Bush Pilots Play Key Role in Alaskan Ministry

By Stan Friedman

UNALAKLEET, AK (December 2, 2011) – The Tweto family, which is featured in the Discovery Channel’s hit Bush pilot reality show “Flying Wild Alaska,” have flown Covenanters for years and demonstrate a deep concern for youth in the region, say those who know them.

The reality show features the family as well as other employees at Era Alaska, where Jim Tweto serves as chief operating officer. The family includes Jim’s wife, Ferno, and their two daughters, Ariel and Ayla.

The airline sometimes is the only link between the villages in the Alaska Bush, where no roads exist. Episodes have shown the airline transporting an ill villager for medical care, needed supplies, and even the first ATM to be situated in a remote community.

“We all fly them as much as possible,” says Lynda Bekoalok, a member of the Shaktoolik Covenant Church. “They are hometown folks serving their neighbors. They do an incredible service to our area.”

She recalls the time that her husband Gary’s nephew died, and how the family was struggling to find a way to get a casket and cross to Koyuk, where the funeral service was held.

“The men in our village make beautiful handmade caskets and crosses,” Bekoalok says. “For this particular funeral, they had planned to take the casket and cross by boat. The weather turned rough and Jim Tweto, being the incredible person he is, offered to fly the casket, the cross and family members to Koyuk.”

The Twetos “do all they can for the people who live in our remote area of the world,” Bekoalok quickly adds.

The Twetos have shown a great generosity to Alaskan youth. Although they do not attend any church, the family has provided discounted flights for Covenant Bible Camp and Covenant Youth of Alaska (CYAK) regional events. CYAK coordinates youth leaders, churches and volunteers focused on ministering to students between the ages of 12 and 25. The ministry ranges from running a youth group in a small village to equipping students for life with vocational training and Christian mentoring.

The Twetos have another kind of connection with Curtis Ivanoff, the Evangelical Covenant Church of Alaska field director. Ferno is his cousin – her mother and his father were sister and brother. When Ariel Tweto was in the seventh grade, she was a manager for the high school girls basketball team when he was coaching in Unalakleet.

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