Flights double for MAF during Kenya crisis

By February 18, 2008

Kenya (MNN) — Former UN chief Kofi Annan says a deal to pull Kenya out of a political crisis was "very close" and expressed hope that the "last difficult and frightening" step will be taken this week. The difficulty has affected missionary aviation work that's headquartered in Kenya.

Mission Aviation Fellowship operates seven aircraft out of Kenya, serving area missionaries. But when the violence erupted, the schedule looked a little different. People were in panic because their lives were at stake since they were in areas of a different tribe.

"We have evacuated all kinds of people. Normally, we fly missionaries and for Christain relief organizations. We have now flown for everyone. Sometimes we didn't even bother to ask them to pay or support us. We've just tried to help left and right," said Bernard Terlouw with MAF. They've helped friend and foe, and "the real heat at the moment is off. There is a kind of, well, it is a very tense quietness in the country."

During these flights, passengers were sometimes eye to eye with members of the opposing tribe. "It's a presentation of how God welcomes everyone. That is our mission," said Terlouw.

Special police forces are patrolling just to make their presence known and maintain the calm. "Everybody realizes that it's not peace. It is just the absence of war at the moment," said Terlouw.

"The first thought, as a Christian, that you would have is ‘How can they kill each other?'" Terlouw said. What is happening here is absolutely horrifying. The church has called for reconciliation, but leaders realized that even their request was "preaching in a way that supported their own tribe."

The church made a leap forward recently when they confessed this. Terlouw said church leaders made a new statement of reconciliation: "Whatever our tribal background is, we belong to Jesus, and we want peace at any cost. We want to reconcile with anybody, whatever tribe, whatever color. And for the first time I think, that was not just lip-service, but that was real."

MAF's operations for other countries cannot be put on hold. Terlouw said their job is helping the most needy. "We fly missionaries and relief workers into real remote places. They cannot get there if we don't fly them." That would mean evangelism and relief work would end. For now, the maintenance team and pilots are on the ready at all times.

Terlouw said their actual flights doubled what was projected for January 2008. Funding is needed to help with the increasing demand for their aircraft.

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