Flight Path to Possibilities

How a lifelong relationship with MAF missionaries and God’s calling are bearing fruit in a young Haitian man’s life.

 

On a Sunday in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, Zacharie François got a call from one of the MAF pilots at the hangar. The starter generator on the Cessna Caravan was smoking.

Zacharie, the first Haitian to graduate from the School of Missionary Aviation Technology (SMAT) in Michigan (2019), was then working as a maintenance specialist with MAF Haiti. In fact, at this time he was serving as the interim director of maintenance.

Zacharie François, left, on a flight with MAF Haiti pilot Eric Fagerland. Nestor Mercure, an MAF mechanic assistant, is in the back seat.

“They shouldn’t smoke,” Zacharie explained. “If it smoked, something arced inside. Given that the starter-generator is connected to the engine’s compressor shaft, a current may have made its way through there and welded the bearings, thus seizing up the engine; and that is not good.”

“We’re going to ground the aircraft,” Zacharie told MAF pilot Eric Fagerland. “I’m going to come in at six. We’re going to take this thing apart…”

What did Zacharie find when he took apart the starter-generator? First things first: How did Zacharie come to be serving with MAF in Haiti?

The Road to MAF

“Due to my parents’ work, I grew up around MAF families. And because of that, I’ve known about MAF my entire life,” Zacharie said to a crowd of donors and guests at a special event at MAF headquarters in September 2021.

“I was never really interested in becoming a pilot or mechanic for them,” he continued. “But all that was going to change after my first flight.”

In May of 2013, close family friend and MAF pilot Will White prepared to take Zacharie on a flight. The sun was just rising and God was painting a glorious white-orange sky as Zacharie boarded the small MAF airplane. He was about to gain a new perspective.

Up until that point, Zacharie’s view of Haiti had been limited to the capital of Port-au-Prince—a city of 2.7 million people—where he’d lived his entire life. Then, as 16-year-old Zacharie peered at the rural parts of his country from the air, he experienced a rush of emotions.

Two things struck him on the way to a remote village:

“One: I realized how poor my country was, but I knew the potential that exists within the land of Haiti,” Zacharie told the guests. “And two: I realized that mission aviation can make a difference. It can actually change the ending for so many isolated people.”

After that flight, Zacharie’s heart was moved to want to become a missionary aviator—he had his doubts, though. On his own, he couldn’t see a way to make that happen. But after he graduated from high school, God nudged Christine Harms, one of the MAF wives, to approach him—a friendship was formed, which eventually led to him becoming an aircraft mechanic apprentice with MAF.

In a rural village, Zacharie explains airplane lift and physics to a group of school children who are on a special field trip.

In this role, he had opportunities to ride along on some flights. On one medical flight in particular, he and the pilot waited at the airstrip for the paramedics to return from transferring a patient to the local hospital. In the meantime, the local children had come out to see the airplane. They had a lot of questions, which Zacharie happily answered. But one six-year-old boy said something that broke his heart.

“Haitians can’t fly this thing,” the boy said. “They can’t work on this.”

Zacharie tried to tell him there were Haitian pilots and mechanics.

“Not Haitian, can’t be,” the boy replied, and the other kids around him echoed in agreement.

That six-year-old’s comment stuck with Zacharie and served to cement his calling to become a missionary pilot/mechanic. He began to see how God could use his upbringing.

“I grew up in a Christian home, and I was able to hang out with missionaries from different countries,” Zacharie continued. “But I also lived with the struggles that other Haitians were living with—my parents are from a poor family.

“Our heavenly Father allowed me to grow up in this environment, so he could use my story to inspire others to seek a deeper, more meaningful relationship with Him.” 

An Extra Pair of Wings

“We have some big butterflies in Haiti,” Zacharie laughed as he shared in an interview with MAF staff what he had found when he opened up the starter-generator of the Cessna Caravan.

Somehow a large butterfly had made it through a little hole located behind the propeller, through a spinning fin, all the way to the back of the engine and the starter.

Zacharie knew he would need to explain to Nampa (HQ) that a butterfly had destroyed this very expensive part and could have potentially destroyed MAF Haiti’s turbine engine—a half-million-dollar engine.

The remains of the butterfly next to the starter.

So he took a photo of the butterfly. And because of Zacharie’s discovery, butterflies are now “a thing”—something that’s covered during MAF’s maintenance standardization classes.

“Upon further inspection, it was determined that no damage had occurred to the engine, Zacharie added. “We praise God for such protection and give thanks that we had the funds to buy another starter-generator.”

Nothing Impossible

Zacharie was much like that butterfly that found itself in a seemingly impossible place. But as you know, nothing is impossible with God, and Zacharie was proof of that as he shared with the crowd at MAF headquarters in 2021 about the milestone he had just reached.

“Two weeks ago, I started my flight training at SMAT,” Zacharie said as he began to tear up.

The crowd cheered and clapped, then he concluded: “And yesterday I had my first flight as a student pilot.”

 

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At the time of this posting, Zacharie is finishing up his last quarter of flight training. He is the first foreign student to be admitted to SMAT’s flight program and expects to graduate this August. From there, he will return to Haiti and continue serving as an MAF mechanic while adding to his flight hours before he  goes through MAF’s technical evaluation and flight standardization; once he passes those he will be accepted as an MAF Pilot.   

24 Comments

  • Nikki says:

    So cool! Way to go Zacharie!

  • Sheila Battle says:

    Very cool story! Blessings on Zacharie!

  • Ruth says:

    Congratulations and well done Zacharie

  • Mya R says:

    Wow what an amazing Story 🙏🙏 God bless

  • Amazing how God knows what believers love but will give up to serve Him. And then in out of nowhere God surprises them by giving them back what they gave up!

  • Lucille Logan says:

    Inspiring

  • MICHELLE GRAY says:

    I was so happy to hear Zacharie’s story, especially that he was inspired by a child, what a blessing it’s been for me to hear his story and how God has and continues to orchestrated his life.

    So proud of Zacharie and so appreciative that MAF (a mission, I support) has given him the opportunity to become a pilot “Praise God”

  • April says:

    Love it! Love It! Want more of it!..I told God. Getting older as I be, don’t give up on using me!

  • Carol Sandum-Hodgson says:

    Thanks be to God for Him directly your life!

  • Bryan Mathews Krisimpa says:

    Thank you God! All things are possible with GOD. Luke 1:37 Inspiring, I can picture my son sitting in the pilot sit flying a mission plane. Only God can make dreams become a reality for everyone.

  • David Carwell says:

    Fix your eyes on Jesus and you will continue to be a blessing to many people.

  • Kathy says:

    Praise God. He sure knows what we can do if we just let Him.

  • Dick Netzer says:

    So proud of this young man. Praying God uses him in greater ways than he could ever imagine. Blessings on you!!

  • Martha Byler says:

    Very inspiring testimony Zacharie. Wishing you God’s best blessings as you continue your training and go on to fly, no limits with our God!

  • John Francis says:

    Wonderful story of a good A&P doing his due diligence!
    Thank you Zacharie!

  • Barbara Thompson says:

    This is such an inspiring story. No-one is too small or insignificant to be used by the Lord. Well done,Zacharie.

  • Judith Bowyer says:

    A tremendous story and a huge Well Done to Zachariah.
    Wishing you all the very b3st for your future with MAF.

  • God bless you, Zacharie – we’re praying for you in England!!

    Brilliant story, Jenn… inspirational to me as both a reader and a writer.

  • Paul Tinley says:

    The future human resources for the extension of the Gospel are in the Harvest. Zacharie is an example. May the Lord raise up many more, “Zacharies”.

  • Rick Robb says:

    Well done, Zacharie!! You’re the embodiment of Phillipians 4:13, “I can do all things through him who gives me strength.”

    Fly safe!! Blessings!

  • Amos Ashifa Agyigra says:

    Thank you Lord for the strength and impact of all those who donate to maf to make their work great,lord thank u for maf connecting people to God

  • Zulquar says:

    Excellent story Zachary. Wishing you all the best.

  • Nancy Jones says:

    Very inspiring when considering what it will mean to other Haitian young people and the thankfulness and pride the elders will feel to know one of their own can become a pilot.

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