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Beginnings of MFI

I was a young student pilot in 1946 when I heard a stirring challenge from a returned foreign missionary urging the immediate use of the airplane in missionary outreach. I was profoundly impacted by this challenge!  But God had some refining to do in my life first.

Following six years of youth ministry under Youth for Christ International (YFCI), our family responded to the challenge of a unique overseas appointment by YFCI to the Caribbean in 1960. The requirements were for a pilot with sufficient flight experience to utilize an airplane to span the ocean miles separating the islands of the Bahamas. The goal was to develop an interdenominational youth evangelism ministry that would complement the evangelistic outreach of resident missionaries.

As the monthly youth rallies began, missionaries asked if I could bring in some needed items, unavailable in those remote "out islands". First it was supplies ... then, flying one or two ambulance flights …. and a whole new area of ministry opened among the islands -Missionary Flights International was born.

In 1964, Missionary Flights was incorporated under the laws of the State of Florida as a ministry of "helps" to missions.

From the humble beginnings of one man and a small single engine airplane, the Lord has led MFI to "stand in the gap" in meeting the air support needs of affiliated Biblical missions in the island fields of the West Indies.

Rev. Don H. Beldin
Founder of Missionary Flights International
 
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1964

MFI Incorporates

We are happy to announce after several years of sharing our airplane with island missionaries, events have led to the organization and official incorporation of MISSIONARY FLIGHTS & SERVICE, INC. as a service agency to missions and missionaries. Presently, MFI is providing a supplemental type air service (airlifting supplies and mission personnel) to missionaries stationed on remote out islands of the Bahamas. This is in conjunction with our regular YFC (Youth for Christ) ministry flights.

As an example of MFI service, we have assisted by . . . dropping off needed medicines and mechanical parts . . . flying in food supplies when the regular supply boat was six weeks overdue . . . airlifting missionary families to and from their island stations for medical, furlough or emergency trips . . . recently returned two teenage missionary children from 800 miles down in the lower Bahama area to enroll in high school in Florida. This is only a part of what we envision MFI can play in servicing and promoting missionary vision. A brochure is planned in the near future.

- Don Beldin
1964

Twin Navion

MFI's first airplane is a Twin Navion.
1967

First Beech 19 Purchased

MFI purchases its first Beech 18.
1971

Second Beech 18 Purchased

MFI purchases its second Beech 18.
1971

First Flight to Haiti

MFI makes its first flight to Haiti this year. The first passenger taken to Haiti is and OMS missionary.
1977

First DC-3 Delivered

MFI takes delivery of its first DC-3.
July 1980

Storm Damage to Airplanes

A severe storm at Palm Beach International airport damages MFI's two Beech 18s and the Twin Navion.
1981

Second DC-3 Purchased

MFI purchases its second DC-3.
May 1982

First Meeting of Board of Directors

The first meeting of MFI's newly created Board of Directors.
1984

Third DC-3 Purchased

MFI purchases its third DC-3.
1991

US Embargo of Haiti

MFI continues operations during the United States' embargo of Haiti.
1992

Office and Operations Together for the First Time

MFI's office and operations are in the same building for the first time at Palm Beach International Airport.
February 1993

MFI Aircraft Hijacked

What had started out as a routine flight to Haiti for MFI pilots Sam Bullers and Ric Hallquist, became far from routine six hours later. A Haitian hijacker commandeered the aircraft at the Cap-Haitien Airport demanding to be flown to Miami. His loaded revolver made a convincing argument!

Aviation fuel is unavailable in Haiti because of the embargo, so MFI must make a fuel stop at Providenciales in the Turks & Caicos Islands just north of Haiti. The hijacker, since identified as 24 year old Woody Marc Edouard, was not easily convinced that the aircraft did not have enough fuel to reach Miami. However, some very tense moments awaited the crew as they landed at Provo.

The passengers had boarded the aircraft in Cap-Haitien, Haiti when Karen Davis, a missionary who acts as MFI’s dispatcher, noticed a Haitian man walking ahead of her toward the aircraft stairs. Once in the cabin, she tapped him on the shoulder to tell him the aircraft was about to depart. He straightened up and grabbed her - pushing her against the rear cabin bulkhead. In that moment of struggle the gun accidently discharged. The bullet tore a hole in Karen’s skirt. Miraculously, it did not hit her leg or foot. With Karen as his hostage, the hijacker gave the crew five minutes to be airborne to Miami.

At the Provo stop, the gunman became extremely nervous as the local authorities delayed refueling the aircraft. He held the cocked pistol to Sam Bullers’ head as Sam pleaded by radio with civilian officials to refuel the aircraft without delay. To refuse could cost lives!

Sam and Ric started the engines and proceeded to the runway for an unauthorized takeoff. This was not the time to follow protocol! Shortly after takeoff, a Coast Guard C-130 picked up the DC-3 on their radar and kept it in sight. Midway up the 400 mile route, two F-16 fighters from Key West took up the surveillance and followed the aircraft to the landing in Miami.

After departure from Provo, the hijacker calmed down. One of the passengers, missionary Bob Johnston, asked to speak with him. In Creole, Bob shared the Gospel with him and midway through the flight Woody Marc Edouard prayed accepting Christ as his personal Savior. Following his prayer he surrendered his weapon to the missionary, who then took it up to the cockpit.

After landing at Miami International Airport, the airstair door was lowered and the hijacker emerged with his hands up. He dropped to a spread eagle position and was hustled off to a nearby building. The hijack was over. The crisis had ended. Praise the Lord!

-adapted from the story as it appeared in the Flight Briefing
April 1993

Dick Snook Becomes President

West Palm Beach, Florida - Without the pomp and ceremony that accompanies a royal changing of the guard, but with the preciseness of parliamentary procedure, MFI had a “changing of the guard” of its own.

On April 26th, after 29 years as Founder and President of Missionary Flights International, Rev. Don H. Beldin submitted his resignation as President to the Board of Directors of MFI.

This was the culmination of a planned five year transition of leadership. Dick Snook has been the Executive Vice President of MFI and has effectively assumed the administrative responsibilities of this air support ministry to missions.

In his statement to the board, Don cited his belief that there comes a point in every Christian leader’s life when it is time to move over and make room for younger leadership to rise to the surface. He recalled coveting Dick and his wife, Linda, for the work of MFI when he first met them while visiting a supporting church in Iowa. Don assured the Board that Dick had earned his respect and confidence as a dedicated Christian leader and a highly competent pilot. Their sharing of the same spiritual convictions and conservative values made a somewhat painful personal decision easier knowing that MFI was in good hands. Don recommended that the Board appoint Dick Snook as his successor, to become the new President of Missionary Flights International.

The board and staff of MFI congratulate Dick on his appointment as President.
November 1995

Fourth DC-3 Purchased

MFI purchases its fourth DC-3.
February 1998

N200MF Crash

N200MF lands short of the runway in Exuma, Bahamas due to a failed engine and bad weather.
2006

MFI Moves to Ft. Pierce

MFI moves into their new facility in Ft. Pierce, FL at the St. Lucie County International Airport. The new facility includes a 28,000 sqft hangar, 7,000 sqft of office space and warehouse, and 7,000 sqft of storage.
January 12, 2010

Haiti Earthquake

On this day, a catastrophic 7.0 earthquake occurred about 16 miles west of Port-au-Prince. The effects of the earthquake killed between 150,000 to 200,000 people. In response, MFI flew over 2 million pounds of cargo and 3,000 people in the relief effort.
November 2010

Second Hangar Purchased

MFI purchases second hangar in Ft. Pierce. This hangar is the "heavy maintenance" hangar. This is a 12,000 sqft hangar which also houses the paint room, parts room, and about 3,000 sqft of extra offices.
2011

Begin Flying 2nd Turbine DC-3

MFI begins flying N500MF, its second turbine DC-3.
2014

50th Anniversary

Celebration of MFI's 50 years in service since incorporation.