USA (MNN) — Small airplanes are usually the only way to get missionaries, relief workers and supplies into hard-to-reach areas of the world.
If Mission Aviation Fellowship (MAF) airplanes weren't available in many areas of the world, it would mean an end to outreach. MAF serves in the world's most remote and isolated places, and today they're sending an airplane to Lesotho, Africa to help with the growing needs there.
According to Rocky Mason, MAF Manager of Aviation Services, sending a single engine aircraft halfway around the world isn't easy, but it's necessary. "The problem is that if we ship it in a container, it can take months to reach its destination. That's months during which the aircraft isn't doing its job."
Flying a single engine aircraft across the ocean isn't common. But that's how MAF usually sends its planes from the U.S. for service overseas. Mason says, "We actually install two additional fuel tanks inside the cabin to extend the aircraft's range. This airplane will be able to fly non-stop for about 17 hours."
The plane will fly across the entire United States, making at least two stops. Then, it'll fly from Bangor, Maine, to St. Johns, Newfoundland, to the Azores, down to the Canary Islands, then along the west coast of Africa to its final destination in Lesotho.
Altogether it should take nine days to complete the trip. Mason says, "The biggest challenge is deciding where to stop along the way? There isn't a good supply of avgas (aviation gasoline) in the middle of Africa. Where is a good place to stop? Where is a good place to avoid really high taxes or high fuel costs?"
Brad Westom, MAF's program manager in Lesotho, says this plane is desperately needed. "With the HIV/AIDS pandemic, there are more MAF services that are being required. Other NGO's [non-government organizations] are also coming in to help. So we're increasing our fleet and our staff so that we can continue to meet the needs here in Lesotho."
Westom adds, "People are dying and don't know the Lord, mostly because they have not heard the Gospel. The mountain people of Lesotho are under-evangelized." With the MAF airplanes, missionaries can get into the region to share the Gospel.
Westom sees this opportunity as, "An open door for MAF to help share the Gospel, because it's really the only hope these people have."
MAF plans to ferry another plane to Lesotho from Indonesia to help the outreach even further.
Mason, meanwhile, is asking you and your prayer team to pray for safety. "When crossing the North Atlantic in the middle of winter — you really have to be careful. It can be dangerous. The storms there are legendary."
Pray, too, that this additional plane will have a profound impact on the hearts and lives of the people MAF is serving.