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Family shares gospel through flight

Michael and Cayla Boettcher and their children Titus, Elisha and Alissa, live in Soldotna, Alaska. Michael is a pilot and mechanic for Missionary Aviation Repair Center, an organization that flies supplies and people in remote areas of Alaska.

Michael and Cayla Boettcher are sharing their experience as missionaries in Alaska while they're home for the holidays.

The Boettchers and their three children - Titus, Elisha and Alissa - live in Soldotna, Alaska, about two and a half hours south of Anchorage.

Michael flies for the Missionary Aviation Repair Center, a non-profit organization that seeks to expand the reach of the gospel by:

n Flying people and supplies to places where there are no roads.

n Supporting other missionaries and their aircraft.

n And training missionary minded pilots and mechanics.

The vision is to see lives changed, the reach of the Gospel expanded, have more effective ministries and see more workers serving the Kingdom of God.

"I fly to small bush villages in the area bringing supplies and support to the people living there," Michael said.

While the Boettchers are in Park Rapids visiting Michael's parents, Wayne and Cindy, they will also speak to groups at Evergreen Church about the hardships they see in Alaska.

A men's pancake breakfast will be served at 9 a.m. Saturday, Jan. 1 at the Park Rapids Airport. Michael will share information about his mission work as a pilot in Alaska for MARC.

A Mother-Daughter Tea will be held at 3 p.m. Saturday, Jan. 1 at Evergreen Church. Cayla will share information on her role as a wife and mother in the mission field. RSVP by calling 237-8910.

Michael will share at the 10 a.m. Sunday service at Evergreen Church.

Michael is originally from Minnesota. When he was young, his parents were missionaries in Bolivia. He first learned about missionary aviation and it sparked his interest down the road.

It was during middle school that Michael felt a definite call to missionary aviation. The Boettcher family had moved back to Minnesota and a missionary pilot and his wife came to share about how aircrafts could be a tremendous ministry tool in remote parts of the world.

"I always wanted to work as a missionary and be a pilot," he said.

He earned his pilots' license at age 17 and flew out of the Park Rapids Airport. After high school he attended Crown College, a Bible school in southern Minnesota. He earned a bachelor's degree in intercultural studies (missions degree). He and Cayla met at college and were married in 2003.

Cayla is a Registered Nurse but right now stays home to take care of their three young children.

They originally thought they might do missionary work in Africa or South America but discovered that there was a need in Alaska. They were called there.

They first served with Kako Retreat Center for a year and a half before moving to Soldotna to serve with Missionary Aviation Repair Center.

Michael serves as a pilot and mechanic and said weather in Alaska is always changing and that can be a struggle when trying to get to the remote villages.

"Snow and ice can build up on the planes and can make it difficult," he said.

It's dangerous work at times, Michael admits.

One of the more rewarding flights Michael has is to fly kids from the remote villages to summer camp.

"They often come from tough situations, difficult family situations," Michael said. "It really is a safe haven for them."

The nice thing about flying for MARC is that people are always happy to see him.

"We're always bringing them something or taking them to camp or home," he said.

The villages are experiencing culture clashes right now, he said. Some of the older culture is dying as televisions and cell phones are being used.

"Most of the younger kids speak English," he said. "The other languages are being lost, forgotten."

MARC has three Piper Navajos used for transporting people as well as other various materials. On a typical flight, a Navajo can carry either seven passengers or around 1,300 pounds of cargo along with the fuel needed to get to the destination.

There are two King Air A-90s used by MARC and Samaritan's Purse. The King Air can carry either nine passengers or 2,000 pounds of cargo on a typical flight.

The Casa, a twin-engine airplane, is owned by another organization but MARC pilots use it on occasion. It is the largest of the aircraft employed by the ministry with room for 19 passengers or 4,000 pounds of cargo. The interior is just roomy enough to fit a Geo Tracker inside.

"It's been a really rewarding experience," Michael said. "A lot of people don't realize the need for mission work in Alaska. It's a whole different world."

Anna Erickson
Anna Erickson is editor of the Wadena Pioneer Journal.
(218) 631-2561