Hurricane Dorian

5 Year Old Stands in the Gap for Bahamas

Joe Karabensh, MFI President, with Charlotte Englert

Joe Karabensh, MFI President, with Charlotte Englert

Thursday, September 5, 2019, Missionary Flights began an organized effort to collect in-kind and cash donations to aid in the relief effort for the Bahamas. The community followed in an effort to stand in the gap for our Caribbean neighbors, many of whom had lost everything. With an overwhelming donation of supplies for the Bahamas, our warehouse has demanded an increase in volunteers to receive, sort, and pack those goods. Also during this time, we have been visited by some very special children seeking to make a difference in their own way.

Charlotte Englert, a local 5 year-old, had a burden to stand in the gap for the Bahamas. Her mother shared that Charlotte’s grandfather was an air traffic controller in Miami in the 80s and 90s, and he remembered communicating with MFI during our flights. Naturally, that burden to help led the Englert’s to connecting with us.

Charlotte’s created these bracelets to raise money for Bahamas relief.

Charlotte’s created these bracelets to raise money for Bahamas relief.

Charlotte’s mother, Nicole, told us that she looked on the website and saw that children under 12 years old were being encouraged not to volunteer in our warehouse. Still wanting to be a part of the relief effort, Charlotte decided to start raising money by selling handmade bracelets. In just over a week, she had raised $1,280.

To celebrate her efforts and accomplishment, Nicole brought Charlotte to tour Missionary Flights and deliver the check in person. As she shared what she had done, a visitor who was just finishing up a tour of the facility walked out to their car and donated $1,000 cash to her fundraising effort. With a great big smile on her face, we shared with Charlotte that she had raised enough money to complete a round-trip relief flight to the Bahamas!

Charlotte was able to raise enough money to help MFI fly a disaster relief flight to the Bahamas.

Charlotte was able to raise enough money to help MFI fly a disaster relief flight to the Bahamas.

“We want to encourage you to think outside of the box. Charlotte’s ability to stand in the gap for the Bahamas is a testimony to how God can use all of us in this time of need,” said Joe Karabensh, MFI President. “Furthermore, as a parent, I know that this is a moment that will forever remain in Charlotte’s heart. I encourage those of you with children to seek opportunities such as these to allow them an opportunity to get involved.”

If you are interested in helping Missionary Flights raise donations for our Disaster Relief or General Fund, please consider using a creative outlet. It is because of our financial supporters that we are able to stand in the gap in a moment’s notice.

A New Phase of Disaster Response

Volunteers help to unload cargo at Missionary Flights International. Among them, are pilot kids Alayna Anders and Tiki Karnes.

Volunteers help to unload cargo at Missionary Flights International. Among them, are pilot kids Alayna Anders and Tiki Karnes.

On Saturday, September 21, Missionary Flights (MFI) will stop our solicitation of supplies for the Bahamas. We are reaching max capacity in our warehouse and are working to fly the items that we have been blessed with as fast as we can.  We are also working to get the majority of the donated goods onto a local barge that will make a large delivery to groups and ministries we are working with in Freeport.

Missionary Flights will continue to receive goods from our partners who have been collecting around the State.

There are still ways to continue to serve the Bahamas! One of the easiest ways to meet the future needs in the Bahamas is to make monetary donations toward the Disaster Relief fund at Missionary Flights. As affiliated groups and churches look to help rebuild their communities, the monetary donations that we receive will help to meet those needs.

While Missionary Flights is not organizing relief groups, we have been bringing in small work teams for affiliated missions that are actively working to rebuild on the ground in the Bahamas. For the safety of those seeking to volunteer on the ground in the Bahamas, we are stressing that a team must have a connection with a ministry or organization that is able to both feed, house, and provide transportation for the group. For more questions about teams seeking to travel during this relief effort, please visit the Missionary Flights website at www.missionaryflights.org/relief.

Volunteers Stand in the Gap for Bahamas Hurricane Relief

Joan Liverpool sorts items in the MFI Hangar in Fort Pierce, FL.

Joan Liverpool sorts items in the MFI Hangar in Fort Pierce, FL.

Hurricane Dorian made landfall as a Category 5 hurricane on September 1, 2019, in the Northwestern Bahamas. The damage was extensive as the storm slowly dwindled in speed and finally came to a stationary rest over-top Grand Bahama Island. One minute sustained winds of Hurricane Dorian were recorded at 185 miles per hour (mph). Gusts of wind were at times recorded at 220 mph.

Prior to Hurricane Dorian’s turn to the north, Missionary Flights (MFI) evacuated their DC-3 aircraft and secured their hangar in Fort Pierce, FL, with full expectation that the storm may make landfall along the Treasure Coast of Florida. All of MFI’s pilots and many of the staff and families also evacuated aboard the DC-3 planes to Northern Alabama.

Since Hurricane Dorian turned north and MFI headquarters were spared, the decision was made to enact in a disaster relief response for the Bahamas. Within days, connections were made with organizations such as Mission Aviation Fellowship (MAF), Priority Air Charter, Samaritan’s Purse, and the Freeport Salvation Army. The general public was made aware of MFI’s response via social media, local news stations, and churches.

Judah Svajda helps to unload a trailer that was stacked floor to ceiling.

Judah Svajda helps to unload a trailer that was stacked floor to ceiling.

After the planes arrived back to the Missionary Flights hangar on Wednesday evening, September 4, the hangar was prepared for the reception of donated goods the next day at 1:00 pm. Volunteers were quickly assembled into stations and the relief effort began with a generous response from the public.  Within a week, over 100,000 pounds of supplies was donated. Today, over 250,000 pounds of supplies has been donated.

“Extremely impressed. Very well run and organized,” wrote Stephanie Nathanson on the Missionary Flights Facebook page, “the staff are so nice, and everyone really works as a team. It just felt incredible to be able to volunteer for this beautiful and amazing organization.”

Volunteers made the receiving and processing of these goods possible. During the first week, as a car or truck approached the MFI Hangar, they were greeted by volunteers in orange vests who directed traffic for those looking to deliver relief supplies and those who were looking for volunteer parking. At the cargo receiving door, volunteers were staged to help with unloading and moving donated items to the packing floor. Another volunteer was staged as one who would welcome those dropping off goods and pass out an informational brochure and MFI gospel tract.

“It’s amazing to see the work God is doing through each individual volunteer,” remarked Holly Lemaster, Volunteer Coordinator. “Being the hands and feet of Jesus is what we are called to do, and that is exactly what is going on here.”

The Missionary Flights hangar in Fort Pierce, FL, took in over 300,000 pounds of supplies in two weeks.

The Missionary Flights hangar in Fort Pierce, FL, took in over 300,000 pounds of supplies in two weeks.

Ladies from the Eta Eta Omega Chapter in Fort Pierce, FL, also joined in on the volunteer effort. They helped to direct traffic, unload supplies, and sort through donated items to place them into boxed categories. “The work was fulfilling and we are in constant prayer for those who were affected,” they commented.

The MFI hangar has seen a dramatic transformation. While not all of the space has been taken, a sea of boxes now greets the visitor or volunteer. Along one side, a boxing area welcomes roughly 20 volunteers a day to sort through donated goods and pack like-items into a box. As those boxes are packed, another handful of volunteers will weigh, label, and strap the boxes closed before placing them on a categorized pallet. Once boxes are stacked five to six feet, the entire pallet is weighed and placed in a designated row based on its category.

“It is amazing to see the response from our community,” said Joe Karabensh, MFI President. “We have been blessed with many volunteers that have given their time throughout the week. Some have helped assist with our normal day to day operations. Others have taken roles of leadership to guide our disaster relief volunteers through the process of preparing goods and safely operating in our hangar. I feel very thankful that I can be a part of this great opportunity to serve the Bahamas and provide the community a place where they can stand in the gap with us for those in need.”