MAF employs 290 local workers to fill administrative and technical roles at its overseas flight programs. Compare that to the 127 expat staff stationed around the world and it’s obvious these workers are greatly needed to help each program run smoothly and efficiently.
In western Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), Leta Kupa has been working for MAF nearly 30 years. He manages the program finances and uses MAF’s projection equipment to show the “JESUS” film in the capital of Kinshasa at least once a month. Like many of the 31 Congolese staff MAF employs there, Leta plays a critical role in MAF’s work in the DRC and views it as his ministry.
Also working in MAF’s DRC program are Maurice Mvumbi and Tshitshi Zondondo. Maurice handles customs, taxes, and immigration issues and Tshitshi interfaces with the Civil Aviation Authorities to secure licenses for pilots and airplanes, and flight permissions among other things.
“These guys understand how the system works and how to deal with it,” said Ron Wismer, former program manager for the WDRC base. “Their understanding of the politics and sociology of the system is invaluable.”
Eighty Indonesian staff work at MAF’s five bases in Papua, Indonesia. Onong Baikole started out on the load crew, and then joined MAF’s disaster relief efforts in Sumatra after the 2004 tsumani. Because of how he handled the work and scheduling issues, he was later offered the position of flight scheduler at the Sentani base. Today Baikole oversees flight requests for all the Papua bases, prioritizing church requests and coordinating efforts with MAF flight schedulers across Papua.
“I’ve learned a lot from observing MAF missionaries,” Baikole said. “Working with true believers has taught me a lot about living life as a true believer.”
Papua Program Manager Mike Brown describes the local MAF staff as being “the face of MAF.”
MAF provides on-the-job training and when possible helps in obtaining certificates and licenses to help its workers advance. One worker, Evrin Pratama, progressed from digging ditches to being the top Indonesian mechanic. Last year he traveled to Nampa with Brown to participate in the Maintenance Instructor Seminar. In addition to being able to sign off on scheduled maintenance inspections, he can now train new staff as well.
In addition to jobs created by MAF at the various bases, MAF-US staff also employ house helpers and security guards. In doing so, MAF staff learn how to deal with the idiosyncrasies of a new culture, which helps them assimilate better and build friendships in the process.
MAF missionary Matthew Lind, who recently completed his first two years of service in western DRC with his wife, Lisa, and two children under the age of four, confirms this: “We had a lot of household help, which made the cultural transition easier. They were able to guide us on how to make life function there.”
Employing local workers is an important part of how MAF makes a difference in the places it serves. This practice not only bolsters the local economy, it provides an opportunity for MAF to support local believers and share the Gospel with those who may not be Christians. Additionally local staff are invaluable to MAF. Their skills, talents, and unique cultural perspectives enable MAF to effectively serve in partnership with local churches to share Christ’s love.