Archbishop of Canterbury visits Folkestone aviation charity

The Archbishop of Canterbury, the Most Reverend and Rt Hon Justin Welby, visited international Christian charity MAF (Mission Aviation Fellowship) at its Folkestone office on Monday morning to learn more of its pioneering aviation work.

MAF’s UK support office has been based in Folkestone for over 30 years and employs staff living in the local area and across Kent.

MAF flies light aircraft in developing countries to enable aid, relief, food, clean water, education and medical assistance to reach isolated and remote communities which could take days or weeks to reach by land.

Archbishop Justin Welby and his wife, Caroline, made time to meet with over 50 staff and prayed for the charity’s work.

During the visit, Archbishop Justin and Caroline Welby spoke with Ruth Whitaker, CEO of MAF UK, Max Gove, Development Manager at MAF International, Chris Lukkien CEO of MAF International and  Stuart King, one of the founders of MAF and a 93-year-old WWII RAF veteran.

Archbishop Justin was also presented with a framed photograph of his time flying in an MAF aircraft in South Sudan last year and a copy of Hope Has Wings, the official account of MAF’s beginnings in 1945 until the present day.

Archbishop Justin spoke of the profound sense of isolation and abandonment that comes with situations of conflict across the world adding: “The biggest single thing in conflict is to feel forgotten and abandoned, even when you’re not; your experience is so unique and isolated.”

He added: “We were both very excited to hear that you were in the Canterbury Diocese. We’re very, very grateful, thank you for letting us come and interrupt your work today, it’s a real privilege to meet you. What you do is invaluable and extraordinary.”

Stuart King, President Emeritus and one of the founders of MAF, said of the visit: “It’s blown our minds to have such a visit from the Archbishop himself – that he and his wife wanted to come. We appreciated being able to fly him and help in some of his overseas assignments and we hope he’ll be able to do more in the future. It was a great encouragement. He’s a wise man and he’s given us so much encouragement and words of wisdom. He knows so much about the world in which we operate which is quite amazing, for example, his experience in Africa. So it was a tremendous encouragement really.”

Speaking about MAF’s 70 year anniversary, Stuart said: “When we started we were a bunch of ex-Air Force officers and we wanted to turn small planes into an instrument of peace and of help and hope for people in remote, inaccessible areas. In the early days, the work was quite traumatic, it wasn’t easy at all.”

Ruth Whitaker, Chief Executive at MAF UK said: “It is wonderful to understand how much the organisation has grown from just a vision and an idea to use aircraft for constructive means. There is still so much need – the need is greater than ever across the developing world, and MAF has a role to play in serving those in remote and isolated communities.”

“We had the opportunity to fly the Archbishop in one of our light aircraft during a visit he made to South Sudan in 2014. He has therefore seen first-hand our work supporting people living in remote and isolated areas.”

“His visit was an encouragement to us, and we were blessed by his spirit of prayer and reconciliation – values that we hold dear at MAF.”

On a daily basis, MAF strives to practically support the world’s forgotten people in over 25 countries.

Through its fleet of 140 light aircraft, MAF flies essential supplies to places made barely accessible through war, natural disaster or poor infrastructure.

Rooted in the church and working with scores of aid organisations, MAF is overcoming these physical barriers in over 1800 locations.

Notes to editors:

Details from: Emily Shepherd, Canterbury Diocese Director of Communications: 07876 210446, eshepherd@diocant.org

Photos show:

  1. Ruth Whitaker CEO MAF,  Archbishop Justin and Founder of MAF Stuart King
  2. Caroline Welby and Archbishop Justin with a photo of
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