Above, Agape Flights CEO Allen Speer has visited Cuba many times as a pastor. He has shared the gospel with leaders of the government.
December 2018 – Keith Starkey turned to his wife. “I believe God is calling us to buy an airplane.”
“With what?” she asked.
“Well, we own our house,” he answered.
From peat farm to mission field
Keith and Clara Starkey gave up their peat farm in Ohio to retire to Florida in the 1970s. Retirement was short-lived. Three months later, they answered a call from their pastor to go on a mission trip to Haiti.
On the return flight, Keith told his wife, “We’ve got to do something for those missionaries in Haiti.”
They mortgaged their house, bought an airplane, and waited for God to bring mechanics and pilots to fly it. In 1980, Agape Flights, headquartered in Venice, Florida, was incorporated as an independent ministry committed “to serving Christ by serving His missionaries” – flying supplies and mail to 25 missionaries in Haiti.
“Neither of us are pilots, but we supplied the plane and God supplied the pilots and other volunteers to get Agape started,” Clara Starkey recalled in her 1985 notes. “It’s been a big step from farming to flying missions, and we give the glory to God for making it all possible.”
Today, Agape flies about 65 flights a year to 375 missionaries in seven locations throughout Haiti, the Dominican Republic, and the Bahamas. Flights deliver personalized shopping lists requested by missionaries, supplies and equipment such as water filtration units, and Bibles. However, Agape’s busiest seasons come in response to emergency situations – where Agape is often the first organization in, due to long standing relationships with those nations.
“In 2010, a 7.2 earthquake rocked the nation of Haiti, and 300,000 people lost their lives,” Agape CEO Allen Speer told AFA Journal. “We were there in less than two days. And we flew 100 flights in the first 90 days.”
Again, in 2016, Agape was quick to be on the ground after Hurricane Matthew killed hundreds in Haiti.
“I was there, in Jeremy, Haiti, just three days after the hurricane,” Speer said. “It was like a war zone. Everything was destroyed. These are very harsh environments. But after these disasters, it is even harder.”
Agape made groundbreaking headway as the first aviation missions group into Cuba. Speer brought the Cuban connection to Agape Flights when he came on board as CEO in 2011.
“I’ve been going to Cuba as a pastor since 1991, when I had the opportunity to present the gospel to Fidel Castro, Raoul Castro, and many in government there,” Speer said. “Since then, I receive invitations to attend government functions, and I’ve had the opportunity to lead many in government to Christ.”
Agape Flights is now the only missions aviation organization to have been given an exception from the American government to fly into Cuba, as well as permission from the Cuban government.
“God is using Agape Flights to impact the nation of Cuba for Christ,” Speer said. “In 1992, I documented 91 churches on the whole island. Now there are over 40,000 churches.
“I used to preach everywhere in Cuba, but now I go to listen, to hear young Cuban preachers. They say to me, ‘One day, you’re going to preach in the baseball stadium in Havana.’ And I say, ‘No, you’re going to preach there.’ Because God is raising up Cuban Christians, who will lead their own people to Christ.”