Mile-High Missionary: A Jungle Pilot’s Memoir

Mile-High Missionary: A Jungle Pilot’s Memoir

Book Cover: Mile-High Missionary: A Jungle Pilot's Memoir

by James Rush Manley

The jungle pilot occupies a high visibility seat.

His role creates the convincing illusion of connection. But the truth is, he or she often leads a solitary life. He drops in from the sky, visits for 15 minutes, then leaves. He touches many worlds but rarely becomes part of any.

The stories in Mile-High Missionary show how one pilot changed from hiding as a sky-creature to reentering the world of real people.

Sit in the pilot’s seat as this missionary memoir flies you into the Amazon Jungle. Encounter the pilot’s view. See what he saw. Hear what he heard. Meet who he met. Feel what he felt as he wrestles with his own hopes and joys, doubts and fears.

Experience bush aviation first hand as this Christian pilot asks the hard questions:

  • Is my airplane safe to fly?
  • Can I find one tiny scratch of an airstrip hidden in an immense jungle?
  • What if the weather changes?
  • Can I land and stay on the runway, then takeoff without hitting trees?
  • After all that, am I really helping my passengers’ ministry?
  • Does my flying benefit the ex-headhunters I work among?
  • Am I honoring God, or just playing with airplanes?

Read how he juggled safety and service while doing a dangerous job, then found himself changed by the ones he served.

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Reviews: Melinda G. on Amazon wrote:

My only criticism? The book ended too soon! I wasn't ready for the stories to end! I appreciated his treatment of the evangelical mission in Ecuador, his sensitivity in relating stories about the indigenous peoples, and the interspersing of sometimes very humorous adventures as a college student and his life prior to full-time missionary work. This is a great read. I really like the author's writing style, and attention to descriptive detail that made me feel like I was THERE, standing in the sticky orange mud, surrounded by curious faces, in that relentless heat and humidity. A great read. Highly recommend it even if your only experience with flying has been on a commercial airline. You'll look at the skill of flying, especially the incredible challenges of flying in the Amazon lowlands, with a new appreciation.

Carol Frizzell on Amazon wrote:

Reviewed by Ken Frizzell
I recently received a copy of “Mile-High Missionary” and read it with great interest.
As a former pilot, doing similar work for 23 years, I have been routinely disappointed in attempts made by others to create a readable but accurate portrayal of both the technical and motivational realities for a career like this. However, I believe Jim struck a good balance. It resonates closely with my experience as a missionary pilot. I commend his work to give our Lord the credit for a very challenging but rewarding life of service. I have given a copy to an aspiring pilot.

Debra on Amazon wrote:

In “Mile High Missionary”, Jim (Capitan Diego) Manley provides a series of highly descriptive accounts of his experience as a pilot with Mission Aviation Fellowship (Alas de Socorro) in Ecuador, South America. As one of his former teammates, reading Jim’s narrative brought back a flood of thoughts and memories. Jim’s skill as a writer, combined with his ability to recall experiences with a high level of detail, gives the reader an experience of being there. If you like flying and are looking for a good read, we recommend Jim’s book. -- Dave and Debbie Bochman

Hettinger on Amazon wrote:

This book is excellent! Loved reading it, and enjoyed the stories. Jim presents many of the technical details of flying a plane, and the challenges of doing so in a jungle environment on rustic airstrips. Thanks for writing this awesome book!


James Rush Manley

My new life as a pilot and writer began while hitch-hiking along southern California's Pacific coast. As my free-falling, hippy lifestyle hurtled towards certain destruction, a red-neck gave me a ride. The Creator of the universe sent an unlikely messenger to introduce me to his son, Jesus. I never learned the driver’s name, nor saw him again. But after that encounter, I was sure of one thing—my life would never be the same.
Even as a young boy, my head, and heart lived in the clouds—and beyond. So a short time after my hitch-hiking encounter, when I discovered my southern California college offered flight training, I hoarded every penny and signed up.

On my first lesson, when the wings took the Cessna 150's weight, I was hooked. With the help of the GI Bill, I earned a Commercial license and Instrument rating, then flew for a mining corporation. Next, I attended A&P school specializing in avionics. Later I earned multi-engine, flight and instrument instructor ratings.
My wife and I bought into and managed an FBO (general aviation airport business) in northern California. There I gave flight lessons, conducted single and multi-engine Part 135 commercial charter flights, and worked as a contract Air Attack pilot for the US Forest Service.
Yet despite relishing business' challenges and flying's joys, I felt called into ministry. Didn't make much sense. I had neither desire nor skill to be a pastor or evangelist. Puzzled, I searched. After two years I learned God wires us with desires and talents to serve other people. In my case, he tapped my flying passion to help folks whose only transportation options were to either walk for days, or fly for minutes. Pick one.

We joined Mission Aviation Fellowship (MAF) and moved our family to Ecuador, South America. There I flew Cessna 185s and 206s in the Amazon and coastal jungles, and Andes mountains. Our clients were missionaries, NGO’s, government agencies and the indigenous people themselves. During our final six years in-country, I served as the Ecuador Program Manager.

While hanging by four wing-attach bolts over dense jungle, I realized my other calling—writing. The rhythm, sounds, and pictures of well-crafted words fascinated me. Fashioning inspiring stories, or writing clear instructions captivated me.

After 17 years, MAF transferred us to their U.S. based, home-staff. There I got my second dream job. I became a writer. I produced web and paper copy, technical manuals, articles, and blog posts. While editing MAF’s international e-zine, I wrote a weekly column. After a 5-year run, I was encouraged to collect and publish the best of them in my first book, Call For News.

In 2015 I left MAF to focus on writing full-time. I continue to travel in the US and abroad, teaching, speaking and reporting. My wife and I live in southern Idaho and, when I'm not writing or flying, I enjoy reading, astronomy, photography, painting, piano, golf, and skiing.

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