Wings of Faith - East Ministry, headquartered at the former youth center at Holly-Hunter Baptist Church on Mt. Holly-Huntersville Road, is collecting food, clothing and toys for distribution to poor families in McDowell County, W.Va. The ministry hopes to make two or three trips, depending on donations received, before Christmas.
The ministry in this area is an outgrowth of Wings of Faith Ministries, founded in California in 1975 by the Rev. Dale Whinery. The goal of both, according to their website, is "to help those in need using light aircraft to service missions and missionaries wherever and whenever the need."
What the local ministry doesn't have, says the Rev. Alan Eakin, the group's president, is a plane to fly the supplies to their destination. Deliveries, therefore, will be made by Eakin and other volunteers who will drive to West Virginia.
"We'd like to buy a used Cessna 206. It's a sky truck, designed to haul cargo," says Eakin. "I make road trips with my wife and volunteers to Appalachia now, but my long-term goal is to get back to the Native American reservations in South Dakota, because three of the poorest counties in the U.S. are there."
"We have volunteers and we have three pilots, including myself. What we need in order to expand our ministry and aid program is a plane and the funds to keep it operating. Flying enables us to reach areas that are nearly inaccessible with ground transportation."
Eakin, a longtime friend of Whinery, became involved in the ministry while living in California. After he married his wife, Laddy, a native of Caracas, Venezuela, he learned to speak Spanish, enabling him to become involved in Wings of Faith missions to Mexico, as well as to Native American Indian reservations in remote areas of the Southwest.
Eakin moved from Southern California to North Carolina when he retired in 2008 to be closer to his grandchildren. A licensed pilot, he quickly saw the need for a flight-based mission that could serve the needs of impoverished coal-mining regions in Appalachia, as well as Indian reservations in remote areas of South Dakota.
Providing food and clothing, as well as personal necessities and medical supplies, is only one part of the mission. "When people have their basic needs met, they're receptive to the gospel," says Eakin. "We serve the needs of missionaries in the field to help their work to be more productive."
A resident of Cornelius, Eakin, 70, is a member of Christ Community Church in Huntersville. As a jazz guitarist, he had travelled throughout the world as a member of a trio, the Canadian Capers. In 1970, he left the trio and settled down to study architecture in Southern California.
His career as an architect extended from 1975 to 2008. Nearing retirement, he decided to attend Baptist Bible College West, culminating in his ordination as a pastor in 2007.
He now performs solo guitar concerts featuring traditional hymns at local churches. The donations or love offerings go to support the ministry, which is grounded while they seek funds to buy a small plane.