March is Women’s History Month, so I thought I’d introduce you to four Christian women who made a huge impact. These women are from different backgrounds, but all shared the same foundation…Jesus Christ.
The first is Betty Greene. She was born in Seattle, WA in 1920 and was raised in a Christian home. Betty became fascinated with flight at 7 years old when Charles Lindburgh made his famous flight across the Atlantic. When she was 16, she took flying lessons with money gifted to her by her uncle. Betty had two desires: to fly and to serve Christ as a missionary.
In 1944, Betty joined the Women Airforce Service Pilots (WASP) program, which trained women pilots to fly military aircraft during World War II. Though not in battle, Betty was one of only a handful of women selected to fly the B-17 Flying Fortress, a heavy bomber used by the U.S. Army Air Corp. She also flew fighters and hazardous high-altitude test flights. Betty would say that her wartime flight experience would prove invaluable in her future work as a missionary pilot.
In an article for a Christian magazine she wrote, ‘I am eagerly awaiting the time when God will use my flying to take the glorious gospel of our blessed God to those who are without Christ.’ Other pilots with an eye towards missions read her article. Together they and Betty formed the Christian Airmen’s Missionary Fellowship which later became the Mission Aviation Fellowship (maf.org). Betty was a founding member and their first pilot.
Her first flight for MAF was on February 23, 1946. She transported two Wycliffe workers from La Habra, California, to Tuxpan, Mexico. Betty continued to fly for MAF for 16 years as a bush pilot in countries including Peru, Nigeria, and New Guinea. Many missionaries and their families, doctors, patients, aid workers, were supported in their ministries through Betty’s work.
In her time flying for MAF Betty logged 4,620 hours without the aid of GPS, autopilot, co-pilots, or navigators. Just her skills and a single engine aircraft tracing roads and rivers to find her way and, best of all, with Jesus as her co-pilot. Her flights were filled with risk from landings on dirt and grass to sketchy radio communications and lack of weather reports. Many bush pilots she knew were killed. Betty continued with courage and faith that God would, and had, delivered her.
Besides the challenges of flying in the bush, she had to deal with the challenge of being a woman in a male dominated job. Even with her amazing qualifications, some believed she should not fly. She was often mistaken for a stewardess and an act of parliament was needed before she could fly in Sudan. Betty also faced the pressure of having any mishap or mistake be blamed on her gender. She was able to rise above these challenges to earn the respect of those she worked with and supported.
Betty had a number of ‘firsts’ in her career such as the first to fly to the interior of New Guinea and the first woman to fly in Sudan. But the most important was putting God first in her life. She was able to combine her passion for flight and her passion for serving God into a life well lived. Her love of flying wasn’t side-lined but was pressed into service in a joyful and peaceful way.
Betty retired from flying in 1962. She remained committed to MAF as an advocate and worked in its headquarters till her death in 1996. Her life was marked by a deep commitment to serving God and others, and her courage helped to pave the way for women in aviation. Her legacy at MAF includes operations in more than 30 countries around the world with more than 130 aircraft.
I am so inspired by Betty’s life. She is a testament to the way God gifts us with talents and a desire to use them in His service. She truly is a hero of the faith.You can learn more about Betty Greene in Christian Heroes Then & Now – Betty Greene, Wings to Serve. Mission Aviation Fellowship can be supported at maf.org.