger and freight numbers have been restricted.

It has been a long time in coming but with the recent arrival of the Cessna Caravan to the program, this has brought many new possibilities. The Caravan has the ability to carry up to 10 passengers or 900 kg of freight!

This meant the request from the NRCC to MAF for the transport of eight passengers from Elcho Island was finally possible! The need could be meet.

So on Saturday the 30th of April (VH-MEP) piloted by Matt Roediger and William Nicol completed its first commercial flight in Arnhem Land.

It was flown from Gove to Elcho Island, where eight Yolngu from the Elcho Island NRCC Congregation were picked up. They were then flown to Jabiru, where a bus was waiting to take them to the convention in Katherine.

 “A near record crowd assembled at Morrow’s Farm in Katherine in the Northern Territory for the 49th annual Katherine Christian Convention over the May Day long weekend. Indigenous and non-indigenous people travelled thousands of kilometres to be part of what has become the premier Christian gathering in the Top End. With an emphasis on sound Bible teaching and a focus on unity across cultural and denominational affiliations, the conference once again demonstrated true reconciliation as found in Jesus Christ.” – Words by Phil Zamagias – former MAF Pilot, Bible Society Flying Bible man *.

For MAF it was a privilege to be able to complete this first commercial flight in the Caravan, which helps support the growth of the local indigenous church.

The following Tuesday May 2nd, Pilots Matt Roediger and Michael Beath flew the aircraft back to Jabiru to pick up the passengers and return them to Elcho Island. As MAF continues to work alongside and support Christian organisations such as the NRCC, needs will be able to be met. These needs can be met because of the provision of a skilled team of people (Pilots, Engineers, Ground and Admin staff) not just in Arnhem Land but also throughout the MAFI world. Not to forget God’s provision of aircraft, such as the new addition to the Arnhem Land program: VH-MEP!

Maratja from the Elcho Island Congregation shares in front of the crowd at the KCC.

Cessna Caravan takes off from Elcho Island

Phillip Goyma Gondarra

My name is Phillip Goyma Gondarra & I have a story to tell. God has been good in allowing me to attend school for the past three years in Fiji. Before this, I went to school in Darwin, not knowing where education was leading me. Then something amazing happened in my life. God opened my eyes to see the reality. I listened to his words & meditated on them day & night & that’s how I got to understand education better & the purpose of going to school.

This came about because God sent two Fijian educators, Mr & Mrs Tunabuna of Nadi, to study Australian indigenous education & they stayed with my family for several weeks. During that time they looked at my life & suggested that I might return to Fiji with them & continue my schooling in the Fijian government system. My family agreed to this, as they were also disappointed with my progress so far and this is when God really began to guide me into His plans. Jeremiah 29:11 really helped me to understand. The Fijians took me into their home & treated me like a son. Then began a lot of hard work & discipline to mold me into a better person. I had to work harder than I’ve ever worked. Slowly I improved my academic work until I received the most progressive student prize for primary education. The Nadi District School asked me to become a prefect & during my graduation, I proudly carried the Australian flag.

Today, after three years in Fiji, I am attending the Ratu Navula Secondary College & I am believing God will lead me into tertiary education in New Zealand or England.

To my fellow indigenous people, my advice is that we must convince our children to attend school, work hard & God will help them to be someone in the future, because nothing is impossible if the heart is willing. God bless you all.

Recently MAF Arnhem Land was able to help transport Philip on an evangelism outreach trip to Milingimbi. MAF left Philip along with others at each destination, returning a day or two later to collect him.

Philip and Family