Traumatic at times, MAF’s story is an adventure of faith. Above all, it’s God’s story.
After World War II, in air forces throughout the world, the hearts of men and women were stirred by one question above all others – ‘Can aircraft that were used so effectively for death and destruction now bring God’s peace and love to isolated people in unreached areas?’
New Zealander Murray Kendon – who’d been an RAF pilot in Coastal Command – was one such airman inspired by this idea. Jack Hemmings, Ken Ellis, Tom Banham and I were among the first to join Murray and his new organisation, Missionary Aviation Fellowship. We all shared the feeling that God had called us to survey missionary needs in Africa by air.
It took two long years to raise funds for the twin-engined, four-seater Miles Gemini aircraft that became known as ‘The Mildmay Patfinder’ in honour of our sponsor, the Mildmay Movement. Finally, on the afternoon of Tuesday 13 January 1948 at Croydon Airport – after an electrical fault had been corrected– Jack (pilot) and I (engineer) were given permission to take off.
We promptly flew the Pathfinder into a squall of icy rain with a 70mph crosswind for good measure. There had been a brief debate about waiting for better weather, but we’d done crazier things in the war and couldn’t wait any longer to start this new adventure!
Flying low across the Channel, a strong side wind made it necessary to correct our course by 20o all the way to France. Two hours later, we touched down safely in Paris – the first leg of our African adventure completed. Praise the Lord!
Throughout this 75th anniversary year, we will continue the amazing story of MAF’s beginnings. However, just before the Pathfinder left England that day, a supporter thrust a small movie camera into Stuart’s hands and urged him to film the journey. The resulting documentary is called Flights of Faith and is now available for a donation on DVD.