At the end of the 2nd world war, a group of Christian pilots wondered whether the aircraft that had brought so much destruction throughout the conflict could now be used to bring help and hope to people who needed it. That idea grew into the Mission Aviation Fellowship.
Today, an MAF aircraft takes off every four minutes to bring the Gospel message to remote parts of the world. This year, MAF Australia is celebrating its 75th anniversary, and CEO Ian McDougall told 20Twenty’s Neil Johnson the organisation has a lot to be proud of.
In the beginning, MAF had only one plane, made of timber and cloth, in which the intrepid Harry Hardwig clocked up more than 300 hours of flight, serving people in Papua New Guinee and Arnhem Land.
Hardwig’s story ended in tragedy. His wife told McDougall how she woke up one morning to see him off on a journey through the treacherous Asaroka gap. “As he went through the pass, that was the last she ever saw of him. He never came home that day. The aircraft was never found. Harry was never found.”
But Hardwig’s example emboldened many others to say, “if Harry can do this, we can too”. From a single aircraft, MAF has grown to include more than 125 planes, serving more than 25 nations, in partnership with more than 2000 organizations around the world.
Another of MAF’s famous tragedies was the killing of US pilot Nate saint, who was martyred in Ecuador by the tribe he was trying to save. “He was actually put to death by those people in fear, but then once they got to meet some more people, they became Christian, and still to this day, those villagers honour and care for the families that Nate Saint had raised. So it’s just an amazing story of hope inside the loss.”
Working with MAF is still risky even today, but their pilots know their work is saving and transforming countless lives. Here in Australia, medical help is never far away. But in Timor-Leste, two aircraft serve more than 1.1 million people, flying Doctors to those who have no other way of accessing even basic treatment.
McDougall says it’s an honour to be serving these people, but it’s also an honour to be trusted by so many Australians who’ve given their money to support them. “Over these 75 years, we’ve had people give two dollars, right through to hundreds of thousands of dollars to keep us in the air, and I think that’s the exciting part.”
MAF’s operations are set to expand even more, thanks to the generous gift of twelve acres of land. “Over the next few years, we’re going to develop that land, so we have a proper training centre, accommodation for our trainees, so we can train engineers and pilots that are going to go out around the world, to service the people who are in need, but also to keep our aircraft safe.”
But McDougall also remembers the small stories of dedication to the cause. Last year in Tasmania, he spoke to a lady whose mother had signed her up as a donor at birth. She’s been supporting MAF ever since.
“She’s 98 years of age now, and she still gives prayer and provision through her small amount of means. And I think that’s the important thing to realise, that people love what we do because we’re bringing hope to the remote. We’re sharing Jesus’ name wherever we go.”
To find out more about MAF Australia’s history, and how you can support their work, visit their website at maf.org.au.