Quake calls Christian aviators into action

By October 5, 2009

Indonesia (MNN) — Responding to Indonesia's massive 7.6 magnitude earthquake, MAF (Mission Aviation Fellowship) has flown in an assessment team to the devastated city of Padang, in the coastal region of western Sumatra.

The quake hit Sept. 30, destroying hundreds of buildings and homes, triggering landslides, knocking out power and cutting off roads into the city of approximately 900,000 people. Amid the fires and flooding, thousands are expected to die. Relief agencies are relying on MAF and other groups in a desperate race against time.

MAF currently has three expatriate pilots and some 10 local staff on Sumatra, according to Ron Wismer, manager of research and operations support. The missions agency, which has worked in Indonesia since 1954, has two aircraft on Sumatra–a Cessna 206 and a Cessna Caravan–that are based in Medan, which is well north of the earthquake zone. Responding to the emergency, MAF is providing flights from nearby Pekan Baru to Padang, close to the epicenter. Easily accessible from Jakarta and other places, the plan is to stage the MAF emergency response operations from Pekan Baru.

Coordinating their efforts with the local government, MAF leaders quickly flew in a team of relief workers from Operation Blessing International (OBI) to the scene of devastation. Other groups are also requesting MAF's assistance amid the chaos.

"We are working primarily with OBI," said Stan Unruh, the MAF country director in Sumatra, "but the phone is ringing off the hook with requests from the Red Cross and others."

Wismer said friends of MAF can help in two ways. First, they can pray that rescue workers can gain access to people who need food and medical care. Second, they can make financial gifts for the relief effort. To give to the MAF rescue work in Padang, go to www.maf.org.

MAF began flying in Sumatra in response to the 2004 tsunami that devastated the Aceh area of the island. MAF was one of the first to respond to that disaster. MAF also provided communications services to support relief efforts.

Founded in the United States in 1945, MAF (www.maf.org) 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 130 bush aircraft, MAF serves in 55 countries, with an average of 242 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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