I would like to share with all of you my vision for Ministry Awareness (our division includes the Advocate Wing, Volunteer Ministry, Church Partnership and Events). I believe we need to be excellent “CONNECTORS.” Within MAF and beyond, all of us play a critical role in doing the following:
Connecting with people and challenging them to engage in missions by using their time, talent and treasure.
Connecting people to other people.
Connecting people to opportunities.
Let me explain and give you some examples. We need more Believers to be involved in the work of the Great Commission (Matthew 28:16-20) by Going, Sending and/or Serving. The attached document is the visual in my mind of what this looks like. The arrows of connecting people to other people (item #2) or to opportunities (item #3) is endless! All of us need to be spiritually aware when God puts people in our lives or across our paths. The question to ask is “how can I connect people I know or meet to missions?” Some examples of making connections might include: inviting someone to your house to share about MAF, connecting a pilot/mechanic to an MAF Mobilizer, introducing a friend with financial means to an MAF Development Officer, asking your church or Sunday School class to join you on a mission/vision trip to an MAF field location. This list goes on and on. Once we make the “connection”, I am convinced God will take care of the rest!
Schedules could be adjusted. Funds could be raised. Plans could be made. Everything was tight and organized. A consummate planner, that’s how Hillard likes it.
But that wasn’t the case for her second trip to Africa – specifically to Mozambique – in August of 2017.
“An opportunity came open – and it was a little bit last minute,” she laughs. “I guess I knew about four weeks before we were leaving, so quite last minute!”
MAF holds a number of family conferences at international locations every year, and several team members had to drop out of the Mozambique conference at the last minute. That left vacancies that needed to be filled, and Hillard sensed God’s call to step into the gap.
“There’s usually two types of people: people who love Africa, or hate it. There’s no in-between. You either go, and you just fall in love with it, and love the people and can’t wait to get back there – or you can’t wait to leave and never go back again.”
“Of course, you don’t have to twist my arm to go on a trip to Africa, because I just love it!”
The God of practicalities
But wanting to go there and actually stepping onto African soil are two different things. Hillard still had to find the money to finance the trip. But the God of last-minute changes is also the God of practicalities – and Hillard quickly discovered that sometimes the biggest givers are those with the smallest pocketbooks.
“I went to an itty-bitty church that my parents are attending,” Hillard said. “I would say maybe there were 50 people there. And they blessed me with a check that covered half my trip! So, I mean, that was awesome. God will provide.”
Both Melissa and her husband Scott – a UPS driver and also an MAF advocate – were willing to do their own part to come up with the funds. For example, Scott worked through some of his vacation time to pay for the trip.
“We just make that our priority,” Hillard said. “It’s an inconvenience, but we just say, ‘God will provide.’ If we have to sacrifice something that we might want throughout the year – maybe we need a new couch or something like that – we go, ‘Oh, but this trip! We’re gonna do this trip!’”
A different world
When the time for the trip actually came, Hillard and her traveling partner, MAF volunteer Phyllis Kingston, had to steel themselves for a long ride. First came the uneventful 2-hour flight from Nashville to Atlanta. But after that was the seemingly endless 16-hour trip from Atlanta to Johannesburg, in South Africa.
“You know, after a 16-hour flight, you really don’t care where you are – you just want to lay down and close your eyes,” Hillard laughs.
The next day, they traveled 2-1/2 hours to Nampula, a province in northern Mozambique.
“It’s just beautiful,” Hillard recalls. “Of course, I think all of Africa is beautiful, but it’s a little bit more unique. You have some volcanic mountains, you have flat ground, and then you have this ridge of volcanic mountains. Just beautiful.”
But Hillard says the culture of Mozambique is very different from what she experienced during her trip to Uganda. She says people often see Africa as one country, when really it is a collection of very distinct and sovereign states, with their own governments, beliefs and languages.
And in Mozambique, the language is Portuguese.
“We don’t speak Portuguese,” Hillard said. “At least in Uganda, I knew a little bit of French. I could basically understand if someone was upset with me, or if I had done something wrong. But Portuguese? I had no clue.”
Thankfully, the group met up with Dave LePoidevin, a pilot with MAF who serves in Mozambique, as well as the staff of Youth With a Mission (YWAM), which hosted the team and is located next door to the MAF property there. Together, they were able to help the team acclimate to the new culture.
Hillard says guns are forbidden in Mozambique. Gone were the machine gun-clad citizens walking through the streets that she witnessed in Uganda. The currency was different too: whereas people carried shillings (not the same as British shillings) in Uganda, the currency of choice here was the Mozambican Metical, or MT (pronounced “Met”). And the clothing had a distinct Islamic flair.
“They’re much more modest in their dress,” she said. “I wore a capulana, which is like a wrap. I guess we would call it a sarong. It’s just a piece of material that you wrap around yourself and, tie like a skirt. You want to keep your shoulders and arms covered.”
Then there was the food. Hillard, a resident of Island, Kentucky, who originally hails from Canada, says she grew up near the beach, “so nothing in the ocean really scares me.”
“We ate a lot of squid, but I grew up with that, so that’s not a delicacy for me,” she said. “A lot of fish and rice, curry.”
She says one neat experience was the chance to eat xima – a type of porridge made from ground corn flour – although she admits it didn’t appeal to her taste buds.
“It was like grits. This is a southern thing, I know,” she laughed. “It’s like grits, only it tastes like somebody made grits and then threw spinach in, just because.”
And then there was the time when Holly Nace told Hillard and Kingston that they had to stop by the marketplace to pick up some chicken heads. They tried to hide their disgust.
“We were totally willing to tough it out, whatever comes,” Hillard said. “But then she’s like, ‘Oh, it’s for the dogs!’ And we’re like, ‘Thank you Jesus! God is so good!’”
The least of these…
Spend any time at all in Mozambique, Hillard says, and you will quickly realize just how poor the country is.
“You get out of your car, and there are five or six people all around you,” she said. “They’re wanting to sell you something. They’re not just being rude. They do want to feel like they are working for what you get.”
Often, young people will ask if you want them to “watch your car” in exchange for money.
“In one instance, we had several kids who wanted to watch the car, and we were going to pay them,” she said. “Then some other kids started bullying them. We had about 10 people in the back of the truck at one time because none of them wanted to leave – they all wanted to watch the truck for us.”
Hillard says she brought a gift with her to Mozambique: an inner tube needed to repair the wheel of a bike belonging to Diego, one of the children there. The tube had been ordered from Amazon while in the States, and when the bike was repaired, the whole town took notice.
“It was like 10 or 15 kids on top of that bicycle,” she recalled. “The whole community was out and Diego was driving the kids back and forth, and I’m like, ‘Oh, that’s so sweet.’”
“But when you look at it, all these other kids will never have a bicycle. And the missionary families realize that. And the kids realize that.”
She also says she soon encountered a medical evil straight out of the Bible.
“When I saw people without hands and feet – with deformities – I didn’t understand, so somebody clarified for me,” she said. “They had leprosy and had lost limbs.”
“One of the moms said to me, ‘You know, American families will never have to tell their kids that when they give a MT to a leper, just make sure that he gets it between his stumps. Just put it right between his stumps to make sure that he gets it and that he can hold onto it. Who else has to explain that to their kids?’”
But Hillard says she was destined to have a revelation while attending a worship service with Grady and Holly Nace, a husband-and-wife team of MAF pilots who serve there. While in that service, Hillard would witness the very same people who struggled with disease and poverty praising God.
“You’re in a building, and there’s a dirt floor, a tin roof – and there’s holes in the roof,” she said. “It’s a basic block building with plastic chairs. But when these people come in, they start worshipping – and they’re so joyful! I look around, and I think, ‘These are some of the poorest people in the world! But they’re so joyful! They don’t blame God!’”
Advocating for Airmen (and Airwomen)
But Hillard says the most touching part of the trip came when she got to spend one-on-one time with the MAF pilots and mechanics who are stationed long-term in Mozambique. This meant going out with them on a boat, watching whales and relaxing with a meal on the beach.
But in addition to hearing all the stories about exciting flights and beautiful settings, Hillard said she also got to hear about the darker side of missionary life: the disappointments, the discouragements and the times when missionaries just want to question whether or not they’re really in God’s plan.
“A lot of them are very discouraged,” she said. “Sometimes they feel that they’re just flying – but they’re not Nate Saint. They’re like, ‘We want to be bush pilots out there winning whole tribes [for Christ]!’ They kind of have that to live up to. And sometimes it’s just discouraging because they’re just flying coal miners or something simple like that.”
These discouragements, Hillard said, can be difficult for them to talk about because the Christian world tends to place missionaries on a pedestal, making them out to be super-Christians who don’t share the daily struggles with sin and discouragement that other Christians experience.
“Our missionaries don’t want to be called superheroes or be expected to be super, super, super-spiritual, or have a deeper understanding of God than any other Christian,” she said. “They’re like, ‘We’re not that! We’re just open! We just want God to use us, even if we sit five years and don’t see anything happen.’”
“But really, they’re affecting everybody around them,” she adds. “They’re building relationships we can’t build in the United States over the phone. But sometimes it moves slow.”
If MAF had a patron saint, it would be Nate Saint – and Hillard said this slow process that requires so much patience from our modern day missionaries is reflected in Saint’s life.
“If you think about Nate Saint, he didn’t just go straight into the field and just win everybody,” she said. “In fact, he didn’t live to know what happened. He didn’t get that pat-on-the-back – that award for Missionary of the Year. He didn’t get to see the result on Earth. Now, he will experience that from a heavenly point-of-view. He’s gonna get to meet the Waodani who come up to him and say, ‘Hey, guess what happened!’”
During our interview, Hillard said she had a message she carries with her to missionaries who are struggling with loneliness or discouragement overseas:
“You might not think you’re doing what Nate Saint did, but to us as advocates, and to those that we speak to when we start telling your stories, you’re in their hearts,” she said. “These people are going to be praying for you. When you’re going through discouraging times, there are people who know what you’ve given up. There are people who are looking up to you. You expect a lot out of yourself, but we don’t expect you to be winning nations on your own.”
As she spoke with the missionaries, Hillard said she began to have a deeper understanding of what we can do as advocates. She says advocates can advocate – they can speak out about the triumphs and struggles of the missionary boots on the ground (and in the air) in the countries MAF serves. We can travel to these distant countries, meet the missionaries at their homes, learn their stories, encourage them and then share their stories back in the States.
“That’s something to me that’s just priceless that I can bring back – and even talk to people at MAF Headquarters about it,” she said. “Maybe our missionaries feel that they can’t call home and complain or say, ‘I’m discouraged.’ But they can say it to me. They can share their hearts with us as advocates. And that makes us special. It really does.”
Foot in the door
Now that Hillard is back home, she’s tossed her capulana and she’s doing the “Mom” thing again. But she says she hasn’t forgotten the people of Mozambique, the missionaries, or the stories she heard there.
She admits that the modern American church culture can make it challenging to find congregations with the patience to sit and hear the stories of missionaries because of the mindset that just wants to be entertained.
“You know, God has just called us to reach people with the Gospel,” she said. “But we can get into Christian superstar mode and our churches can become the next episode of ‘Who’s Got Talent.’ Because we all want to think that, ‘Oh, God has called me to be Chris Tomlin.’ Or fill in the blank: Matt Redman or Kari Jobe. But God has just called us to reach people.”
She jokes that her background as a worship leader can help to provide her with just enough cover to get into churches so she can talk to them about missions.
“Sometimes I can kind of jam my foot in the door and say, ‘I’ll come and do music!’” she laughed. “And it’s really a white lie, because I’m really going in there to talk about missions. I’ll sing ‘em a couple of songs, and them I’m like, ‘Okay…’”
One thing is for sure: Hillard says she wants advocates to play a greater role in mission trips for international family conferences going forward – and even suggests that advocates pool funds to help finance annual trips for advocates to go and visit the missionaries.
“I’d like to make our advocates aware that there is opportunity to go and help,” she said.
TRAVIS K. KIRCHER is an advocate for MAF. He is based in Louisville, Kentucky, and can be reached at email@example.com.
The 2017 Advocate Summit will be here before you know it and you don’t want to miss it! We are finalizing the plans for a fun-filled, action-packed Summit sure to equip, inspire and encourage you in your Advocate ministry.
An Advocate Summit favorite, John Boyd, is sharing (perhaps for the last time as MAF’s president and CEO). In addition to Skyping with field staff, we are flying in the Kodiak to a remote airstrip for lunch. There is plenty of equipping, sharing, fellowship time, and of course, great meals and snacks. We are also celebrating the 10th anniversary of the Advocate Wing with MAF staff!
Please make it a priority to attend October 1st, 2nd, and 3rd. A minimal $50 fee covers your transportation to and from the Boise airport, lodging with an MAF host family, all meals and snacks from Sunday dinner to Tuesday dinner, a flight on the Kodiak, a special MAF polo shirt (for Advocate Summit attendees only), and all the fun and fellowship you can handle!
We have great news for all of you: Retool, a 30-day devotional book, written by MAF personnel, is now available in the gift shop. An online format will be available as well by the end of next week. The prices are as follow:
Staff price $4.00
Retail price $7.99.
The devotional is divided in six parts that contain smaller sections written by people like John Boyd, Gene Jordan, and Lisa Lind. These are the main six parts of the book: Retooling for Christ-likeness, Retooling for Compassion, Retooling for Courage, Retooling for Contentment, Retooling for Capacity, and Retooling for Commitment.
We believe that you will be greatly transformed by the insight of the great leaders who participated in writing this book, and that you will have a lot to share with those around you as you read it. Buy yours at the headquarters in Nampa or on the MAF website when it’s available online!
In July each year, kids ages 15 to 18 journey from all over the world to MAF Headquarters. From Nampa, they hop in the van to an old train depot next to the airport in Cascade, ID. This begins the week of MAF Aviation Camp.
Throughout the week, twelve campers receive aviation theory instruction and hands-on experience in three different aircraft. They work in teams to construct and fly small gliders made out of foam plates and bamboo skewers. Upon completion, there is a competition with the gliders. The competition includes glider assembly accuracy along with flight criteria including endurance, distance, right and left turns and altitude.
In addition to the glider competition, morning devotionals, afternoon activities, along with staff member and volunteer testimonies about MAF and life experiences, we share the vision of what MAF is really about: Sharing the love of Jesus.
This is my fourth year participated in this camp and it has blessed me each time. I lead the glider assembly and competition, as well assist where needed. To be able to witness seeds being planted in these kids about mission work, and MAF in particular, is most gratifying. In addition to campers going on to Moody Aviation, mission trips to various continents, we’ve had some return for the second time and then become camp assistants. It will be great to see what the Lord does with these kids as He works His plans in their lives.
We’ve recently welcomed Alan & Kim Sizemore from Wichita Falls, TX on our Advocate Wing South Team and Alan is already busy organizing bike riders for a famous 100 mile bike ride held in Wichita Falls on August 26th. Over 13,000 riders from all 50 states and many foreign countries will participate in this ride. Alan is recruiting a team and sponsors to benefit MAF!
Join the fun! RSVP to Alan by June 24th to receive an MAF Team Jersey. firstname.lastname@example.org or 940-781-3450.
Alan & Kim will hold a team meeting for local riders. They will explain what MAF is and tell its story. This will be a recorded presentation so it can be posted online for other non-local riders to view. A local friend with a passion for Christ and aviation offered his services to create a promotional video for the local news station. He will also film the MAF team on ride day. Kim will contact the newspaper and others to get additional PR.
If you, or someone you know, would like to participate please contact Alan at email@example.com OR 940-781-3450.