There are so many ways to serve, but it’s not every day a luxury jet is filled with goods to help others. More than 10,000 Syrian refugees lacked basic necessities after fleeing their homeland and arriving in Budapest, Hungary. The Perot Foundation, ATX Air Services, and Baylor Scott & White Health formed a philanthropy team of volunteers to deliver goods to these refugees. FUMCFW member Jim Barrow, who is the Director of Operations for ATX Air Services, was among the volunteers — and piloted the plane that delivers hope, along with tangible help, to those in great need.
Jim said that although it sounded like 5,000 total refugees needed help, there were actually around that many people arriving daily — children, babies, and elderly among them. “It can be described as a slow catastrophe,” Jim explained. “We have natural disasters such as hurricanes or earthquakes, but this one built slowly over time and then reached catastrophic proportions.”
On September 23, a Boeing 737 aircraft that is usually reserved for luxury flights was filled with $300,000 worth of medical and nutritional supplies. There was enough baby formula on board to feed newborns for a period of two weeks, along with a large amount of diapers. The seats were even removed from the plane to allow more room for the 25,000-pound shipment. Jim flew the plane to its destination.
The same Boeing 737 aircraft was used to deliver medical equipment to Liberia during the Ebola outbreak in 2014. The mission took place right on the brink of the outbreak in the media, and the crew even had to change their flight plans after landing in Monrovia. Upon returning home, the flight made international news and was celebrated as “the snowball that started the avalanche.” It led to what Jim described as a tidal wave of much-needed support.
“I don’t think people saw the severity of what was happening, and things were falling through the cracks over there,” Jim said. “Our flight brought the urgency of the situation to the surface and woke the world up to what we can really do to help.” Donations funded the trip to supply seven tons worth of gloves, goggles, gowns, and more to help fight the Ebola virus.
On its very first mission in 2013, the volunteer crew helped take several of the firefighters who were tragically killed in the deadly Arizona wildfires back home for their memorial procession. Jim received a phone call from a firefighter foundation to help, and his team stepped up to the plate and helped fly groups to the memorial service. Their plane gives them the ability to move their caskets — with their families and with honor. “It was one of the most emotionally draining flights I’ve ever done,” Jim recalled. “But it was really amazing to be able to do something like that and help in the best way we knew how.”
The impact of these first few missions is immeasurable, and they won’t be the last. The crew hopes to continue their volunteer flights a couple of times a year. So much support went into each mission, but Jim says all of the credit should go to Ross Perot Jr. and his wife, Sarah. “Without their generosity, none of these flights would be possible,” Jim declared.
FUMCFW is proud to share Jim Barrow’s unforgettable experiences of serving others through these missions. We are so thankful to Jim for having the courage to lead the way.
Pictured from left to right: László Pavelcze, Director and Rescue Commander for Hungarian Baptist Aid Rescue 24; Jim Barrow, FUMCFW member and Director of Operations for ATX Air Services; and Dr. Béla Szilágyi, Vice President of Hungarian Baptist Aid
Photos courtesy of Bertalan Feher