SMAT training equips MAF foreign staff


USA (MNN) — Millions of students across the United States are starting a new school year this week. For a handful of others, today’s August graduation marks the start of a new chapter in life.

Three Mission Aviation Fellowship (MAF) foreign personnel graduated from the School of Missionary Aviation Technology, or SMAT, on August 22. SMAT’s 12-month Airframe and Powerplant (A&P) training and 12-month pilot training are highly attractive to students who want to move quickly into the mission field.

Manltibi Mafa from Lesotho and Juan Antonio Rivera from Mexico are graduates of the A&P program, which prepares students to become aircraft mechanics. Zacharie H. François from Haiti is a graduate of the Flight program, having completed the A&P training in 2019.

MAF maintains close ties with many schools that provide maintenance and flight training. However, President/CEO David Holsten says MAF is building closer relationships with mission-focused schools.

“There are a number of schools we recruit from that are good from a technical training point of view. At SMAT, the emphasis on missionary work shapes the type of training students receive,” says Holsten.

“Being grounded in the biblical aspects of the job along with the specialized training provides us with a well-rounded student better prepared to serve in the remote areas where we work. This is why we greatly value our relationship with SMAT.

MAF intern Manltibi Mafa receives her A&P certificate from SMAT President/CEO Terry Yoder.
(Photo credit: MNN)

One of the new graduates, Manltibi Mafa, is the only female mechanic in the MAF Lesotho team. “There were, fortunately, people who made a donation to the MAF so that I could follow this training,” she says.

“When I get home I will work with MAF again, but this time I will be a certified mechanic. It’s a huge responsibility, but the training I received here at SMAT helped prepare me for it.

Overcome barriers

Although he is only 30 years old, Manltibi’s life journey has been anything but easy. Cultural barriers in Lesotho prevent women from entering certain trades. The Lord has prepared a way for Manltibi to utilize his God-given gifts and passions in MAF.

“(Cultural) barriers discourage young women from entering fields called ‘A man’s world’ like driving a tractor-trailer or repairing cars,” she says.

“In many areas, women are criticized, and it takes a lot to prove (to others) that you can do it. Luckily, at MAF, I never experienced that.

Manltibi’s aeromechanical aspirations began in childhood. She remembers seeing an airplane fly overhead, capturing her imagination. “I’ve always been fascinated by airplanes,” says Manltibi.

“I always wanted to do aviation; the closest I could get was to start with auto mechanics.

She was discriminated against while working in an auto repair shop while in college. “I remember a customer who said to me, ‘Does she know what a tire is? I don’t want her near my car,” Manltibi says.

“It was difficult with challenges like that, but luckily the [shop owners] always defended me. »

Equipped to Succeed

After graduating with honors from the three-year auto mechanics program, Manltibi began an apprenticeship with MAF Lesotho in 2017. Today, as she returns home with SMAT certification in hand, she can work on missionary planes with confidence.

“There are other certificates you need to be fully independent, but I will be able to do most of the work (at MAF) unsupervised. After every task I perform, I have to write an entry in the logbook and sign it with my certificate number, which holds me accountable,” says Manltibi.

Pray that Manltibi will have continued faith in the Lord and in the path he is charting before her. In addition, Manltibi is the only one supporting her daughter and her sister’s family. Ask the Lord to give him strength and endurance.

Please also pray for Juan and Zachary as they serve the Lord through MAF. If you feel called to serve the Lord with your technical skills, learn more about ministry opportunities at Mission Aviation Fellowship here.

In the header image, MAF President/CEO David Holsten delivers a keynote address to 2022 Missionary Aviation School of Technology graduates. (Photo Credit: MNN)

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Richard V. Johnson