The Gospelair outreach to remote schools in the Murchison region of Western Australia is the home missions focus of the Wheatbelt Christian Fellowship.
It is a voluntary mission flown by Pastor Geoff van Schie and funded solely through fundraising mainly through donations from individuals and organizations such as churches, para church partners such as YouthCARE, and some of the local Shires whose communities are visited.
It was started in January 2014 when Pastor Geoff and his wife purchased a Cessna 172, spending most of that year upgrading the avionics of the aircraft to make it instrument flight rules (IFR) suitable. This made the aircraft a platform certified for flight through clouds and descent when necessary in non visual conditions through the use of instrument approaches. While like any aircraft the plane cannot fly through dangerous weather like thunderstorms, it does provide a more dependable service than flying limited to only visual conditions.
Pastor Geoff spent most of 2015 training for the command instrument rating which allows him to fly in non visual conditions with the now suitably modified mission aircraft. After gaining this rating in October 2015, the Gospelair visits began in the fourth term of that year with the Cue and Yalgoo schools. In term one 2016 the Mt Magnet school was added to the schedule of visits with Meekatharra coming on board in Term three of 2017. The fifth school to be added was the Remote Aboriginal School of Pia Wadjarri (Sth East of Murchison WA) in 2021. The Pia Wadjarri school came to be included when students and some staff visited the Cue school at the end of 2020 and caught a lesson with Pastor Geoff. They were so taken by how their own children engaged with the lesson, they immediately asked if their school could be included if the elders back at Pia Wadjarri agreed. So after a flying visit in week 9 of term 4 2020 to meet the elders and look over the school, it was agreed to begin visits in 2021.
The schools are visited four times per term for a possible total of sixteen visits per year. Lessons are taught to all grades from pre-primary to grade six and last from forty five minutes to one hour depending on the school. The classes taught are Christian values lessons, using Bible stories to present the children with the values the Department of Education seek the children to be taught. These lessons are taught on behalf of YouthCARE which is the organization mandated by the State Government to place both chaplains and Christian Values Education volunteers into the schools.
During 2023 the decision was made to cast the net to employ a full time fully paid Gospelair teacher. This move was designed to ensure that when Pastor Geoff retires, the work will continue and even grow to include more schools, going from a fortnightly run of visits to weekly covering two different routes. We were just a week or so away from employing a very suitable applicant when sadly we were informed she accepted the offer of another job. We maintain the vision seen in the map below of expanding to three more schools should they be open to coming in support of their staff and students. The search for a teacher continues.