As Mike and Kelly McGregor recently returned to the field to continue their missionary aviation ministry, they knew they were going to be facing some challenging times.
As tribal church planters in the most remote areas of the world, many of the New Tribes missionaries could not do what they are doing without the pilots who fly the unique aircraft that get them and their supplies in and out.
The pilots have to have other experienced pilots who can help them train on these airstrips. Often they are shorter than the ones you’d find on aircraft carriers so regular checks are needed to stay sharp and ready.
In recent years the need for missionary pilots has grown and many fields are facing extreme shortages.
The need to move missionary families with a helicopter from small islands to the mountains where entire villages of people have no understanding of the gospel is a normal thing in the lives of missionary pilots.
Without the aircraft getting in and out, it could mean boating for many hours across the open ocean to mouths of rivers where one might have to swap the boat for a motorised dugout canoe. That canoe after many more hours becomes useless when rapids make it impossible to continue. Ditching the canoe they hike for several more hours.
All this is taking place in order to reach a destination where God’s Word has never been heard.
Think of the house-building process even with aircraft and skilled pilots.
Forty-five shuttles over three days to deliver materials like piping, metal, equipment and the like. Then even though the timber is there, how do you transport it to the spot you will build your house?
These pilots are incredibly gifted, spending hours flying to these areas where they throw out ropes and sling gear so they can move the timber and equipment from one place on a mountain to another so that life can be lived for those willing to go there.
Whether it’s 10,000 kilograms (22,000 pounds) of lumber or the wives and children, these pilots are a critical part of reaching the last tribe in this generation.
One missionary pilot wrote about one of the ladies he took in to the village. “She told me how difficult the hike had been and now they were able to fly there in 12 minutes. Every three months I fly to this village with needed food and supplies for this missionary family.”
What looks like beach and paradise brings extremely hard work with the high temperatures and minimal drinking water “and sand everywhere (even in my bed) – I begin to feel like a castaway,” Mike writes.
Missionary pilot’s wives are there to serve these bush tribal church planters as well by caring for them when they come out of the bush. They often