The Long Road to MAf- Part 1

Young and unaware

When I was a young pilot, just 20 years old, I was driving around the back streets of Lanseria Airport in Johannesburg, trying to get a sense of what companies were out there and where I could drop off my resumé.

That’s when I first learned about MAF.

Being young and full of wide-eyed optimism, I applied to MAF. Over the next few months I went through all the stages of application and testing, not quite thinking what I would do if MAF actually accepted me as a pilot.

As it turned out, they did. When that day arrived, the CEO of MAF said to me ‘Ok, we want you in MAF, but are you sure you’re up for this?’

This was probably the first time that question was real to me. I was 20 years old. Was I up for this?

This, at the time, would have been Papua New Guinea, a world away from everyone and everything I knew. Through some advice from people who care for me, and many days spent pondering what to do, the decision at that time of my life had to be No.

‘No,’ I’m not ready to go deep into the jungle, flying in an extremely dangerous environment, away from everyone who loved and cared for me. I wanted to use my flying for the greater good, but I wasn’t ready for this.

I was ready for something else though.

My first few days at Semonkong Children's Centre

At the end of that year, with the idea of ‘mission work’ fresh in my mind, I joined an outreach to Semonkong, in the Lesotho highlands, where we volunteered at an Orphanage that had been set up to care of orphans and vulnerable children. During the week-long outreach, I started to feel a strange, challenging feeling deep in my bones. A mixture of excitement and anxiety, constantly in battle with each other. The excitement whispering to me ‘Hey, what if I worked here at the orphanage for a little while, to get an idea of what mission type work is like.’ The anxiety screaming, ‘Nope! You can’t give up flying and live here in the middle of nowhere! It’s not an option.’

Through weeks of thinking and praying, I found myself listening to the excited, hopeful voice rather than the loud, anxious one.

Our move to Pulane in early 2008

Our move to Pulane in early 2008

I moved to Semonkong Children’s Centre, the same orphanage where we visited, in 2007, with the intent of taking a year off of flying to get some other experience. Before I even realized it, that year was over, and I had no plans to leave.

In fact, Jill Kinsey, who ran the Centre, and I had branched out and started another one, Pulane Children’s Centre.

The official opening of PCC in Oct 2008

The official opening of PCC in Oct 2008

Having been a founder of that centre, it became my main focus over the next few years. Jill and I worked together to get a brand new children’s home up and running, in an effort to assist families who were struggling with the huge problem of orphans and vulnerable children in Lesotho.

Visits like this from MAF to Semonkong made me long for this type of flying

Visits like this from MAF to Semonkong made me long for this type of flying

All this time, I still dreamed of altimeters and airspeed indicators, longing for a time when I might once again be behind the controls of an airplane.

But for now, this was my place. And until I felt something moving me away, I planned to stay.

The thing that moved me away, was not a thing at all. Her name was Emily… Read Part 2.