During that month that I was required to take off work for recovery from surgery, we began to feel that God was calling us into missions, but didn't yet realize God's timeline. We both thought this would be something great to do after the kids grew up and moved out of the house. But we gradually began to see that God was saying NOW is the time.
After one of my post-surgery follow-up visits to the surgeon, we were on the way home and saw an airplane sitting in the front yard of a church beside the highway. We thought this was rather odd, so we pulled into the parking lot to check it out. Turns out this airplane was a travelling "billboard" of sorts that was advertising an event taking place in September 2012 called the Ohio "Missions At The Airport" or MATA for short (see below for their website). This is an open-to-the-public event where several missionary aviation organizations get together at a small airport for a weekend and give folks a taste of what missionary aviation is all about. The timing couldn't have been more perfect for this event as we were really feeling like this was the direction God was leading us.
At the MATA, we had an opportunity to speak with a pilot from Missionary Flights International. We explained to him that we felt like God was calling me to be involved in missionary aviation. He was very encouraging and informative and listed off several requirements.
The first requirement made sense - I needed a commercial pilot's license with 400-500 hours of experience. At the time I had zero hours of pilot experience, but felt this was just a matter of time to get my license and hours.
The second requirement was a new one to us. Most missionary aviation organization also require their pilots to be certified airplane mechanics. But thinking about it - if you are flying in a remote jungle somewhere and your plane acts up, wouldn't it be crucial to be able to diagnose and fix the problem rather than having to transport a mechanic to the problem? I have zero training as an airplance mechanic, and at the time we weren't really sure how to go about getting this training.
The third requirement really got my attention though. He asked how old I was, and when I said I was 34, he said "if you want to be involved in missionary aviation, then you need to get started NOW. Due to the stress and workload of this type of job, this is not a young man's game." Well that was the first time that I've ever been referred to as an old man. But with all the training I needed, I would be at least 40 by the time I was fully certified and ready to fly in the field.
But surprisingly, rather than leaving this conversation feeling defeated because of how inexperienced I was; we left feeling like we now knew what was required and with time, effort, and patience it could be accomplished. Rather than give up and stay with what was comfortable, we felt even more confirmed that God was calling us into the mission field.
Another neat part of the MATA was the opportunity to fly in an actual missionary airplane. Here's a picture that I took during that flight:
Not only was this my first time flying in a small airplane (only 6 seats), but I also had the opportunity to sit in the co-pilots seat. I've flown as a passenger in large commercial airplanes before, but flying in this small airplane, and being able to sit in the cockpit, and see what the pilot sees, and view all the controls & instruments - oh I was hooked! I knew right then and there that this was something I was passionate about.
In our next post, we'll share about how we connected with the mission organization that we'll be serving with.
Ohio MATA website: