August 5, 2017

Amphib Mission Plane to Serve the Canadian North

What follows is the first report in a series of stories on the challenges and joys of sharing God’s love among isolated Native communities in Northern Ontario, Canada. It is a region of forests and lakes, twice as big as the US State of California—or almost as big as France and the United Kingdom—but where very few people live. In this report, we share the news about a development bound to be a game-changer for Adventist outreach in the Canadian North.—Adventist Review

A new amphibious plane is slated to start soon serving isolated Native communities in northern Ontario, Canada, thanks to a partnership between the regional church and Adventist World Aviation, a supporting ministry of the Seventh-day Adventist Church which strives to meet the demands of isolated frontier missionaries in need of air support. The announcement was made at a dedication ceremony in Sioux Lookout, Ontario, Canada, on July 29, where the Sioux Lookout Seventh-day Adventist Group was also officially organized.

“For some time now Canadian Adventist pilots had been calling me expressing their desire to work on an AWA project in Canada,” said AWA Vice-President of Operations Jud Wickwire. “And my answer always was, ‘Unfortunately, there is nothing available at the moment.’”

Now, thanks to the Ontario Conference church region involvement and an anonymous private donor, the dream of many mission-minded Adventist Canadians is about to come true.

“In the past, Natives suffered immensely as they were dispossessed of their lands,” said Ontario Conference president Mansfield Edwards during his Sabbath worship message. “God is not happy with this, and now wants to turn things around.”

Both Wickwire and Edwards said they saw God’s hand in the events leading to the new plane purchase.

Mission in Their Hearts

About two years ago, AWA was contacted by Wings of Hope, a St. Louis, Missouri, United States aviation non-profit delivering humanitarian programs around the globe, to offer them an amphibious Cessna 185 that was for sale. Amphibious aircraft can take off and land on both land and water, something essential to work in a region of hundreds of lakes and not enough airstrips.

“We didn’t have the money or a project for it, so we declined,” said Wickwire, who estimates the market value of the plane to be around US$220,000. “When Adventist members from Sioux Lookout contacted us to discuss a project for the Canadian North, I called Wings of Hope, even though I thought the plane had already been sold.”

The plane, however, was still available. And when Wings of Hope leaders found out what AWA wanted it for, they told Wickwire, “If it’s for mission, give us US$100,000, and it’s yours.” Still, AWA was not sure where the money would come from.

God had the money for the plane before we decided to support its purchase.

Meanwhile, in Southern Ontario, a church member had passed away, and the Ontario Conference trust services director came to the treasurer and informed her about the deceased's will, with included funds left specifically for outreach in Northern Ontario. When Ontario Conference treasurer Virene Meikle saw the amount, she couldn’t believe her eyes.

“It was a check for CDN$100,000,” said Meikle. “God had a good chunk of the money for the plane even before church leaders decided to support its purchase.”

Wickwire said there are two Canadian families eager to move to Sioux Lookout once the plane arrives. “They were praying for God to open a door for them to serve in Northern Canada,” he said. “When I called them to share the news about the plane, I could sense their excitement.”

Now AWA is raising funds to cover transportation and tune-up costs so the plane can be operational. But leaders believe that as God has led in the past, He will continue doing as church members and supporters gear up to reach Northern Ontario with a message of hope.

“God is ready to bless [Northern Ontario] in a way that everyone else will look and say, ‘This is the hand of the Lord,’” said Edwards. “There is no limit to the mark we can make if we are in His hands.”