Joyce Lin, an American missionary pilot, died in a crash Tuesday just minutes after her plane took off to deliver COVID-19 supplies to remote villages in Indonesia. She was 40.
Lin worked for the Idaho-based Mission Aviation Fellowship whose pilots use Cessna and KODIAK aircraft to transport medicine, doctors, disaster relief, evangelists, Bible translators, food supplies, agriculture and other things to remote areas around the world to share “Christ's love beyond where the road ends.”
“The Mission Aviation Fellowship (MAF) family is deeply saddened by the loss of their colleague and friend, Joyce Lin,” MAF said in a statement.
“Joyce was responding to the needs of the village of Mamit in the Papua highlands and cargo on the plane included COVID-19 rapid test kits for the local clinic. Within minutes of takeoff, she reported an emergency and the aircraft descended into Lake Sentani. Joyce was the only person on the airplane.”
Lin, who was piloting an MAF Kodiak aircraft, crashed after her departure from Sentani, Papua, Indonesia airport. Papua police spokesman Ahmad Musthofa Kamal told NBC 4 that she sent a distress call and requested to return to the airport, but the control tower then lost contact with her. Rescuers found her body in the lake two hours after the crash at a depth of approximately 13 meters. It was reportedly MAF’s first fatal accident in 23 years. One local source that said the crash is currently under investigation noted that Papua is one of the most difficult flying areas in the world because of the rugged terrain and changeable weather.
“She has dedicated her life to transporting humanitarian supplies and missionaries to hard-to-reach areas in Papua,” Kamal said.
Lin, who was raised in Colorado and Maryland, started working with MAF two years ago. Before joining the organization, she graduated from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology with both Bachelor of Science and Master of Engineering degrees. She also received a Master of Divinity degree from Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary where she first learned about mission aviation.
“Joyce loved working for MAF in Indonesia, where she served as a pilot and field IT support specialist. Though she was there just two years—one in Central Java for language school and another in Sentani—her impact was significant. Joyce repeatedly shared how joy-filled she was in the weeks before she went to join the Lord,” MAF said.
Others who knew Lin shared thoughts on her life on social media.
“Joyce and I were bandmates at my church back in Maryland. She was always so passionate about her calling to serve others' vital needs through flying. She pursued that calling intently and shared God's love with so many as a result. Her faith is now sight,” Matthew Hooker wrote on Twitter.
James Cardner, who described himself as Lin’s friend and co-worker, also noted on Twitter: “I learned of something truly tragic yesterday, the passing of a co-worker, a friend, and just an inspiring person, Joyce Lin. You’ve touched us all and the world is a lesser place without you in it. We’ll miss you, Joyce.”
Lin is survived by her parents and two sisters.