By: Ron Wyrtzen, FSE Vice President
When I was in college, I was in the aviation program, and my passion at that time was to be a missionary pilot. While I spent five years as a commercial pilot for my dad's organization, Word of Life Ministries, and even was a director, working directly with youth at the Word of Life ministries, I never fulfilled my dream of becoming a missionary pilot. Despite this, it is amazing how life can often come full circle.
In 2010, I was overjoyed to come across Brigade Air, an aviation adventure camp that partners with Christian camps around the country to help inspire young people towards careers in the aviation industry, and, more specifically, missionary aviation.
Founded in 2000, the camp partners with about ten camps a summer to provide a week-long aviation course for 12 to 24 teenagers at each camp, for about 100 campers total each summer. During that week, our goal is to introduce them to missionary aviation. They get to fly, weather permitting, every day, thanks to a donated plane, and volunteer pilots and aircrafts. It's all introductory flights - it's not actually teaching – but we give them a good dose of what being a pilot is all about, and then, when we're not flying, we're going over other aviation-related things. We spend a lot of our evenings going over the mission part of it. We show them a lot of films, a lot of footage about what missionaries do in the field, and why it is so important.
There is so much of the world we can't get to without airplanes, so we introduce them to the need to see if that's what God is calling them to do. A lot of these kids have never flown in a small plane before. They get to fly it and get some hands-on experience. Sometimes God is saying, "This ain't right for you," but a lot of times they think, "Oh hey, this is cool!"
When they're not in the aviation part of the week, they're involved in the regular camp programs, swimming, waterskiing, etc.
It's a good mix of girls and guys, usually aged 14 to 18. In the last 15 years, we have introduced 3,000 campers to aviation. We now have kids that are grown up that have gone through their training and schooling, and now are missionaries in foreign countries who got their start with Brigade Air! That is what it's all about!
As a member of the Board, and a volunteer pilot for Brigade Air, it's just wonderful to work with these teens. They're full of life and excitement, and when you can get them at that age and show them something cool like missionary aviation, it's really amazing to see what happens.
To learn more about Brigade Air, visit our website atwww.brigadeair.org.