The familiar phrase “on a wing and a prayer” carries a negative connotation most of the time … but not for Cadet 1st Lt. Evangela Caliguire, a member of Civil Air Patrol’s Florida Wing.
“I knew that I wanted to be a missionary since I was very young,” Caliguire said. “My favorite missionary was Nate Saint. He was a missionary pilot in Ecuador.
“I knew that missionaries could be pilots, too, but when I was learning more about being a missionary, I wasn’t really interested in flying.”
Caliguire’s interest in aviation began when she and her family volunteered at a hot air balloon festival in Alabama while she was in high school.
“I got to go up and fly in the hot air balloon, and I loved it,” she said. “So I decided I wanted to look into flying. I knew I didn’t want to fly a hot air balloon, because it was too slow.
“I wanted something faster.”
The teenager and her mother, Wendy Caliguire, visited a local airport to inquire about flight lessons.
“We realized quickly during our visit that flight lessons were out of the budget,” Caliguire said. “Thankfully, the man at the airport told us about Civil Air Patrol and the Experimental Aircraft Association.”
Putting the new information to use, Caliguire joined CAP and several other aviation associations. She recently celebrated her three-year anniversary with the organization, which she credits with much of her success.
“The first event I participated in was the Wing Emergency Services School, or WESS, in Alabama,” said Caliguire, then a member of the Alabama Wing's Redstone Composite Squadron. “There I realized I really loved emergency services, so I got my GTM3 (Ground Team Member 3 rating) that year. I then graduated with the Distinguished Graduate Award out of 40 cadets from the Basic Ground Search and Rescue School.”
Caliguire completed WESS a second time and also completed Aircrew Mission Scanner School. She participated in a basic winter encampment in Kansas, staffed the Alabama and Mississippi wings’ combined encampment as a public affairs staff member and attended CAP’s National Emergency Services Academy at Camp Atterbury, Indiana, twice — once to complete the Advanced Ground Search and Rescue School and later to serve as a ground team leader for the school the following year.
In addition, she attended a camp during EAA AirVenture Oshkosh.
“While I was at Oshkosh in August 2015, I stopped by the Mission Aviation Fellowship tent and talked to a recruiter for my region,” Caliguire said. “The recruiter said he would be coming to Alabama in April, and he would plan a visit with me and my family to give us more information about becoming a missionary pilot.”
As the months leading up to Caliguire’s high school graduation passed, she became unsure about how God was going to help her achieve her dream of being a missionary pilot.
“Around October 2015, I began to feel really worried and anxious, because I wasn’t sure if I was supposed to be a missionary pilot or just a missionary,” she said. “I remember talking to my mom about it, and she encouraged me to just stop and pray and ask God what he wanted me to do.
“So I did. I stopped and said, ‘God, I don’t know where you’re really leading me. I know you want me to be a missionary. I don’t know anything about being a missionary pilot, and I don’t know how you’re going to get me there, but would you please show me.’”
After that Caliguire received an email from the recruiter, asking to set up a meeting.
“When he came a few days later, he started telling us all about all these different colleges,” Caliguire said. “The last one he told us about was this little college that just got started in Florida called the Florida College of Missionary Aviation.
“We actually lived in Florida for the first 13 years of my life, and then we moved to Alabama, so I was very excited to hear about a school so close to home.”
Upon visiting the school, Caliguire said she knew God was pointing her to become a missionary pilot.
Caliguire began her studies in January. She credits CAP with preparing her for the studies she has faced so far.
“One major way that CAP has helped me in school is with my written exam,” she said. “There is so much information that I learned in CAP that ended up coming into play on the exam and in the classes I am taking now.”
Wendy Caliguire also believes the leadership skills her daughter acquired from CAP have helped in her studies, citing “how they provide opportunities for individuals to not only learn about leadership … but also actually provide many opportunities for hands-on leadership practice.
“I have never seen a program successfully teach leadership the way I have seen with CAP,” she said.
Evangela Caliguire is counting on that knowledge and her faith in God to achieve her life’s mission.
“My desire is to go to people and groups who have never heard the Gospel before,” she said. “I’m glad I learned that airplanes can definitely help a great deal in getting into those places.”