Close colleagues have paid tribute to former MAF pilot Les Brown who passed into glory with his family at his bedside last Thursday. Les and his wife Elaine served MAF faithfully for 11 years during the 1960s and 70s in Ethiopia and Kenya, and were loved and respected by all who knew them.

‘Les was the first pilot I flew with after we arrived in Ethiopia in 1967. He was so professional and calm, with helpful insights. He provided the confidence and stability I needed during my checkout,’ explained Denny Hoestra, a contemporary of Les and his wife Elaine.  

Fellow pilot David Staveley shared, ‘We all appreciated Les and Elaine’s wonderful attitude to helping us younger people out. They became a favourite “uncle” and “auntie” to many of our young children – dearly loved by all of us in MAF, and a fine Christian testimony to all who knew them.’

Les was a dedicated and capable pilot. Former pilot, MAF UK CEO and current board member Max Gove recalled an incident when Les experienced an almost total engine failure when flying in the high mountain area of Ethiopia’s Bale province.

David Staveley continues the story, saying, ‘Les knew that there was a tiny airstrip not far away and he nursed the aircraft over ridges and valleys to make a good landing on one of the shortest and most difficult airstrips we had in Ethiopia.’

‘I used to find it difficult to land on this airstrip called “Worqua”, even with everything working perfectly on my aircraft. How Les managed it under those circumstances I just cannot imagine!’

In his book Hope has Wings, Stuart King – one of MAF’s founders – records how, in a single day, Les Brown made 30 landings with bags of cement to enable a mission building to be constructed in Chebera; the personnel there relying entirely on MAF for supplies.

MAF plane taking off from the SIM outstation airstrip at Chebera in 1963

‘We all appreciated Les and Elaine’s wonderful attitude to helping us younger people out. They were dearly loved by all of us in MAF, and a fine Christian testimony to all who knew them.’ David Staveley 

During their time in Ethiopia, Les and Elaine became parents to twin boys. Due to complications following a difficult birth, Elaine and Les were reassigned to our Nairobi programme, where local medics could provide for Elaine’s ongoing care.

While in Kenya, Les accompanied Dr Dick Anderson on an evangelistic medical outreach. The 50-mile flight from Kalakol to the small community of Nakurio carried the AIM doctor, a pastor and 140kg of food for the village’s schoolchildren and teacher.

Les, who carried out many such flights during his time with MAF, wrote an account of how the Gospel was shared with the crowd that gathered to receive medical care.

‘They had a very gracious and gentle way of introducing people to MAF.’Andy Martin

Les and Elaine returned to Scotland in the early 1970s – briefly returning to Ethiopia in 1974 to assist with famine relief flights. The couple remained staunch supporters of MAF in the decades that followed, taking every opportunity to share the charity’s work as volunteer speakers.

As Area Representative, Les was keen to share his passion for mission with supporters – often bringing a VHS player and 27-inch TV with him to speaking engagements. ‘They had a very gracious and gentle way of introducing people to MAF,’ shares Andy Martin of MAF Scotland, who knew the couple well.

Read about Les' safari flight to Nakurio

‘They would phone the office weekly, asking, “What can we pray for? What can we do for you?” The phone calls continued even after Les was diagnosed with cancer. ‘That’s the type of person Les was,’ says Andy. ‘He had a heart of compassion, a pastoral heart. Nothing was a bother. He’d do anything for anyone and he lived and breathed MAF.’ 

At a volunteer conference, former MAF Board Secretary Andrew Cunningham shared how, at the age of seven, his life was saved by an MAF flight in Ethiopia after he contracted cerebral malaria.

Les, who piloted the plane that flew Andrew to Addis Ababa, walked over to him and, in front of 90 people, said, ‘I remember the day well!’ There wasn’t a dry eye in the house!

A thanksgiving service to celebrate Les’ life and ministry is planned for later this year. More details will be shared closer to the time. Please pray for Elaine who is currently in hospital recovering from a fall. 

Do you have a memory of Les? Get in touch if there's something you'd like to share.