Where are you from and where do you live now?
Tim: There’s not a simple answer to where we are from for either of us individually or for us as a couple. We both grew up as MKs. My family served in Mexico and Peru while Laura grew up in Nepal. When we were both 16, each of our families moved back to Canada – to Three Hills, Alberta. So, from the age of 16 on, we call Central Alberta home. As a couple, our home is Peace River in Northern Alberta, which is where I got my first job out of flight school. So, the short answer is Alberta and the long answer is it depends what year you’re talking about.
Laura: I would say we are from Alberta, Canada, and our current home is in Goroka. We’ve been separated from home for a good part of this year by border closures. We are very excited to be back in Goroka now!
Can you tell me a little bit about your family?
Tim: We have two kids; Hannah who is 7 and home-schooling grade 2 and Ethan who is 3. Laura and I will be celebrating our 11th anniversary this December.
When did you join MAF and why?
Tim: We started our application with MAF Canada in 2014, so not too far from 6 years ago now. I had started flight training in 2009 with a very clear goal of becoming an MAF pilot. This was after other schooling and jobs that I clearly knew weren’t where I needed to be spending my time in life. While I was in flight school Laura and I got married. She knew where I was headed and agreed to be a part of that story. After flight school, I got a job in somewhat Northern Canada, in Peace River, where we lived and made our home for several years. But through all that time the goal was MAF. So, starting in 2014, we put in our application forms, went through the process, and were accepted to the PNG program.
Laura: We officially joined MAF Canada in January 2016. We did a year of fundraising then were seconded to MAF international in February of 2017 and came to Australia for our orientation. I guess if you back up, I joined MAF when I married Tim. He was training to be a mission pilot and I married him, so that meant MAF.
Tim: For me, the ‘why’ behind serving with MAF was the ability to combine a technical skill with purpose. I made the conscious choice to be a pilot. Like any young boy, I was intrigued and interested in airplanes, but I wasn’t one of those guys who needed to be a pilot from the day I saw my first airplane. Becoming a pilot was a clear choice of a skill set I thought I could learn and use.
Laura, did you have any interest or calling to be a missionary before meeting and marrying Tim?
I did. When I got my first teaching job in Alberta I told the principal, “You can have two years. Once I have my certificate I’m going overseas.” Then they got five years out of me!
When Tim and I reconnected – we had met in high school 8 or 9 years before – our mutual interest in mission work overseas came up in one of our first conversations. That got me more interested because we had a shared vision. At the time, I was teaching and looking into going back to where I grew up in Nepal to do some teaching. The summer before we got engaged I was actually in Nepal with my parents job shadowing with the teacher training program at my old school. When I got back Tim proposed, so the plan became MAF.
When did you first hear about MAF?
Tim: Since I grew up as an MK in Latin America and Peru and took trips to Ecuador, I always knew about mission aviation. I remember staying at a guest house in Ecuador as a kid. One of the caretakers was Roger Youderian’s wife, one of the widows from the Nate Saint and Jim Elliot story. I probably met a few New Tribes pilots because my family spent time out in the jungle stations with South American mission pilots.
When I was in high school at Prairie, it was the early days of Prairie Bible College’s flight training school. Though I didn’t have direct interaction with it, everyone knew about the flight school and what was happening at the airport. It wasn’t until later, when I was a bit older and trying to decide what to do, that I connected all these dots and got into mission aviation.
Tim, what is your role with MAF?
I’m a line pilot. My job is to accept the flight that has been booked for the day, make smart decisions, and, to the best of my ability, safely and effectively accomplish the flight.
Tim, what do you find most enjoyable and challenging about being a line pilot?
Most rewarding for me is when we fly a missionary or a bible school teacher who is excited to reach their village so they can get to the work they’ve been planning to do. When we land and these people who were able to fly go out of their way to say thank you to me, that is the most rewarding.
The most challenging thing about being a line pilot is the constant stream of decisions you make throughout the day. These decisions might be deciding if the weather is ok or if the plan is sufficient. At the remote airstrips, it’s deciding if what’s being loaded into the plane is what has been agreed upon by the charter customer or the booking. Some decisions are easy. For example, the weather is obviously too bad to go flying or for some reason, I cannot land at that airstrip. Other decisions are a lot harder and pilots have to rely on experience and wise decision making. It can be really hard.
Some days everything seems to line up, the passengers are ready, everything is quick and running smoothly, the weather is great, and you’re flying over some of the most beautiful places in the world where the mountains reach the jungle which slopes down to the sea. You see the whole landscape at once and you have to stop and remember how unique and special an experience it is to fly a small airplane in a place like Papua New Guinea.
Laura, how have you found a role or support spot within MAF or the community in PNG?
We’ve bounced around a lot in the time we’ve been in PNG. The longest stretch we’ve been in one place is 8 months, so I’ve found it challenging to find a role and relationships. In Goroka, I took on the role of Compound Coordinator. I take care of housing and grounds and make beds when pilots and engineers come to stay. In Goroka, we had our kids going to school so I’ve been driving the school bus 3 times a week. I enjoyed driving the bus; just getting out of town and out on the highway. It’s a beautiful drive.
What does MAF mean to you?
Laura: MAF is working as a team. We all have our different roles, whether that role is a pilot, an engineer, or making beds for the pilots and engineers. We don’t always work like clockwork, but we all have the same goal in mind – seeing isolated people spiritually and physically transformed.
When we lived in the Western Province I got to fly on the planes a lot more since life was disrupted and we were in and out a lot. It was a great privilege because I don’t think all MAF spouses and kids get to travel so much on the planes, especially on routes that are the normal milk-run-routes. I really enjoyed seeing firsthand the impact MAF has in the communities.
Tim: When I was a kid we would watch Mr. Roger’s Neighbourhood. In some episodes he would say, “Look for the helpers. When things are going bad, look for the people who are trying to help others.” I think MAF, despite being an organization of imperfect people with limited resources, is full of helpers. Whether that means helping a new family move or get settled, helping someone who couldn’t otherwise access medical care, helping a community improve their standard of living, or helping missionaries accomplish their work. That’s what MAF means to me, people who want to help.
Is there any advice you would give to those newly joining MAF?
Tim: I think I inherited a piece of advice from my parents. We used it back then and I think it is still relevant today. The advice is, “be flexible or be miserable.” Also, sharp knives; they make kitchen work so much more enjoyable!
What is something others might not know about you?
Laura: Recently, I discovered I still remember my piano lessons from 25 years ago! In the extra time of lockdown, I’ve been trying to pick it back up. It’s been fun because Hannah takes piano lessons online and I discovered I can play along a little.
Tim: I was once a licensed Fish Farmer. I built a large indoor aquaponics system that I ran throughout a cold Alberta winter. It was awesome to have fresh herbs such as basil all winter long. I really enjoyed the work of checking on the fish every day, feeding them and checking their water chemistry. I learned lots about ecosystems, biology, chemistry, and more.
Do you have a favourite food?
Laura: I really enjoy Thai food. As a family, our go-to whenever we come out of PNG is to find a sushi restaurant – Hannah’s favourite food is sushi.
Tim: How much time do we have? Actually, this is easy. The absolute top of my list is a Taco de Carne Asada from a place called Tacos Haas in the city in Mexico that I grew up in. Someday I’ll take Laura and the kids there so they can experience what I’ve been talking about all these years.