TCF’s Nathanael Smith you could say has had his head in the clouds since he was very young but, in his case, for a very good reason! His drive, determination and, above all, knowledge of God’s plan for him has brought him and his wife to Perth to bring a life-long ambition to reality.
Q. Let’s start with an explanation of what MAF (Flying for Life) is all about and perhaps give a couple of recent examples of help given.
I think the words from the MAF-UK website say it best:
“For over 75 years, MAF has been flying light aircraft over jungles, mountains, swamps, and deserts. We enable more than 2,000 aid, development and mission organisations to bring medical care, emergency relief, long-term development, and Christian hope to thousands of communities.”
“At MAF, we believe nothing should stop people from receiving the love of God and the essentials of life – no matter how remote they are. Our vision is ‘to see isolated people changed by the love of Christ.’ We use aviation and technology, because in many places those are the only ways to reach isolated people in need.”
Just a few recent examples of this are flying pastors to train and equip churches across Uganda, flying bible translation teams in Madagascar, and medevac flights for five people with life threatening injuries in a single week in Papua New Guinea.
Q. Now both your parents were missionaries, tell us a little about that and has that influenced your decisions?
My parents worked in Bible translation in central Africa, so I grew up in a small village on the southern edge of the Sahara. For our family it was a three-day drive to the capitol city over mostly unpaved roads. When I was a little older, I went to boarding school in the capitol with my brothers and we used to fly home to our village for school breaks on a mission aeroplane.
I saw first-hand the valuable work of using aeroplanes in the mission field, and being an aviation enthusiast since very young, I wanted to help serve in this way.
I did a gap year after school with a different mission aviation organisation, and I loved it. I experienced a few of the challenges of aviation in remote parts of the world as well as the honour of loading bibles and stretchers into the back of the aeroplane.
Q. So is this how you found out about MAF? When and why did you first decide to work for MAF?
I have friends whose parents work with MAF, so I have known about them for some time. It was during my gap year that I decided I wanted to get involved in mission aviation and my colleagues at the time encouraged me to consider engineering and maintenance as they saw I worked well in that environment.
I didn’t know at the time how to get the training I needed, but I moved to the UK with the aim of working towards becoming an aircraft engineer with the intent of eventually serving in missions once I had enough experience. MAF was always one of the options as I know they served in many countries and had a base in the UK. But it wasn’t until someone pointed out the MAF engineering training scheme that it became a reality.
Q. Now I think I’m right in saying you already have a degree in Aeronautical Engineering, so why is MAF sponsoring you for more studies at Scone Airport? What will that involve? Aim?
Yes. I studied aeronautical engineering, specifically maintenance repair and overhaul, at university. This was a good starting point for me, but it did not tick all the boxes. I needed to gain an aircraft engineers licence. The course I am on at the moment is much more targeted at training people to maintain aircraft and I will finish with the all-important European Aviation Safety Agency exams and certificate.
The course is run in the classroom, but a lot of time is spent in the hanger up at Scone doing practical training. The aim of the training is to qualify me to sign off and approve aircraft maintenance tasks that I and others have performed.
Q. Since moving to Perth you have been attending Tayside Christian Fellowship, were you aware of the strong links other TCF members have previously had with MAF?
I didn’t know much about TCF before coming to Perth. My wife and I had benefited from Covid restrictions by being able to watch several services online before I arrived. When looking for churches I had contacted MAF’s Scotland office and TCF was one of the churches they recommended and mentioned some of the links the church had with MAF, particularly some of the members who are strong supporters of MAF.
Upon arrival at TCF I was immediately introduced to some people who were excited about the work I am doing with MAF and have been an encouragement to me.
Q. Once your studies are successfully completed what then?
I will finish my practical training next year and will then start two years of ‘on the job training’ to qualify for an aircraft maintenance license. This second stage of my training will be in the UK working for a maintenance company that MAF has links with.
The final bit of training before we leave the UK will be a ten-week mission/theological training course for my wife and I that MAF are also sponsoring us through.
After all this is completed, we will head overseas where I will help service and maintain MAF aeroplanes.
Q. Where could MAF send you? How do you and your wife feel about that?
They could send me anywhere in the world where they have a base. It’s obviously a little hard for them to predict where they will most need me in three years’ time, so we don’t know yet where we will be initially asked to go. As I will still be limited in my experience, especially on MAF aircraft, it is likely they will ask me to go to one of their larger maintenance bases in Uganda or Papua New Guinea. But equally we could be sent to any of the 34 countries around the world in which MAF operates.
For my wife, it is very exiting but a little bit dauting as she will not be directly involved with MAF and does not yet know what she will be doing. But we are both comforted that God knows and has a plan for us.
For me it is very exciting and a little less daunting because I grew up in Africa. I look forward to being involved in fixing aeroplanes and especially in a situation where it is so easy to see how the work I will be doing will directly impact and support God’s kingdom.
For more information about the work of MAF around the world and how you can get involved please visit https://www.maf-uk.org/
“Do you not know?
Have you not heard?
The Lord is the everlasting God,
the Creator of the ends of the earth.
He will not grow tired or weary,
and his understanding no one can fathom.
He gives strength to the weary
and increases the power of the weak.
Even youths grow tired and weary,
and young men stumble and fall;
but those who hope in the Lord
will renew their strength.
They will soar on wings like eagles;
they will run and not grow weary,
they will walk and not be faint.”