Betty Greene was born in Seattle, Washington on June 24, 1920. She had one great love during her childhood and teen years – airplanes. Not so typical for a young girl, but at the age of 8 after seeing Charles Lindbergh in his famous airplane, The Spirit of St. Louis, she knew someday she’d fly a plane. Betty was intrigued by all aviators, but she especially enjoyed following the accomplishments of Amelia Earhart, the first woman to fly over the Atlantic Ocean. At the age of 16, her parents surprised her with her first airplane ride for a birthday gift. Her experience in the air further settled her love for flying deep within her heart, and by the time they touched the ground, she knew she would use her uncle’s birthday gift of money to take flying lessons. Shortly after this she signed up for a class and within two weeks she was flying solo.
At her parents' encouragement she began studying for a nursing degree. This was considered a suitable career for a young lady at that time, but after two years she realized she was dissatisfied and discouraged with the direction her life was heading. On one hand all she really wanted to do was fly, but then she also felt like maybe the Lord was calling her into His service. She decided to get some advice from a godly older lady in her church. The lady’s sound advice to consider combining her two loves, flying planes and service to the Lord, caused Betty’s heart to thrill for the first time in a long time. Combining flying and missionary work somehow together would be a dream come true for her, and she prayed, “God, I have 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.”
Knowing Betty’s heart was not in her nursing studies, her parents gave their blessing and support for her to pursue her pilot’s license. She attended a civilian pilot training course and graduated with honors. She also finished a degree in sociology with special studies in world cultures. Upon her graduation in 1942 she joined the Women’s Flying Training Detachment which became known as the Women’s Air-Force Service Pilots or WASP. She had to study advanced mathematics, physics, and engineering, as well as spend many hours every week in physical fitness training. She gave herself wholeheartedly to it, and after her training was finished, she was assigned to Camp Davis where her position had a three-fold purpose: flying planes along specially coded routes so radar operators on the ground could practice their tracking skills, flying night missions over the base so the men could practice their searchlight techniques, and flying a plane with a large fabric target attached to the tail so the men on the ground could practice shooting at it with live ammunition!
In 1944 she was assigned to Wright Field in Dayton, Ohio. Although she had only ever flown to an altitude of 19,000 feet, she would be participating in testing equipment which would require her to fly to altitudes of 40,000 feet. This took true courage as flying anything above 25,000 feet was considered extremely dangerous. Her bravery, determination, and steadfastness in her military service proved to carry over into her desire to serve the Lord, as well. That same year, Betty submitted an article to a missionary publication called HIS magazine. She spoke of her desire to combine aviation with missions work. She was surprised to receive a letter from a gentleman who said that he and two other friends had been praying about this very same thing. As God so often does, He orchestrated Betty’s steps and her next assignment was a post in Washington, D.C., where it “just so happened” these men were also posted. There was much talk and planning that followed.
Betty was the first of them to be released from service and started putting their plan into action by setting up offices in Los Angeles. On May 20, 1945, The Christian Airmen’s Missionary Fellowship (now known as Missionary Aviation Fellowship or MAF) was born. At the age of 25 she flew MAF’s inaugural flight on February 23, 1946, to a missionary jungle camp in southern Mexico, forever changing missions work in isolated areas. What once would have required the missionaries to make a 10-14 day hike to reach their camp, Betty was able to do in only 1 hour and 45 minutes!
For the next 30 years she flew more than 4,800 hours bringing ministry, medical, and food supplies to missionaries; taking sick and injured people to distant hospitals; and carrying missionary children to and from visits with their parents. She flew missions in Mexico, Peru, Indonesia, Nigeria, Sudan, Ethiopia, Uganda, Kenya, the Congo, Dutch New Guinea (Papua) and more.
What started out as a dream of hers turned into a most amazing ministry that continues on today. MAF currently has hundreds of staff that live around the world, over 130 aircraft, and 4,000 airstrips or grass strips in over 30 different countries. Daily they carry an average of 517 passengers across rivers, jungles, and mountains; and yearly they transport 14 million pounds of cargo including water, food, animals, fuel, generators, Bibles, tools, mail, medical and school supplies, and so much more. Each year they make around 70,000 flights totaling over 6 million miles. It is said that every 6 minutes, somewhere, in the world, a MAF pilot and plane take off on a mission of service covering more distance in 6 hours than David Livingston did in his entire 28 years of service in Africa.
In 1962 at the age of 42, Betty retired from active fieldwork but continued working at MAF's headquarters. She flew off and on ferrying planes until the age of 55, when she eventually retired to her home in Seattle, Washington. On March 11, 2010, she, along with many other former WASP, were awarded the Congressional Gold Medal at a ceremony in Washington, D.C. for her heroism and dedication to her country during WWII, but I have a feeling that on April 10, 1997, on the day she passed into Glory, she was given a much higher award for her dedication and service to God. He gave her the desire of her heart, and she let Him use her life for His purpose. She is a true example of a lady of whom it can be said, “She hath done what she could”!
Her Story/My Story:
One time Betty was called upon to fly a plane for missionaries in need who were stationed in San Ramon, Peru. The problem was the plane was stuck in the city of Lima on the west coast which was on the opposite side of the Andes Mountains from where the missionaries lived. The plane was a Grumman Duck like the one pictured, and it could land on water or land making it ideal for the many rivers in the Amazon Basin. When the military man turned the plane over to Betty, he looked her up and down and gruffly said, “No woman can fly this brute, much less take it over the mountains.” Betty smiled because she knew two things he did not. God would be with her on the flight, and He had prepared her years before during her training as a WASP to handle many different types of aircraft and maneuver high altitudes. Although inclement weather grounded the plane on her first attempt, three days later there was a break in the weather, and she and Cameron Townsend, founder of Wycliffe Bible Translators, set off to reach the missionaries on an early morning flight. Once they reached 12,000 feet they had to put on oxygen masks. She continued to climb looking for a gap in the clouds that would let them fly through the canyon. At 16,000 feet they were able to follow a mountain river up its gorge until they just skimmed over a pass, but up ahead, all she could see was a blanket of clouds. On she flew, praying that if she wasn’t able to find a way down through the clouds that were in front of her, the clouds behind her would not close in preventing her from returning back through the pass. At last, a hole appeared and she threaded the plane down through it allowing them to fly along for 60 or 70 miles under the clouds but above a plateau. Flying past the end of the plateau she saw that yet another layer of clouds lay on the basin floor, and she hesitated to go lower. Finally, Betty sighted the city of San Ramon through a break in the clouds and made her move. She spiraled the Duck through the opening and made a perfect landing. And with that she became the first woman pilot to fly across the Andes Mountains.
During the past twenty-one years as a missionary, I’ve had opportunity to be in a plane on more than one occasion. I never used to mind flying. In fact, when I first started out it was absolutely thrilling to be travelling in a plane up in the sky to far and distant lands. Over the years it has become less of an adventure and more of a necessary evil. I have only truly feared for my life a couple times, although I’m afraid I’m guilty of quite liberally using the phrase, “I thought I was going to die!” One of these times took place while I was on a long international flight. Everything was going smoothly and, although I like to try to make the entire 14-hour trip without using the tiny little “box” they consider a restroom, I found myself in that location when we hit some turbulence. A little turbulence on a flight is to be expected and usually doesn’t bother me, but this escalated and soon the “fasten your seatbelt” lights were on. I thought, “Oh dear!” Although I wanted nothing more than to leave the “little box” and put my seatbelt on, the turbulence wouldn’t allow it and kept throwing me against the door and then the toilet and then the sink like a pinball. Of course, this is all in the matter of a 2 ft. square, so I’m sure you get the picture. When I thought it was finally over I opened the door and stepped into the food galley area where a flight attendant was grasping a strap on the wall and looking at me in astonishment. She said in quite a frightening manner, “You have to go to your seat!” Uh, duh! That was my desire, too. I couldn’t wait to get that seatbelt strapped around me. Just then the turbulence started again and people were screaming, things were rattling, and I was looking for anything to grab a hold of and wishing desperately I was back in the “box.” Next thing I knew the plane dropped a considerable distance and both the stewardess and I found ourselves in midair at least two feet off the ground. We both came crashing to the floor. Absolutely freaked out and really truly believing that this was the day I was going to die, I looked at her and she said to me, “You have to get back to your seat!!” So there I was crawling on my hands and knees trying to find my seat praying all the way that Jesus would just make it stop. I finally made it back to my seat and somehow got my seatbelt fastened when almost immediately the turbulence stopped just as quickly as it had started. I’m afraid it took my heart a little more time to stop racing.
Study: Navigating a Storm
My “I thought I was going to die” plane story reminds me of another particular occasion when I was weathering a different type of storm in my life. I remember I was reading the book of John. John is the book I always run to when things seem out of kilter and I’ve lost my way. When I got to chapter six I read the familiar story where the disciples were in a boat in the midst of the sea and a storm was raging around them. The words in verse 21, “and immediately the ship was at the land,” intrigued me especially since I was looking for a way to get back to my own steady ground. I thought, “Hmm, I wonder whether Jesus made their boat arrive at the shore miraculously like He had calmed the sea or if they were just thrashing around not realizing they were actually at the shore already?” I went back and read all three accounts of this story given in the Gospels to see what I could glean from them. Verse by verse God seemed to be showing me how their physical state mirrored my spiritual state at the moment. I felt like the Lord was asking me these three questions, and after pondering them, I came to a few conclusions.
1. Why is your “boat” rocking?
Determining why your “boat” is rocking can help you know how to stop it if you are the cause or know how to deal with it if you are not.
Did YOU put yourself in this storm?
We live in an imperfect world, and as humans, we often fail. Our own actions can cause a storm that rocks our “boat.” As I so often teach my teenagers, you choose your choices, but your choices choose your consequences.
Romans 7:19 says, “For the good that I would I do not: but the evil which I would not, that I do.”
If you did - confess it, forsake it, and ask God for grace to endure the storm of the consequences until it is over.
Did LIFE put you in this storm?
Life is always changing and financial trials, loved ones passing away, children leaving home, switching ministries, family drama, school issues, changes in leadership, etc. can make you feel like you are living in the middle of a hurricane.
If life did - accept it, realize the Lord allowed it, and seek to bring Him honor and glory through your response to the storm.
Did GOD put you in this storm?
Do you not think Jesus knew that a storm was coming when He “constrained” His disciples to get into the ship that night? (Matt.14:22)
I Peter 1:7 says, “That the trial of your faith, being much more precious than of gold that perisheth, though it be tried with fire, might be found unto praise and honour and glory at the appearing of Jesus Christ:”
If God did - seek what He is trying to teach you and search your heart for areas He is wanting to change or grow.
2. Why don’t you realize Christ is standing in the midst of the storm with you?
The disciples not only feared the “spirit” they thought they saw, but they didn’t recognize their Master.
You may not be a Christian yet and don’t recognize who Jesus is.
You may be a backslidden Christian who is so far away from Jesus you have forgotten what His presence feels like.
You may be a Christian that has simply forgotten to seek your Master’s face that is always present.
3. Why have you not asked Jesus to get into your rocking “boat” yet?
As with all life, the Christian life can be broken down into different stages of growth. You may have simply fallen into one of the pitfalls that is associated with your stage of Christian growth.
The “child” stage – You haven’t learned enough Scripture yet or you haven’t had enough experience yet to know that you have a right as God’s child to ask for His help.
The “teenage” stage – You know God is there, but refuse His help because you want to prove yourself and try to manage the storm on your own.
The “adult” stage - You think since you’ve won the victory with this type of storm before it should be easy to conquer again on your own and you don’t want to bother God with it.
No matter what the stage, Jesus doesn’t force Himself on us.
Mark 6:48b says, “…he (Jesus) cometh unto them, waking upon the sea, and would have passed by them….”
Jesus waits for us to invite Him in – into our life, into our plans, and into our storms.
James 4:8a - “Draw nigh to God, and he will draw nigh to you…”
Jeremiah 33:3a – “Call unto me and I will answer thee…”
The conclusion to this story is that Jesus brought not only a calm immediately to their hearts with His “be of good cheer” but also a calm to the storm around them with His “peace be still.” I have been the recipient at times of God’s grace in turning a storm in my life instantly to peace and calm, but that is rare. More often than not the storm rages on while He brings a calm to my heart.If today this “boat” of yours we call life seems to be rocking and you can’t seem to find the calm, ask yourself these same three questions, answer them honestly, and know that Jesus is waiting in the water to help you navigate the storm.
Originally written for baptistmissionarywomen.blogspot.com
Resources & Book List:
Betty Greene: Wings to Serve (Christian Heroes: Then & Now), Geoff Benge and Janet Benge, June 1, 1999
Flying High: The Amazing Story of Betty Greene, Betty Greene and Dietrich Buss, March 2002
Betty Greene: Flying High (Heroes for Young Readers) Renee Meloche and Bryan Pollard, January 1, 2004
MAF Video which contains footage from Betty's inaugural flight - flighthttps://www.facebook.com/maf.org/videos/vb.116534094711/10153309323604712/?type=2&theater
Betty Greene's official Facebook account - https://www.facebook.com/Betty-Greene-172099348336/
MAF website - www.maf.org
Awarded Congressional Gold Medal - http://www.bellevuereporter.com/community/88970707.htmlo.