For 50 years, Mission Aviation Fellowship has helped deliver relief supplies to remote areas in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.
To mark the recent anniversary, Congolese medical and church leaders gathered to thank the Christian ministry for its work. MAF was one of the few groups to provide much-needed aid during the 1995 and 2007 ebola epidemics in the DRC.
"MAF was the only aviation company who accepted this task to fly international medical personnel and a mobile laboratory into the hot zone of the epidemic and to fly personnel out of that area," said Dr. Tony Karemere of the Institut National de Recherche Biomédicale.
Karemere also emphasized MAF's work during recent measles outbreaks in "difficult to reach" areas. Miles of thick rainforests in the DRC often make it nearly impossible to identify and locate where there's a need.
"With MAF we were able to get into those areas and transport the needed vaccines," he said.
Mission Aviation Fellowship has helped the DRC since 1961, at the request of the Protestant Relief Agency.
Globally, MAF has used airplanes and other technology to help some 1,500 Christian and relief groups transport aid such as medical supplies and vaccinations to otherwise stranded areas.
The group serves 32 countries, and in the process, recipients are often transformed spiritually.
"Over the years, the staff and equipment have changed, yet the ministry remains essentially the same," said MAF's western DRC Country Director Garth Pederson. "Bringing hope to the hopeless, demonstrating God’s love in practical ways."
MAF pilot and mechanic Dave Jacobsson has witnessed the ministry's impact after working with the group for more than 20 years in the Democratic Republic of Congo.
"You never want to look back on any part of your life and feel like it was wasted," Jacobsson said in a post on the MAF website. "I always want to be asking myself, 'What am I doing with my life that has eternal impact?' I know that I'm getting the chance to make an impact by what I do through MAF."
MAF now has eight of its 142 planes in the DRC, as well as 70 staff members serving more than 100 organizations regularly.