Mission Aviation Fellowship: Our Journey by Joel Hensen

Living here in Brantford, Ontario, the thought of driving to Hamilton or Burlington (aside from the rush hour traffic jams) doesn’t really seem all that daunting to us. Now, what if someone told you to do that same trip, but you had to walk. Apart from the especially ambitious and athletic among us, most of us would prefer to stay at home. 

Yet, for many men and women around the world a journey like that is not something that is based on choice, but on necessity. 

Traveling to the hospital with your sick child or to the nearby clinic to get medicine can mean a 3-4 day trek by foot. Countless people around the world face this reality everyday; a few miles can be the difference between life and death.


 It is ways like these and thousands of others that the use of the airplane has begun to dramatically impact numerous lives around the world. 


To many of us, the airplane is simply a means of travel, a form of transportation to get us from point A to point B. To hundreds of thousands of men, women, and children around the world, like those in Africa, the airplane is a symbol of hope.


Our names are Joel and Hayley Hensen and we are missionaries with Mission Aviation Fellowship or MAF and we are preparing to head overseas to the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) for the next four years. 


As we find our thoughts drifting towards Christmas shopping once again, it’s hard to believe that this season could be one of our last in Canada for a number of years. As the time approaches for us to pack up our apartment and head overseas, it is amazing to see how rapidly our lives have changed in 8 short months.


Having officially joined MAF full time in February, our lives since then have been spent sharing about our ministry with MAF, explaining who we are and what we do.

It was a little over a year ago now when we both felt like our lives were heading in a direction that was perhaps a “little less than ordinary.” 

At that time, Joel had been working for a handful of years at the Brantford Flying Club as the Assistant Chief Flight Instructor and was building a strong reputation there. 


For those of you who know the aviation world, it is especially competitive. When we made the decision to put Joel’s career on hold to fly small single engine planes in Africa, it was a choice that was met with a lot of criticism, especially with having our first baby due this November!

It also was not a decision that was made overnight. Through all the Pro’s and Con’s we came up with and the “rational” vs. “irrational” reasons and it came down to something very simple: a desire to reach out and touch the lives of people who desperately need our help.


When we began our search over a year ago for a mission group we wanted to be a part of, MAF seemed like the “logical” choice because of Joel’s passion for flying; however, as we kept coming across stories of last minute medical supplies being flown into isolated villages, food and water being delivered to communities suffering from malnutrition, and doctors being dropped off in places where people have never received medical attention, it became much more than just an aviation ministry; it became something that we are now proud to say we are a part of. 

Known to many around the world as the “airline to the jungle” MAF works with over 1,500 organizations worldwide; flying in people and supplies to help bring restoration and healing to people that desperately need our help.


Beginning at the end of the Second World War, MAF began as a common vision to use the airplane to reach isolated people in remote locations around the world. 

Now, over 60 years later, MAF has one of the largest private fleet of aircraft in the world, totaling over 130 aircraft operating in over 30 countries. We are working with organizations such as Red Cross, Doctors without Borders, World Vision and many others. MAF is the strategic link that enables other partner organizations to reach people in isolated areas. Our mission is ‘sharing the love of Christ through aviation and technology so that isolated people can be physically and spiritually transformed.’ As an organization, we don’t only just bring tools and supplies, but hope to those who otherwise have no hope.


Many people ask us how we came to a place of deciding to pack our lives up and head to Africa. Both Joel and I come from completely different backgrounds; polar opposite would best describe it, I suppose. Joel was born and raised in a Christian family here in Brantford. Through the help and support of his parents, he started flying at a young age and was flying by himself by the time he was fifteen. He continued to fly through high school and later in college as well. It wasn’t until after his first year of college that He encountered God in a real way and felt a great desire to reach out to those that are less fortunate in other countries around the world. 

My life was radically changed just over 6 years ago when I was saved from a life of drug and alcohol addiction. A few years after moving out to Brantford, Ontario in 2003 (from Chilliwack, British Columbia) my life had taken a turn and I found myself heavily addicted to drugs and alcohol. The people I was hanging around and situations I found myself in at that time were incredibly dark, and I knew in my heart that I had given up. All that I have today I owe to God who met me where I was and accepted me for who I was at that time. It is only because of Him that I am here. 


When we look at the world, it feels overwhelming to think of all those that need help. Though it is overwhelming, we believe that there is something greater than giving people material things; it is giving them hope and we believe that that hope is found Jesus.


We are currently looking for individuals or organizations who will support us financially while we are away for the next four years. If you would like to find out more, please contact us atjhensen@maf.org or visit us on the web at www.mafc.org for more information.

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