Joyce Lin, a pilot with Mission Aviation Fellowship (MAF), died on May 12, while transporting school supplies and COVID-19 rapid test kits to a remote village in Indonesia. Lin was 40 years old and was following her dream and God’s calling by using her skills to bring people the hope of the gospel.
“We feel a great sense of loss but a great sense of comfort as well,” MAF president David Holsten told Christianity Today, “because Joyce was doing what she loved to do and she was faithful to the calling that God had placed on her life. She gave her life serving the Lord in a way that was impacting others.”
Lin left the town of Sentani in a Kodiak airplane at 6:27 a.m. Tuesday, heading for a remote village called Mamit in the province of Papua. She sent out a distress call only two minutes after takeoff, after which her aircraft crashed into Lake Sentani. A search-and-rescue team found Lin’s airplane in the lake and also recovered her body, which was submerged 40 feet underwater. She was the only person on the aircraft, and officials are still investigating the cause of the crash. Lin is survived by her parents and two sisters.
In Memoriam: Joyce Lin
Joyce Lin’s interest in mission aviation was sparked in 2010 during a summer internship in Papua, Indonesia, while she was enrolled at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary. Prior to going to seminary, Lin had earned two degrees in engineering from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), been an officer in the U.S. Air Force, and worked in cybersecurity in the private sector. Even though she believed God was calling her to mission aviation, Lin still had many hurdles to overcome in order to be a trained and licensed pilot with MAF. She also had some health challenges that made her ability to work in Indonesia doubtful. However, Lin overcame these difficulties and in 2019 made it to Sentani, where she served as a pilot and IT specialist.
“I am most grateful to personally know God,” said Lin, “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.”
Writing to her supporters in December, Lin shared, “One of the best things about my short time in Papua has been talking to the missionaries that MAF serves. Those missionaries have embedded themselves in Papuan villages, literally in the middle of nowhere…One thing that has been transformative for the villagers is the understanding that God’s love casts out fear.”
She also described what it was like to finally fly a real Kodiak after training in a flight simulator. “It felt amazing to land the Kodiak on my own for the first time,” Lin said. “This has been my dream airplane ever since I found out about mission aviation.”
When Papua locked down because of the coronavirus pandemic, Lin only became more thankful for her ability to serve people in need. In an email update at the beginning of May, she said,
It may sound strange, but these trying times have enhanced my feeling of purpose here in Papua. With every flight I see first-hand how MAF is connecting isolated villages with vital supplies and medical care. This can’t be taken for granted in normal times, but especially now with all of the travel restrictions, the people remind us how thankful they are every time an airplane is able to land in their village.
Brock Larson, regional director of MAF Indonesia, said of Joyce Lin, “She was extremely generous, giving of herself and her treasures selflessly…Her years of effort following God’s calling were being rewarded and rewarding others daily. Joyce was a light reflecting Jesus, and she will be deeply missed.”