Missionary Aviation Pioneer Charles Bennett honoured by Edinburg Theological seminary

June 10, 2009
Chuck Bennett (left), pictured in 1976 with Dr. Bob Pierce,
founder of World Vision and a longtime supporter of MAF.
June 10, 2009 – Texas – Charles (Chuck) Bennett, former president and chief executive officer of MAF (Mission Aviation Fellowship), was recently honored with an honorary Doctor of Divinity degree at Edinburg Theological Seminary’s commencement ceremonies.

“I often say I stand on the shoulders of giants,” said current MAF President and Chief Executive Officer John Boyd.  “Chuck Bennett is one of those giants.  God has used Chuck in a powerful way for more than a half-century. It has been a blessing both to witness that and to be one of the beneficiaries of his work.  This honor from Edinburg Theological Seminary is well-deserved, though I know Chuck’s response to this honor will likely be ‘to God alone be the glory.’”

Bennett was born the son of a sharecropper in Northeast Arkansas during the Great Depression.  He graduated from high school at age 16 and studied aviation and theology at Moody Bible Institute.  At age 23 he moved to southeast Mexico.  There he spent the next 13 years as a missionary bush pilot for MAF, serving hundreds of Presbyterian churches in a roadless region of jungles, swamps and mountains.  He made more than 18,000 flights, taught in the local Bible institute and supervised the construction of churches, a youth camp and a school.

Bennett returned to the United States to complete a master’s from Fuller Theological Seminary and to serve in various leadership roles with MAF.  In 1972 he was named the first director of the newly-formed Presbyterian Center for Mission Studies.

The following year Bennett was named president and chief executive officer of MAF.  During his 12 years as head of MAF, annual income increased tenfold, to more than $23 million from $2.3million.  MAF became the world’s largest humanitarian air service and operated the world’s largest private fleet of Cessna aircraft.  Bennett also shifted the organization’s emphasis from flying Western missionaries to that of serving indigenous health programs, hospitals, churches and relief programs, especially in Africa.

In 1985, Bennett left MAF and became the executive vice-president and chief operating officer for Food for the Hungry International (FHI).  He directed a staff of 550 people in more than 15 countries.  Under his leadership, annual income tripled, to $27 million, and the number of communities served increased fivefold.  The number of individuals served increased tenfold.  In Ethiopia alone, FHI distributed about 70 million pounds of food to an at-risk population of more than 600,000.

Following his departure from FHI in 1991, Bennett has remained active in missions work, serving as president and chief executive officer of Partners International, which raises funds for missions work, and as president and chief executive officer of Paraclete Mission Group.  A serious automobile accident in 1999 in northern Burma later led to the development of Parkinson’s disease, which ended his full-time career.  However, even though his speech and his steps are now severely limited, his legacy continues to inspire a new generation of global-minded Christians.

Founded in the United States in 1945, MAF (www.maf.org) missionary teams of aviation, communications, technology and education specialists overcome barriers in remote areas, transform lives and build God’s Kingdom by enabling the work of more than 1,000 organizations in isolated areas of the world. With its fleet of 130 bush aircraft, MAF serves in 55 countries, with an average of 242 flights daily across Africa, Asia, Eurasia and Latin America. MAF pilots transport missionaries, medical personnel, medicines and relief supplies, as well as conduct thousands of emergency medical evacuations. MAF also provides telecommunications services, such as satellite Internet access, high-frequency radios, electronic mail and other wireless systems.

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