The history of Missionary Air Group, Inc., formerly Harvester’s International Mission, is the story of God’s bringing together a diverse group of people and ministries over a period of decades to accomplish what none of them could ever have dreamt of accomplishing alone.
This is the story of an organization that, initially under the leadership of Dr. Davis Goodman, was used by God to train pilots for foreign mission fields, and then to equip them with needed airplanes. And now, under the leadership of Rev. Sean Donnelly, it is an organization through which God is using those pilots and airplanes (and doctors, and nurses, and pastors, and many others) to deliver medical care and the gospel to some of the most remote and isolated people groups on Earth.
Ultimately, this is the story of God’s calling people to serve Him, then training them, then equipping them, and then finally sending them to “every nation, tribe, people and language” (Rev.7:9) in order to show compassion to the nations – in order to give them life!
|1975||Davis Goodman founds Missionary Aviation Training Institute (MATI)|
|1979||Operations begin at Sugar Valley Airport as Missionary Aviation Institute (MAI)|
|1984||MAI is turned over to Piedmont Baptist College|
|1984||Davis Goodman founds Aviation Ministries International, Inc. (AMI)in North Carolina|
|1995||Corporate name is changed to Harvester’s International Mission, Inc. (HIM)|
|2005||Sean Donnelly founds Missionary Air Group (MAG) in Massachusetts|
|2008||Steve Straw founds “Aviation Médicale de Bongolo” (AMB) in Gabon, Africa|
|2009||MAI is closed by Piedmont Baptist College|
|2010||HIM and MAG form partnership and open Honduras base and Rus Rus Hospital|
|2011||HIM and MAG merge as HIM/MAG with Sean Donnelly as President|
|2013||HIM/MAG opens operations in Guatemala|
|2015||AMB merges Gabon operation into HIM/MAG|
|2015||Corporate name is changed to Missionary Air Group, Inc. (MAG)|
|2015||MAG opens Headquarters facility at Burlington Alamance Regional Airport|
The door to missionary aviation opened to Davis Goodman as he left the Air Force and was asked by the President of Piedmont Bible College (later Piedmont Baptist College, now Piedmont International University) to help establish a new missionary aviation training department and degree program just being formed by the college. Flight training operations began at Smith Reynolds Airport (KINT) in Winston-Salem, NC in the fall term of 1974 with a borrowed airplane, 9 students, and Mr. Wayne Hurst as the lone instructor. In January 1975, Davis agreed to join the endeavor and later that year founded the Missionary Aviation Training Institute (MATI), became its Director, and purchased its first airplane (a Cessna 150).
The program quickly out-grew its rented facility and in 1979 the Sugar Valley Airport (31A) was leased. With the move to Sugar Valley came a name change to Missionary Aviation Institute (MAI) and the addition of an A&P (Airframe & Powerplant Mechanic) School which opened in 1981. Finally, with aircraft, facilities, staff, and students firmly in place, Davis Goodman handed ownership and operational control of MAI and Sugar Valley Airport to Piedmont Baptist College in 1984.
With MAI now established and succeeding in its mission of providing missionary aviators for the world’s mission fields, a new realization set in. What were they going to fly? Many MAI graduates entering service with mission boards not equipped to supply aircraft were being left with that burden themselves. And so, with the deep conviction that more could be done to support gospel and medical ministry around the world, Davis Goodman founded Aviation Ministries International (AMI) in 1984, eventually changing the ministry’s name to Harvester’s International Mission (HIM) in 1995.
"It just made sense”, recounts Davis. “A missionary pilot can’t go to the field and do his work if he doesn’t have an airplane. Somebody had to help raise the money to get these guys some airplanes. So that’s what we did!"
For 25 years (1984-2009), Harvester’s International Mission helped provide aircraft for missionary pilots in Mexico, Central America (Guatemala and Honduras), South America (Brazil, Paraguay, and Peru), West Africa (Togo), Papua, New Guinea, and the Pacific Islands of Truk. Meanwhile, graduates of Piedmont/MAI went on to serve with such notable organizations as Mission Aviation Fellowship (MAF), Associated Baptist for World Evangelism (ABWE), New Tribes Mission (NTM), United Indian Mission (UIM), Jungle Aviation and Radio Service (JAARS), and many others, around the world.
By 2005, however, dreams began to form of the day that HIM might expand beyond fundraising and aircraft acquisition, and grow to include pilot training and finally, to the sending of pilots and airplanes to foreign mission fields. This was simply a matter of vision and prayer until the fall of 2009 when Davis met Rev. Sean Donnelly.
Missionary Air Group (MAG) was founded by Donnelly in 2005 while he was serving as Senior Pastor of a church in Haverhill, MA. Also a Commercial Pilot, he was developing missionary aviation programs in remote areas of Honduras and Guatemala and approached HIM in search of an airplane. But, in addition to an airplane, MAG received an invitation to relocate from Massachusetts to North Carolina to form a strategic partnership – providing the missing piece of the overall HIM vision. The invitation was accepted and, in May 2010, Missionary Air Group effectively became the International Field Operations Department of HIM with Sean Donnelly becoming Harvester’s Vice President of Field Operations.
As partners, HIM and MAG worked to build a missionary aviation base and to reopen a small missionary hospital in the remote Honduran village of Rus Rus. An aircraft and full-time missionary family was deployed to Rus Rus in June 2010. Westley and Denise Wiles were the first missionaries sent to the field by MAG and helped establish the work along the Rio Coco frontier. In order to provide a legal covering for the employment of national staff, the incorporation of a new Honduran entity was required and “Grupo de Aviacion Medico de Honduras” (Medical Air Group of Honduras) was formed in 2011 allowing life-saving medical care to flow to the isolated Miskito people of eastern Honduras.
Also in 2011, Sean Donnelly was named to succeed Davis Goodman as the President of Harvester’s International Mission and to formally merge MAG with HIM to form one organization that would truly be an “international mission”. Sean was officially installed in March 2011 as only the second president in the nearly 30 year history of the organization. And, while the corporate name of “Harvester’s International Mission, Inc. (HIM)” was maintained, the recognized ministry name of “Missionary Air Group (MAG)” was registered as a business name (a DBA name) of HIM.
Over the next several years, HIM/MAG saw steady expansion. Full-time missionary staff was deployed to Guatemala in 2013 to establish emergency Air Ambulance service in that country’s northern Peten region. That work was pioneered by MAG pilot-mechanic Paul Jones, the first MAG missionary deployed to Guatemala. “Grupo de Aviacion Medico de Guatemala” (Medical Air Group of Guatemala) was formed to provide medical service to remote villages among the Kekchi people in partnership with existing missionary hospitals.
2015 was a formative year as service was expanded to the west-African country of Gabon. HIM/MAG was invited to annex an existing air ambulance aircraft and program, “Aviation Médicale de Bongolo” (AMB), that was serving the Bongolo Hospital in southern Gabon. Founded by Rev. Steve Straw in 2008, this was Gabon’s first dedicated Air Ambulance service. With this merger, Steve Straw joined the MAG team as its first Chief Pilot.
Also in 2015, the organization’s corporate name was officially changed from "Harvesters International Mission" to "Missionary Air Group, Inc." (MAG) and a new permanent headquarters, training, and aircraft maintenance facility was opened in Burlington, NC at the Burlington Alamance Regional Airport (KBUY).
And the story continues…
- Dr. Davis Goodman Davis felt the call to missionary aviation while he was still on active duty in the United States Air Force, a career that spanned 24 years and included over 11,000 flight hours, 113 combat missions in Vietnam, and 33 decorations and awards, including the Distinguished Flying Cross and 6 Air Medals. His qualifications include a Master’s Degree in Aerospace Technology and a Doctorate in Aerospace Business Development. His aviation credentials include Airline Transport Pilot and Certified Flight Instructor Certificates.
- Missionary Aviation Institute In 2005, over 30 years after the initial formation of MAI, Piedmont Baptist College announced the termination of its Missionary Aviation Degree Program and the closure of MAI to follow the graduation of its final class in 2009. Coming full-circle, one of the members of the final Piedmont/MAI graduating class, David Mora, became a missionary pilot-mechanic with MAG, assigned to MAG’s Honduras program in 2015.
- Rev. Sean Donnelly Sean began serving in full-time ministry in 1997 following 10 years working in international business and project management, including 5 years as the Administrator of the hospital-based pharmacology research programs for the University of Rhode Island. Sean has developed an understanding and heart for diverse cultures having worked, traveled, and ministered in 24 countries to date. His qualifications include a degree in Business Administration and post-graduate studies at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary. Sean is an ordained pastor with over 12 years of pastoral ministry and nearly two decades of missionary involvement in Central America. His aviation credentials include Airline Transport Pilot and Certified Flight Instructor Certificates in both single and multi-engine aircraft.