Although MAF’s work in Ahuas ended in the 1990s, MAF gave George the plane that he had been flying. George continued his aviation ministry as Alas de Socorro or as it is frequently called, “Wings of Mercy.”
Six years ago Alas de Socorro was given a second plane through the efforts of various individuals and U.S. Moravian Churches. This was to insure that when maintenance work is being performed on one plane, a second plane is always available for flying. Over the years George has flown many ill patients from remote villages to the Moravian Clinic and Hospital in Ahuas, provided flights for doctors, nurses and dentists traveling to outlying areas and supplied short-term missionaries with air transport to various locations in eastern Honduras.
During a discussion with Brother Goff in early 2011 regarding the Alas de Socorro ministry, he shared two major needs. One was a much-needed overhaul on the airplanes. The other was to replace a hangar originally built by MAF, but damaged over the years by the tropical weather and termites. George said that he needed “a new hanger before that one falls in on the plane.”
Many people worked to help make the new hangar a reality. The Board of World Mission provided funds to purchase hangar materials. New Philadelphia and Friedberg Moravian Churches worked together to raise additional funds to send a team to Honduras to erect the new hangar as well and for work that needed to be done prior to the team’s arrival. The team, assisted by many helpers, held two very elegant dinners, one at New Philadelphia and one at Friedberg. Each dinner was followed by a Gray Family concert. In addition, many individuals and groups made significant monetary contributions to the Hangar Fund.
Brother Mark Ebert assisted local men in Honduras to take down the old hangar, improve the hangar’s concrete floor and make concrete blocks which they used to build a foundation for the new hangar. All funds not used for hangar construction were given to Brother Goff for Alas de Socorro.
In January a team led by Brother Karl Stimpson traveled to Ahuas to erect the new hangar. Other team members included Gladys Stimpson, Jerry Taylor, Mike Sloan, Sandra Gray, Rick Green, Chuck Nienow and Esther Tesh. It was quite a challenge to erect the hangar without the help of a lift or crane that one might use in the U.S.
We were greatly assisted by two local men, Dion and Wayley, who took positions atop the scaffold to fit the ribs together. When our time in Ahuas ended, three ribs and the back pieces still needed to be added to complete the building. Brother Goff and local workers finished adding the ribs. In February a team led by Tommy Wagner added the hangar’s back panels before installing electricity in the structure. Brother Goff had asked for a hangar that was termite proof and hurricane proof. This new metal building should serve those purposes for many years.
Although George regularly services the planes and keeps both in excellent condition, when a plane has flown enough hours, it should come back to the U.S. for a major overhaul that is beyond what George can do in Honduras. In addition, this plane needs instruments which permit it to fly during inclement weather.
And while Alas de Socorro has a newly constructed hangar, there is still work to be done to raise the $25,000 needed to bring a plane from Honduras to Missionary Maintenance Services in Ohio for a much-needed overhaul. Efforts continue to make this a possibility.
Esther Tesch is a member of Friedberg Moravian Church in Winston-Salem, N.C. Photos by Esther and Jay Moser.
From the July/August 2012 Moravian Magazine