The Secret Was MAF

How God used one faithful family to bring thousands to Christ

Touching down in Ethiopia this past February, three generations of one family disembarked a Cessna Caravan and were greeted by several thousand people. Tears of joy flowed as old friends reconnected and memories were shared.

MAF and Talking Bibles Majang people Ethiopia

A banner greets Harvey and Lavina Hoekstra on their return visit to Ethiopia in 2011. All photos courtesy of the Hoekstra family.

It all began in 1964 when Harvey Hoekstra and his family arrived to minister to the Majang tribe. It took the family 10 grueling days to reach their destination, traveling by foot through 52 miles of dense jungle. Once there, they spent four months cutting down trees and clearing stumps to make a suitable landing strip for an MAF plane.

“Before the airstrip was completed, we had air drops from MAF. They supplied us with food … whatever we needed,” said Harvey. “And we had the radio transceiver, which MAF supplied. The secret was MAF. It couldn’t have happened without them.”

Mission Aviation Fellowship airplane air drop supplies airstrip building

An MAF airplane drops supplies for the Hoekstras.

Harvey desired to bring God’s Word in a verbal form to the Majang, who had a strong oral culture. Having spent 13 years translating the Anuak Bible, Harvey was able to convey Gospel message in the Anuak language to a bilingual man who then recorded them in Majang. A dozen 12-minute tapes were created that told of Jesus. The Majang liked what they heard and took cassette players deep into the jungle to share the Gospel story.

A New Pilot, and the Word Spreads

Inspired by the MAF pilots who flew him around as a kid, Harvey’s son Denny became an MAF pilot in 1965. He began serving in Ethiopia in 1967, delivering supplies to his parents and others. Denny recalls the day a Majang teen returned from a village several hours away. Along with her cassette player, she carried a string with 13 knots, each representing someone who had told her, “I want to know your Jesus.” Seeing how effective the cassettes were, Harvey gained a vision to record the scriptures in other languages as well, and the Talking Bible was born.

It’s the combination of MAF and our harnessing the cassette player that explains how God reached the Majang people with the Gospel.”  Harvey Hoekstra.

When the Hoekstras were forced to leave Ethiopia in 1976, there were 200 believers. Harvey and his wife, Lavina, returned to California to focus on the cassette ministry, while Denny moved to MAF headquarters to work in the flight training department. Denny’s brothers, Paul and Mark, worked together to develop the Talking Bible into a compact, easy-to-use unit. Now it exists in more than 100 languages in 35 countries.

Majang Talking Bible listening

Listening to the Majang Talking Bible in Ethiopia, 2011.

Today an estimated 23,000 Majang believers and 48 churches exist in a 3,200 square-mile section of the jungle. In early 2011, the Hoekstra family returned to witness the dedication of the Majang Talking Bible. For the first time, the Majang have the four Gospels in their language on the Talking Bible. What a celebration!

Harvey says, “We were privileged to plant the seed, but the mighty work of God occurred after we left. All glory and praise is His.”

Majang Bible dedication crowd celebrates

A crowd celebrates the new Majang Talking Bible in 2011.


Story ran in the spring 2011 issue of FlightWatch. 



MAF alumni Denny and Carol Hoekstra with Dr. Harvey Hoekstra (seated).


1 Comment

  • Ernst Thaler says:

    Great to see you folks again! Thjanks for your hospitality in Jimma in the late 60ies! Ernst Thaler Austria, doing some purchasing and shipping for SIM and others. (then 22, now 73…)

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