By Audrey Tindoll
“It’s better to be on the ground wishing you were in the air than in the air wishing you were on the ground.” This is a famous saying used by pilots worldwide, including Faulkner’s own Kasey Oakley. As a volunteer pilot for the organization Soaring for Souls, Oakley is tasked with the responsibility of keeping himself and others safe while traveling.
Kasey Oakley is the Vice President of IT at Faulkner University, and he holds degrees from Faulkner, Harding University and Amridge University. He and his wife Jessica have been married for over 20 years and they have two children. He loves to travel and he became a private pilot in 2018.
He first became involved with Soaring for Souls when he met a member of the group while returning from a mission trip to Tanzania in 2021. After expressing interest, he was put in touch with Brian Howard, who is the founder and director of the organization.
Soaring for Souls was founded in 2021 to help the church in any way possible, which in this case is aviation. As stated on their website, soaringforsouls.com, their mission “exists to reach lost souls, focusing primarily on the remote areas of the world, and to train Christians to be better soul winners.” In addition to helping American congregations become a strong force for God, they travel to Canada and the Bahamas to spread God’s word and build congregations.
Oakley has been on four trips since he joined Soaring for Souls in 2021. While some of his trips involve stopping in certain locations to serve the local community and spread the word of God, others involve disaster response assistance. Disaster response trips typically include flying about 500 feet off the ground after a natural disaster to capture footage used to help begin disaster relief. One of his favorite parts of being involved in Soaring for Souls is seeing all the different places that remind him that God’s people are everywhere, and although we may live far apart, we are a part of the same community.
Oakley’s most recent trip, which took place in March 2023, involved going to the Bahamas and carrying out missions on several different islands. He began this trip with picking up last minute supplies, loading the plane, doing pre-flight checks, and getting clearance to leave the country from U.S. customs.
On Tuesday, he flew from Montgomery to Albany, Georgia, to pick up Howard. They stopped in Ft. Pierce, Florida, to refuel and get a life raft before departing to cross the Gulf Stream.
After finally landing in Deadman’s Cay, they met the preacher from the Long Island Church of Christ, Donald Burrows. To get them settled in, he took them to get something to eat, then showed them to their lodgings. After a long day of travel, it was time to get some rest.
The next day, Oakley and Howard hit the ground running. Burrows picked them up to go to the church where they would help with the construction project taking place upstairs. They were to turn it into a living space for visiting preachers and missionaries.
Later that week, Oakley and Howard flew from Deadman’s Cay to Providenciales, located among Turks and Caicos Islands, to meet with Jacques Phanor, the preacher for the Church of Christ there. After clearing customs at the airport, Phanor took them to the church building located directly on the beach. They returned to Deadmans’ Cay before dark.
On Saturday, Oakley and Howard resupply and traveled to the north side of Long Island, which is about 80 miles long, to see the sights and meet with some of the members of the church there. The roads in the Bahamas are not maintained very well, so driving the 80 miles took about 2.5 hours. After they finished exploring and meeting people, they made the 2.5 hour trek back.
On Sunday, they packed and prepared to leave before going to church at 10:00 a.m. where Howard preached the sermon. They witnessed two restorations from members who hadn’t been back to church since Covid shut everything down.
From Deadman’s Cay they fly to North Andros airport on San Andros Island, Bahamas to clear customs and fly back to Ft. Pierce airport.
At that point a line of storms was approaching the panhandle of Florida, and Oakley said the top of the storm reached 42,000 feet, so there was no going over it.
Looking at the weather radar later, Oakley thought there might be a break in the storm where they could sneak through so they headed north towards Albany. However, once they were in the air, it was apparent that the break in the storm was either never there or had quickly closed as they were confronted with large thunderstorms and the lightning detector in the airplane went off the charts. Not wanting to take their chances with the weather, they diverted to Gainesville airport.
In the morning, they waited until the weather cleared up, before flying to Albany where Oakley dropped off Howard to his awaiting family and Oakley continued to Montgomery just in time to watch his son’s soccer game at Alabama Christian Academy.