KIM LAWTON, guest anchor: Humanitarian groups are mobilizing to send relief aid to Indonesia after another deadly tsunami this week. One of the groups involved in the effort is an evangelical ministry called Mission Aviation Fellowship (MAF), which flies in supplies and workers. MAF is also working in the once-war-torn African nation of Congo. There, the ministry is assisting in reconciliation efforts before elections on July 30. Fred de Sam Lazaro has more.
FRED DE SAM LAZARO: For aviation buffs, it has all the trapping of a bush pilot's dream. But David Jacobsson is a pilot for Mission Aviation Fellowship. There's no mistaking what mission means here.
DAVID JACOBSSON (Pilot, Mission Aviation Fellowship): Oh, let's pray. I pray that this airplane may work the way it was intended. I pray that you give me wisdom in guiding it. This we pray and ask in your name. Amen.
DE SAM LAZARO: And his are hardly dream destinations, whether tourist or bush pilot.
Mr. JACOBSSON (Radioing in): Charlie Alpha Uniform taxi for takeoff as filed for Boga. We have five souls on board, four hours, 30 minutes fuel.
DE SAM LAZARO: Jacobsson knows just about every nook and cranny in the remote eastern Democratic Republic of Congo, the heart of central Africa. It is exactly the terrain that founders of the airline envisioned when it began as the Christian Airmen's Missionary Fellowship.
FRAN DEROSHER (Founder, Christian Airmen's Missionary Fellowship): Well, MAF started back in 1945, and really it's come from the World War II pilots who had come out of the service and were looking for something to do, and they loved the Lord and just wanted to do something that would make a difference. The initial desire and goal was to preach the Gospel -- to get pastors, missionaries, church planters, those kinds of people, to the areas that had not been reached yet with the Gospel.
DE SAM LAZARO: Over time those areas have proven to have more immediate humanitarian needs, caused by natural disasters and a volatile post-colonial world. Mission Aviation Fellowship has grown with these needs, with branches in Canada, Europe, Australia and the U.S. Individual church congregations in the West and a development department raise funds to support the mission. But a substantial part of Mission Air Fellowship's revenues come from serving humanitarian agencies. Its 54 planes based in the developing world are often used in rescue and relief operations -- in tsunami-hit countries, for example, or war-ravaged lands like Congo.
Mr. JACOBSSON: The runs we do are usually quite short, not much further than thirty-minute flights. And that means we don't have to carry a lot of fuel. And we can carry up to 1,200 kilos or so of freight, and that would translate into about what -- 2,500 pounds or so, roughly. So, yeah, this airplane we're flying here is a very capable airplane. I carry quite a bit of stuff.
DE SAM LAZARO: After a visual check to make sure grass on the strip had been cut, Jacobsson landed in the village of Boga. He brought a consignment of medicines to be carried on foot to smaller clinics deeper in the jungle. Jacobsson politely declined the offer of a new pet. Then it was off to pick up medicines and passengers for the group Doctors Without Borders.
Mr. JACOBSSON: I'm very, very privileged. You know, where you get to fly an airplane, that's a great thing. But every flight I do, it's making a difference in people's lives. And I think that's what makes it exciting.
DE SAM LAZARO: In Congo, where war has claimed millions of lives, exciting can mean something very different. He took me to Nyakunde, in northeastern Congo, home at one time to a missionary base station -- a village Jacobsson, his wife and two young sons called home before being forced to flee in 2003.
Mr. JACOBSSON: This first building is the guest house -- had a couple rooms there and then our actual living quarters.