If you’ve been following me since October, you may remember me mentioning a missionary organization called MAF. MAF stands for Missionary Aviation Fellowship and has a presence in several countries around the world. In very basic terms, they serve the countries in which they operate by providing resources to remote locations. Pilots are able to fly supplies, resources, and medical care to remote areas which would otherwise be un-served. A fellow teacher and I were able to fly in one of their small planes to Arusha before our safari.
Recently in Tanzania, MAF has employed not only many expatriates, but several hundred Tanzanians. These Tanzanians have been equipped with mechanical and other skills they would not have had otherwise. Many of the MAF families have children who attend school at CAMS. Their presence in Dodoma is widely felt.
On Friday, MAF officially closed it’s two largest bases in Tanzania; Dodoma and Dar es Salaam. MAF has done what it can to help their Tanzanian staff find new jobs and the missionaries are either relocating to another MAF base or returning home.
MAF has been in Tanzania for 50 years. There is no doubt that they have had a major impact and that their leaving wil as well. That is the bitter part, but there is a sweet side to this story as well.
If you add up the distance that MAF has flown in Tanzania, it would be the same as between 25 ad 30 flights to the moon. They have covered a great distance in this country in the past. More people have been affected by their mission than will probably ever be determined, but the restructuring of the program means that the need is no longer as great. In a release MAF produced and published on their website, they said:
“Over the last 10 years we have seen improvements in the domestic infrastructure in Tanzania between the major population centres and, as a result, a decline in the numbers of mission and humanitarian customers we serve. This reducing customer base, along with increasing costs of the programme meant that it was essential we reviewed our long term strategy, to ensure good stewardship of funds and resources.”
What does this mean in simpler terms? Basically, MAF came to Tanzania to serve locals. In some ways, it did that by serving missionaries and humanitarians as well. Flights like the one I took to Arusha in October helped fund the programs. Because of the way Tanzania has been developing, other ways of traveling around the country have become easier. MAF has been flying fewer people to fewer places. This means that it is easier to get to the remote locations it serves as well. As an organization, it has served its purpose.
Last weekend, members of MAF in Dar es Salaam and Dodoma met at the first hangar the MAF used in Dodoma. They came together to pray, tell stories, and celebrate the work MAF has done in the last 50 years. Some fellow teachers and I were invited to join them, and to run a children’s program while the adults met. The celebration was in itself bittersweet. Tanzanians who would only have a job for a week more told of the skills they had been given as a result of their involvement. Families came together. Children played with friends they have made, but will soon part from. Everyone had a chance to speak about what MAF has meant to them. It was indeed a celebration.
|Ruben, the head of MAF in Dodoma leads the ceremonies, with the help of a translator.|
|Singing was involved, and parents and children participated together.|
|The youngest children|
|The MAF kids we helped entertain during the meetings. We estimate that we ended up with about 50 kids in total.|