Missionary pilot, father of 2 students missing off the coast of Africa

By Sara Marshall

Jerry Krause's plane (Photo provided).

In 1996, Jerry and Gina Krause moved their three children to Mali to serve as missionaries. For 16 years, they shared Christ with the Malian people. The country became their home, and they were deeply invested in their work there.

Everything changed on April 7.

Jerry is missing. And his family will do whatever it takes to find him.

The day he disappeared

Jerry was born in Waseca, Minn. When they first moved to Mali, he served as a missionary pilot with the Idaho-based Mission Aviation Fellowship (MAF) until 2009 when MAF pulled out of the country. Jerry then became a general manager for Sahel Aviation Service, a commercial air charter company that provides safe and reliable on-demand air charter service throughout West Africa. His wife, Gina, of Wabash, Ind., helps Jerry in his duties as a manager for the aviation company.

Their three children grew up in Mali but returned to the U.S. for college. In 2011, their oldest child, Nathan, graduated from Olivet Nazarene University and now lives in Naperville, Ill. Their other children, Alyssa, a senior, and Jessica, a junior, both attend Huntington University.

April 7 was supposed to be a normal day for Jerry. He was in Johannesburg, South Africa, planning to fly his twin-engine Beechcraft 1900C 17-passenger airplane back to Mali. The plane had been in South Africa for maintenance, engine work and interior refurbishing because the plane was about to be sold and brought back as a new plane. But his plane went missing just miles from a refueling stop at the island of Sao Tome in West Africa.

According to a timeline provided by Jessica that was filed to the National Transportation Safety Board, Jerry’s flight pattern was from Lanseria, South Africa, to Ondangwa, Nambia, and then Sao Tome to Accra, Ghana, to Bamako, Mali. Jerry landed in Ondangwa to refuel. He departed at 10:20 a.m. from Namibia for Sao Tome for an 8 p.m. arrival in Mali. He last checked in with the control tower at 4:13 p.m.

“We aren’t sure on the exact distance or time he was from the airport, but we are lead to believe that he was not more than 20 minutes from landing in Sao Tome,” Jessica wrote in the timeline.

When Jerry did not land in Mali, Gina knew something was wrong. But she was not immediately contacted. Aviation officials on Sao Tome Island waited 24 hours before reporting Jerry’s disappearance.

“[The aviation officials in] Sao Tome seem to not have done anything after Jerry did not land,” Jessica wrote.

The Krause family (Photo provided).

The Sao Tomean Coast Guard conducted a search and rescue operation April 8. Boats and planes covered the first 50 nautical miles of Jerry’s flight path and the last nine miles out from where he had been last contacted. Another search focused on Sao Tome and its surrounding coast.

The Krause family filed a missing person’s report to the NTSB and the South African Civil Aviation Authority April 17 to progress the investigation of Jerry’s disappearance. After it was reported, military personnel joined the search.

There is a 50 percent chance Jerry’s plane crashed, Jessica said  in a Facebook post. The other 50 percent is that he was captured and forced to fly for drug lords or guerilla members in the area. The family has evidence to support both.

Spreading the word

Gina called her daughters April 8 before they went to class to tell them that their dad did not make it back to Mali.

“I am not a big fan of posting Facebook statuses, especially ones that have any sentimental value,” Jessica posted on Facebook three days later. “But today, I write to ask a favor, one that means more than I can express and one that I believe will benefit from being read and acted upon. Tonight, I ask that you pray.”

More than 350 people shared Jessica’s status and many offered comments of support and prayer. The Find Jerry Facebook page, set up by Erica Grossman, Jerry’s niece, reached more than 4,900 likes within a few days. The Associated Press wrote an article that appeared in the Washington Post and the Huffington Post.

Erica also created a website, findjerry.com, where she is sharing updates about the search.

“The amount of effort and prayers that have already been done in search for my dad has baffled me, humbled me and encouraged me,” Jessica wrote in a status April 11.

Since she is the sibling that is most fluent in French, Jessica left to assist her mother with the search in Mali April 14. She has been unavailable for comment, but has posted a few urgent requests on the Find Jerry Facebook page.

One request was for a PRS-275 or a DPR-275 Pinger Receiver system to detect the plane’s beacon if Jerry did crash and the plane is underwater. Three people quickly volunteered to hand deliver the receivers from California to Sao Tome.

“[God] has moved mountains to get some of the information we have,” Sheila Wilson-Grossman, Jerry’s sister-in-law, said. “I can’t sit here and worry, because God is the one who is fighting for us. We will continue to search until we have no more leads, until there are no more stones to turn over, then we are going forward. Whatever God has for us, we praise His name.”

Life on campus

Alyssa is still at HU and attending classes, but said the family is in constant contact with each other. When one person finds out more information, they immediately pass it on to everyone else.

“Both families have remained calm and keep their faith grounded in the Lord, who delights in doing the ‘impossible,’” Erica said.

Sheila said the family is continuing to trust God.

“Everything that has happened has been because God has done it,” Sheila said.

Alyssa said the unknown is the worst part.

“It’s like I’m living in no man’s land trying to fight my way out,” she said. “The uncertainty of what happens fills every dream. I close my eyes, and I begin to think of another scenario. It’s just like he vanished into thin air. You just don’t know what happened.”

Jessica is the resident assistant   on Baker 1st. Sophomore Mary Whybrew, the floor’s campus ministry coordinator, said that the girls have been supportive of Jessica in any way they can.

“The girls have been really good at respecting the family by giving them space but reminding Jess that we love her and her family,” she said. “The floor continuously prays for her and her family and checks for updates on the situation.”

Mallory Jones, resident director of Roush and Baker Halls, said that Jessica’s RA duties have understandably been excused.

“We are blessed to have a very competent staff of seven other RAs in Baker/Roush to help carry the load as needed,” she said.

Whybrew said the pain of the situation has reached the girls on the floor.

“Several tears have been shed for our dear friend Jess,” Whybrew said. “We do not understand her pain, but we all care about her so much and see her suffer. We all love Jess and only want the best to come from this situation.”

Jones said the university’s faculty and staff have been supportive of the Krause family. An email from Heather Barkley, associate director of university relations, was sent to faculty and staff encouraging them to pray for the Krause family.

An email was not sent to students, many of whom found out via Facebook.

“It is my desire that our campus community would support Jessica and Alyssa, pray for them, and maintain sensitivity to their needs,” Jones said. “Certainly, it is appropriate that the whole campus community remember the Krauses, specifically Jerry, in their prayers to our good and faithful God.”

The search continues

As of April 21, Jerry has not been found, but the family continues to hope that Jerry is alive.

“We have been overwhelmed by the constant encouragement and support we have gotten from people all over the world,” Erica said. “We have been able to make new contacts and progress because of new connections with complete strangers …. This situation is never an easy one to ever ‘deal’ with, but as Christians, we realize this situation’s outcome is a ‘win-win’ for us. We either find Jerry and bring him home, or find comfort and peace knowing he is with Jesus.”

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