Westmont Magazine Aviation Ministry Takes Flight
Brock Barrett ’89 exults in the electric experience of flying a helicopter close to the ground. In Honduras, the 100 percent humidity soaks his skin as he skims above the congested trees searching for the small soccer field where he can land. “It’s intense, and it demands all my attention and energy,” he says. “It’s very clear I am completely reliant on God.”
The founder of Air Calvary, Brock provides air support for a variety of missionary agencies. Established in 2001, the ministry grew out of his desire to continue flying while helping missionaries at the same time. The former Army helicopter pilot retired as a captain in 2002, and he missed the thrill of operating the complex yet delicate machines.
When he worked on a short-term project in Honduras a few years ago, a missionary doctor challenged him to come back with a helicopter to provide transportation for the clinic. It was just the opportunity Brock wanted. He rented a copter from a Honduran banana farmer and returned to help the doctor. Since then, he has flown several times in Guatemala, Honduras, the Dominican Republic and Haiti. “When I got involved with short-term missions five years ago, it changed my life,” he says. “I wish I had started sooner.”
Brock lives in his hometown, Mt.Kisco, N.Y., and attends his childhood church. The officers in Air Calvary who serve with him and his wife, Lorrie, belonged to his church youth group 25 years ago. “It’s great that we are getting to do some very interesting mission work together,” he says. The organization includes 38 volunteers and no paid staff.
To date, Air Calvary has found it more effective to rent local helicopters, which also helps the region’s economy. But that is about to change. The ministry will plant a pilot in Gabon, Africa, to fly for a Christian Missionary Alliance hospital there and assist missionaries working in the region. In the future, Brock hopes to help base a helicopter on a hospital ship in Lake Tanganyika to serve a region haunted by AIDS, poverty and refugees. “We’re moving from a temporary, short-term approach to full-time projects,” he says.
Brock faces a series of challenges in this transition,such as raising money and telling the story of his ministry. “The communication studies classes I took at Westmont will help me with that,” he says. “My major equipped me well for the speaking and writing I need to do.”
While he would like to devote all his time to the ministry, Brock has a day job in a different kind of jungle: Manhattan.He owns a financial services business that sells insurance, banking and investment products. For three hours each day he commutes to his office in Rockefeller Center. “I’d rather be in the jungle,” he says. “I get out on the mission field as often as I can.”
Air Calvary has worked with several missionary agencies, including Mission Aviation Fellowship. A helicopter flight can help MAF find a good location for a new air strip. “Missionaries need a safety net,” Brock says. “Many don’t have the funds for aviation. That’s where we can help.” Last year, Brock flew short-term medical staff into a Haitian clinic. The 15-minute flight spared the team a nine-hour dangerous drive on treacherous roads.
“We testify in word and deed to the poor and dying as well as government officials and everyone else in between,” Brock says. “That’s what keeps us going.”