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Sitting in the cockpit with Norwegian MAF pilot Eivind Lindtjørn, you can see first hand the passion, sweat and commitment that keeps our mission in the air. Although he’s over six feet tall, Eivind squeezes behind the controls and willingly goes the extra mile to serve his passengers.
He reflects on how God called him to live in South Sudan, and describes a day when he helped save the lives of 23 children facing danger – which makes his job so worthwhile.
‘Moving from Norway – one of the world’s most affluent nations – to South Sudan, which is one of the poorest, has been a challenging, but thrilling journey. When we worry about security in Juba, God reminds us of the verse in Matthew where Jesus says: “I am with you always, even to the end of the age”. This gives us the peace and reassurance we need to thrive in this special country.
‘One of the things I love about MAF is how we can offer affordable flights to help people who are in desperate need. Our little aircraft are perfectly designed to cut impossible, day-long journeys on pot-holed roads lined with bandits to a safe and easy flight of just 40-50 minutes.
‘A flight that will stick with me was when a friend of ours called Cathy told us some kids were in real danger in a town just outside Juba. Cathy runs an orphanage called Confident Children out of Conflict, where more than 50 vulnerable children who’ve been rescued from conflict across the country now live. She’s a real inspiration to us, and we always help her when we can.
‘Our flight schedule that day was really tight, and it was going to be a squeeze to fit all the children into our Cessna Grand Caravan. But we knew we had to do everything we could to bring them to safety. During the violence, many women and children were being raped or abducted to join the rebel forces.
‘It was an operation of finite planning, teamwork, quick turnarounds and prayer – as, with limited Internet or phone signals, it is very difficult to make sure passengers are waiting safely for your plane in a country where violence could break out at any time.
‘Our ground crew worked hard to monitor the security situation, refuel the plane and turn it around as quickly as possible so we could fit the two flights in before dusk.
‘But God helped bring everything together, and I was able to fly all 23 children on 2 trips safely back to the capital.
‘When the first set of girls spilled out of our plane on to the tarmac in Juba, their excitement, relief and gratitude was so touching. They were all hugging each other, our staff and especially Cathy.
‘I’m so pleased they are all safe, and we could do our bit to help. For me, it was more than just another flight, it really was furthering God’s Kingdom.’
Flying for MAF in South Sudan for three years, Eivind, his wife Nadia moved to join MAF’s team in Uganda in 2018, where they continue to live with their two girls Eliyah and Anava, and LuLu the dog.
Mission Aviation Fellowship (MAF) is the world’s largest humanitarian air operator. For over 75 years we have been flying light aircraft over jungles, mountains, swamps and deserts. We enable more than 2,000 aid, development and mission organisations to bring medical care, emergency relief and long-term development. Our pilots and personnel deliver relief workers, doctors, pastors, school books, food, medicines - everything that can only be safely and speedily delivered by air. Our faithful supporters give and pray to make this all possible.