The Vital Role… Part I
Folks often understand the roles of Pilots, Engineers, Accountants, Mechanics…but what about Country Directors? We’re often asked, “What do you do?”
Since 2017, Connie and I have been serving as the Country Director for MAF in Papua New Guinea. Last year, MAF New Zealand wrote a great article on the Vital Role of a Country Director. Here are excerpts from that article….
Like the captain of a ship or the conductor of an orchestra, Country Directors often work in the background – yet they play a central role in each of MAF’s overseas programmes. MAF is a guest in each country we operate in, and our ability to stay there often relies on the Country Directors. They build and maintain strong relationships with national churches, NGOs, host-country officials, local leaders and government departments. They communicate a clear sense of vision and purpose to get these groups ‘on board’ with the vision and work of MAF. Finally, leading by example, they set the Christian tone in the MAF work environment and make sure the whole team is heading in the same direction.
Ian McBride, served in Arnhem Land from 2006-2010. He believes that the key focus of the role is, “setting the culture’ of a programme, with a strong focus on pastoral care of the team. He likens it to wearing many different hats – along with the ability to switch hats, depending on what is happening on any particular day.”
Doug Miles (along with wife Yvonne) who has most recently served as Programme Director in Arnhem Land says that, “…the role is about teamwork and ensuring the team functions to its full potential. A highlight is seeing the impact we are making on the people we serve.”
Bill Harding, who is currently Director for International development for MAF International and who previously served as a Country Director in Kenya from 1996-1999 says, “A few things about the role have changed, but it remains hugely challenging and rewarding. At a professional level you are running a small business using a ‘developed world’ technology in a developing country, which brings many challenges. You oversee the people and systems which ensure the operations are safe and compliant with local authorities. You lease, buy, or build housing and hangar space, manage budgets, ensure the import of aircraft parts and fuel is assured, not to mention pilots, engineers, and other staff. You manage a range of staff, some of whom are international, come are local, some are highly trained while others are learning and growing. Above all you are aiming for the team you lead to most effectively respond to the need of access to bring help, hope, and healing. “
“At a mission level you are leading a group of Christian missionaries called by God to ‘take the road less travelled.’ They are typically determined and resilient, with hearts of gold, but they come from different cultural, denominational, and personal backgrounds, so they may see the world and God at work in it very differently. “
“Along with management there is a pastoral care element because unlike a normal employer, the mission takes responsibility for spiritual wellbeing. the physical welfare of the team is a challenge too, if you are in a place where car jackings and break-ins are the norm. “
Connie doing blood pressures for the team members on Friday – a regular occurrence as we show Care to our team!
Bill continues. “At a personal level it means being flexible with people and adaptable to circumstances. The scope of the work that I undertook on any given day ranged from grand things like talking to the United Nations about access to South Sudan or deciding on a new hangar design, through to trying to find out who’s gone home with the keys to the MAF van, which is now urgently needed to pick up a visitor from the airport or sorting out the blocked toilet in a neighbouring MAF house because it’s late at night!”
Bill Harding in 1996, preparing to show the Jesus Film
In Part II of this blog on the vital role of Country Directors, we’ll focus a be more specifically on the role in the, “Land of the Bird of Paradise,” Papua New Guinea.