A local family’s missionary experiences in South America have been chronicled in a new book called The Prairie Pilot Who Flew for God.
Penned by Lacombe resident Keith Clouten, the book tells the story of Keith and Yvonne Kerr and their family who served with Wycliffe Bible Translators/Jungle Aviation and Radio Service in Bolivia and Ecuador.
Keith Kerr, who passed away in 2018, was a pilot who, after years of building a successful career in Canada, decided to join the mission of Wycliffe and help to fly personnel and materials to translators in the jungles of Bolivia and Ecuador.
They later served at the head office of Wycliffe Bible Translators Canada.
Clouten and Yvonne live at Royal Oak Manor in Lacombe, and one day met at a Bible study.
“I introduced myself, and she said, ‘That was my husband’s name,’” he recalled.
“I asked her to tell me about him, and she began to tell me about the times they spent in South America doing work with Wycliffe Bible Translators. And that fascinated me.
“She explained how her husband Keith was a very accomplished pilot, and that he used to fly these jungle planes in South America to get people to where they needed to be.”
Clouten realized this was indeed a story that needed to be told.
Last August, he started to record the Kerrs’ experiences, and the project came to fruition.
“When I discovered that Yvonne had kept all of the letters, it was wonderful for anyone wanting this story,” he explained. “She kept all of the records so beautifully all over the time that they had been there.”
The process included chats with the Kerrs’ daughter Arlene Waddell, who lived a big part of her growing up years on the mission field as well.
“It was a great pleasure — it was a joy to be able to write this story,” said Clouten.
“I just wish I had been able to meet Keith.”
The book is indeed a compelling story including how the couple met, the early years of family life, Keith Kerr’s flourishing career as a pilot, and then the family’s decision to join Wycliffe Bible Translators.
Clouten’s style draws the reader in; he’s gifted at ‘painting’ images and the family’s various experiences with words so well.
Yvonne and Arlene are certainly pleased with the finished results.
“My dad was a bush pilot in Ontario and that’s where the story starts,” noted Arlene. “This was followed by an interview with CP Air in Vancouver.”
So the Kerrs relocated to the west coast, and Keith’s career soared.
One Sunday, a missionary pilot visited their church and told his story.
Arlene said her father was struck by hearing the man’s amazing experiences.
He started to explore Wycliffe, and the family decided to join the mission and didn’t look back. Ultimately, they served for 35 years, eight of which were spent in South America starting in the early 70s.
The roots of it all of course extend to Yvonne and her husband’s vibrant Christian faith, which for Yvonne was sparked as a youngster when she attended a Bible camp.
The years passed, she met Keith and a new direction in life was begun.
She remembers giving him a book about a jungle pilot when he was ill one time, and it had a tremendous impact.
“He was raring to go,” she recalled with a laugh. He was also due to be a captain with CP Air so there was a decision to make.
But off they went and she wouldn’t change a thing.
“He wanted to see the scriptures translated for people who had never had even one verse,” said Yvonne. “I loved the people. When you live there, and you see their heart and get to know them. They were just beautiful.”
She hopes people are inspired by their story, and that they realize that exciting things can happen when trust is put in God.
“You can just ask the Lord into your heart, and He will help you to go from there. If people read it, they will see how simple it really is.”
Arlene said her dad looked at it all like a new adventure and a way to live his life the way God wanted him to.
“I hope it might be an inspiration to someone else to see if that’s their calling — to go and help others.”
For a copy of The Prairie Pilot Who Flew for God, stop by Kennedy’s Parable in Red Deer.
It is also available on Amazon, plus there are copies in the local library system.
All proceeds will go to Wycliffe Bible Translators.