NAMPA -- Amidst devastation and darkness comes some hope - from the sky.
More than a dozen are dead and thousands are left homeless in the wake of Hurricane Maria. Destruction tore across Dominica, Barbuda and other islands still trying to recover from Hurricane Irma's wrath. As so many people are overwhelmed in those areas, one organization is doing what they can to help provide some relief.
Mission Aviation Fellowship (MAF) has people and resources - some from here in Idaho - in the air and on the ground in the Caribbean.
"You're in pain, you're wondering where your next meal is going to come from, you're wondering if your family has survived. It's just a time when devastation is all around you. What we want to bring is just a sense of hope and we believe that hope comes from God," Mission Aviation Fellowship Communications and Media Manager Chris Burgess said. "Obviously it's one of the worst moments of your life and we just want to be there and show love any way that we can."
Mission Aviation Fellowship is a global organization with a base out of Nampa. MAF operates a fleet of about 130 airplanes across Africa, Asia, Eurasia and Latin America. They dispatch disaster response teams that are dispatched all over the world.
Right now, with airplanes and other technology, the Christian mission and aid organization is using resources to assist islands torn apart by two back-to-back hurricanes.
Amidst one of the worst times in a person's life, and in a country's history, Mission Aviation Fellowship is there.
"We help respond during global disasters," Burgess added. "There are people down there that need help and we have the resources and abilities to help provide some of that help, and show them God's love."
The organization is working with Samaritan's Purse to survey the needs on the islands and bring help - and hope.
"We have a disaster team very experienced in just kind of running logistics for disaster response," Burgess said. "Typically in a disaster everything is chaotic and one of the first things that just needs to be assessed is where do we go from here, what is the very first initial step."
In times of crisis, MAF uses their aircraft to take other organizations and government officials on survey flights, they set up communication systems and provide logistics support so disaster response teams can provide some solace in the suffering.
"A lot of times it is just kind of a joint effort," Burgess added. "We partner with 600 other organizations around the world."
Immediately in the Caribbean, they hit the air conducting surveys over the damage, and hit the ground to set up communications and logistics.
MAF crews have been providing logistics support at a staging area established by Samaritan's Purse in Puerto Rico. Another team had been working out of Sint Maarten with an airplane to provide aerial surveys of hurricane damage from Irma, and help with any other dire needs.
After Hurricane Maria hit, that team Wednesday moved its base to Antigua and did an aerial survey of damage and other work in Barbuda on Thursday.
"On Wednesday we flew an MAF airplane to Dominica and so much there has been destroyed. About 75 percent of the houses are missing roofs. Dominica has mountains and rivers which caused horrendous flash flooding as Hurricane Maria passed over, so I saw warehouses that were just obliterated," MAF global manager of disaster response, John Woodberry, said in a press release sent on Thursday. "People were pulling things out of the rubble. Everythig is chaotic."
"It just sounds like the needs are just super great," Burgess told KTVB.
The fellowship plans to deploy a satellite communication system to Dominica to get communications back up and running on the island.
Whether it's a hurricane or an earthquake, the fellowship has responded to disasters all over the world.
For over 70 years, Mission Aviation Fellowship has worked with churches, relief organizations, missionaries, medical teams, and others in many isolated, remote parts of the world. MAF responded to disasters in Haiti after Hurricane Matthew ravaged the island, Nepal in 2015 following destructive and deadly earthquakes, and in the Philippines after Typhoon Haiyan four years ago.
"If we know something is going to happen then we'll get our disaster team ready and say, 'Hey guys this might be bad and we might need to go out and send your team out,'" Burgess added. "We're willing to go where other people might not be willing to go because we feel like it's that important to share God with them."
According to Woodberry, a Samaritan's Purse team is expected to bring supplies such as tarps, food, water and hygiene kits to Dominica in the next day or so.
Learn more about Mission Aviation Fellowship here.
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