Meet the Dillinghams

Meet the Dillinghams

Becki and Matt Dillingham serve with MAF in Chad along with 6-year-old Bethan and 1-year-old Luke. We caught up with them recently to find out what life is like for the family of four serving in the heart of Africa.

We're Matt and Becki Dillingham. This is our daughter Bethan, and we've got a son, Luke. We've been in Chad for seven months.

What's your role Becki?

I'm a pilot, and I'm also the Flight Operations Manager. I manage the bookings that come in, look at the schedule, and find partner organisations that might be interested in the empty seats. I sort out the paperwork that goes alongside that.

And what do you do Matt? 

I'm a stay-at-home dad, so I support Becki at home doing the cooking and the shopping and home-schooling Bethan and looking after Luke.

And Bethan, how about you? 

School. reading. Playing a lot. That's mostly what I do with my days. And go to sleep.

And what things surprised you when you first got to the field?

Matt: Well things like running water, not having that in Madagascar, was tough! Power cuts and things, people can tell you what to expect but until you experience it for yourselves... Life is just harder in third world countries. But we really like the lifestyle here. There are lots of families and everyone helps each other out. 

Becki: And it's a lot more outdoors than in the UK.

Matt: Yeah, just being able to go around in t-shirts rather than having to wrap up in the cold. We love the climate!

So what challenges have you found living here in Chad?

Becki: The biggest challenge is the heat and hot seasons. It's draining at times. And the workload in a very small programme - things break all the time!

Matt: I think making new friends is always difficult when you move to a country. It takes time to build up good friends and get to know a network.

What keeps you serving despite all the challenges?

Becki: Being able to serve our partners. Hearing about the things that people are doing out in remote villages - just being able to be a part of that. The opportunities for the kids that they wouldn't get back home. It's fun!

Matt: Yes, being part of MAF's work feels good. When Becki comes home and tells me about the flights that she's been involved in.

Becki: And you really get involved, especially flying missionaries. If you were with an airline you drop them off and never see them again - but they come here to use the pool when they're in town! We're one big family all helping each other out and that's really nice.

How do you see MAF making a difference here in Chad?

Becki: For a lot of the people out in the villages it's a lifeline. A lot of them will use the road but they know if they have a medical emergency then MAF is there for them. We’ve just started a shuttle service where they just pay for a seat. That should be really helpful. A road journey is tiring, I can testify!

Matt: I think there's a lot of room for growth, getting more and more partners flying with MAF. If we're here for four years then hopefully by the end of that time MAF will be serving many more people than it is now!

Becki: And definitely trying to help impact the local church flying local missionaries into areas that they wouldn't hope of reaching otherwise.

Bethan, can you think of anyone mummy flies?

Bethan: Doctors, because when people need doctors mummy will fly them to where they need to go.

So Becki, what has it been like as a female pilot? It's kind of rare in MAF?

Becki: Yeah, it's rare. And in Chad, people in the villages find it really interesting.  When I went up to Bol, every time we went into a house the interpreter that was with us would introduce us, and he would say, 'guess what this lady does. She's a pilot!'

It was great going around the school because all those children were really inspired that women could do something other than having children. It's been really positive. I haven't had any...

Matt: No one's refused to fly with you?

Becki: No one's refused to fly with me. I think because I'm in a pilot's uniform then people recognise that’s what you wear for this job and so, as far as I know, I haven't had any people offended by me not wearing the full lafai. Everyone's just been really excited. 

So what advice would you have for someone who's thinking of joining MAF?

Matt: I think you have to really be prepared to give wholeheartedly. Join the country. Make friends. Think of it as a real long-term thing. 

Can you talk a little bit more about home-schooling? How has that been?

Matt: Bethan’s just turned six, so she would be in year one at school. We both feel that it's kind of nice that she's not having to sit behind a desk for five hours a day. She's really interested in endangered animals at the moment, so we spend a lot of time on that. And obviously, we do the core subjects - maths and reading and writing most days.

Bethan: And we do my journal.

Matt: We just we really like the flexibility of it. And I think Bethan is really enjoying it as well. She's got used to me being dad and me also being teaching.

Bethan, What're your favourite things to learn about?

Bethan: Well mostly I like learning about endangered animals like my dad said. 

If you could make a choice right now, what would you want to be when you grow up?

Bethan: It's between being a farmer, a nurse or a doctor.