2 July 2014
'By the grace of God, for the first time in my life, I was on board an airliner travelling to another country,' explains 24-year-old PrabhuKiran Pothula about his visit to MAF’s Asia Pacific headquarters in Cairns at the end of last year.
As a young boy, he watched helicopters flying to land on the oil rigs at sea close to his home in the tiny poor village of Andhra Pradesh in southern India. A passion for flying rose within him.
But he never dreamed that one day he would travel to the other side of the world to serve God.
However with God nothing is impossible.
At the age of 16 Prabhu made the decision to follow Jesus. It was also at this time that he left home to complete secondary school (education in his own village stopped at year 10). He studied hard and finished school in 2007.
He still had a passion to fly but the cost made it an impossible dream for him and his family.
So Prabhu started asking God to show him a way. And God did.
Prabhu became aware that the Indian government had started a scholarship programme to enable students to become commercial pilots.
Prabhu applied and miraculously he received a scholarship. In fact, Prabhu was the very first to receive this scholarship under that scheme in whole of India!
He was accepted at a flying school in Hyderabad, the capital city of Andhra Pradesh. But life was far from easy for Prabhu. The school was a long way from home, Prabhu was all alone in a big city, and the scholarship money (which he needed to live on) was delayed in coming.
Prabhu again reassessed his decision to serve God through aviation. But he remained convinced that God would find a way for him. And in 2012 Prabhu completed his commercial pilot’s licence training along with a post graduate degree in aviation.
Now that his goal of flying was progressing well, Prabhu decided to start God’s work. He returned to his home village and, together with a group of like-minded people, started a mission called ‘Help the Needy’.
They led youth retreats, Gospel meetings and medical camps in order to tell people about Jesus.
It was during this time that Prabhu discovered MAF on the internet. To see the vision God had given him to use flying to serve the Lord already in practice was unbelievable for Prabhu. He immediately wrote to find out more and to apply to work with MAF.
To date no pilots from India have served with MAF before, but even from afar MAF saw something special in this young man and so sent a MAF representative to do an initial flight test and to check Prabhu out.
The report back was positive so at the end of last year, Prabhu flew out to Cairns for further interviews, flight assessments and visit the MAF programme in Arnhem Land.
Prabhu kept ticking all the boxes and so the application process continued and at the beginning of 2014 Prabhu returned to Australia to convert his India CPL to an Australian one at the Flight Training Centre in Coldstream, Victoria.
Retired MAF pilot Winston Ussher was there to meet Prabhu when he arrived at Melbourne airport. Prabhu shares how awesome it was to be picked up by Winston and spend the first few days with him.
Here were two pilots at different ages and stages in life, from totally different cultures, but brothers in Christ with the same passion for using aircraft to serve Him!
In yet another God appointed meeting, Prabhu’s MAF Flight Instructor Paul Denness was a missionary kid in Pakistan so he understood and was able to help Prabhu adapt to Australian life and aviation requirements.
Prabhu's parents received a vision before he was born that he would serve God overseas. That vision is becoming reality.
There’s still a long way to go for Prabhu with his CPL conversion to be completed and then theological college to be undertaken in New Zealand.
But as Prabhu trusts in God on this very long journey, He is making the paths straight – not easy, not quick, but certain and clear.
'God willing, I am looking forward to go to my dream land, Arnhem Land, early next year (after the completion of my Bible College) to serve God with MAF and to be a witness for Him among those people,' says Prabhu.
'I believe that in areas like Arnhem Land, aviation and technology can be the best means to use for reaching people for Jesus because of their remoteness. I am praising God for making me a partner with MAF!'
He concludes, 'I am also monitoring the work back home in India! I know that there are places like Arnhem Land around the world which require assistance with aviation and technology. I would love to see all of them reached - and that could be in India too!'