The story of Mission Aviation Fellowship was birthed from the vision of an Air Force Officer in WWII. What's less well known is the young Kiwi pilot who first had this vision, and the story of his tenacity and determination in turning a dream into a reality.

The Beginning Of MAF

Born in Auckland in 1917, Murray Kendon became a Christian when he was 16 years old. He had a growing passion to share the truth of life in Christ, and soon became a passionate and dedicated speaker. When war loomed heavy on the horizon, Murray was called up to train as a pilot. He learned to fly in Christchurch, then moved to Canada to continue his training before finishing his qualifications in the United Kingdom. During this time, Murray worked hard keeping up with his flying programme, and used weekends and leave time to preach. It was at one such meeting that Murray met his future wife, Minnie, who was hungry to learn of the Bible.

Murray's active service was with 179 Squadron, flying as a Wellington co-pilot. The Wellingtons were armed with depth charges, machine guns, 22 million-candle power searchlights and powerful radar. Murray's crew of six was comprised of Britons, Australians and Kiwis. Their brief was to find and destroy enemy submarines and to comb the Atlantic to find U-Boats which were sinking Allied ships.

A Dream One Night

One night, Murray flew alone across the Bay of Biscay. He watched the flak from France over which thundered a British thousand-bomber raid, and it stirred something in his heart. He later wrote down his thoughts:

"How come thousands of planes can be found to kill and destroy, and only a handful to spread God's amazing offer of free forgiveness and eternal life in glory?"

Years before, Murray had heard the story of a missionary team who set out to find a tribe deep in the jungle. They returned weeks later starving, worn out by incredible hardship and almost killed by a flash flood which had destroyed their canoe. Murray felt for sure that a small aircraft would have been invaluable in providing mapping, transport and supplies, all in only a day or two of time.

Now, that story came back to haunt him, and Murray felt strongly again the unique yet vital impact that aircraft could have as a mission tool. In 1944, not long before WWII would end, Murray was joined by Trevor Strong, another Kiwi pilot who had spent 9 months as a POW. During his captivity in the WWII, Trevor had felt a call to missions, and also gained a vision of using aircraft for evangelism. So it was with great enthusiasm that he applied himself to the task of making Murray’s dream a reality.

The Dream Takes Shape

The dream these two men shared was still in its fledgling stage, when Murray went to visit Dr Thomas Cochrane, president of the Movement for World Evangelism at the Mildmay Centre in London. Murray poured out his passion and the possibility of using planes to enable missionary work, and Dr. Cochrane's answer was swift and direct:

"God has laid this on your heart, Murray, perhaps He wants you to do something about it yourself. You pray about it, write an article, and I will publish it."

Thus, on 5th July 1945, the first recorded thoughts about a MAF-type operation were published in an English Christian newspaper, "A Christian Weekly". This article was embraced by a number of Christian pilots from different countries. They recognised the opportunity for using their aviation skills to serve and build, rather than to destroy.

In 1946 Murray flew to America to connect with Christian Airmen's Missionary Fellowship, which had begun with Betty Greene two years prior. Through this inter-continental meeting, the aviation group in the USA found their vision and names almost identical, and decided to work alongside Murray’s organisation. They later took on the common name of Missionary Aviation Fellowship.

In New Zealand from 1945 onwards MAF was promoted, prayer groups were formed and funds raised to support the MAF work in Africa. In 1946, Trevor Strong returned to New Zealand, setting up the MAF committee in 1947. By 1959, MAF New Zealand was officially incorporated as a society.