MAF had the privilege of participating in the Sun N Fun fly-in from 13-18 April in Lakeland, FL. We hadn't participated since the mid 80's and were asked to come back by John Burton, the president of Sun N Fun. He saw the Fly for Life exhibition at EAA AirVenture 09 (Oshkosh) and wanted a similar representation at SNF.
Of course we wouldn't be able to participate at Oshkosh each year if it wasn't for the Mission Aviation Support Association (MASA) who provide housing, transportation and meals for our time there. And the same would have be true of our time in Florida.
But in God's providence a MASA-FL group formed, headed up by John Hoke and ably assisted by Rob and Teena Ray - International Association of Missionary Aviation (IAMA - who led the Fly for Life project at Oshkosh 09). We were wonderfully cared for by 9 local churches who provided meals and transportation while members of the churches hosted us in their homes. I believe I put on 5 pounds over the course of the week!
Since this was MASA-Florida's first time to run an operation, Lee and Debbie Smoll, head of MASA-WI drove down and were invaluable in giving counsel and help to John Hoke. (If you get a chance, ask them about the miracle the Lord did in keeping them safe in what could have been a life-ending accident.)
To me this was just another example of the Body at work, each part coming together to make the whole successful. No one part could have done it by itself, but as each did its part, we evidenced the unity of the Spirit and I believe brought Glory to God.
Besides MAF there were 3 other mission groups represented: Indigenous People's Technology and Education Center (i-tec), JAARS (Wycliffe Bible Translators Technology arm) and New Tribes Mission Aviation (NTMA). We 4 shared a feature tent (40x40) situated on a prime display lot (75x75).
New Tribes had their first Kodiak on display which attracted LOTS of interest. JAARS had both a Helio Courier and Robinson R-44 helicopter and got to do Helio demonstrations in the airshow a few days. And i-tec showcased their flying car - The Maverick in another corner of the lot.
During the 6 days of the airshow we got to speak with a lot of folks who had no idea that aviation could be used in missions. It's always a pleasure to thank the many supporters of MAF who also stopped by our tent. In addition we had many opportunities to speak about MAF in local churches.
The Lord blessed us with a great group of folks working the MAF corner of the booth and we bonded together really well as a team. Besides myself there were 2 other recruiters - John Hook and John Lemmon. We were also very fortunate to have 2 furloughing pilot/mechanics help us out - Dan DeSalvo and Danny Hulls. They brought a freshness and excitement that only comes from recently being on the mission field. If you wanted to talk to someone you could just call out John or Dan and have a pretty good chance of getting an answer. :)
We are even now in the planning stages for Sun N Fun 2011 which runs from 29 March - 3 April. If there's any way you can make it, I'd encourage you to put it on your calendar. Next year will be bigger (more mission groups) and better! And please join us in praying that the Lord would once again be Glorified by our efforts. Thanks!