How one MAF pilot’s first solo flight in the DRC could change the lives of a remote tribe forever

Story by Dominic Villeneuve, an MAF pilot serving in Bunia, Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC)


A pilot’s first solo flight is always an exciting and memorable event (mine was on March 14, 2014). The same applies to a pilot’s first solo flight on the mission field.

On September 28, 2021, I did my first Congo solo, flying from Bunia to Isiro to Dakwa to Banda and back to Bunia.


My flight route for my first solo … 557 nautical miles is long, but it was worth every inch!


But what was truly inspiring were the people I was flying: three Congolese missionaries who were students at Centre Chrétien de Formation pour Evangélisation et Mission Intégrale (Christian Center for Evangelism Training and Integral Missions, or CCFEMI) in the city of Bunia.

The three men had done some training and then been sent to the province of Bas-Uélé for a one-month mission trip, followed by several weeks of serving the local church in Bas-Uélé. My task was to fly them back to Bunia for their next module of in-class training.

The three missionaries were eager to tell me their story.


A plane full of missionaries!


During their one-month mission trip, their main assignment had been to perform an in-depth survey of three unreached tribes deep in the Ituri rainforest. The area is very difficult to access, so—unsurprisingly—there has not been much mission work there through the years.

Any evangelism and church planting that has been done has been mostly among one of the larger tribes, along the main road in the area. It’s just been too difficult to reach the more remote areas.

The men told me that one of the tribes they had surveyed was the uncharted Kango people, a fishing tribe living along the Uélé River, 270 miles deep into the rainforest. After the men had made initial contact with two of the Kango settlements—one on each side of the river—they’d been told by the people that it was the first time in known history that missionaries had come to visit them in their homes!

This photo taken during the flight from Dakwa to Bunia illustrates just how difficult overland travel would have been for the three missionaries.


Throughout the month, the missionaries had continued to connect with the other tribes they had been tasked to survey. They’d also come alongside the few church plants in the area to share the good news of Jesus with people who did not know Him.

The men excitedly shared with me that 25 people had given their lives to Christ during that month! Praise the Lord!

One of the missionaries, a 64-year-old soldier-turned-pastor, had felt led to continue the work among the Kango, so he had revisited the two settlements. During his return visit, the people had asked him to plant a church! He had then traveled 48 miles (one-way!) by foot to continue surveying three more small tribal villages.

His research showed a desperate need for more evangelism and will help future missionaries work more effectively.

MAF is thrilled to partner with organizations like CCFEMI and their missionaries. The tribes that they are serving are located in areas that are extremely difficult, if not impossible, to access without an airplane.

CCFEMI reports that MAF has “enabled [them] to promote the security of [their] missionaries and bring the gospel into some of the least accessible parts of this country.”

Some of the missionaries on my plane that day plan to return and continue the evangelism effort that has been started.

I for one am very excited to fly them back!


Here’s how MAF celebrated my first solo flight in the DRC when I returned to Bunia. Click here to watch the video! 



  • Chet Shaner says:

    I remember my first solo cross country but the environment was not like yours. I also didn’t get baptized at the end. Thank you for you service to God and the DRC.

  • Christine Nieuwsma says:

    Wonderful to hear about! Thanks for sharing your story, Dominic! Good bless you!

  • Richard Freeman says:

    The Lord Bless You And Keep You…
    Congrats on your SOLO flight.

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