Introduction

The history of Missionary Air Group, Inc., formerly Harvester’s International Mission, is the story of God’s bringing together a diverse group of people and ministries over a period of decades to accomplish what none of them could ever have dreamt of accomplishing alone.

This is the story of an organization that, initially under the leadership of Dr. Davis Goodman, was used by God to train pilots for foreign mission fields, and then to equip them with needed airplanes. And now, under the leadership of Rev. Sean Donnelly, it is an organization through which God is using those pilots and airplanes (and doctors, and nurses, and pastors, and many others) to deliver medical care and the gospel to some of the most remote and isolated people groups on Earth.

Ultimately, this is the story of God’s calling people to serve Him, then training them, then equipping them, and then finally sending them to “every nation, tribe, people and language” (Rev.7:9) in order to show compassion to the nations – in order to give them life!

 


Timeline

  • 1975: Davis Goodman founds Missionary Aviation Training Institute (MATI).
  • 1979: Operations begin at Sugar Valley Airport as Missionary Aviation Institute (MAI).
  • 1984: MAI is turned over to Piedmont Baptist College.
  • 1984: Davis Goodman founds Aviation Ministries International, Inc (AMI) in  North Carolina.
  • 1995: Corporate name is changed to Harvester's International Missions, Inc. (HIM).
  • 2005: Sean Donnelly founds Missionary Air Group (MAG) in Massachusetts.
  • 2008: Steve Straw founds "Aviation Médicale de Bongolo" (AMB) in Gabon, Africa.
  • 2009: MAI is closed by Piedmont Baptist College.
  • 2010: HIM and MAG form partnership and open Honduras base and Rus Rus Hospital.
  • 2011: HIM and MAG merge as HIM/MAG with Sean Donnelly as President.
  • 2013: HIM/MAG opens operations in Guatemala.
  • 2015: AMB merges Gabon operation into HIM/MAG.
  • 2015: Corporate name is changed to Missionary Air Group, Inc. (MAG).
  • 2016: MAG opens Headquarters facility at Burlington Alamance Regional Airport. (KBUY)
  • 2017: Formal dedication of new Administrative and Flight Training facilities at KBUY.
  • 2017: Launch of flight training operations for joint MAG / MMS Aviation pilot-mechanic apprentices.

Narrative 

The door to missionary aviation opened to Davis Goodman as he left the Air Force and was asked by the President of Piedmont Bible College (later Piedmont Baptist College, now Piedmont International University) to help establish a new missionary aviation training department and degree program just being formed by the college. Flight training operations began at Smith Reynolds Airport (KINT) in Winston-Salem, NC in the fall term of 1974 with a borrowed airplane, 9 students, and Mr. Wayne Hurst as the lone instructor. In January 1975, Davis agreed to join the endeavor and later that year founded the Missionary Aviation Training Institute (MATI), became its Director, and purchased its first airplane (a Cessna 150).

The program quickly out-grew its rented facility and in 1979 the Sugar Valley Airport (31A) was leased. With the move to Sugar Valley came a name change to Missionary Aviation Institute (MAI) and the addition of an A&P (Airframe & Powerplant Mechanic) School which opened in 1981. Finally, with aircraft, facilities, staff, and students firmly in place, Davis Goodman handed ownership and operational control of MAI and Sugar Valley Airport to Piedmont Baptist College in 1984.

With MAI now established and succeeding in its mission of providing missionary aviators for the world’s mission fields, a new realization set in. What were they going to fly? Many MAI graduates entering service with mission boards not equipped to supply aircraft were being left with that burden themselves. And so, with the deep conviction that more could be done to support gospel and medical ministry around the world, Davis Goodman founded Aviation Ministries International (AMI) in 1984, eventually changing the ministry’s name to Harvester’s International Mission (HIM) in 1995.

"It just made sense”, recounts Davis. “A missionary pilot can’t go to the field and do his work if he doesn’t have an airplane. Somebody had to help raise the money to get these guys some airplanes. So that’s what we did!"

So, for 25 years (1984-2009), Harvester’s International Mission helped provide aircraft for missionary pilots in Mexico, Central America (Guatemala and Honduras), South America (Brazil, Paraguay, and Peru), West Africa (Togo), Papua, New Guinea, and the Pacific Islands of Truk. Meanwhile, graduates of Piedmont/MAI went on to serve with such notable organizations as Mission Aviation Fellowship (MAF), Associated Baptist for World Evangelism (ABWE), New Tribes Mission (NTM), United Indian Mission (UIM), Jungle Aviation and Radio Service (JAARS), and many others, around the world.

By 2005, however, dreams began to form of the day that HIM might expand beyond fundraising and aircraft acquisition, and grow to include pilot training and finally, to the sending of pilots and airplanes to foreign mission fields. This was simply a matter of vision and prayer until the fall of 2009 when Davis met Rev. Sean Donnelly.

 

  Rev. Sean Donnelly (left) and Dr. Davis Goodman (right) in Burlington, NC soon after their first meeting in 2009.

Rev. Sean Donnelly (left) and Dr. Davis Goodman (right) in Burlington, NC soon after their first meeting in 2009.

Missionary Air Group (MAG) was founded by Donnelly in 2005 while he was serving as Senior Pastor of a church in Haverhill, MA. Also a Commercial Pilot, he was developing missionary aviation programs in remote ares of Honduras and Guatemala and approached HIM in search of an appropriate aircraft. The request was granted but in addition to aircraft, MAG received an invitation to relocate from Massachusetts to North Carolina to form a strategic partnership - providing the missing piece of the overall HIM vision. The invitation was accepted and, in May 2010, Missionary Air Group effectively became the International Field Operations Department of HIM with Sean Donnelly becoming Harvester's Vice President of Field Operations. 

As partners, HIM and MAG worked to build a missionary aviation base and to reopen a small missionary hospital in the remote Honduran village of Rus Rus. An aircraft and full-time missionary family was deployed to Rus Rus in June 2010. Westley and Denise Wiles were the first missionaries sent to the field by MAG and helped establish the work along the Rio Coco frontier. In order to provide a legal covering for the employment of national staff, the incorporation of a new Honduran entity was required and “Grupo de Aviacion Medico de Honduras” (Medical Air Group of Honduras) was formed in 2011 allowing life-saving medical care to flow to the isolated Miskito people of eastern Honduras.

Also in 2011, Sean Donnelly was named to succeed Davis Goodman as the President of Harvester’s International Mission and to formally merge MAG with HIM to form one organization that would truly be an “international mission”. Sean was officially installed as only the second president in the nearly 30 year history of the organization. And, with the heritage of HIM and the international branding of MAG, the decision was made to change the corporate name to Missionary Air Group, Inc.

The next several years saw steady expansion. Full-time missionary staff was deployed to Guatemala in 2013, establishing the first Air Ambulance service in that country’s northern Peten region to reach the remote villages of the Kekchi people group.  That work was pioneered by MAG pilot-mechanic Paul Jones, the first MAG missionary deployed to Guatemala.  In 2015, service was expanded to the west-African country of Gabon.  MAG was invited to annex an existing air ambulance aircraft and program, “Aviation Médicale de Bongolo” (AMB), that was serving the Bongolo Hospital in southern Gabon. Founded by Rev. Steve Straw in 2008, this was Gabon’s first dedicated Air Ambulance service. With this merger, Steve Straw joined the MAG team as its first Chief Pilot.

In 2016, a construction began on a new permanent headquarters, training, and aircraft maintenance facility on the Burlington Alamance Regional Airport (KBUY) in Burlington, NC.  Formally dedicated in 2017, this facility has allowed not only administrative, maintenance, and logistics support for MAG field programs, but the consummation of plans to offer missionary pilot training to partner ministries.  A formal training partnership with MMS Aviation in Coshocton, OH, formulated five years earlier by Sean Donnelly and then MMS CEO Dwight Jarboe, saw the arrival of its first flight apprentice in Burlington.  A steady stream of missionary aviators preparing for international field service has followed.

And the story continues…