by Monte Sahlin
From Adventist News Network, April 9, 2014
An Adventist Aviation-Indonesia (AAI) plane piloted by veteran missionary pilot Bob Roberts crashed upon takeoff this morning at the AAI headquarters in Papua, claiming his life as well as those of several passengers on board. Witnesses said that the plane, a Quest Kodiak, appeared to have trouble lifting off just before it slammed into a bridge at the end of the runway. An official cause has yet to be determined by investigators.
Roberts' work included delivering food, medicine and other urgently needed supplies as well as transporting sick and needy passengers to and from the many isolated mountain villages of Papua. He was well known throughout the islands and had flown more than a thousand relief flights over the years.
Roberts and his wife Jan, originally from the United States, have served AAI for more than 20 years in Papua. The couple previously served as missionaries in the African countries of Ethiopia, Tanzania and Congo from 1976 to 1992. They have three grown children. “He died doing what he loved best," Jan said.
Roberts is remembered by Pastor Darron Boyd, Adventist Mission coordinator in Papua, as someone who brought hope to those in remote areas. Despite the often extreme terrain that made his work challenging, Roberts had a love for his mission. “If they’re really sick … we fly them for free,” he said in an video report last year from the Office of Adventist Mission at the denomination's General Conference (GC). “Those are the kind of things that make you glad you’re a mission pilot. Helping people who would not have hope otherwise. That’s why we’re here.”
Pastor Jonathan Kuntaraf, director of Sabbath School and Personal Ministries at the GC said he was saddened by the death of Roberts, who was serving in Kuntaraf's home country. “He and his wife are very dedicated people. Together we worked to raise money for the education of underprivileged children in Papua. Please pray for the family during this difficult time."
The Indonesian state of Papua is home to two million people and 20 language groups. The denomination's East Indonesia Union Conference covers this area which has 763 churches and more than 101,000 church members.
The video report of Roberts' mission work in Papua can be seen at www.adventistmission.org/dvd by clicking on "Called to Fly." The Adventist News Network (ANN) is the official news service of the denomination.