Just ask Brian Marx, a pilot with MAF based in Papua, Indonesia. He grew up overseas and his parents served with MAF. Even as a teenager, the importance of the airplane to mission work was obvious to Marx. When two pilots died, the missionaries, ministries, and organizations they flew into remote and hard-to-reach areas suddenly had to find less convenient travel options. This hampered Great Commission work such as Bible translation and evangelism.
“I just saw this gap and the struggle and God began working on my heart and I began to pray and say, ‘God, if you’ll open doors, I will step through them and I could maybe fill the shoes of those pilots who are gone now.’”
From there, Marx attended Moody Bible Institute for a Bachelor of Science in Mission Aviation Technology. He then got the rest of his necessary licenses and joined MAF as a pilot.
So what does a day in the life of an MAF pilot look like? Marx gives us a glimpse into one of his personal reflections after a day of taking missions to the skies:
“Flying home today, I thought back to what had been accomplished with the plane. It was just an average day. Nothing particularly out of the norm. The first leg from Nabire, which is where we live, to Pogapa I had half a dozen schoolkids who had been boarding in Nabire and now get to go back to their village and to their parents for Christmas.
“The second leg was a very sad one. In Pogapa, a young lady was experiencing a miscarriage. She was into her second trimester and the baby had passed. Now she seemed to be in quite a lot of pain. I would evacuate her to Nabire where doctors can help her. There’s a special account where I can charge emergency medical needs. The flight for her would be free.
“Suddenly, one of the local teachers came running up to the plane. ‘Mister pilot! Could you please wait for my friend? She just found out her father passed away and she needs to fly home.’ I did my best to comfort these two passengers as we headed back to Nabire. Such a sad flight; but for me, a huge privilege to help during their time of deepest need.
“Third leg was a plane full of pastors headed to Beoga. As I gave the before-flight briefing, there were many ‘amens!’ and enthusiastic ‘praise the Lord!’. It was pretty funny but terrific at the same time. Their culture is different than mine and I appreciate and enjoy it.
“Fourth leg was full of folks headed over the mountain range to Timika and probably further for the holidays. I had to fight some really tall rain clouds, maintaining max climb performance all the way to 14,500 feet where I donned an oxygen mask and maneuvered to a safer air route where I could punch through the weather to better skies on the other side. I landed in moderate rain and heavy crosswind in Timika.
“My fifth leg would take me back through that weather.” He pauses for an audible shudder. “Last week, I picked up some-60 pastors from interior villages for a ministry planning conference in Timika. Now I would take nine of those home to their village on Dofu. I briefed my passengers about the weather we’d face and then decided to swing out west hoping to find a better situation. Things were not quite as bad. I only had to climb to 13,000 feet to clear the building storm.
“Dofu was clear and hot. From the ground, I had the chance to chit-chat with John, a Bible translator who’s been working here for 20 or more years. John and his wife are doing well. His young teammate, a relatively new arrival, is making progress building his home with supplies that MAF delivered this fall. Pray for John and his team of Edopi tribal pastors who bring salt and light to a very dark corner of the jungle.
“I found myself on the last leg back home to Nabire with three nurses and the doctor from Dofu all headed home for Christmas. I filled out the paperwork for the day, and I thought, ‘Wow, it’s unbelievable that today is just another average day at MAF. Only God could take a group of simple pilots and little airplanes and do so much with them.’”
So what about you? Would you like to become a pilot with Mission Aviation Fellowship? Click here to check out their website and learn more!
When asked what his favorite part is about being a missionary pilot, Marx doesn’t miss a beat: “Not a flight goes by when I can’t look in the back of the plane and see the reason that I came to Papua. Sometimes it’s a missionary or a pastor or an evangelist. Other times, it’s a teacher and schoolbooks. And sometimes it’s a huge pile of cargo…. That’s my favorite part, is just being able to serve.”
Check back tomorrow as we talk with MAF’s recruitment coordinator about the technical and spiritual aspects of becoming a missionary pilot.
[Header photo: Pilot Daniel Moser taking off from an airstrip in Timor-Leste. Timor-Leste is operated by MAF-International. Together, MAF-US and MAF-I operate in 33 countries! (Caption, photo courtesy of Mission Aviation Fellowship)]