MAF provides vital aviation and communications services to national churches, Christian missions, and nongovernment organisations (NGOs) ministering in east DRC.
Today, out of a Congolese population of more than 70 million, 90% profess Christianity. However, large numbers have no clear grasp of repentance and faith in Christ or of salvation by grace and not works. As a result, animistic thought patterns, fear of witchcraft, and the blending of Christianity with tribal religions are major problems.
Formidable barriers stand in the way of evangelism and the provision of critical resources to nurture struggling indigenous churches. Some of the ministry challenges include continuing unrest and danger due to intermittent outbreaks of violence; witchcraft; tribalism; interethnic hostility; widespread corruption; collapsed infrastructure including education, transportation, health, communications, and financial systems; and exploitation by political leaders.
In September 2002, the MAF base in Nyankunde was the site of heavy fighting between two tribal factions. In all, an estimated 1,200 people died in the ethnic massacre, a number of which were killed on the mission station. As a result, the mission hospital was shut down, and all other mission work in the area came to a sudden stop. The MAF base was destroyed, the equipment looted, and personal effects pillaged. Yet in the midst of the conflict, MAF conducted evacuation flights.
In the years since, three disarmament, demobilisation and reintegration (DDR) programs have been quite successful in disarming combatants and helping them to revert to civilian life. Some 25,000 combatants as well as 10,000 child soldiers have been demobilised, and hundreds of thousands of civilians have returned to their homes. In 2006, DRC held its first democratic election in more than 40 years. Though some militia activity has continued—as recently as summer 2008—the elections, along with the success of the DDR programs, bring hope to the region.
MAF fills a strategic role in touching countless lives for Jesus Christ by standing with, and supporting, Congolese churches, missionaries, and an increasing number of short-term mission teams. MAF is committed to supporting the emerging interdenominational and intertribal Christian movement that is facilitating ministries of healing, reconciliation and Biblical community development. Other mission groups and humanitarian agencies utilise MAF services to help with rebuilding efforts and alleviate the suffering of those displaced or affected by a destabilised east DRC.
Since its Nyankunde base was destroyed in 2002, MAF has been providing services as effectively as possible from a base in Kampala, Uganda. In 2005, five Congolese MAF staff and their families returned to Nyankunde and began the challenging task of clearing the airstrip and MAF grounds of more than two years of debris and tropical growth. In 2006, MAF completed the installation of new roofs on missionary houses, and in December the military finally vacated the MAF Nyankunde compound.
In 2007, MAF established an interim base in Bunia—45km from Nyankunde—staffed by two families and a Cessna 206. By mid-2008, a third family and a Cessna 208 Caravan were added to the Bunia base, moving all flight operations into DRC. This facilitates rebuilding efforts in Nyankunde while providing more effective air service for church and humanitarian workers within east DRC. MAF hopes to return full operations and aviation services to Nyankunde in the future.
Though stability is returning to the region, DRC continues to be a place of great need and uncertainty. Tomorrow’s ministry opportunities will be shaped by the future level of security in the country. The fledgling, democratically elected government faces an almost insurmountable task to bring government services to the population. Business, NGO, and mission interests will be greatly affected by the function or dysfunction of the tax, administration, and regulation services of the government. The potential need for new relief and development work is vast, but will be tempered by the ability of organisations to work unmolested.
• Africa Inland Mission (AIM)
• Centre Medical Evangelique (CME)
• Christian Blind Mission (CBM)
• Congo Church
• International Cooperation (COOPI, an Italian organisation addressing malnutrition in children)
• Medair (a Christian relief group)
• University Shalom Bunia (USB)
• WEC International (Worldwide Evangelisation for Christ)
• Wycliffe Bible Translators
• YWAM (Youth With a Mission)
MAF provides vital aviation and communications services to national churches, Christian missions, and nongovernment organisations (NGOs) ministering in west DRC.
An estimated four million people (most of them women, children, and the elderly) have died as a result of civil war and tribal unrest in DRC. Thousands lost their lives in a human catastrophe caused by the war’s disruption of food production and trade. Without access to shelter and medical care, many became victims of disease and malnutrition brought about by displacement, or died at the hands of foreign forces or Congolese armed groups. Entire communities suffered severe food shortages and starvation and continue to remain beyond the assistance of international humanitarian organisations.
The 2006 presidential elections brought hope to the region, though some militia activity has continued as recently as summer 2008. Formidable barriers hinder the provision of even basic services to millions of survivors living in desperate conditions. These barriers also prevent evangelism and the provision of critical resources to nurture the struggling indigenous churches of west DRC.
Ground travel is difficult, dangerous, and slow due to the poor state of roads and the lack of security. Local air services can be expensive and do not meet acceptable safety standards. Communications systems are unreliable and costly with no communications infrastructure available in the bush.
Some of the ministry challenges include civil unrest and continued instability; thousands of refugees flowing in from neighboring countries; witchcraft; tribalism; interethnic hostility; widespread corruption; collapsed infrastructure in education, transportation, health, and financial systems; exploitation by political leaders; and the difficult global economy.
From bases in Vanga and Kinshasa in west DRC, MAF’s light aircraft and communications networks offer a valued solution to barriers created by vast distances, jungles, and ever-changing rivers. MAF sustains and multiplies the ministry efforts of expatriate missionaries, national Christian workers, social workers, and a 350-bed hospital in Vanga. MAF pilots and planes conduct emergency medical evacuations, transport medicines from the hospital to outlying areas, deliver evangelistic materials, as well as enable training events, learning institutions, social action projects, and crisis relief. MAF communications services facilitate short-term projects and events, and link church leaders, remote centers, and outposts. Though stability is returning to the region, DRC continues to be a place of great need and uncertainty. Tomorrow’s ministry opportunities will be shaped by the future level of security in the country. The fledgling, democratically elected government faces an almost insurmountable task to bring government services to the population. Business, NGO, and mission interests will be greatly affected by the function or dysfunction of the tax, administration, and regulation services of the government. The potential need for new relief and development work is vast, but will be tempered by the ability of organisations to work unmolested.
(22 Jan 2013)
The latest update from the MAF team working in the northeastern region of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC)
(07 Dec 2012)
MAF pilots in Bunia, Democratic Republic of Congo, report that things feel relatively 'normal' in the town, following recent violent protests and ongoing regional insecurity.
(22 Nov 2012)
MAF is evacuating relief and mission workers from eastern Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), as rebel invasions and violence shakes the area.
(10 Aug 2012)
Pilot Jon Cadd flew the Cessna 208 C208 Caravan aircraft from the town of Goma to Walikale to see if humanitarian workers could return to the needy area.
(14 Jun 2012)
A new airstrip in Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) is enabling MAF to bring desperately needed medical supplies to remote parts of the country.
Mission Aviation Fellowship
Castle Hill Avenue, FOLKESTONE, CT20 2TN UK, Tel: 0845 850 9505
Registered Charity Number 1064598 (England & Wales) and SC039107 (Scotland)