(Written by Katherine Williams. Photographs taken by students themselves)

A few weeks ago, I was wandering around the Mareeba Flight Centre when I ran into the MAF Mareeba student pilots. They were bubbling over with excitement about their upcoming Mission trip to Cooktown. I stopped to chat with them and was overcome by their enthusiasm to get to Cooktown to be able to share their faith & why they had decided to learn to fly with MAF. I found myself wanting to go with them.

They were excited as it was a trip with an actual purpose. Before this they had been involved in very few journeys with an actual purpose, so this was very exciting and a big deal! The students David Chandler, Matt Bates, Keith Fleck and Tali Grace came in early on the Thursday morning to plan all areas of their journey. They had to look at how much cargo they could carry to get the balance and weight right, as well as ensuring the weather was favourable. This would be their first purposeful journey together as a team.

David piloted VH-MIS with most of the luggage and then Tali piloted VH-MFQ with the other 2 students up to Cooktown on the Thursday afternoon. They stayed at the Endeavour Christian College and consequently talked to 3 groups of students there. David said “that this was an exciting opportunity for them, as the school had given them free rein to talk about anything they liked,” so they described the function and mission of MAF, shared personal stories of their journey and how each of us has a purpose and ability to meet needs in the world. Using a portable flight simulator the class was engaged in a rescue scenario in the Highlands of PNG where they discovered what it would take to save a life.

Then they got to be part of a new Youth Group that Cooktown was trialling on Fri-day evening, which David said was “amazing to be part of.” Over 50 children attended, mostly between the ages of 12-15 years old. This was arranged by the Chaplain from the Christian and State Schools and helped by the local churches.

They hired out the local pool and played lots of pool games, followed by a meal of hot dogs, but during this time they managed time for Matt to share his testimony and then they got into smaller groups to discuss God’s calling and overcoming fears. The students said that this had gone particularly well and Tali shared that she had talked to a girl called Lilly who was definitely seeking something; Lilly did not come from a Christian home, but deeply wanted more information on what it meant to follow God. Tali explained “that she had spent quite some time talking with her and said that it was most definitely the highlight of her trip.” The evening ended with a firm favourite of ice cream for everyone involved.

Keith, Matt, Tali & David then spent some time being shown around Cooktown, which is a beautiful part of Queensland, as well as having dinner on the beach with the school Principle and Chaplain. Keith explained how “They had loved having a beach fire and particularly cracking coconuts.”

Their weekend ended on Sunday at church where Tali shared a message about surrendering to God. David, Matt and Keith were part of the worship team helping with the music.

As they flew home the weather was not in their favour and they ended up having to change their plans and land in Cairns, but again Keith explained “that this too was a vital experience that they all learned from.” They all agreed that their trip had been amazing, but they were totally exhausted on their return. I look forward to following the journey of these amazing Mareeba students over the next few years and seeing what they will achieve.