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Graduate has her Dream Come True


Up, Up and Away

March 16, 2011

For alumna Laura Harkonen, '03, choosing a major was easy - whatever would allow her to follow a dream of becoming a missionary pilot. Now that dream, a dream her husband Timo, '00, '02, shares, is nearly a reality. Laura, Timo and their children, Janey and Richard hope to be living and working in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) by next year.

However, before they can leave there are several things they must accomplish. The family needs to raise financial support by August before they can leave for nine months of French school in Canada. They also have to learn Swahili, which they are studying through the Rosetta Stone Program. Of course, all of these things have to happen in sequence before they can move on to the next step.

In an effort to garner financial support for their trip and the duration of their stay in the DRC, the Harkonens are sharing information about themselves and the Mission Aviation Fellowship (MAF) with churches and various other groups.

Laura, who came to Averett to learn how to fly, will be working with MAF as a pilot. She will be delivering doctors, vaccinations, pastors, teachers and supplies to remote areas in the DRC.

"The airplanes bring in hope to people who don't have any," Laura said. "I first learned about MAF while on a mission trip to Zimbabwe in high school. I knew then I wanted to be a mission pilot. Averett fully prepared me for a career as a pilot. Mr. Vance was instrumental in my training at Averett. He worked hard to ensure that we were knowledgeable and prepared for even the strangest situations."

Timo's role once they reach the DRC is less clear at this point. However, once they are actually in the country he will have the opportunity to use his business training from Averett as well as the master of divinity degree he is finishing to help local pastors with education, business or technology needs. It's possible that he might even homeschool the children.

"I'm excited to go and participate in whatever God is doing in the DRC," Timo said. "I don't know yet what that will look like."

MAF, a nonprofit interdenominational mission, was founded in 1945 by former World War II pilots who wanted to spread the gospel. Since then, it has grown into an organization that provides medical assistance, disaster response, community development and training and development of indigenous people in 42 countries throughout Asia, Africa, Eurasia and Latin America.

To follow Laura and Timo and their family as they prepare to leave visit their website at MAF. To contact them for more information e-mail