MAF internships—a new way to prepare young people for missions
“Going to a village where I didn’t know anyone or the language and being left there sounded like a terrible plan to me,” said Rachel Amend, an aircraft mechanic, recalling a mountain excursion with her fellow Moody Aviation students.
They were on a one-month internship at the MAF Lesotho program back in January of this year.
The travel arrangements added to Rachel’s anxiety. She would have to control a horse, without someone leading it, for the first time in her life—descending 2,000 feet down a mountainside, crossing a river, and then riding back up 2,000 feet on the other side.
A New Model
This intern experience is a new initiative coming from the MAF Waypoints department. Waypoints staff partner with technical schools like Moody Aviation, LeTourneau University, and Liberty University to provide a discipleship/mentoring process for young people who are preparing for missionary aviation careers. The Waypoints team holds workshops at the schools, and, starting with this Lesotho group, has revamped the MAF internship model to provide a more intentional experience that gives students a real taste of what it’s like to serve in missions.
“It [The Lesotho trip] was an opportunity to take the long-term transition to missions and shrink that down into a four-week experience,” said Aaron Kramer, MAF Waypoints department manager. Aaron, his wife, Sarah, and their two girls are based in Spokane, Washington, where they mentor Moody students. They went to Lesotho with the group to shepherd, care for them, and handle logistics.
A few months before the trip, ten Moody students started meeting together with Aaron and Sarah once a week for pre-trip training. They worked through a book that covered things like delighting in differences, why missions exist, and staying spiritually fresh on the field, to name a few topics. They also took the StrengthsFinders assessment (now CliftonStrengths).
“It was really helpful to get to know Aaron and Sarah and build that trust with them, and get to know the rest of our team and how people think and operate,” said Andrew Sink, a pilot/mechanic who is finishing his training at Moody this year. He and his wife, Maggie, both went on the trip.
“When we got there, we were able to care for each other a lot better. That helped a lot because during the first week, over half of the team was sick,” Andrew said.
The group of 10 interns, plus Aaron’s family, stayed at a children’s center for the first two weeks while they studied the Sesotho language and learned about the culture of the Basotho people. After that, eight members of the team (those who weren’t sick), accompanied by a few of the Lesotho Flying Pastors (LFP), journeyed by land to Kuebunyane, in the mountains. They spent two nights there before returning to the capital city of Maseru. The final part of the internship was spent interacting with the MAF families and national staff and helping with projects at the hangar or at the missionaries’ homes.
Letting God Lead
All during the trip preparation period, Rachel worried about the arduous travel the mountain excursion would require. Yet when the time came, she made the decision to go.
Rachel and the seven other young adults from Moody departed from Maseru at dawn and spent seven hours traveling in a van, on a dirt road. Next they spent over an hour getting the horses ready, and then three and half hours traveling by horseback. They finally reached Kuebunyane as the sun was setting. The group would spend the following day and a half experiencing life in an isolated village.
The next morning, the interns led a devotional at the clinic and then hiked to two nearby villages with the LFP and the full-time pastoral couple in Kuebunyane, going door-to-door and visiting with the people while the pastors translated for them.
At one house, a woman shared how she would ask God for one thing or another, and if that didn’t work, she’d try something else.
Rachel, along with Alex, a pilot/mechanic intern who was in her group that day, were able to share their experiences with the woman.
“We both shared times where our prayers weren’t answered in the way we wanted them to be and acknowledged that there was pain there, but also how it turned out to be good and showed us God’s character in ways that we hadn’t understood before,” Rachel explained. “It seemed to make an impact.”
On their last morning in Kuebunyane, the interns packed their things and were ready to go when three MAF Cessna 206s landed at the airstrip to take them back to the capital city. As they made the trip to Maseru in a mere 35 minutes—versus the 13 hours it took to reach the village—the group clearly saw the value of using airplanes to minister in isolated areas.
Though she had feared going to Kuebunyane, it turned out to be the best part of the whole internship experience for Rachel. “What started as the most dreaded part of the trip had become the highlight for me,” she said.
Overall, the internship exceeded everyone’s expectations, even as it pushed some out of their comfort zones. While the interns got the chance to see what a life in missions could look like for them, they also learned a lot about themselves and about God.
“I think this is a new way that we as MAF can engage with young people,” said Matthew Monson, country director, MAF Lesotho. “And if it means that they’re inspired and they get a better, clearer picture of what it’s like to live and work overseas, then we’ve all just won together.”
Story ran in the August (Vol. 3) 2023 issue of FlightWatch. Read the entire issue here: