MAF History

Meet Murray Kendon – the man who conceived MAF

28th May 2014


Murray Kendon was the man behind MAF's vision (credit: MAF UK)

Murray Kendon was the man behind MAF’s vision (credit: MAF UK)

RAF pilot Murray Kendon was the visionary who conceived Mission Aviation Fellowship. Find out how his dream of using aircraft to bring help, hope and healing to people living in isolated parts of the world, became a reality.

As a World War II veteran, Murray considered the destructive power of military aircraft:

‘How come thousands of planes can be found to kill and destroy, but there’s only a handful to spread God’s amazing offer of free forgiveness and eternal life in glory?’

Murray Kendon – MAF co-founder

The idea of using light aircraft to overcome physical and spiritual barriers was born.

It was Murray’s vision that touched both Stuart King and Jack Hemmings AFC, and resulted in the beginnings of MAF in the UK in 1945.

Today, countless lives have been transformed because of Murray’s God-given vision and passion for aviation, technology and mission.

What started as a small group of young Christian pilots is now the world’s largest humanitarian operator flying to some 1,400 remote destinations.

Seeds of peace sown during war

Born in Auckland, New Zealand, in 1917, Murray Kendon became a Christian when he was 16 years old. He had a growing passion to share Christ, and soon became a passionate and dedicated speaker.

When war threatened, Murray was called up to train as a pilot. He learned to fly in Christchurch, then moved to Canada to continue his training before finishing in the UK.

Murray trained hard and used weekends and annual leave to preach. It was at one such meeting that Murray met his future wife, Minnie.

Murray’s active service was with 179 Squadron, flying as a Wellington Bomber co-pilot.

One night, Murray flew alone across the Bay of Biscay. He watched the flak from France over which thundered a British thousand bomber raid, and it stirred something in his heart.

Years before, Murray had heard the story of a missionary team who set out to find a tribe deep in the jungle. They returned weeks later completely out of food, worn out by incredible hardship and were almost killed by flash floods which had destroyed their canoe.

Murray felt sure that a small aircraft would have been invaluable in providing mapping, transport and supplies, all in only a day or two of time. This story came back to haunt him and Murray felt strongly about the vital impact that aircraft could have as a mission tool.

In 1944, not long before World War II ended, Murray was joined by Trevor Strong – another New Zealand pilot who had spent nine months as a prisoner of war.

During his captivity, Trevor had also felt a call to mission and gained a vision of using aircraft for evangelism. It was with great enthusiasm that he now applied himself to the task of making this vision a reality.

Vision turns into reality

The dream these two men shared was still in its fledgling stage when Murray went to visit Dr Thomas Cochrane, president of the Movement for World Evangelism at the Mildmay Centre in London.

Murray poured out his passion and the possibility of using planes to enable missionary work. Dr Cochrane’s answer was swift and direct:

‘God has laid this on your heart, Murray. Perhaps He wants you to do something about it yourself. You pray about it, write an article, and I will publish it.’

Dr Thomas Cochrane – president of the ‘Movement for World Evangelism’, London

Murray was thrilled with this encouragement and returned to Cornwall, where he was living with his wife, Minnie. They prayed, wrote and sent Murray’s precious vision to Dr Cochrane.

Murray’s article was published in March 1945 – the first recorded thoughts about MAF – in the UK Christian weekly newspaper ‘The Mildmay Outlook’.

This article was embraced by a number of Christian pilots and engineers from different countries. They recognised the opportunity for using their aviation skills to serve and build, rather than to destroy.

Stuart King – a British RAF engineer during the war – read Murray’s article. He immediately contacted Murray, passionate about the vision Murray had.

Years later, it would be Stuart who worked tirelessly to keep MAF alive in the UK. It would also be Stuart who headed to Sudan to establish MAF’s operations in Africa.

In 1946, Murray flew to America to connect with Christian Airmen’s Missionary Fellowship (now MAF US).

Through this intercontinental meeting, the two aviation groups in the UK and the US found their vision and names almost identical, and decided to work together. They took on the common name of Missionary Aviation Fellowship, later changing this to Mission Aviation Fellowship. These were the first two groups to start operations, and MAF Australia soon followed.

Murray worked hard to promote and build the vision of MAF in the UK until 1950, when he and Minnie returned to New Zealand, where they promoted MAF throughout the country.

Murray Kendon (1917-2014) passed away peacefully on Tuesday 27 May 2014 with his wife Minnie by his side. His memorial service was held in Wellington, New Zealand on Tuesday 3 June 2014.