During World War II, light aircraft were used to unleash unprecedented death and destruction. As the war drew to a close, Christian airforce pilots from Australia, New Zealand, England, America and South Africa all began to have the same thought: Why can’t these aircraft now be used to bring life and hope during peace time?
From here, Mission Aviation Fellowship was born. The vision was simple and wonderfully ambitious: to see isolated communities across the world physically and spiritually transformed in Jesus’ name.
What started off as the dream of a couple of Christian airforce pilots is now a global movement with around 140 aircraft serving in over 25 countries worldwide.
Tens of thousands of remote communities now have access to healthcare, education, community development, disaster relief and the Good News of Jesus Christ.
A lot has happened over the 70 years since MAF was formed, but through the change, through all the developments in technology and aviation practices, the heart of MAF has stayed the same: sharing God’s love through aviation and technology.
Betty Greene flew MAF’s first plane on its inaugural flight in 1946, piloting two Wycliffe Bible Translators workers to a remote jungle location in Mexico. MAF Australia first began in Melbourne as an autonomous body called Missionary Aviation Fellowship. They became aware of similar moves in the UK and quickly sought to work together.
In 1951, after a series of negotiations with the Lutheran Mission in New Guinea, MAF agreed to set up its first operational foothold in New Guinea, not in Australia as first planned. The Lutheran Mission would meet the cost of an aircraft and equipment, while MAF would provide the pilot, Harry Hartwig, and an engineer.
After a very encouraging start, clocking up almost 300 hours in his first month, disaster struck on August 5, 1951. Harry Hartwig flew into the Asaroka Gap and a deadly mix of conditions that still present a trap for unwary pilots in Papua New Guinea: low cloud, rugged terrain and unsuitable aircraft. The organisation lost its only pilot and also its only aircraft, and there were no funds or personnel to replace them.
But a new plane and an American pilot were found, and MAF’s aviation services in New Guinea (now PNG) and Dutch New Guinea (Irian Jaya) expanded steadily in the years that followed. Collectively they became the largest MAF operation in the world.
Today MAF provides aviation, communications, and learning technology services to more than 1,000 Christian and humanitarian agencies, as well as thousands of isolated missionaries and indigenous villagers in the world’s most remote areas.
There are now three major operational centres – Nampa, Idaho (USA), Ashford, (United Kingdom), and Cairns (Australia). These centres provide operational support to programs in the Americas, Africa and Asia Pacific regions. In 2010, MAF served in more than 55 countries, flying 201,710 passengers with a fleet of some 130 aircraft.
MAF’s mission is sharing the love of Jesus Christ through aviation and technology so that isolated people may be physically and spiritually transformed. The organisation’s vision is that every person on earth will experience the love of Jesus Christ and respond to the Gospel.
In 2016, according to the MAF Annual Report:
• MAF conducted 22,495 flights in 2016.
• 73,708 passengers flew on MAF flights
• MAF served 600+ churches, mission organizations, medical groups, schools, and relief agencies
• 7,778,520 pounds of life-sustaining cargo were delivered
• An annual budget of US$42.6 million
• Every 11 minutes—somewhere in the world—an MAF airplane takes off or lands.
Let us pray for the MAF pilots, operational and administrative staff, those who are blessed by the services provided by MAF, and those who give generously to keep the mission moving forward in the air and on the ground, wherever the needs are most acute.
Transcript of a talk presented by Rev Rod Benson at Lithgow Baptist Church, Sunday 9 July 2017. Sources: https://maf.org.au/our-history/ and https://www.maf.org/about/history