MAF visionary Murray Kendon passes away (1917-2014)

Posted: on May 28, 2014

It is with sadness we inform you of the death of Murray Kendon, the visionary who founded Mission Aviation Fellowship and the use of aircraft to bring help and hope to people living in isolated parts of the world.

As a WWII veteran, Murray considered the destructive power that aircraft could deploy: ‘How come thousands of planes can be found to kill and destroy and only a handful to spread God’s amazing offer of free forgiveness and eternal life in glory?’

The idea of using light aircraft to overcome physical and spiritual barriers was born.

Today, countless lives have been transformed because of Murray’s God-given vision and passion for aviation, technology and mission.

What started as a small group of young Christian pilots is now an international organisation of nearly 1,500 staff, serving in 30 countries, with a fleet of over 140 aircraft.

Murray died peacefully on Tuesday 27 May 2014, with his wife, Minnie, by his side. A memorial service will be held in Wellington, New Zealand, at 10:30am on Tuesday 3 June.

Short biography of Murray Kendon

The Dreamer

Born in Auckland, New Zealand, in 1917, Murray Kendon became a Christian when he was 16 years old. He had a growing passion to share the truth of life in Christ, and soon became a passionate and dedicated speaker.

When war threatened, Murray was called up to train as a pilot. He learned to fly in Christchurch, then moved to Canada to continue his training before finishing in the UK.

During this time, Murray worked hard keeping up with his flying programme, and used weekends and leave time to preach. It was at one such meeting that Murray met his future wife, Minnie.

Murray’s active service was with 179 Squadron, flying as a Wellington co-pilot.

MAF pioneers Jack Hemmings, Murray Kendon, Stuart King and Ken Ellis with the Miles Gemini aircraft at Broxbourne Airport, 1947

MAF pioneers Jack Hemmings, Murray Kendon, Stuart King and Ken Ellis on tour with MAF’s first aircraft, the Miles Gemini. Broxbourne Airport, 1947

A dream one night

One night, Murray flew alone across the Bay of Biscay. He watched the flak from France over which thundered a British thousand bomber raid, and it stirred something in his heart.

Years before, Murray had heard the story of a missionary team who set out to find a tribe deep in the jungle. They returned weeks later completely out of food, worn out by incredible hardship and almost killed by a flash flood which had destroyed their canoe.

Murray felt sure that a small aircraft would have been invaluable in providing mapping, transport and supplies, all in only a day or two of time.

Now, that story came back to haunt him, and Murray felt strongly again the unique yet vital impact that aircraft could have as a mission tool. In 1944, not long before WWII ended, Murray was joined at this beginning stage of the vision by Trevor Strong, another New Zealand pilot who had spent 9 months as a POW.

During his captivity, Trevor had felt a call to missions, and also gained a vision of using aircraft for evangelism. It was with great enthusiasm that he now applied himself to the task of making this vision a reality.

The dream takes shape

The dream these two men shared was still in its fledgling stage, when Murray went to visit Dr Thomas Cochrane, president of the Movement for World Evangelism at the Mildmay Centre in London. Murray poured out his passion and the possibility of using planes to enable missionary work.

Dr Cochrane’s answer was swift and direct: ‘God has laid this on your heart, Murray, perhaps He wants you to do something about it yourself. You pray about it, write an article, and I will publish it.’

Murray was thrilled with this encouragement, and returned to Cornwall, where he was living with his wife, Minnie. They prayed, wrote and sent Murray’s precious vision to Dr Cochrane.

Murray’s article was published on 5 July 1945 – the first recorded thoughts about MAF – in the UK Christian newspaper ‘A Christian Weekly’. This article was embraced by a number of Christian pilots from different countries. They recognised the opportunity for using their aviation skills to serve and build, rather than to destroy.

Stuart King, a British pilot serving as an RAF engineer during the war, read Murray’s article. He immediately contacted Murray, passionate about the vision Murray had. Years later, it would be Stuart who worked tirelessly to keep MAF alive in the UK. He was also the first UK pilot to head to Africa and establish MAF there.

In 1946, Murray flew to America to connect with Christian Airmen’s Missionary Fellowship in 1946. Through this intercontinental meeting, the two aviation groups in the UK and USA found their vision and names almost identical, and decided to work together. They took on the common name of Missionary Aviation Fellowship, later changing this to Mission Aviation Fellowship. These were the first two groups to start operations, and soon followed by MAF Australia.

Murray worked hard to promote and build the vision of MAF in the UK until 1950, when he and Minnie returned to New Zealand, where they promoted missions and MAF throughout the country.

MAF pioneers Jack Hemmings, Stuart King, Ken Ellis, Tom Banham and Murray Kendon at the dedication service of MAF’s first aircraft, the Miles Gemini. Broxbourne Airport, 1947

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