Moody instructor new president of locally-based mission safety organization

By Julie Fann
star staff

Moody Aviation maintenance instructor, Jon Egeler, recently was appointed president and CEO of Mission Safety International, a non-profit organization based in Elizabethton that serves approximately 30 mission organizations and 200 aircraft worldwide.
   Having worked "on loan" as a Moody instructor since 1998, Egeler's teaching position was made permanent in 2002. Six months later, Moody Bible Institute in Chicago announced that it will close its mission aviation program effective in June 2005.
   "It was not expected. We knew that Moody had been having some financial difficulties, and we had been asked to see about some cost-cutting; but it was far beyond our comprehension that they would actually close the school, so that was a total surprise," Egeler said. "It's been a struggle because we found out that the administration perhaps didn't understand us as well as we thought they did what we're here to do. We try to give them the benefit of the doubt."
   A few days after MBI announced the closing, current Mission Safety International President and founder, Joe Hopkins, spoke to students about managing stress because of his concern about their emotional health. During the seminar, Egeler wondered if a job with MSI might be possible.
   "I started thinking about how it would be kind of nice to work with MSI. I was kind of familiar with MSI because we had dealt with them overseas," Egeler said. With his wife, Pam, and their two children, Jesse and Stephanie, the Egelers served as missionaries in Tanzania and Kenya from 1990 to 1998 with Africa Inland Mission (AIM-AIR).
   During an evening church service that day, MSI Board Chairman, Ed Essick, asked Egeler if he would be interested in working with MSI. "I started laughing and said, 'Well, actually, I have, just this morning,'". Essick said Hopkins had recently turned in a request to retire.
   Egeler attended several board meetings in the spring and summer 2003 when the board discussed the future operation of the organization after Hopkins' retirement. The board debated if, in the future, MSI should follow the vision of the president or the board.
   After interviewing three candidates, in November 2003 the board appointed Egeler as president after he gave a presentation of his own vision for MSI. Another applicant will function as the new MSI vice-president, and Hopkins will work part-time as an assistant to Egeler.
   Egeler's new job will begin in July and, until that time, he will complete the academic year at Moody. From July to September, he will work closely with Hopkins before taking on his official role as president Sept. 1.
   Egeler said his chief goal for the organization will involve developing a basic set of across-the-board safety standards for all 30 mission organizations based on their input. "They will take that list and do a self-evaluation and see if they meet all of the standards in all of these areas, and when they feel they do, then they submit an application to a committee," Egeler said. The committee will include an MSI representative and representatives from all member mission organizations.
   "This peer committee will confirm the results of their self-evaluation, and, at the successful conclusion of that, they'll issue this safety certification. It will be a renewable process that occurs approximately every two years."
   Egeler said requiring mission organizations perform a self-evaluation will help those organizations correct mistakes and remain committed to safety standards. Also, it will allow MSI to have a larger, common voice and negotiate for benefits like lower insurance rates for its members.
   Egeler also hopes to expand MSI's Web site, providing links to statistical safety data and other pertinent information and services.
   Educating not only members but potential donors such as churches and corporations is also an important goal. "Safety is a difficult thing sometimes to sell because it's hard to see the benefits, especially financial. You don't see the benefits of safety because you only see the lack of it. Its' lack is an accident; then it's too late," Egeler said.
   MSI receives only 20 percent of its funding from member dues. The rest comes from donations from individuals, churches, charities and corporations. Egeler will be raising support for his new job in much the same way he did as a missionary.
   Mission Safety International was founded 21 years ago. The MSI office is located at 328 E. Elk Ave., Suite 1, Elizabethton. For more information or to make a donation, call 423-542-8892, or visit MSI on the Web at