AGAPE was founded in 1976 by Don Donaldson. Don, a pilot and evangelist from Texas, came to Guatemala with his family in 1966 as a missionary. They came during the early stages of Guatemala’s civil war, which began in 1960 and had claimed tens of thousands of lives by its end in 1996.
In the midst of that conflict, a 7.5 magnitude earthquake struck on February 4, 1976. Between the war and the then-common adobe-style construction, the aftermath was devastating and aid to many rural areas was greatly hindered. In response, Donaldson used his plane to fly to areas unreachable by road transport. His flights provided key life support to isolated communities damaged by the earthquake.
This experience led Donaldson and his family to found AGAPE (Guatemalan Aerial Association for Edification), with the purpose of reaching areas of difficult access with the gospel and providing emergency medical flights. In the late 1970s, MAF (Mission Aviation Fellowship) began to partner with AGAPE. They aided the growing organization by providing technical support for the aircraft and training in leadership.
In 1982, Ludin Reyes, a Guatemalan pilot and the longtime director and visionary of AGAPE, began to fly with AGAPE and MAF. During this time the violence of the civil war had intensified. Human Rights groups have estimated that between 30-40 Guatemalans were killed every day during this time period. At the heart of this conflict was the geographical area of Quiché. This part of Guatemala served as the base for many of the guerrilla forces and was intensely contested during this time. As a result, churches and schools were devastated.
Ludin’s role was crucial in reaching out to the Quiché communities where North American MAF pilots were heavily distrusted by the guerrilla forces. The close relationships Ludin built during this volatile time began the foundations that still impact AGAPE’s programs in those areas to this day. In 2015, Eri Alas became the Director of Agape. He first joined as a volunteer aviation mechanic and quickly became a key developer and teacher in the Pastoral and Youth training programs. Today, he continues Agape’s vision of community-based, Christian leadership training.
HOPE’s partnership with AGAPE began in the mid 1990s as the civil war came to a close. Since then, HOPE has worked with AGAPE to develop biblical and leadership programs for pastors, Sunday school teachers, and youth leaders. HOPE also provides AGAPE with resources, financial support, and an office training center in Guatemala City.