Saturday, November 26, 2016

5 Essentials to Make it in Mission Aviation

The Father of Mission Aviation- George Fisk
How did he do it?!?
Yep- I finally have a post with a number and a "how to" type of statement in it.  Some people call it "click bait"- a title that is formulated to grab your attention and get you to click.  

However, this is a response to an email query asking me what it takes to get a mission aviation program up and running.  It's not comprehensive, but represents the core foundational items.  Enjoy!

5 Essentials to Make it in Mission Aviation

1.  Affirmation of your faith community.

Do not be a lone ranger.  You must root yourself in a local church that has strong support of foreign missions and who has sent out other missionaries with success.  

Soon after arriving at your foreign post, you WILL have very hard days. Knowing that your local church has your back that will get you through.  
I can’t emphasize this enough.  Having a strong relationship to a local church takes time. there is a lot of temptation just to go out and get going with your work.  My advice? Take the slow road and have your gifts and calling affirmed by your local faith community.  

When someone contacts me about int’l mission work and doesn’t have this component, I don’t waste my time with them.  It’s my #1 litmus test.  Can you do it without it?  Sure.  God will do what He wants with whom He wants.  However, if you're going to work on my team and I have a say in the decision, I'll veto anyone without the STRONG backing of a local church.  

2. A Unique & Clear Focus.

Is your approach to international work super-unique? Great!  Make sure that you have clearly defined the mission and strategy that truly blesses the people you serve.

Frankly, I feel that there are enough mission aviation organizations out there with varying models where everyone should be able to find a home, even for those, like me, with an entrepreneurial spirit.  

Even for creative types, you can usually have the best of both worlds… the support that you need and the flexibility that you need to be creative.  

Bottom line... define your focus well.  Look for an organization that you can work with.  Build on their resources instead of building up all the infrastructure that you need to do it by yourself.  Only go it alone as a last result and only with the call of the Lord and affirmation of your church.

3.  Experienced & Godly Board

On your Board of Directors, make sure that you have at least two former international missionaries and that at least one of them is a former mission aviation pilot.  

I also suggest that your Board receive training in “values based governance”.  There are some good books on this and some trainers that can come and lead a board retreat to get your team on their knees and unified with a clear focus.


Establish a 501c3 organization- not too hard.  You can find many tutorials online and associated material at or other resources.

You’ll need some admin support to receive and receipt donations, however.  This may be a time when a supportive local church and engaged board of directors can step up.

5. Funding.

You’ll need to either be independently wealthy or have outside funding to support your personal needs.  As for the work- aviation is very expensive.  Keeping up funding requires good communication and, typically, lots of travel, speaking engagements and visits and events.  In every case, you must be able to succinctly articulate the reason that you are doing what you are doing, and how you know that you are being effective.  Funding will come when the vision and goals are compelling and communicated effectively. 

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Blast from the Past! Thomspon Visit

At the Bongolo Hangar 2005.
Dr. David and Becki Thompson have been pivotal characters in our ministry journey.  In 2005, we were forwarded an email message from Dr. Thompson, appealing for a aircraft pilot/mechanic to come and finally help a remote mission hospital.

Our family responded to the need and here we are over a decade later, not only serving the work in Gabon, but lending a hand in mission aviation bases in 2 other countries and consulting with others.

With all our coming and goings between both families, the times that the Thompson's and the Straw's get to be with one another has become quite rare!  So, to run into them in North Carolina recently, was a sweet treat, and better yet when we found out that their daughter, and our dear friend, Rachel was coming along as well.

Over a decade later!  The Thompson's at the MAG hangar in North Carolina.
We gave the Thompson's a tour or the new facility where Steve serves
as the Chief Pilot serving 7 pilots and 3 country programs, and Alace
provides member care guidance to the entire MAG organization.

Dave was kind enough to sign some copies of his latest book.
Dave and Becki don't slow down!  Between many meetings in the
US and conferences where they share their stories and inspire the
next generation of career medical missionaries, the still have
their full-time medical work in north Africa.  They spent three
decades in central Africa speaking a village language and French-
now they are learning Arabic in their 60's!  What an inspiration.  
The MAG hangar is located in Burlington, North Carolina.  If you would like to come by for a visit, just drop us a line at  We'd love to have you by to show you what the Lord is doing with this growing organization!

MAG is currently looking for additional teammates to assist at the office in Burlington, the base in Honduras, Guatemala, and Gabon.  Do you or someone you know sense that this is work that you might be interested in?  Contact me for more information.

New Runway Open!

In October, Alace and I had the privilege of participating on a consult trip to the remote portion of northern Guatemala, known as the Petén.  There, our MAG (Missionary Air Group) colleague, Paul, expresses God's love and compassion through the tool of medical care and aviation.

On the trip, we surveyed the property for the new runway called "Central Park", where the MAG base will be created.  How great to get the news that the surface was finally ready and that Paul made his first landing there.

Paul, left, at the Central Park airport with local ministry leaders.

A new partnership his is developing is with the Kekchi Bible Institute, where the Central Park airport is located.  At KBI, Kekchi people are also learning about how to express God's love to their people (aka.Q'eqchi')- nearly 850,000 of them that live in remote villages around Guatemala.  They learn the Bible as well as very practical skills in farming, livestock, business, and health skills.  

KBI not only sends out these graduates, the leaders will also travel with the students to do reach out to their villages during their time.  Here is one story of such a trip where the MAG airplane was used, in the words of our pilot, Paul:

We flew to a town of primarily Kekchi indigenous people to recruit students
for the Kekchi Bible Institute (KBI).

We were able to cut out a bunch of travel time. Turning 10 hours of drive time
(if the ferry crossing goes well) into 1 hour 20 minutes of flying.
Jimmy and a few of his students, who will graduate in December,
were invited to speak at a gathering of Kekchi pastors.

 They were incredibly welcoming and Jimmy met with two students who will start at KBI soon.
Two of my passengers have never flown before and had no chance of doing so.
One of them said it felt like he was dreaming!

 Thank you for your support that makes this work to reach remote people groups possible!  Please consider joining as one of our sustaining partners in this work.  CLICK HERE to find out more.

Sunday, November 13, 2016

Central America Consult Trip - Part III

Back to Guatemala we went...

A series of meetings awaited us.  First meeting....

We met with Brian Dennett, Director of AMG Guatemala.
AMG runs a number of programs throughout the country,
many of them dealing with education and healthcare.
It was great to meet Brian and brainstorm ways that our
ministries can affiliate and maximize impact in the region.

Next meeting.....

Dennis McCutcheon of Vine International met with us to discuss
more partnership possibilities.  He and his colleagues had good
things to say about how they have watched MAG's work develop
in Guatemala with admiration.  There are some exciting possibilities!

On the morning of our departure back to the US, we headed to the
Aero Club of Guatemala for a breakfast meeting with AGAPE-
the Guatemala mission aviation organization that was birthed
from the former Missionary Aviation Fellowship (MAF) base in
Guatemala.  Paul, our MAG pilot, finds great support and friendship
from this group.  They are all wonderful people.  AGAPE operates a
Cessna 206 primarily in the South of the country.

Then, Delta Airlines whisked us away for our flight back to the US.  It was a quick Central
America trip, but we covered a lot of ground.  MAG's work is growing and, as it does,
Alace and I are hoping to find ways to serve our teammates technically, relationally,
and spiritually, so they have the equipping to thrive as they walk with the Lord and
serve in the work that He's called them to.  Thank you for your support and prayers! 

Rus Rus Hospital Take-Off in SLO-MO

Central America Consult Trip - Part II

As advertised, here is Part II of our Central America trip recap.  If you missed Part I, CLICK HERE.

As you recall, the purpose of our visit was to meet our Missionary Air Group colleagues in Guatemala and Honduras, and to learn about the work they are pouring themselves into.  With this experience Alace and I can serve them better- Alace as member care and myself as the chief pilot.

As you know, Alace and I have been so privileged to be part of mission aviation work in Central Africa, having spent the better part of the last decade based there.  It's such an honor to get to expand our work and serve other mission aviation bases with the MAG team.

Leaving Guatemala in our Cessna 206, we overflew Belize and the
Carribean Sea before arriving at the La Ceiba international airport
on the North coast of Honduras, where we did our immigration formalities.

After adding on fuel (yes! they had AvGas at the airport!!!), we blasted off, headed for the
very remote "La Mosquitia"- the largest wilderness area of Central America and
home to the Moskito people who face many obstacles in receiving medical care
and educational opportunities.  The MAG program provides a lifeline for this region.
There is no other program like MAG currently providing services like this.  Due to
drug trafficking, the Telegraph called Honduras the most dangerous country on the planet
in 2013.   

The MAG base is called "Rus Rus".  The "L" shaped building is a hospital that
MAG is temporarily operating (anyone want to run a hospital?!?), the runway
is a grass strip, and the MAG staff is living in the two larger structures to the
left of the runway.

Our MAG team (Wes & Denise and Hannah & David) were there to give us a warm welcome.

We were also greeted by some local authorities who registered our visit.
Rus Rus is very close to the Nicaragua border and there is illegal activity
that these soldiers help to mitigate.  They were very kind and helpful.

David (right) is a new teammate at Rus Rus and spent some time
with our veteran Guatemala pilot, Paul, as part of his field orientation.
They spent some time doing ground training as well as 4 hours of
flight time which included familiarization to other area runways.

All our meals were taken care of at Wes & Denise's home while our lodging needs
were taken care of by David & Hannah at their duplex house.  As we visited, it
became clear that our teammates have a passion to see the people of this region
have access to health care that is brought to them with the message of the Gospel.

The Wiles have been serving this part of the world for almost 2 decades!

Here is the Mora family- David, Hannah, and baby Nicholas, who was born
in Honduras earlier this year!  The Mora's are ready for the next phase of
flight training and cross-cultural training in the US.  We had good times
chatting about these transitions and how we can work together.

The weather was great for most all of our time in Central America.  It was great to
see both of our programs and learn what God is doing through the local believers and
how our MAG teammates are joining in.  Here are some scenes from
the Rus Rus village...

Wes gave us a tour of the hospital- an out-patient clinic that does
its best work when visiting, short term teams (mainly from the US)
come to staff the facility.  

(a photo on the wall of the hospital)
Back in the 1980's, the hospital had a lot of activity.
This region of the world was going through a time of
turmoil and the need for medical care was much higher.

Wes pointed out that, with the airplane and the new 4x4 Kia truck,
there is great potential for Rus Rus to impact the villages of the region.
When there is enough staff and teammates, they are able to conduct
mobile medical clinics.  Please pray for more staff!
If you or anyone you know are interested, please have them contact
MAG at

(Paul, left, pilots us out of the jungle back toward Guatemala with CEO Sean as co-pilot)
Please pray for the MAG activities in Central America.  Just like the work in Gabon,
the team senses a strong desire to see people meet Jesus as they bring medical care
and other community transformation activities through the use of aircraft.

Stay tuned for Part III of our Central American trip!

Saturday, November 12, 2016

Central America Consult Visit- Part I

In October, Alace and I traveled, along with Missionary Air Group President and CEO, Sean Donnelly, to visit and consult our MAG colleagues in Guatemala and Honduras.  We started in the North of Guatemala (this blog- Part I), then to the remote East of Honduras (Part II), then back to Guatemala for meetings in the capital city (Part III).

Paul, left, is MAG's only staff in Guatemala. MAG's aircraft supports medical work and
pastoral training in the remote North of the country.  Paul met us at the international
airport in the capital city and quickly loaded us in his aircraft.

Alace and Sean in the back seat on the flight from Guatemala City to the
remote North airport- Maya Mundo Int'l airport, in the Cessna 206.

Typical house construction of the Kekchi people of Northern Guatemala.

The Kekchi Bible Institute is partnering with MAG to create a runway and
aviation base on their campus!

The Dinsmore family had a vision for KBI and have lived
nearby ever since they graduated college!

KBI graduates return to their village ready to be spiritual leaders.  In addition,
students have training in a wide variety of skills, like raising animals, small engine
repair, and first responder medical care.

Paul has been doing SO much work coordinating this effort.
MAG envisions a robust base here, with KBI students trained
as our flight nurses as well as learning management skills to
staff the needs of this airport.

Sunday worship service at the KBI chapel.  Preaching was in Spanish
with Kekchi translation from a student pastor.

We visited Evideo (brown shirt) who is the director of the "Paths of Hope"
Vo-Tech school in San Bonita as well as a board member of MAG-Guatemala.
His heart to reach the young men of his community for Jesus is so evident.

Wasting no time, it was on to the next meeting...
On the left is doctor Ricardo, who practices locally and joins Paul as his
medical flight crew on some evacuation flights. Ricardo is consulting MAG
on the next phase of equipping their aircraft to enhance patient care.
Stephen, next to Ricardo, is another MAG-Guatemala board member as
well as director of the Jungle Breezes Youth Ministry.  They are a
valuable partner in the region and are featured in this video:  CLICK HERE

(panoramic photo of Lake Petén Itzá from the balcony of our restaurant)
We concluded our meetings and got ready for the flight to Honduras for phase II of our Central
America consultation trip!  That will be the next blog...  stay tuned!

CLICK HERE for PART II of our trip.