USA (MNN) — In the United States, millions of students start a new school year this week. For a handful of others, August graduations mark the start of a new life chapter today.
Three Mission Aviation Fellowship (MAF) foreign staff members graduated from the School of Missionary Aviation Technology, or SMAT, on August 22. SMAT’s 12-month Airframe and Powerplant (A&P) training and its 12-month pilot training are very attractive to students who desire to move quickly into the mission field.
Mantlibi Mafa from Lesotho and Juan Antonio Rivera from Mexico graduated from the A&P program, which prepares students to be airplane mechanics. Zacharie H. François from Haiti graduated from the Flight program, having completed the A&P training in 2019.
MAF maintains close ties to numerous schools that provide training in maintenance and flight. However, President/CEO David Holsten says MAF builds closer relationships with mission-focused schools.
“There are a number of schools we recruit from that are good from the technical standpoint of training. At SMAT, the focus on mission work shapes the type of training students receive,” Holsten says.
“Being grounded in the biblical aspects of the work as well as the specialized training provides us with a well-rounded student better prepared to serve in the isolated areas where we work. That is why we greatly value our relationship with SMAT.”
One of the new grads, Mantlibi Mafa, is the only female mechanic on the MAF Lesotho team. “There were, thankfully, people who donate to MAF so I could get this training,” she says.
“When I go back home, I’ll be working with MAF again, but this time, I will be a certified mechanic. It’s a very big responsibility, but the training I got here at SMAT helped prepare me for that.”
Though only 30 years old, Mantlibi’s life journey has been anything but easy. Cultural barriers in Lesotho prevent women from entering certain trades. The Lord prepared a way for Mantlibi to use her God-given gifts and passions at MAF.
“(Cultural) barriers discourage young women from entering fields called ‘A Man’s World’ like driving a semi or fixing cars,” she says.
“In many fields, women are critiqued, and it takes a lot of proving (to others) that you can do it. Thankfully, at MAF, I haven’t experienced that.”
Mantlibi’s aeromechanic aspirations began in childhood. She remembers watching a plane flying overhead, taking her imagination captive. “I’ve always been fascinated with airplanes,” Mantlibi says.
“I’ve always wanted to do aviation; the closest I could get was to start with car mechanics.”
She experienced discrimination firsthand while working at an auto repair shop during college. “I recall one customer saying, ‘Does she even know what a tire is? I don’t want her near my car,” Mantlibi says.
“It was hard with challenges like that, but thankfully, the [shop owners] always stood up for me.”
Equipped to succeed
After graduating with honors from the three-year auto mechanic program, Mantlibi 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’ll be able to do most of the work (at MAF) unsupervised. After every task I perform, I’ll have to write a logbook entry and sign it off with my certificate number, which holds me responsible,” Mantlibi says.
Pray Mantlibi will have continued faith in the Lord and the path He lays before her. Additionally, Mantlibi is the sole provider for her daughter and her sister’s family. Ask the Lord to give her 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 about ministry opportunities at Mission Aviation Fellowship here.
In the header image, MAF President/CEO David Holsten delivers a commencement speech to the School of Missionary Aviation Technology 2022 graduates. (Photo credit: MNN)