One Donor’s Unforgettable Encounter with MAF
By: Grace H.
One casual, unexpected conversation at a church event was all it took for Mike Rowles’s dream to finally materialize.
Mike, long-time supporter of MAF, had dearly wished to visit the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), to see both his World Vision adopted son and the MAF program in the capital city of Kinshasa. After tentatively making plans in fall of 2017 to visit, only to have them fall through, he left it up to God to decide when his long-awaited trip to the DRC would happen. In January 2019, the Lord started opening doors in a mighty way. After talking to an MAF pilot at Rock Harbor Church in Meridian, Idaho, Mike was connected with Nick Frey, the West DRC program manager at the time. Through the gracious help of various MAF workers, Mike’s much-anticipated journey to the DRC became a reality, at long last.
“Everything was just amazing. The Lord’s hand was in everything, through every day,” Mike said. From the moment he touched down in bustling Kinshasa to the moment he departed back to his home in Meridian, Mike’s trip was packed full of unexpected blessings. The morning after he arrived in the DRC, he had the privilege of joining the Kinshasa program staff on the worldwide day of prayer for MAF, worshipping and praying in French.
In the days that followed, Mike had the delight of meeting Japhet, his adopted World Vision son, a young man he had sponsored for many years, who lives all the way across the country in Lubumbashi. MAF helped with the logistics of finding a commercial flight to this area. The long flight was well worth the joy-filled experience of Mike and Japhet meeting for the first time in person, and “bonding instantly.”
Although the primary purpose of his trip was visiting Japhet, of equal importance was gaining a firsthand view of an MAF program. “I’m a general aviation pilot,” said Mike. “So I have a deep love for airplanes and what they’re doing in DRC with them, especially as there are very few roads there.”
Some particularly exciting moments were when Mike was able to fly right seat in a Caravan and then the PC-12 during separate trips to/from the remote village of Vanga. However, even better than the thrill of the flights was the people Mike met and interacted with during his adventure. “They’re just so kind and warm… It was delightful to meet everybody!” Mike said of all the MAF staff and families he got to spend time with. He appreciated the warm hospitality of Rod and Valerie Hochstetler, as they provided him a home away from home. And each night he enjoyed dinner with a different pilot family. Joining the whole MAF family—if only briefly—and putting real faces to the names he supports was a deep privilege, one that he will treasure for the rest of his life.
Other highlights of Mike’s trip were getting to learn more in depth about aircraft maintenance in the Kinshasa hangar, and sharing a short message on Philippians 4:13 during an MAF chapel.
Reflecting back on his unforgettable journey to the DRC, Mike now has a deeper understanding of what MAF does. “I saw it from the outside—reading FlightWatch, talking to MAF pilots,” said Mike. “But to actually, physically participate in flights and see what life is like there was just wonderful. Each day was special.”
It’s all too easy for missionaries to forget the uniqueness of their lives and the profound way God is using them. Getting caught up in the mundane, normal tasks of daily life overseas—from early mornings in the hangar, to doing laundry, to grocery shopping, to attending school—can sometimes cloud the beautiful reality and impact missions bring about. Visitors like Mike are a blessing because they provide a new perspective.
“Having an outsider come always helps us see things with fresh eyes,” said Nick Frey. “As they point out what they are seeing for the first time and asking questions, we realize we don’t even notice some of those things anymore.”
“It’s an amazing service that MAF does,” added Mike. “It daily changes lives for the people there [in DRC]. The heritage of MAF goes back so many years and shines brighter and brighter every day.”