One Young Pilot’s Path Into Service with MAF
By the time Canadian pilot Brent Mudde arrived in the southern African nation of Angola in 2004, he had spent most of his life dreaming about and actively preparing for service with Mission Aviation Fellowship.
Brent had known about MAF since he was a young child because he and his family had frequently flown with MAF as passengers during the years that his parents served as World Team missionaries in Suriname, South America. He would eagerly help the pilots load their planes – and one of his favourite memories was watching from the ground as a departing pilot waved “goodbye” with the wings of his aircraft following a routine delivery of supplies.
When he was 13 years old, the family returned to Canada, to his mother’s hometown of Three Hills, Alberta. His father served as a powerplant operator at Prairie Bible Institute, where he kept the boilers running and also attended to other mechanical needs.
“In everything Dad did, I got to help,” says Brent, “so my mechanical abilities came from him.” Today Brent can fix cars, lawnmowers, household appliances, and even computers.
Brent was able to earn his private pilot’s licence while still in high school. To pay for his flight hours and his post-secondary education, he worked full-time for eight years at the local IGA grocery store, starting as a bag boy and rising to assistant manager.
During those years, he was also a student at Prairie Bible Institute, finally graduating with an associate of arts degree in mission aviation, including his commercial pilot’s licence with IFR (instrument flight rules) rating.
In July 2000, Brent moved to Fort Vermilion in northern Alberta for his first flying job with Little Red Air Services Ltd., a company owned by the Little Red River Cree Nation. There, in the reserve areas of Fox Lake, Jean d’Or and Garden River, he piloted King Air 100 and 200 aircraft, as well as Cessna 206s, transporting food, mail, doctors and medivac patients.
“The gravel strips and muddy conditions reminded me of the mission field,” says Brent. “The experience was actually a lot like missions. Without the air support, many people wouldn’t be able to live in those areas.”
As soon as he started with Little Red Air, Brent contacted MAF Canada’s website at www.mafc.org to let the national office in Guelph, Ontario, know he was building flight hours in the hope of serving as a career missionary pilot. By the time he left Canada for Angola, he had worked at Little Red Air almost three years – and he had accumulated 2,000 flight hours.
During weeks when Brent had time off from scheduled flying, he helped out with a local children’s Bible program in Fort Vermilion.
In 2003, Brent’s technical preparation for MAF service included a month of specialized flight training and standardization at the MAF operations centre in the United States. After a week of ground school and two weeks of localized flying, his class was ready to try out some airstrips in the mountain ranges of Idaho.
“We landed on strips with lots of mountains around them, which made it hard to manoeuvre around to get to the strip. We also landed on very short strips, and lots of sloped strips, up to 18 percent slope,” he recalls. On their last day of training in Idaho, Brent and the other new pilots in his class were treated to a fly-in celebration in their honour, arranged by the Idaho Friends of MAF.
Afterward, Brent returned to Canada for two weeks of cross-cultural training at Tyndale Bible College in Toronto. In short order, he had to leave Canada again to complete his five months of Portuguese language study in Portugal. (Portuguese is Angola’s official language.)
Brent Mudde Steps into Service with MAF
Language training proved a challenge for Brent even though he had experience with learning the Taki Taki language while growing up in Suriname.
One month into his studies, Brent commented: “I have never learned a language with so many rules on singular, plural, masculine, feminine -- and that all these affect each noun and verb and adjective, and all must agree in the sentence. It has been tough!”
However, half way through his language program, he was catching on: “I look forward to going to class each day and seeing what new rule can be added to this language!”
Once in Angola, he was truly able to appreciate the months dedicated to language study. As he admits, “I am very thankful for the Portuguese I learned as it makes life so much easier. Just with the day-to-day shopping, talking with different staff and all, it really helps.”
While in Portugal, Brent had made a point of taking the time to write to the children’s club he had worked with at Faith Gospel Fellowship in Fort Vermilion.
“Brent is such a gem of a man, with a quiet character and a quick laugh. The kids just loved him,” says Roger Matthews, who oversees the children’s program at the church. Roger and his wife have five children of their own and serve as missionaries with the Canadian Sunday School Mission.
Roger recently devoted club time to allow the children to prepare a large group card to send to Brent in Angola. “The children wanted Brent to know that they still love him and care about him.”
Brent’s flying in Angola has included relief flights for Angolans needing food to keep them alive until local crops can grow. On one flight, while loading the MAF Caravan C-GWOH (Wings of Hope) in the town of Mavinga, he was startled by the huge explosion of a land mine not more than half a kilometre away. Not until afterward did he discover that the explosion was a scheduled detonation by a demining crew working in the area.
On another flight to take a group of Angolan pastors and missionaries into Ganda for a conference, Brent had the honour of representing MAF at a local church service. “Afterward, the church sang us a departure song, and then a group came along in a truck and sang as we loaded the plane to leave,” Brent shares.
Even though some of his days are long and tiring, Brent never forgets how he received his first impressions of MAF ministry as a child:
“Today I love to fly the missionary families into their fields of mission work, especially the ones with children,” he says, “because I’m reminded of when I was a mission kid, full of excitement at boarding an MAF plane.
“I try to treat these kids just like the MAF pilots treated me in Suriname.”
Claudia Van Riesen has served as Communications Manager at Mission Aviation Fellowship of Canada since 1997. Earlier in her career, she was employed as a journalist with Reuters News Agency, United Press International, TheGlobe and Mail, and Thomson Newspapers.
Used with permission. Copyright © 2008 Christianity.ca.