It is the 10th of April 2021. Welcome to the Christian History Almanac brought to you by 1517 at 1517.org. I'm Dan van Voorhis.
The year was 1997.
So many movies from the 1990s have been ruined by technology. No, not the CGI that film directors thought would either fool us or mesmerize us… although that's a thread to follow. Movies made in the 90s are ruined because they seem close in time to us, but without cell phones or reliable internet, there seem to be too many holes in the plots. Why couldn't he just text her that he loves her while she runs to the airport? Why couldn't she just google him and see that he's got a warrant and left women in 4 different states? Here's the point: too often, we forget that technologies we take for granted today have radically opened opportunities for communication and travel. And we have seen the church, for good or ill, adopt technologies for augmenting mission work. Communication and travel have certainly opened up fields in the last century.
We start today's show in 1920 in the great Pacific Northwest. It was in this year that Gertrude and Albert Greene welcomed twins into the world. William and Elizabeth… or Bill and Betty would be the last two of four children.
Bill and Betty grew up with similar interests, but Betty was told by her parents that if she wanted to work, it would need to be as a nurse. But she and her brother caught the aviation bug in the 1930s. Bill would join the armed forces and become a pilot, but there was no such opportunity for Betty. Instead, she went to college at the University of Washington, where she earned a degree in Sociology while also taking private flying lessons and earning her pilot's license. As World War 2 broke out, Bill was sent to war, but women were not allowed to enlist, let alone fly planes. However, the US Army Air Forces developed a program known as "WASP" or "Women's Airforce Service Pilots." These women were assigned to fly all the non-combat missions, freeing up men for combat. Betty joined the WASPS and, among other things, flew while towing targets for the men to shoot at. She also co-piloted an F-16 into the stratosphere as part of a high altitude test. While she was working with the WASPS in Texas, she wrote a few articles about the possibilities of marrying aviation and mission work. A few Evangelical pilots read her work and approached Betty about the prospect. With the WASP program shut down in 1944, Betty moved to California, where she and a few others started what would become known as the Mission Aviation Fellowship.
In 1946 Betty and two translators with the Wycliffe Bible translators took off from California in her red 1933 bi-plane for Mexico's mission. This was the first of hundreds of flights that Betty would take over the next 16 years. She correctly realized that planes could bring people and important supplies to people virtually cut off from civilization. And Betty's skills were especially suited to these remote people. She became the first person to fly humanitarian aid to Mexico and Peru. She was the first woman to fly across the Andes and the first woman to fly in Sudan (she had to have a dispensation from the King as women were not permitted to fly in Sudanese airspace).
The Mission Aviation Fellowship was Betty's life. She never married nor had children. Instead, she used her considerable skills in flying in the service of the Gospel. Today the MAF has over 130 planes across 30 countries. Her local paper called her the "Missionary Aviatrix" in its obituary for the woman who spent her life combining the world of flight with the world of foreign missions. Elizabeth Everts Greene or Betty Greene died on the 10th of April in 1997.
The reading for today comes from Malcolm Guite. Of all the modern poets we have heard from on the show over the past two years, Guite is likely my favorite. Please check out his 'Sounding the Seasons' and other work at malcolmguite.wordpress.com. This is his "Descent."
They sought to soar into the skies
Those classic gods of high renown
For lofty pride aspires to rise
But you came down.
You dropped down from the mountains sheer
Forsook the eagle for the dove
The other Gods demanded fear
But you gave love
Where chiselled marble seemed to freeze
Their abstract and perfected form
Compassion brought you to your knees
Your blood was warm
They called for blood in sacrifice
Their victims on an altar bled
When no one else could pay the price
You died instead
They towered above our mortal plain,
Dismissed this restless flesh with scorn,
Aloof from birth and death and pain,
But you were born.
Born to these burdens, borne by all
Born with us all 'astride the grave'
Weak, to be with us when we fall,
And strong to save.
This has been the Christian History Almanac for the 10th of April 2021 brought to you by 1517 at 1517.org. The show is produced by Christopher Gillespie, whose favorite wasps include the American Heavy metal band, the album by Shaun Cassidy, and Evangeline Lilly's character in the Ant-Man film. The show is written and read by Dan van Voorhis a White Anglo Saxon Protestant. You can catch us here every day, and remember that the rumors of grace, forgiveness, and the redemption of all things are true…. Everything is going to be ok.