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The Forgotten Tribe

MAF partners with missionaries to reach a small tribe that has been overlooked

Missionary Andrew Claussen lay on the floor of a village hut for the third day in a row, hallucinating. The buzz of his table saw had stopped, and his family’s unfinished house frame was left unattended—all work now at a standstill.

Some 300 people live in the remote jungle village of Danokit. Photo by Amberlynne Claussen.
Bamboo huts in the remote jungle village of Danokit. Story photos by Amberlynne Claussen.

Outside the long bamboo hut are rows of identical homes lining two perpendicular white-sand paths. They sit in an open clearing surrounded by lush jungle. This is the village of Danokit, where some 300 people live—each one precious to the Savior.

The Komyandare people of Danokit have yet to hear of Jesus, as previous efforts to bring the Gospel to them have had little effect. Some tried in the past, but they arrived speaking only Indonesian, a language barely known by the Komyandare. Until the Claussen’s arrival, no one had come to live among the tribe and learn their native language.

“It has been passed over by other missionaries because it is such a small tribe,” said Amberlynne Claussen, a World Team missionary who, along with her husband, Andrew, and three children, is planting a church in Danokit.  “We wanted to reach a group that had absolutely no access to the Gospel.”

Getting to Danokit is no easy task, as it does not yet have an airstrip. The Claussens travel in an MAF airplane for over an hour then transfer to a (non-MAF) helicopter for the final half-hour flight. During the family’s house-building stage, MAF’s KODIAK airplanes carried large loads—roofing, sinks, a toilet, heavy tools, a generator, even a 1500-liter water tank. MAF planes are the most efficient way to transport a large quantity of supplies to the hidden corners of Papua.

“We are very thankful for the MAF pilots
who help us come in and out of the village,
who evacuate us when we are sick,
and pray with us before flights.
Church planting in remote areas would be
a lot more challenging without MAF!”
—Andrew & Amberlynne Claussen

But just as the house was starting to go up, illness struck. Andrew had been in the village without his family, cutting wood for the house, when he contracted malaria and ended up on the floor of the hut with no one to care for him—and no medicine to heal him. After he called Amberlynne twice in one day (not the normal once every three days) she knew it was serious and ordered a medevac flight. Another air carrier’s helicopter picked up Andrew in the village and carried him to MAF pilot Kevin Lynne’s aircraft, which brought him back to the town of Sentani for lifesaving treatment.

MAF pilot Dave Holsten with the Claussen family.
MAF pilot Dave Holsten with the Claussen family.

For missionaries working in such difficult places, illness is an ever-present threat. After recovering from malaria, Andrew was struck by dengue, with Ross River fever added to the mix. His body went into septic shock and he was flown on a commercial flight to Australia for treatment.

A nurse who cared for Andrew commented, “There were many times he should have died, but he didn’t.”

Amberlynne knows all too well how close she came to losing her husband and will be the first to tell you that “he is only alive because of God.”

Many have asked if the Claussens will continue now that they know the cost—war threats by another tribe jealous for their own missionary family, sickness, broken tools, and endless mud. But God has provided the strength to endure. And MAF will continue to be there to partner with the Claussen’s ministry. Mother and child_Danokit_Claussens_resize

“Andrew’s physical life was in jeopardy,” said Amberlynne,“but the eternal lives of the Komyandare are in jeopardy until they are able to receive the gift of the Gospel.

“We have counted the cost, and we would gladly give our lives if it allowed 300-plus people to trust in Jesus.”

If you want to learn more about the Claussens and follow their progress, visit

Story appeared in FlightWatch 2014, Vol 2.

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