Mark Palm, the president of Samaritan Aviation was raised as a pastor’s son and from a very young age has had a passion for people and aviation. During his high-school years, he had the opportunity to work with his parents who ran Elm Street Mission, which was a homeless mission in Santa Cruz, California. This experience furthered his passion for reaching out to people in need.
Mark attended Hobe Sound Bible College and later graduated from Miramar College in San Diego with a degree in Aviation Technology. Mark currently holds a Commercial Pilot’s license with an Instrumental Float-plane rating as well as an FAA Aircraft Mechanic’s license.
Mark has an extensive background in missions having served on teams that flew into Mexico that built facilities for churches and ministries and conducted various medical clinics for over 15 years. He also has served as a youth Pastor and Worship Pastor for 8 years while Samaritan Aviation transitioned from a dream to a reality.
January, 2010, Mark and his wife Kirsten moved to Wewak, Papua New Guinea to begin Flight Operations in the East Sepik Province. They currently live in Wewak with their three children Sierra, Drake, and Nolan.
Joseph “Joey” Burns is the owner broker of Lone Eagle Land Brokerage, Inc. in Montrose, Colorado. Specializing in Ranch property sales, Joey strives to establish a Kingdom based business desiring to emulate the love of Christ and the integrity of His word in all his business transactions. Joey is also the founder and owner of Land Information Systems, a ranch mapping and data collection system. Joey is married to his beautiful childhood sweet heart, Michelle, and they have 5 children.
Joey serves as Missions President at his local church and coordinates short term mission trips that have taken him around the world. He is a board member of San Juan Home Educators and a big game hunting guide. A longtime board member of Samaritan Aviation and current Chairman, Joey joined the Samaritan Team in 2003. He finds that the opportunity to serve Christ as a Good Samaritan through aviation has enabled the salvation message to be heard throughout regions of the US and the country of Papua New Guinea.
Dr. Dan Cranston is an emergency medicine physician. He spent his high school years in the Highlands of Papua New Guinea where his father managed a secondary school that provided educational opportunities to local youth.
For the past 10 years Dr. Cranston has been working with humanitarian organizations to provide medical services and training. His focus is developing, promoting and maximizing partnerships that assist with medical delivery to remote areas and health centers.
Dr. Cranston has a Bachelors degree with concentrations in Biology and Business Administration. After medical school, he did a residency in Emergency Medicine at Michigan State University. He is board certified in emergency medicine and has been practicing as an emergency medical specialist for over 15 years. He joined the Samaritan Board in 2003.
Daniel Jones is a captain for Dynamic Aviation, currently flying Dash 8 aircraft in Afghanistan. Daniel served as a missionary pilot in Swaziland, Africa, and was the director of Nazarene Mission Aviation from 1995 to 2004. He has led volunteer mission trips for his local church to Africa and also within the United States. From 2006 to 2009 Daniel worked for the Christian Network Foundation assisting donors with estate gifts to various Christian non-profit organizations.
He’s been married for over 26 years to Annette, who is a special education teacher/school psychologist. She also volunteers with an organization in Mexico advising teachers on working with students with special needs. They have 3 children.
Daniel holds an Airline Transport Pilots license, and an FAA Aircraft Mechanics license.
Jason Schwitter’s interest in Samaritan Aviation started in 2009. In 2011 he had the opportunity to accompany a group to PNG, which consisted of supporters and board members, to see first-hand how God is using Samaritan Aviation in Papua New Guinea.
Jason has been involved and around production agriculture his whole life. He owns and operates a farm in Clara City Minnesota. His farm includes raising Sugar beets, Soybeans, Corn and Dry Edible Beans.
Jason is married to Stacy and they have two children, Lucas and Kalley. He is involved with a local church council and He also has had the opportunity to participate and be involved in other local non-profits. He has a B.S. in Business Administration/Management and a B.S. in Bible from Northwestern College in St Paul, MN.
Jason is also a private pilot and excited to be involved in all that Samaritan Aviation is doing in perpetuating the hope of Jesus Christ through the tool of aviation here in the US and PNG.
Matthew Palm is a founding board member of Samaritan Aviation. He currently serves as secretary of the board as well as the financial committee chairperson in this adventure in faith. He has served as the lead pastor for Hope Church in Vista, California for the past eight years. He’s been married over 24 years to his high school sweetheart Melissa and has three boys: David, James, and Jason.
With over 20 years of pastoral experience he brings a pastor’s heart to every conversation that the board of Samaritan Aviation has. The message is simply that we should care about the people that everybody else walks by. His heart is that we are truly living out the story of the Good Samaritan as an organization, and we never forget the reasons for why we do what we do. Pastor Matt was one of the original Board Members to start with the Samaritan dream.
Jeff Petersen was the President and Founder of Coal Creek Consulting, a firm that specializes in project management and infrastructure development for wireless telecommunication providers. During his years with Coal Creek, he grew the company to over twenty-five employees, and they became the gold standard in Arizona for wireless services. Jeff sold the company and retired in 2018.
Jeff now lives in Texas with Ann Marie, his wife of twenty plus years, and they’re the proud parents of three fantastic children. The whole family has a love of the outdoors that includes backpacking, hunting, hiking and winter sports. Jeff exhibits extreme dedication and perseverance through personal challenges such as running twelve half-marathons in one year, hiking rim-to-rim-to-rim across the Grand Canyon (43 miles) in one day and living an entire year as a vegan. Jeff plays rhythm guitar along with Ann Marie, who sings lead vocals in a band called Daze Ja Vu’. They provided live music at a Samaritan Aviation event in 2015.
Jeff’s involvement began when Samaritan Aviation rented office space from his company in Scottsdale, Arizona. In November of 2015, Jeff accompanied Mark Palm on a two-week trip to Papua New Guinea. Jeff was moved by his visit and his interactions with the people of PNG as well as the Samaritan Aviation families serving in Papua New Guinea. Through his interaction with the Board, Jeff has assisted Samaritan Aviation with fundraising from major donors and strategic management consultation.
“My trip to PNG with Mark was a mountain top experience. I am proud to be a part of an organization that is both loved and respected by the people whom we help”.
John Davis is a business partner for Tollbooth TV, a reality TV production company. Tollbooth recently produced the survival competition series Stranded with a Million Dollars for MTV and the comedic docuseries Coach Charming for TLC. Prior to his position at Tollbooth TV, Davis managed production on all BASE Productions projects, such as: ESPN’s Sport Science, Nat Geo’s Do or Die! and Syfy’s Fact or Faked; and oversees legal, network relationships, staff, 26 edit-bay post facility, music licensing, animation/grfx, 27,000 sq ft soundstage and extending projects to multiple platforms. Davis also played a key role in the development, producing and delivery of Car Warriors, which spanned two seasons. Davis first joined BASE as a freelance EIC on Jesse James is a Dead Man, where he successfully delivered the complicated series that had been shut down prior to his arrival. In his 5 years with BASE, Davis is most proud of the pivotal role he played in seeing it sold for a reported $75M USD to Tinopolis Ltd. Davis’s television career spans over 17 years, from his start in post-production, rising to the executive ranks. Davis served as a freelance EIC on several successful programs, including the FOX hit, Kitchen Nightmares. Davis also is an industry leader when it comes to stunt-related programs, starting when he spent two years with CBS Eye Too Productions as the Executive in Charge and Line Producer on Discovery Channel’s hit series Stunt Junkies. Personally, John has been married to his wife Julie for 16 years, they have three kids, and enjoy an active lifestyle as a family living in Southern California. He graduated from Southern Nazarene University in 1996, with a BS in Business Management.
Advisory Board Member Patrick Clowes is a licensed attorney and a Real Estate Broker. Patrick has served as a senior executive in several corporations and non-profits. He served as Vice President of Human Resources and Administration for Promise Keepers. He has a B.S. in Business Administration and a J.D. from the University Of Colorado School Of Law. He has taught college courses in Negotiations, Conflict Management, Business Ethics, and Business Law. His early career was in urban missions. “My experiences working with Samaritan Aviation in the US and in Papua New Guinea have been some of the most rewarding I’ve ever known.” Patrick has been a Board Member since 2010.
Jason is the CEO for Kendall Farms. Kendall Farms began in 1987 when Jason’s father David Kendall purchased the first 50 acres of what is now a 500 acre farm in hills outside of Fallbrook, CA. When David passed away in 2004, Jason along with other family members and friends poured passion and dedication into what David started and have grown this farm into an award winning company producing some of the most beautiful and exotic flowers in North America.
Jason and his family have been close friends with the Palm’s for years sharing like interests in aviation, surfing but especially the mission work Samaritan Aviation is doing in Papua New Guinea.
Jason is family man. He and his wife, Danielle, met at Point Loma Nazarene University, and they now have two children, a son and a daughter.
Mike Bantz is a civil engineer working as the Pacific Area Manager for CDM Constructors Inc., which is an engineering and construction company that designs and builds water and wastewater treatment plants throughout the world. Mike has been working in the construction industry for 20 years and his area performs over $100 Million in business per year. Mike was first inspired by the Samaritan Aviation dream in 2005 and has been involved with the ministry ever since. Most recently, he was able to visit Wewak in November 2013 to evaluate the suitability of land for building our compound. He was amazed at how powerfully God is working through Samaritan Aviation in Papua New Guinea. Mike lives in San Diego with his wife, Lynda, and three wonderful children. Mike and Lynda have been shaped by short-term missions work in their early years and feel very blessed to be a part of Samaritan Aviation now. Mike received a B.S. from the University of Colorado in 1994 and is a Professional Engineer.
Bruce Johnson has been serving with Samaritan Aviation as an Aviation Advisory Board Member since 2006. He has been a strategic voice and help for our organization providing flight training, aircraft equipment consultation and participating with his wife Bonnie in Samaritan’s program launch in Papua New Guinea. He and his wife Bonnie have spent many years engaged in mission and aviation ministries. Bruce has served aviation ministry participating in strategic program planning, aircraft acquisition, flight training and program fund raising. He has developed seaplane flight-training programs and trained pilots for African Inland Mission and Samaritan Purse in Kenya, Uganda and Tanzania, East Africa. In 2007 he served as member of the Strategic Planning Group for Evangelism and Mission Aviation, Amazon Basin, Brazil and has also served in missions in Mexico and Ecuador. Bruce was very involved in the early formation of Quest Aircraft Company and served on the board from (2003-04). Bruce is currently a team member with World Mission / Dolsys participating in efforts to set up seaplane operations servicing the church and Island people of Lake Victoria as well as providing aviation support to Vine Trust hospital ship operations in Tanzania.
Bruce has forty years of aviation experience flying experience in Alaska (1973-2013) with over 10,000 hours of seaplane flight time). His aviation background includes Commercial Instrument, Single Engine, Multi Engine Sea, Kenmore Air Harbor, Kurtzer Flying Service Seattle, Wa. His education includes AAS Sciences degree from Washington State. Bruce served two tours in the Navy and participated on the Apollo 10 and 11 recovery efforts in the South Pacific as well as Riverboat duty while in Vietnam. Bruce and Bonnie’s home Church is First Christian at Sandpoint, Idaho. He and Bonnie serve as Husband/Wife Mission Team Committee Members. Bruce was born in Seattle and married his lovely wife Bonnie and they have two children, Jessica and Megan.
Born and raised in Louisiana, Dr. Rick Merritt has southern wit and charm along with a dedicated drive for excellence. He has been married thirty-three years to his wife Judith Merritt. They have three children and nine grandchildren. Rick is the founder and president of Heart and Soul Family Counseling Services.
He served eight years in the military before resigning to civilian life and devoting himself to full time ministry in Yuma, AZ. It was there in Yuma that he got involved in mission work to Kenya, Africa, and has lead multiple mission teams to Kenya over the years. His pastorate experience began as the Associated Pastor in his mother’s church in 1990; which lead to his personal calling and ministry three years later and has been in the ministry ever since.
Rick is currently the lead pastor at 180 Faith Ministries in Vista, CA. reaching the Tri-City North County and San Diego area as well as having significant influence with the troops at Camp Pendleton and Miramar since 1996.
Dr. Merritt is currently partnering through his private practice Heart & Soul Family Counseling Services with the Chaplin’s Association at both Camp Pendleton and Miramar Bases to help service members, their marriages, and family heal after being ravaged by ten plus years of war. This partnership has allowed him to participate in their “Marriage Family & Parenting” Expos held at Camp Pendleton and Miramar for the last several years.
Educated with his Ph.D. in Pastoral Care and Clinical Counseling from Minnesota Graduate School of Theology; he is a certified MFT (Marriage Family Therapist), and belongs to the American Academy of Clinical Family Therapists Association, along with other certifications from Light University and the American Association of Christian Counselors in; Addiction & Recovery with the 12 step program form Celebrate Recovery; Premarital & Marital Coaching, Acute Stress Grief and Trauma Care, Crisis and First Responder Training, along with PTSD & Combat Stress Coaching. He has been on the ground floor working with the U.S. Veteran’s Department as a clinical psychologist in their pilot program “The Aspire Center” located in San Diego, CA. Dr. Merritt is heavily engaged with this initiative and also leads assessments for service members with PTSD and Readjustment challenges that helps them integrate back into civilian life.
Rick said this about his Advisory Board Member role with Samaritan Aviation, “The opportunity to serve on the Samaritan Aviation advisory board is a privilege and honor that culminates all of my mission efforts thus far. I’ve been informed of the efforts and ministry involvements of Samaritan Aviation through Bryan Yeager the COO, a friend of over twenty years. I look forward to being a part of God’s plans for the future of Samaritan Aviation and the opportunity to serve with such an excellent ministry.”
Rex is a licensed Marriage and Family Therapist (MFT) in north county San Diego. After completing his undergraduate degree in Therapeutic and Community Psychology from Point Loma Nazarene University in 1999, Rex married his wife of now 16 years, Michelle, and shortly after this was accepted to graduate school of Psychology at Fuller Theological Seminary. Rex went on to complete his Master of Arts degree in Marriage and Family Therapy from Fuller Theological Seminary in 2004 and has worked in several different capacities, including providing therapy to autistic children and their families, serving on a research team, gaining some experience in a private practice setting, and working primarily in a residential treatment facility with at-risk foster children and adolescents. Currently Rex serves as the clinical director for a private non-profit residential educational program for foster youth called San Pasqual Academy.
Rex and his wife met the Palms in the early 2000s and from the very early stages, he was able to learn about and participate in the Samaritan Aviation ministry. He was able to serve alongside Mark on several short medical missions trips into Baja, Mexico where he provided some practical support and Spanish translation to some of the medical professionals providing services to many of the migrant workers who had no access to basic medical care. For more than a decade, Rex and his wife and have supported the Samaritan Aviation ministry financially, emotionally, and through consistent prayer. In 2018, Rex became SA’s key Ambassador for Southern California. They are currently planning for a trip to Papua New Guinea to see the ministry firsthand.
Dr. Pilly Mapira is the president of the Public Health Association of Papua New Guinea and a Public Health Physician and Lecturer at the University of Papua New Guinea (UPNG), School of Medicine and Health Sciences (SMHS). She has had over 12 years of public health research and development experience including intermittent clinical practices in Papua New Guinea and abroad. Her research work not only produced the first scientific data on subclinical iodine deficiency among school children in PNG, but also advocated for the establishment of the first International Micronutrient Laboratory at the SMHS, UPNG and the first National Micronutrient Survey conducted in 2005 by the SMHS, National Department of Health, UNICEF and Centres for Disease Control.
As a medical student, Dr. Mapira did her rural health programs in the Gulf Province where she had to travel by canoe up the river for health patrols.
“I saw how difficult and remote it was for the people to excess not only quality health care services but education and other essential services. Although I had a heart and passion for promoting primary health in rural areas, the topography, transport and communication barrier was a huge discouragement. But few years later in 2015, a documentary of Samaritan Aviation on the discovery channel, shocked me into tears. Tears rolled down my eyes as I saw this tiny sea plane and a group of American volunteers and families in the middle of nowhere saving lives and delivering medical supplies. I was not only moved by what I saw but truly challenged and ashamed as a Papua New Guinean. Since then, I told myself that if there is any way, and anything I can do to help Samaritan Aviation so that they can maintain their services or even extend to other parts of the country with such difficult topography, I would do whatever it takes. I am very happy and excited to be part of a team that can truly live up to its name.”
Philemon Wachara and Bryan Yeager met in Nairobi, Kenya in 1987. As a young man working his way through school, Philemon began working with Bryan as they were establishing a church in one of the largest slums in East Africa. A few years later, Philemon became the Senior Pastor of this church and helped it grow to over 3,000 members. This church has also helped start other churches in Kenya, Uganda as well as Tanzania. In 2002, he led the way in starting Grace Harvest Academy, an elementary school that has won numerous awards for the quality of education that it provides for children in the community. Bishop Philemon holds a Masters in Theology Religious Studies and Church Leadership.
Paul Forehand is a professional pilot, flight instructor, and former flight school owner. While visiting the Experimental Aircraft Associations AirVenture in Oshkosh, WI in July of 2015, Paul noticed an article written about Samaritan Aviation in the daily newspaper. He was prompted to make the trip over to the seaplane base to learn more about their mission and see their second airplane. After talking with Mark Palm about the services SA was providing, it became clear to Paul that a second plane was critical for the operation to be most effective. Paul returned to his church in North Carolina and shared what he had learned with two mens groups. Both agreed to help support SA with monthly donations. In February of 2016, Pauls church was starting a focus on missions, local and world-wide. Bryan Yeager was invited to come and speak. As a result, the church as a whole supports SA.
“Providing life saving services opens the door for the real work of sharing Gods love with the people of PNG”.
Paul and his wife of 30 years, Diana, live in Garner, NC. They have three grown children and four grandchildren.