Leaving the army is a life-changing event no matter where you’ve chosen to settle. But few will experience a seismic shift like the Brown family, who have swapped military life for the harsh landscape of Australia’s Northern Territory…
Ben, a former army pilot, his wife Esther and their two sons Barnabus, aged four and Reuben, aged one, have left Hampshire to take up an assignment with Mission Aviation Fellowship (MAF). They’re living with the Aboriginal people of Arnhem Land in some of the remotest regions of the country.
MAF is the world’s largest humanitarian air service. It operates a fleet of Cessna aircraft to bring medical help, relief services and development to isolated communities of native Yolngu people.
Having joined the army in 2008 and been involved in operations in Afghanistan, Jordan and the USA, Ben says he enjoyed his time in the military but always knew he wanted to use his aviation skills for a humanitarian cause. “MAF flies in some of the most hostile and challenging scenarios in the world and they are serving people who, without an air service, wouldn’t receive the care and facilities they need,” he explains.
Wildlife artist Esther first came across MAF while volunteering for a Christian charity in South Africa many years ago. She admits she’s following her dream to live overseas and work for a humanitarian organisation. “The remoteness of Arnhem Land is interesting but it’s a remarkable opportunity to serve the Yolngu people. MAF has a day-to-day impact on people’s lives – it’s been great to meet the rest of the team and settle in, we’re already having an amazing adventure!”
With two young boys in tow, Esther felt a little nervous ahead of their move about the dangerous creatures they might meet. The area is notorious for saltwater crocodiles, poisonous snakes, spiders and jellyfish. “I’ve told the boys that although the water is beautiful, you cannot swim in it,” adds Esther. “It’s hot, humid and remote, but we’ve wanted to serve abroad with MAF for a long time and have been excited for this opportunity.”
Underlying the Browns’ move is a strong Christian faith and Esther believes it’s their calling: “For us, never has our faith been so strong, and we are having to trust in God.”
You can find out more about MAF at maf-uk.org