More than a “Pilot’s Wife”


As a writer for FlightWatch, I have the incredible privilege of hearing what God is doing through MAF around the world. And I’ve discovered that dozens of ministries are being played out every day by the women of MAF.

There are female pilots with MAF. In fact MAF’s very first pilot was a lady named Betty Greene. But for this article, I wanted to focus on the wives of MAF pilots and mechanics—the often unsung heroes. No matter what season of life they’re in—with or without kids, empty nesters—these women are sharing Christ’s love in a variety of ways.

Snapshots of MAF wives around the world.

Snapshots of MAF wives around the world.

When Peanuts Were the Key to Ministry

Early in their 30-year ministry in Africa with MAF, Sue* and her husband, Raymond*, an MAF pilot, were based at a remote mission station at Semendua, in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (then Zaire). Because they had so many children (seven) of their own, women in the village were always coming to Sue with malnourished babies. One day, a close Congolese friend, Luta, brought her a tiny baby who was in bad shape. Sue unwrapped layer after layer and was shocked to find a four-month-old at just over six pounds, her arms no wider than Sue’s pinky! She figured out how to make peanut milk for the baby, then taught her friend how to as well. That started a fruitful ministry that helped many other children through the years.

MAF wives, like Sue, use their talents to meet the many needs around them—whether physical or spiritual. Their kindness often creates a deeper connection with the people they’ve come to serve.

From First Aid to Friendship

At the MAF Rumah Singgah hospital house in Kalimantan, Indonesia, MAF wives visit and pray with families flown by MAF. Even their kids join in as well—playing with other children who are staying there.

“Coming as the pilot’s wife creates a much closer link than just the airplane,” said Rebecca Hopkins. “It provides a way for all of us to be involved with the ministry.”


Marieke Rietveld meets with other midwives in Kalimantan. Photo by Mark and Kelly Hewes.

Some MAF wives use nursing and midwifery to show compassion and help people heal. They field calls from missionaries in remote villages seeking medical advice, help teammates or neighbors with health issues, and make hospital visits.

Living next to the airstrip at the Nabire base in Papua, Mindy Hartin, a registered nurse, often meets the airplane when it arrives, to make an assessment of the patient onboard. She then lets the patient and family know what details to give the doctor. She told one patient to mention the stick that was still inside him after he had fallen and been impaled by a branch.

“It’s cool to be a part of that. You just feel more connected with the people,” said Mindy. “And they see you as a family.”

Teaching, Tutoring, and Taekwondo

Whether it’s reaching out to children in the neighborhood, working with missionary kids, tutoring someone in English, or sharing a certain skillset, MAF women shine the light of Christ within their communities.

Some of the moms are involved with existing local kids’ clubs, or they organize their own like Kathy Maynard has done. She hosts several neighbor children in her home two mornings a week for a playgroup, which usually involves a Bible story.

“Besides wanting to impact our community, I’m praying for creative ways to bring Indonesian children who need God’s love into our home frequently,” said Kathy.

Others do things that are a little more out of the box, like Jill Holmes in Mozambique. A fourth-degree black belt, she teaches Taekwondo classes to women, children, and teenage boys.

Jill Holmes teaching a child Taekwondo in Mozambique.

Jill Holmes teaching Taekwondo in Mozambique.

Liz Schandorff connects short-term mission teams with local Christian groups in Haiti, and helps them establish ongoing partnerships. She organizes groups to build furniture, garden, paint facilities, do art projects, and minister to orphans and their caregivers.

“These all seem like little things,” said Liz, “but you put them all together and it really becomes a legacy of love.”

Not So Ordinary

Years later, after her family had transferred to another base, Sue returned to visit her old mission station. Luta heard she was coming and rounded up 80 or so children to meet her—some of hundreds who were alive and thriving because of Luta’s “nutrition center,” which Sue helped her start.

“Sometimes what we do just seems really ordinary to us. We don’t realize what the impact is in the future,” said Sue. “We have a hard time seeing the big picture.”

I hope and pray that the women of MAF will know how valuable they are in the big picture of MAF’s ministry. Whether they’re cooking dinner for their family, doing another load of laundry, making sure someone feels welcomed at an MAF guest house, flight following, or writing a report for their team, they’re doing so unto the Lord.

And I hope that like these women, you realize the impact you are having through MAF. Please know that your faithful support is having a ripple effect, allowing the love of Christ to spread out across the world.


*For safety/security reasons, names have been changed to conceal the couple’s identity. 

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  • Kristi says:

    Great post! Thank you for sharing and thank you to the missionary wives and mothers for serving the Lord in such a wonderful variety of ways. Blessings to you and yours!

  • Sarah McCarthy says:

    Is there a way for me to connect with one or some of these women? My husband and I feel called to Missions and Aviation is how we think we should proceed but it’s so different than anything we have ever looked at.

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