VENICE, Fla — After a plane that belonged to Agape Flights was burned by rioters in Haiti in March, there is now hope for a replacement.
The local missionary flight group has been stunned by the donations it has received in the past few weeks since the incident. At a press conference at its Venice hanger, the Chief Executive Officer revealed that along with about $300,000 received through an insurance claim, they now have a total of about $1,600,000 in donations and can start shopping for a new and better plane than the previously destroyed one.
"I wept, I cried tears of great joy. I just stood up and we actually hugged each other," said Allen T. Speer, Chief Executive Officer-Agape Flights
Speer said he was certain it had to be a God-sent miracle when a pastor from Faith Life Church handed him three different checks that totaled $1,000,000.
Faith Life Church is located in Branson, Missouri, and Sarasota, Florida from where all the funds were raised by the churchgoers.
"I went all over this hanger looking for staff. It happened to be after closing and everybody had left except for Shae in our reception area. Then I say Abby and Carol in the parking lot and I ran out and I got them back in and said we have to have a payer and thanksgiving and we got on our knees in that front room and just said 'Thank you Father' and it was just overwhelming," Speer said.
The donations started pouring in after demonstrators who were protesting the rising insecurity in Haiti turned violent. They stormed the airport and set fire to the plane. Investigations revealed that they mistook the plane for one belonging to a local politician who they were targeting for suspected links to gang activity. The plane, and its cargo, were worth about $375,000.
"It felt like somebody punched me in the gut. I think initially, probably all of us felt insecure, we felt unsafe even though we were never in harms' way, not one moment," he said.
More than 960 donors sent in $200,000 through the 24-hour Giving Challenge matched by The Patterson Foundation.
"Sometimes bad things happen. We live in a world where stuff happens and it's not always good, it's not always positive, it's not always as we think it should be," he added.
The only operational plane in the missions fleet left for Haiti Thursday morning with supplies for missionaries.
According to Speer, the message through the outpouring of donations is one of encouragement to the missionaries to continue their work and to keep serving people in the Caribbean.
"These planes are just tools, that's what they are, and this is something that would benefit their ministry," Speer said.
Agape Flights said it is still accepting donations and will now start looking for a Reims-Cessna F-406 twin-engine turboprop plane with both cargo and crew doors so they can also carry about a dozen passengers alongside supplies.
"Really thank you from Agape flights, from my heart to yours, thank you," Speer said.