Heroes of the faith
Eight-year-old Betty Greene could barely contain her excitement. She was standing in the stadium with her family and thousands of others anxiously awaiting a fly-over by her hero, Charles Lindbergh. She had read everything she could get her hands on about this pioneering pilot and his recent record-breaking flight from Long Island to Paris. Getting to see him fly and hear him speak was a dream come true. For as long as she could remember, there was nothing she wanted more than to fly. At sixteen this dream became a reality, as well. After her first plane ride, she was hooked and immediately began lessons.
“For it is God who works in you to will and to act according to His good purpose.”
When struggling to figure out her college path, Betty reached out to a trusted family friend for advice. She explained to Mrs. Bowman that she couldn’t figure out what career she wanted to pursue. “I always think God plants His desires in our hearts so we will act on them. What is it you love to do the most?” asked Mrs. Bowman. Betty answered, “I like to fly…and I love helping with the youth at church.”
The next question Mrs. Bowman asked changed the trajectory of Betty’s life. “Do you think God might have given you both of these interests for a reason? Perhaps you should think of combining them.” On her way home, Betty prayed,
“God, I’ve never heard of anyone who used flying to help spread the gospel message, but if you want me to fly for You, show me how to make it happen.”
“The steps of a man are established by the LORD.”
In 1942, with a degree in world cultures and a pilot’s license, Betty enrolled in what came to be known as the Women’s Airforce Service Pilots (WASP) program. She spent the next few years learning valuable skills while performing dangerous tasks. The confidence and bravery she developed during this time would carry her through many difficult circumstances in the years ahead.
Still feeling called to use her skills for God’s kingdom, she wrote an article for a Christian magazine which was seen by a group of men who shared her vision to use planes for missionary work. Together, these four pilots started Mission Aviation Fellowship. Not only would MAF help pilots find a purpose after the war, but it would change the face of mission work around the world.
“The Lord has brought me here to do this job.”
Throughout her career with MAF, Betty made over 4,640 flights ferrying missionaries, locals, dignitaries, and cargo to and from remote regions. What previously would have been a grueling 3-day trek over rough mountain terrain, became a 15-minute flight, which often meant the difference between life and death. She served in 12 countries and touched down in some 20 more, frequently being the first female pilot to do so despite resistance from many. Whether it was a US General saying, “What are they thinking bringing a girl in to do a man’s work!” or the need for a literal act of Parliament for her to fly in Sudan, Betty regularly faced opposition with fierce determination. God had planted the desire in her heart to fly airplanes for His kingdom. She knew this was where God wanted her to be, and she would let nothing get in the way of His mission for her!