Mark Palm is the CEO and co-founder of Samaritan Aviation. He was raised as a pastor’s son and during his teenage years had the opportunity to work with his parents who managed a homeless mission in Santa Cruz, California. He was also influenced by his grandfather who was a fighter pilot during World War II. A trip to Mexico during high school changed his life as he saw the struggles which most of the world faces on a daily basis.
At age 19, he traveled with a friend to Papua New Guinea and experienced the remoteness of this country and witnessed firsthand the medical and spiritual needs of the people. He observed how little things like a small cut could easily turn into tropical ulcers, causing people to lose limbs and ultimately their lives.
He returned to the United States and attended Hobe Sound Bible College in Florida, then went to MiraMar College in San Diego, California and obtained a degree in Aviation Technology. During this time he met Kirsten and later they were married. Mark and Kirsten have three kids, Sierra, Drake, and Nolan.
Mark holds a Commercial Pilots License with Instrument and Seaplane ratings. He also holds a FAA and PNG Aircraft Engineers licenses.
Mark co-founded Samaritan Aviation in 2000 and put together a plan to move his family along with one floatplane to Papua New Guinea. Flight operations began in 2010.
Mark has flown over 1,000 life saving missions in the remote jungles of PNG. He has become an expert in PNG culture and medical service delivery and the struggles that the remote villages face. He has been the Keynote speaker at the PNG National Health conference two times in the past three years and has served as a consultant for the PNG National Health Department, the PNG Civil Aviation, the World Health Organization, and UNICEF.
He is a sought after speaker who has thrilled audiences with his stories of life saving flights, and transformational moments as people have responded to the message of hope and redemption. He has been interviewed by international television CNN International, ABC News Australia, EMTV News, and NBC News PNG. Radio programs BBC, Australia, NBC News PNG, and has been featured in People magazine as an American Hero. (see list below)
To date, five missionary families and three stateside staff members work closely together to fulfill Samaritan Aviation’s mission in Papua New Guinea.
In 2020, Samaritan Aviation will celebrate 20 years as an organization and 10 years of flight operations in Papua New Guinea.
Over the span of almost a decade…
The story of Samaritan Aviation is remarkable. So much so, the following media and news outlets and publications have interviewed Mark and shared these conversations to thousands of others.
CNN International – Isha Sesay interviewed CEO/Founder Mark Palm for 5-minutes during prime time on February 13th, 2018
ABC News Australia – https://youtu.be/KPyL0YEiAzk
Local Network News Channels NBC, CBS, FOX, ABC, PBS in Los Angeles, San Francisco, Phoenix, Denver, Minneapolis, San Diego, Australia and France along with other smaller markets reported and conducted interviews with CEO/Founder Mark Palm about Samaritan Aviation’s work in Papua New Guinea.
National Radio – Jim Bohannon, Janet Parshall, Bill Bumpas who have syndicated radio programs have interview Mark Palm along with a number of local AM and FM stations.
People Magazine – Listed the Palm family as one of our American Heroes in a special addition magazine distributed in May of 2016.
Surfer – Kimball Taylor and Ryan Craig presented an eight-page story in the premier surf magazine December of 2016.
American Family Journal – Article about the Palm family written by Rebecca Davis 12/15.
AOPA – Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association magazine – (circulation of 500,000) have written several stories about Samaritan Aviation.
Newspapers – Denver Post, San Jose Mercury News, San Diego Union Tribune, Santa Cruz Sentinel, along with a number of smaller newspapers have written articles about our work in Papua New Guinea.
Dr. Dan Cranston is an emergency medicine physician. He spent his high school years in the Highlands of Papua New Guinea where his father managed a secondary school that provided educational opportunities to local youth.
For the past 10 years Dr. Cranston has been working with humanitarian organizations to provide medical services and training. His focus is developing, promoting and maximizing partnerships that assist with medical delivery to remote areas and health centers.
Dr. Cranston has a Bachelors degree with concentrations in Biology and Business Administration. After medical school, he did a residency in Emergency Medicine at Michigan State University. He is board certified in emergency medicine and has been practicing as an emergency medical specialist for over 15 years. He joined the Samaritan Board in 2003.
Joseph “Joey” Burns is the owner broker of Lone Eagle Land Brokerage, Inc. in Montrose, Colorado. Specializing in Ranch property sales, Joey strives to establish a Kingdom based business desiring to emulate the love of Christ and the integrity of His word in all his business transactions. Joey is also the founder and owner of Land Information Systems, a ranch mapping and data collection system. Joey is married to his childhood sweet heart, Michelle, and they have 5 children.
Joey serves as Missions President at his local church and coordinates short term mission trips that have taken him around the world. He is a board member of San Juan Home Educators, sits on the Advisory Board for National Christian Foundation Colorado, is the President of Realtors Land Institute of the State of Colorado, and is a proclaimed Elk Hunter Guru. A longtime board member of Samaritan Aviation, Joey joined the Samaritan Team in 2003. He finds that the opportunity to serve Christ as a Good Samaritan through aviation has enabled the salvation message to be heard throughout regions of the US and the country of Papua New Guinea.
Daniel Jones is a corporate pilot, flying a Legacy 500 business jet for ABP Capital, based in the San Diego area. Daniel served as a missionary pilot in Swaziland, Africa, and was the director of Nazarene Mission Aviation from 1995 to 2004. He has led volunteer mission trips for his local church to Africa, Central America, and also within the United States. From 2006 to 2009 Daniel worked for the Christian Network Foundation assisting donors with estate gifts to various Christian non-profit organizations. With over 33 years of aviation experience, Daniel has worked in a variety of roles: as an authorized FAA mechanic and inspector, and pilot flying aerial application, military support in Afghanistan, flight instructor, and VIP jet charter. Daniel holds an Airline Transport Pilots license with several type ratings, and an FAA Aircraft Mechanics license. He’s been married for over 30 years to Annette, who is a school psychologist. She is on the Board of San Diego Autism Society, works with foster children, and also volunteers with an organization in Mexico advising teachers on working with students with special needs. They have 3 adult children and 1 granddaughter.
Jason Schwitters’ interest in Samaritan Aviation started in 2009. In 2011 he had the opportunity to accompany a group to PNG, which consisted of supporters and board members, to see first-hand how God is using Samaritan Aviation in Papua New Guinea.
Jason has been involved and around production agriculture his whole life. He owns and operates a farm in Clara City Minnesota. His farm includes raising Sugar beets, Soybeans, Corn and Dry Edible Beans.
Jason is married to Stacy and they have two children, Lucas and Kalley. He is involved with a local church council and He also has had the opportunity to participate and be involved in other local non-profits. He has a B.S. in Business Administration/Management and a B.S. in Bible from Northwestern College in St Paul, MN.
Jason is also a private pilot and excited to be involved in all that Samaritan Aviation is doing in perpetuating the hope of Jesus Christ through the tool of aviation here in the US and PNG.
Jeff Petersen was the President and Founder of Coal Creek Consulting, a firm that specializes in project management and infrastructure development for wireless telecommunication providers. During his years with Coal Creek, he grew the company to over twenty-five employees, and they became the gold standard in Arizona for wireless services. Jeff sold the company and retired in 2018.
Jeff now lives in Texas with Ann Marie, his wife of twenty plus years. Jeff has just started a new business and is an owner/broker of Trans World Business Advisors of East Texas.
They’re the proud parents of three fantastic children. The whole family has a love of the outdoors that includes backpacking, hunting, hiking and winter sports. Jeff exhibits extreme dedication and perseverance through personal challenges such as running twelve half-marathons in one year, hiking rim-to-rim-to-rim across the Grand Canyon (43 miles) in one day and living an entire year as a vegan. Jeff plays rhythm guitar along with Ann Marie, who sings lead vocals in a band called Daze Ja Vu’. They provided live music at a Samaritan Aviation event in 2015.
Jeff’s involvement began when Samaritan Aviation rented office space from his company in Scottsdale, Arizona. In November of 2015, Jeff accompanied Mark Palm on a two-week trip to Papua New Guinea. Jeff was moved by his visit and his interactions with the people of PNG as well as the Samaritan Aviation families serving in Papua New Guinea. Through his interaction with the Board, Jeff has assisted Samaritan Aviation with fundraising from major donors and strategic management consultation.
“My trip to PNG with Mark was a mountain top experience. I am proud to be a part of an organization that is both loved and respected by the people whom we help”.
John Davis is the COO and Executive Producer for Michael Jr. Productions. John has recently produced the survival competition series Stranded with a Million Dollars for MTV and the comedic docuseries Coach Charming for TLC. Davis has also managed production on all BASE Productions projects, such as: ESPN’s Sport Science, Nat Geo’s Do or Die! and Syfy’s Fact or Faked; and oversees legal, network relationships, staff, 26 edit-bay post facility, music licensing, animation/grfx, 27,000 sqft soundstage and extending projects to multiple platforms. Davis also played a key role in the development, producing and delivery of Car Warriors, which spanned two seasons. Davis first joined BASE as a freelance EIC on Jesse James is a Dead Man, where he successfully delivered the complicated series that had been shut down prior to his arrival. In his 5 years with BASE, Davis is most proud of the pivotal role he played in seeing it sold for a reported $75M USD to Tinopolis Ltd. Davis’s television career spans over 17 years, from his start in post-production, rising to the executive ranks. Davis served as a freelance EIC on several successful programs, including the FOX hit, Kitchen Nightmares. Davis also is an industry leader when it comes to stunt-related programs, starting when he spent two years with CBS Eye Too Productions as the Executive in Charge and Line Producer on Discovery Channel’s hit series Stunt Junkies. Personally, John has been married to his wife Julie for 16 years, they have three kids, and enjoy an active lifestyle as a family living in Texas. He graduated from Southern Nazarene University in 1996, with a BS in Business Management.
Jeff Berg is the Co-Founder and CEO of Planning Center, a company dedicated to building quality management software specifically for churches. In 2007, while he was working at a church, he started developing the first Planning Center application to help the worship team plan their services and schedule their volunteers—an app now known as Services. The customer base grew quickly, so Jeff started working on the software full-time and brought more people onto the team to expand the product and build more applications. As someone who worked in ministry, Jeff understands the motivation behind the work of the church and is passionate about supporting them with tools to help make them more effective.
He believes in and wholeheartedly supports the work of Samaritan Aviation on behalf of missionaries around the world. He lives in San Diego with his wife Shannon and their three children where he runs Planning Center and is involved in a local church.
Stan Askren retired as Chairman and CEO of HNI Corporation in 2018 where he served as CEO for 15 years and served in various senior executive capacities for 26 years.
Mr. Askren previously worked for Emerson Electric and Thomson SA in various progressive management capacities. He is the Founder and CEO of Quiet Trail Advisory practice and currently serves on the Boards of Armstrong Worldwide Industries and Allison Transmissions. Mr. Askren is an advisor and consultant for Lean Focus, LLC., a lean consulting firm, and serves as an advisor to private equity firms and public company CEOs. Mr. Askren also serves as an advisor and/or board member to several not-for-profit and missions-based organizations.
Mr. Askren graduated with highest honors from University of Northern Iowa with a Bachelor of Business and has an MBA from Washington University and completed the Advanced Management Program at Harvard University.
He is married to Mona Askren and has three adult, married children.
Dr. Pilly Mapira is the president of the Public Health Association of Papua New Guinea and a Public Health Physician and Lecturer at the University of Papua New Guinea (UPNG), School of Medicine and Health Sciences (SMHS). She has had over 12 years of public health research and development experience including intermittent clinical practices in Papua New Guinea and abroad. Her research work not only produced the first scientific data on subclinical iodine deficiency among school children in PNG, but also advocated for the establishment of the first International Micronutrient Laboratory at the SMHS, UPNG and the first National Micronutrient Survey conducted in 2005 by the SMHS, National Department of Health, UNICEF and Centres for Disease Control.
As a medical student, Dr. Mapira did her rural health programs in the Gulf Province where she had to travel by canoe up the river for health patrols.
“I saw how difficult and remote it was for the people to excess not only quality health care services but education and other essential services. Although I had a heart and passion for promoting primary health in rural areas, the topography, transport and communication barrier was a huge discouragement. But few years later in 2015, a documentary of Samaritan Aviation on the discovery channel, shocked me into tears. Tears rolled down my eyes as I saw this tiny sea plane and a group of American volunteers and families in the middle of nowhere saving lives and delivering medical supplies. I was not only moved by what I saw but truly challenged and ashamed as a Papua New Guinean. Since then, I told myself that if there is any way, and anything I can do to help Samaritan Aviation so that they can maintain their services or even extend to other parts of the country with such difficult topography, I would do whatever it takes. I am very happy and excited to be part of a team that can truly live up to its name.”
Joy Schwertley was born and raised in South Africa. She has an interesting story to tell about growing up and being educated in this wonderful country. Joy decided from a very early age that she wanted to be involved with people and what made them tick, so she chose her future career in Psychology. After graduating from her University, she seized the opportunity of moving to a neighboring country NAMIBIA to study animal behavior. Soon she became involved in capturing and relocating wildlife to allow for conservation of all the interesting species. During Joy’s time spent in the bush, she captured Rhino, faced a Lion head on and raised 20 baby Zebra.
In 1995 Joy emigrated to the United States of America and settled in Cave Creek. Joy was proud of becoming an American Citizen in 2006. She started her business Discovery Profiling in 1996 and has been consulting with companies not only in the United States, but Internationally as well. Discovery Profiling Inc helps business owners increase their bottom line by focusing on their most important asset – their employees. Some of the services provided by Discovery Profiling include, Assessments for hiring and selection, Employee development, Team Building, Conflict resolution, Coaching and Sales Development, to name a few.
Joy has performed some very interesting research on human behavior and values in successful businesses and applies her knowledge to assist her clients in growing and improving their companies.
Focusing on human potential is not Joy’s job, it is her passion.
Born and raised in Louisiana, Dr. Rick Merritt has southern wit and charm along with a dedicated drive for excellence. He has been married thirty-three years to his wife Judith Merritt. They have three children and nine grandchildren. Rick is the founder and president of Heart and Soul Family Counseling Services.
He served eight years in the military before resigning to civilian life and devoting himself to full time ministry in Yuma, AZ. It was there in Yuma that he got involved in mission work to Kenya, Africa, and has lead multiple mission teams to Kenya over the years. His pastorate experience began as the Associated Pastor in his mother’s church in 1990; which lead to his personal calling and ministry three years later and has been in the ministry ever since.
Rick is currently the lead pastor at 180 Faith Ministries in Vista, CA. reaching the Tri-City North County and San Diego area as well as having significant influence with the troops at Camp Pendleton and Miramar since 1996.
Dr. Merritt is currently partnering through his private practice Heart & Soul Family Counseling Services with the Chaplin’s Association at both Camp Pendleton and Miramar Bases to help service members, their marriages, and family heal after being ravaged by ten plus years of war. This partnership has allowed him to participate in their “Marriage Family & Parenting” Expos held at Camp Pendleton and Miramar for the last several years.
Educated with his Ph.D. in Pastoral Care and Clinical Counseling from Minnesota Graduate School of Theology; he is a certified MFT (Marriage Family Therapist), and belongs to the American Academy of Clinical Family Therapists Association, along with other certifications from Light University and the American Association of Christian Counselors in; Addiction & Recovery with the 12 step program form Celebrate Recovery; Premarital & Marital Coaching, Acute Stress Grief and Trauma Care, Crisis and First Responder Training, along with PTSD & Combat Stress Coaching. He has been on the ground floor working with the U.S. Veteran’s Department as a clinical psychologist in their pilot program “The Aspire Center” located in San Diego, CA. Dr. Merritt is heavily engaged with this initiative and also leads assessments for service members with PTSD and Readjustment challenges that helps them integrate back into civilian life.
Rick said this about his Advisory Board Member role with Samaritan Aviation, “The opportunity to serve on the Samaritan Aviation advisory board is a privilege and honor that culminates all of my mission efforts thus far. I’ve been informed of the efforts and ministry involvements of Samaritan Aviation through Bryan Yeager the COO, a friend of over twenty years. I look forward to being a part of God’s plans for the future of Samaritan Aviation and the opportunity to serve with such an excellent ministry.”
Jason is the CEO for Kendall Farms. Kendall Farms began in 1987 when Jason’s father David Kendall purchased the first 50 acres of what is now a 500 acre farm in hills outside of Fallbrook, CA. When David passed away in 2004, Jason along with other family members and friends poured passion and dedication into what David started and have grown this farm into an award winning company producing some of the most beautiful and exotic flowers in North America.
Jason and his family have been close friends with the Palm’s for years sharing like interests in aviation, surfing but especially the mission work Samaritan Aviation is doing in Papua New Guinea.
Jason is family man. He and his wife, Danielle, met at Point Loma Nazarene University, and they now have two children, a son and a daughter.
Philemon Wachara and Bryan Yeager (who is the COO of Samaritan Aviation) met in Nairobi, Kenya in 1987. As a young man working his way through school, Philemon began working with Bryan as they were establishing a church in one of the largest slums in East Africa. A few years later, Philemon became the Senior Pastor of this church and helped it grow to over 3,000 members. Philemon is the Bishop of Harvest Center Fellowship which is a denomination with churches in Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania, and now the United States. In 2002, he led the way in starting Grace Harvest Academy, an elementary school that has won numerous awards for the quality of education that it provides for children in the community. Bishop Philemon holds a Masters in Theology Religious Studies and Church Leadership and is also the Senior Pastor of Presence Community Church in Flagstaff, Arizona.
Advisory Board Member Patrick Clowes is a licensed attorney and a Real Estate Broker. Patrick has served as a senior executive in several corporations and non-profits. He served as Vice President of Human Resources and Administration for Promise Keepers. He has a B.S. in Business Administration and a J.D. from the University Of Colorado School Of Law. He has taught college courses in Negotiations, Conflict Management, Business Ethics, and Business Law. His early career was in urban missions. “My experiences working with Samaritan Aviation in the US and in Papua New Guinea have been some of the most rewarding I’ve ever known.” Patrick has been a Board Member since 2010.
Bruce Johnson has been serving with Samaritan Aviation as an Aviation Advisory Board Member since 2006. He has been a strategic voice and help for our organization providing flight training, aircraft equipment consultation and participating with his wife Bonnie in Samaritan’s program launch in Papua New Guinea. He and his wife Bonnie have spent many years engaged in mission and aviation ministries. Bruce has served aviation ministry participating in strategic program planning, aircraft acquisition, flight training and program fund raising. He has developed seaplane flight-training programs and trained pilots for African Inland Mission and Samaritan Purse in Kenya, Uganda and Tanzania, East Africa. In 2007 he served as member of the Strategic Planning Group for Evangelism and Mission Aviation, Amazon Basin, Brazil and has also served in missions in Mexico and Ecuador. Bruce was very involved in the early formation of Quest Aircraft Company and served on the board from (2003-04). Bruce is currently a team member with World Mission / Dolsys participating in efforts to set up seaplane operations servicing the church and Island people of Lake Victoria as well as providing aviation support to Vine Trust hospital ship operations in Tanzania.
Bruce has forty years of aviation experience flying experience in Alaska (1973-2013) with over 10,000 hours of seaplane flight time). His aviation background includes Commercial Instrument, Single Engine, Multi Engine Sea, Kenmore Air Harbor, Kurtzer Flying Service Seattle, Wa. His education includes AAS Sciences degree from Washington State. Bruce served two tours in the Navy and participated on the Apollo 10 and 11 recovery efforts in the South Pacific as well as Riverboat duty while in Vietnam. Bruce and Bonnie’s home Church is First Christian at Sandpoint, Idaho. He and Bonnie serve as Husband/Wife Mission Team Committee Members. Bruce was born in Seattle and married his lovely wife Bonnie and they have two children, Jessica and Megan.
Matthew Palm is a founding board member of Samaritan Aviation. He has served as the lead pastor for Hope Church in Vista, California for the past eight years. He’s been married over 24 years to his high school sweetheart Melissa and has three boys: David, James, and Jason.
With over 20 years of pastoral experience, he brings a pastor’s heart to every conversation that the board of Samaritan Aviation has. The message is simply that we should care about the people that everybody else walks by. His heart is that we are truly living out the story of the Good Samaritan as an organization, and we never forget the reasons why we do what we do.
Mike Bantz is a civil engineer working as the Pacific Area Manager for CDM Constructors Inc., which is an engineering and construction company that designs and builds water and wastewater treatment plants throughout the world. Mike has been working in the construction industry for 20 years and his area performs over $100 Million in business per year. Mike was first inspired by the Samaritan Aviation dream in 2005 and has been involved with the ministry ever since. Most recently, he was able to visit Wewak in November 2013 to evaluate the suitability of land for building our compound. He was amazed at how powerfully God is working through Samaritan Aviation in Papua New Guinea. Mike lives in San Diego with his wife, Lynda, and three wonderful children. Mike and Lynda have been shaped by short-term missions work in their early years and feel very blessed to be a part of Samaritan Aviation now. Mike received a B.S. from the University of Colorado in 1994 and is a Professional Engineer.
Rex is a licensed Marriage and Family Therapist (MFT) in north county San Diego. After completing his undergraduate degree in Therapeutic and Community Psychology from Point Loma Nazarene University in 1999, Rex married his wife of now 16 years, Michelle, and shortly after this was accepted to graduate school of Psychology at Fuller Theological Seminary. Rex went on to complete his Master of Arts degree in Marriage and Family Therapy from Fuller Theological Seminary in 2004 and has worked in several different capacities, including providing therapy to autistic children and their families, serving on a research team, gaining some experience in a private practice setting, and working primarily in a residential treatment facility with at-risk foster children and adolescents. Currently Rex serves as the clinical director for a private non-profit residential educational program for foster youth called San Pasqual Academy.
Rex and his wife met the Palms in the early 2000s and from the very early stages, he was able to learn about and participate in the Samaritan Aviation ministry. He was able to serve alongside Mark on several short medical missions trips into Baja, Mexico where he provided some practical support and Spanish translation to some of the medical professionals providing services to many of the migrant workers who had no access to basic medical care. For more than a decade, Rex and his wife and have supported the Samaritan Aviation ministry financially, emotionally, and through consistent prayer. In 2018, Rex became SA’s key Ambassador for Southern California. They are currently planning for a trip to Papua New Guinea to see the ministry firsthand.
Paul Forehand is a professional pilot, flight instructor, and former flight school owner. While visiting the Experimental Aircraft Associations AirVenture in Oshkosh, WI in July of 2015, Paul noticed an article written about Samaritan Aviation in the daily newspaper. He was prompted to make the trip over to the seaplane base to learn more about their mission and see their second airplane. After talking with Mark Palm about the services SA was providing, it became clear to Paul that a second plane was critical for the operation to be most effective. Paul returned to his church in North Carolina and shared what he had learned with two mens groups. Both agreed to help support SA with monthly donations. In February of 2016, Pauls church was starting a focus on missions, local and world-wide. Bryan Yeager was invited to come and speak. As a result, the church as a whole supports SA.
“Providing life saving services opens the door for the real work of sharing Gods love with the people of PNG”.
Paul and his wife of 30 years, Diana, live in Garner, NC. They have three grown children and four grandchildren.
John is the senior pastor at New Life Church in Kingman, Arizona. At the age of twenty-two John responded to God’s calling and entered the ministry. Since 1984, John has filled many roles as a member and staff member with New Life Church and becoming the senior pastor several years ago. In 1991 John founded a highly successful ministry called Jacob’s Ladder which is a recovery program for chemical dependency and anger management issues. The court system in Kingman has sent large numbers of people through Jacob’s Ladder once released from incarceration. John and New Life Church support Samaritan Aviation as well as several other mission organizations and missionaries.