An interview with Allen Speer and Abby Duncan of Agape Flights, a ministry that flies supplies to missionary partners in the Caribbean with their own planes.
Agape Flights is based in Venice, Florida. Hundreds of missionary families rely on Agape Flights to transport the mail and supplies they need while living and working on the mission field in Haiti, the Dominican Republic, and the Bahamas. Agape Flights is an important stateside connection for missionaries — by serving as their “home” address, Agape provides dependable mail service and the personalized cargo service the missionaries need. Agape Flights also:
- Expedites relief supplies during disasters and emergencies
- Delivers humanitarian aid into Cuba as regulations allow
They have two aircraft; An Embraer 110, and a newly acquired Reims 406 Cessna Caravan II (which will go into service soon, after the destruction of their Chieftan aircraft in a riot in Haiti, March 2022)
- Founded: 1980 (42 YEARS)
- 300 missionaries served last year
- 89 flights completed in 2021
- 247,000 lbs of cargo, mail, emergency supplies delivered in 2021
Agape Flights equips missionaries with the resources they need to actively share the love of Christ through: agriculture, athletics, clean water and community resources, education, evangelism and discipleship, home and church construction, medical and dental care, micro-enterprise opportunities, orphan care, vocational training, and a wide range of disaster relief supplies and support.
Video Greeting from Agape Flights
Agape Service Area
Open House Photos
I had been to Agape Flight’s Open House in March 2022 and was amazed to find such a substantial ministry so close to my new home in Florida. I determined to visit them again to better understand their accomplishments and future plans. First, a few photos from the Open House. Then the Interview …
Note, you can enlarge a photo and then swipe from photo to photo after you enlarge.
PHOTOS… L to R: Front of facility, hundreds of open house guests, both planes on runway (the one on left was destroyed in a riot weeks after), Embraer 110, Batmobile, Our Editor with the Embraer, another shot of the open house guests.
I sat down with Allen Speer, CEO of Agape Flights, and Abby Duncan, Communications Manager, on July 27, 2022 [Team Page here]. I’d already heard Agape’s presentation at our church a few weeks earlier, and later attended their Open House as shown above. Now for this interview, I had two main questions that I wanted to ask. I hope the answers will open new doors of understanding of this effective and God-serving ministry.
PHOTO Allen Speer checks outbound cargo on the Embraer 110
PHOTO: Abby Duncan, Agape Flights Communications Manager
DISCOVERING HIS GRACE:
As I get to know your ministry, I’m amazed at all the wonderful things you’re doing to help workers for Christ in the Caribbean. Of all the things you do, what are you most happy and satisfied with?
There are a lot of things that we can be satisfied with. One thing that Abby and I can zoom in on is, of course, the missionaries that we serve. We are seeing a real diversity in ages as well as ministries develop. Long term, short term. People that we have known for a long time, people that we haven’t known for a long time, but I think the ministry population, especially in the Caribbean, and mainly in Haiti, is changing. We’re trying to change with that.
Many people are moving out of, what I call “the hubbub” of Haiti, which is Port-au-Prince, because of the the crime and the gang infestation. But we’re seeing Les Cayes and Jérémie – Les Cayes is by far our most populated mission destination where the Chieftan aircraft was abducted and burned down.
Note: this interactive map will help you visualize the locations being discussed here …
In Jérémie, we have a lot of what I would call younger missionaries, but very vibrant, very active. And so you have that aspect as well as you have Cap-Haïtien and Port-au-Prince, which are two older cities. But one of the things that has come out that I’m extremely pleased with, is our new ability to work with the Haitian government. As a result of the tragedy, I’ve met now, three or four different times with AAN which is the “Haitian FAA” and the Haitian Department of Transportation. They’ve agreed, because of what happened in Haiti at one of their airports, and they felt so bad about it, that they are now granting Agape 10 years exoneration from airport fees and landing fees. And that was their idea. That was not my idea. A wonderful gesture. God has really opened up a door of partnership and communication with many in the Haitian government as a result of the incident, which really helps our mission partners there because now we have aligned directly to these government ministries and directly to the Prime Minister’s office. It’s something that most organizations dream about having, but usually it doesn’t happen. This is a blessing that resulted from a tragic situation.
The other thing that I want to mention is really close to home. It would be that we have an amazing group of volunteers here, along with a tremendous staff. We’re not a big staff right now. Only 11 of us. We’re looking to expand our staff in a couple of areas, but we really have a great group, a great team of staff members here.
But I always want to emphasize, we can’t do what we do without the volunteers. We have a wonderful group of volunteers. They come in daily, sometimes multiple days each week. We have volunteer pilots, volunteer mechanics, shoppers, cargo volunteers – it’s an amazing conglomeration of people all working for God’s glory. So I think that would be the thing I want to say. Abby may have something different that she is pleased with …
I would agree with all that. Another thing about Agape that I always feel good about, and that sets us apart, is that our supplies don’t just sit in the warehouse. They are sent out immediately, especially in times of disaster relief. We literally see the supplies go right into the hands of the ministry. And then we see the pictures of those supplies going out to communities and being immediately used. I mean, they’re out that same day, or the next day. So that part is always amazing to me. We get the supplies into the hands of the missionaries who are living and working in these communities, so they know exactly what these communities need. It’s not like somebody comes in with the best of intentions (and they do have the best of intentions) but they may think this and that is what is needed [and not get it right]. These are missionaries that are living and working in that community all throughout the year. So they truly know what people need and they know how to get it there. This can be a challenge for them, but that’s where we help. We get the specifically needed supplies to them.
I would add to that a bit about our “two pronged approach.” Our scheduled approach and emergency response. Our scheduled work is our sunny day job here. But right now we’re overwhelmed with scheduled cargo. We have almost 20,000 pounds sitting on the floor right now. That never happens in July. So we have seven full loads right now. We can’t fly seven straight days. We just can’t do that. We’re trying to get caught up before hurricane season. [Ed. Cargo load is heavier than normal right now due to rising insecurity in Haiti and inflation in all service locations – many missionaries in Haiti travel to Port au Prince for supplies every couple of weeks and stock up. They are unable to do that right now because it is unsafe.]
Last year, in August 2021, when the earthquake hit in Haiti, people responded both with supplies that we asked for specifically, and with financial contributions. I’m so happy that the financial contributions designated for that purpose were promptly utilized for that exact purpose. And our donors appreciate the fact that we don’t allow funds to just sit, because the need is there now.
We had offers of rice and beans to be flown in here to Venice and then we were to deliver the free rice and beans, but the problem is it’s really not free, because it costs us $4 a pound to fly supplies to the mission location. Instead, we decided to go in with cash in hand and buy rice and beans “in country” and the Haitian authorities are very thankful for that because it infuses into their own economy. We were able to buy 15 to 16 times the amount that we could have flown in, so it exponentially brought about more help. In addition, we were also able to purchase roofing materials, medicines and other things right in country.
I should also mention the boat. We were able to buy a boat there; put an engine on it. Now we have an Agape boat in Haiti. So you have “Agape Flights” and now “Agape Floats.”
The new Agape boat is being used for the island people down off the coast of Les Cayes and other places.
That’s very exciting. So you’re even buying products “in country” if it makes more sense economically, and distributing it there.
I should clarify. That’s in times of earthquake, hurricane, or other disaster. Not in scheduled times. I mean, we leave it up to the missionary what they need for their scheduled cargo. Because it’s two different avenues. But if we can buy rice and beans “in country,” it’s so much more economical for us and exponentially helps them even more.
If you can easily purchase it there, then why not get it there. The things we’re flying in are custom and critical things like car parts that they’re not going to find anywhere in country and critical things like a medication that we can pick up here at Publix supermarket. If they can get it there, they try to. Now that’s changed a little bit because last year when gang violence increased, they were blocking the streets. Our cargo went up a bit because missionaries couldn’t even get to their normal markets in Haiti.
You still have people that are cut off from the rest of the world down there. In Jérémie the bridge was completely destroyed; the only bridge in and out of town.
Jérémie interactive map
So they have to cross the river in Jérémie, but at times the river is too high. And so they they get landlocked very quickly. And if they can’t get fuel in there, they can’t get groceries in there. These situations are critical emergencies. We’re able to help them in these emergency situations. So there’s a lot of need there.
So, I’d read that you lost a plane in a riot in Haiti. It was just a couple of weeks after hundreds of people were here for the Open House that one of the two planes we saw on the runway here was destroyed.
Correct, that was March 29.
I heard you had a tremendous response from brothers and sisters out there with financial donations towards replacing the plane. I don’t even know, have you replaced the plane yet?
Yes we have!
I’d love to see the new plane and to understand what you have now in terms of airframes. Now, does the addition of the replacement plane put you in a better position to [expand your ministry]?
Absolutely. In fact, two days after we lost the Navajo Chieftan (I was still in Haiti with our Director of Flight Ops), I asked him, “What can we replace that plane with?” trying to think ahead while we had some time on the ground. We were trying to get out of Haiti, and I had his undivided attention. He wrote it down for me, he said, “If we could find a Cessna F406, that would be my choice from all the aircraft that are available right now.” I still have that piece of paper. And so we began to search for that aircraft. There were only 120 of them made. They’re no longer in production, but we found two in the UK. And immediately, we called about them, but they’d been sold. Anytime an F406 goes on the market, [it sells quickly] because of its usability. Mod planes can carry passengers and freight cargo. So we were disappointed. But those we inquired about were very expensive, and they had a lot of time on the airframe.
Well, the one we wound up acquiring is a 1985. In fact, it is number 001. It was the first one ever made.
A gentleman called here about an aircraft that he owned. His wife read the story [of the destruction of the Chieftan]. The plane was registered in the United States. He said my wife read the story, and I’m considering selling this aircraft. Would you be interested? I said, “absolutely.” Long story, but as it worked out, I met him the next day in Fort Lauderdale along with three of our employees. We looked at the aircraft and then did a pre-buy inspection two weeks later. That F406 now sits in our hangar paid in full through a lot of wonderful, generous, donations.
We’re getting it ready for flight sometime this fall. We have to send our pilots off to training and we have to do some things in order to get ready for how we will utilize the plane. It’s perfect for our outreach! When you see it, I think you’ll be pleasantly surprised. Less than 6,000 hours on the airframe. Much more efficient, and actually quicker than our main plane (the Embraer 110), about 40 knots an hour quicker. 500 horsepower twin engine turboprop. It will hold 12 passengers, but we would probably never put 12 passengers in there. About a 2,200 pound cargo payload in the fuselage, with two crew. Air conditioned. Thank you [looks up]. We’re really happy about that. That’s a first for us. If you’re traveling and unloading cargo it’s easier on the pilots. The unloading is done entirely by the pilots and the missionaries that meet them. The new aircraft is much quicker, much larger, much more accommodating with the cargo door, and everything about it. It’s an amazing plane!
With a slight interruption to the interview, we also spoke about how quickly God provided a new aircraft that was perfect for the role and for expansion of the ministry. The donations, details and acquisition of the new craft came together very quickly.
DHG: (As the interview resumed)
Just to point that out, right? It seems to defy real world logistics, how quickly the provision of the replacement plane came together!
In a matter of 90 days, you lose a plane, you don’t even have an idea what type of plane you’ll be looking for, a church comes alongside of you and says we’re committing $600,000 toward the purchase of a new plane (while other people are already donating without us even asking), then we get the insurance money, and the church comes back to us three weeks after they committed $600,000 and says, “God was a little more generous than we thought,” and the checks totaled a million dollars.
And so with the $300,000 we got from the insurance, another $140,000 was given because people saw the need. That was pretty amazing.
We’re finding out there are additional expenses though. And we were able to negotiate the price of plane; but sending our pilots to training is about $7,500 per pilot, and there are four of them. So there are many other [expenses] that have to go into it. But we’re so grateful that we now have the funds to do all those things. We want the new plane to be as optimal, as efficient, and as useful as possible.
Thanks for the details of how your ministry is going, and about God’s amazing provision after the destruction of your plane.
My second main question is this: Where do plan to take the ministry from here? What’s your future?
Well, I think the first part of that is that we want to continue to serve the missionaries and the mission partners that we have been serving. Originally in Cap Haïtien and then we branched out to Port-au-Prince, Les Cayes, and Jérémie, Haiti. Then over in the Dominican (Republic) and obviously in parts of the Bahamas, mainly to Eleuthera on our scheduled service. We continue to service them, and service them well, but there’s a vision – there’s a dream we’re feeling. This “Macedonian call” from Honduras and from Belize, which is completely the other way, so to speak. Belize has been reaching out to us for a few years. But now there’s even a greater call to Honduras because of partnerships and collaborations that we’ve done with other organizations and missionary groups there.
Honduras of all places, is not necessarily the place you want to go visit. It’s the number one murder capital in the world. But there’s great ministry taking place there, and they are much like Haiti, in that they don’t have a Walmart or Costco on every corner (in fact they don’t have any), and they have no major suppliers, just like Haiti. So this fall I’ll be traveling to Honduras to sit down with missionaries and say, “Okay, what do you need?” And then to ascertain, can we really help them. Can we really be of good service to them?
So that would be my answer to your second question. We want to continue to do well in what we do and to expand and enlarge the scope of what we do into new geographic areas.
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Interview, video, and most photos by Paul Singer. Boat and burning aircraft photos from Agape Flights. Photo of Mr. Singer and Mr. Speer by Abby Duncan.