MAF national staff is feared dead

By January 15, 2010

Haiti (MNN) — One indigenous MAF (Mission Aviation Fellowship) worker is feared dead, and two are missing following the devastating Jan. 12 earthquake in Haiti. None of the ministry's missionary staff in Haiti were injured, however, according to Ron Wismer, crisis team manager at MAF headquarters here.

MAF is withdrawing its non-essential personnel and dependents from Haiti, Wismer said. A team of key staff members will remain to coordinate relief efforts. MAF has sent ministry directors to Haiti to assess the needs and set up the ministry's response.

"We are grateful to God for His protection of our missionary staff," said John Boyd, MAF president. "We do not yet know the exact status of all of our Haitian staff members, and we ask for your prayers for them and for all the people of Haiti during this time of great sorrow."

To respond to the disaster, MAF has set up the "Haiti Disaster and Recovery Fund." Donations can be made by clicking here. MAF expects to work with other relief agencies as they begin providing disaster assistance.

Disaster response is an area of expertise for MAF. After an initial needs assessment is completed, Wismer said the ministry will coordinate logistics and provide air transportation for aid agencies working within Haiti. In times of disaster, MAF often takes government and relief officials on flights to survey and assess damage and develop a response plan.

Casualties of the quake–Haiti's worst in more than two centuries–may run into the tens of thousands, relief sources estimate.

Wismer said that the MAF hangar and airplanes were undamaged in the 7.0 quake, which flattened entire neighborhoods of wealthy and poor alike. But because the earthquake's epicenter and heart of the devastation was in the capital, Port-au-Prince, none of the planes in MAF's fleet of three aircraft have been used.

Missionary staff homes sustained only moderate damage. One home's security wall collapsed on two sides, Wismer said. Missionaries, however, have slept on porches and outside their homes the past two nights because of ongoing danger of aftershocks.

Haiti's communications infrastructure sustained severe damage. Cellular phone service is sporadic. Some staff members' homes are equipped with VSAT internet connections, which allow e-mail and internet. "Skype works if you can find somebody with an internet connection," Wismer said.

MAF has served the missionary community and the people of Haiti since 1986. Currently, seven MAF missionary families, seven national staff members, and three aircraft serve 16 airstrips from a base of operations in Port-au-Prince. MAF also has one e-mail hub in Port-au-Prince, supporting six clients.

To enable the work and maximize the effectiveness of Christian workers and agencies, MAF provides missionaries, medical staff and community development workers the means of ministering to the people of Haiti through light air transportation services, communications networks and distance education.

Founded in the U.S. in 1945, MAF ( missionary teams of aviation, communications , technology and education specialists overcome barriers in remote areas, transform lives and build God's Kingdom by enabling the work of more than 1,000 organizations in isolated areas of the world.

With its fleet of 55 bush aircraft–including the new KODIAK–MAF serves in 31 countries, with an average of 101 flights daily across Africa, Asia, Eurasia and Latin America. MAF pilots transport missionaries, medical personnel, medicines and relief supplies, as well as conduct thousands of emergency medical evacuations in remote areas. MAF also provides telecommunications services, such as satellite Internet access, high frequency radios, electronic mail and other wireless systems.

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