New Tribes wants to expand its operation in McNeal, Arizona.  Is it safe?  (Updated April 7, 2010)

The April 14 County Planning & Zoning Commission meeting will consider the New Tribes airport application for expansion.

The New Tribes airfield in McNeal, Arizona, has applied for a Special Use Permit to add a 6-bedroom "guest house that will be available to visiting friends and families of" New Tribes, a gymnasium "for interior recreation for [New Tribes] personnel and their families," and "6 new homes for staff families in addition to the 25 homes already on the property."  Here's a link to the New Tribes letter describing what it wants:

This discussion opposes the permit, and states why.

I.    New Tribes background

The New Tribes airfield here (aka Tribal Air) is a subsidiary of a missionary organization headquartered in Sanford, Florida.  Around the world, there are about 3300 New Tribes missionaries.  Here's a link to the headquarters homepage
and here's a link to a Wikipedia article about New Tribes

New Tribes says its mission is to reach tribes -- New Tribes's own Bible Institute calls them "heathens" -- who have not yet been exposed to Christianity.  Actually, out in the field, New Tribes also combats specific other varieties of Christianity.  For instance, the webpage at
says "Papua New Guinea is now 94% Christian.  Yet missionaries still arrive in droves.  Why?  For the simple reason that they are now importing their denominational bickering into the country....  [T]he New Tribes Mission ... tells the confused Papua New Guinean that the papacy is the antichrist."

Starting about 1981, New Tribes used Bisbee Douglas International airport.  In 1991, New Tribes moved to McNeal.  Here's its website:
New Tribes is located on a square mile whose west edge is just under 2000' from the intersection of Davis Road and US 191.

New Tribes came to McNeal solely to teach pilots and mechanics for its worldwide activities.  To get a Special Use Permit in 1991, New Tribes promised to benefit the McNeal community, but the airfield's main effect may have been to make nearby property harder to sell, because of the constant airplane and helicopter noise and flights -- as to which, New Tribes has a history of violating the terms of its permit.

New Tribes in McNeal began with 25 homes.  Over the years, New Tribes people have built about a dozen homes just west of the airfield, and could keep on building in that area, if the only goal were more housing.  New Tribes is, however, choosing to turn back inside its square mile and develop what seems to be becoming a compound which will increase New Tribes isolation from the community.
 New Tribes wants to build a gym, and a 6-bedroom guest house, for New Tribes use only.  That looks like a push to create a private vacation center, or maybe even a boarding school.

I've been accused of having a "vendetta" against New Tribes.  There's no vendetta.  What there is, is resistance to New Tribes's failure to abide by the terms of the permits the County has issued, and dislike of New Tribes's conduct in what I hoped would be neighborly discussions.  New Tribes seems to assume that whatever it wants, is right, and that the facts, the law, and everyone outside New Tribes must give way to whatever New Tribes wants.  It's not a vendetta to react in self-defense when New Tribes acts that way.

Nor is this an attack on New Tribes people.  I've never met one that I didn't like personally.  But in their official capacity with New Tribes, they do things that they would never do, if they were simply individuals dealing with their neighbors.  New Tribes, like any big organization, has goals of its own.  Its goals are discussed in Section II below.  Its actual practices may hurt people:  its own people, the people it targets, and its neighbors.  This is discussed in Section III.

II.    New Tribes, in theory

New Tribes tells its own story at
    "Of the world's 6,500 people groups, 2,500 are still unreached.
    "New Tribes Mission helps local churches train, coordinate and send missionaries to these tribes.
    "The NTM missionary team learns the tribal language and understands the culture, so the message of the Gospel can be presented in the language and the manner the people will understand.
    "They translate God's Word, teach people how to read and write their own language, and teach through the Bible chronologically, laying a foundation for the Gospel among people who have never met the God of the Bible."

Here's a video showing New Tribes preaching:
In fact, a search of "New Tribes" on leads to many videos posted by members of the organization.  This material is mentioned here so that the reader may look at New Tribes on its own terms.

In the United States, New Tribes missionary training takes place at New Tribes Bible Institute ("NTBI"), a 2-year school.  You can enroll if you are 17 and have finished high school, or been home-schooled to that level.

A catalog of NTBI courses is at
NTBI's courses do not merely teach NTBI's own variety of Christianity, they also criticize specific other varieties of religion generally considered to be "at home" in America.  From NTBI's catalog:
    EV048 MORMONISM ... contrasting how Mormon beliefs differ from Scripture, and teaching how to challenge Mormons to correctly consider the claims of Christ.
    EV018 JEHOVAH WITNESSES ... how to effectively challenge their beliefs ....
    EV070 CONTEMPORARY AMERICAN CULTS ... Scientology, Christian Science, and Seventh-Day Adventism.... the differences between Biblical Christianity and these religions ....
    EV017 THE NEW AGE MOVEMENT ... the history, roots, goals and teachings of the New Age Movement, and teaches biblical responses for the believer to those we meet who may be involved.
    TH177 ANTHROPOLOGY/HARMARTIOLOGY ... the doctrine of man (Anthropology) and sin (Harmartiology).  Anthropology includes the creation and fall of man, his material and immaterial parts (the body, soul, and spirit), his state of innocence, fall and depravity.  Harmartiology looks at the definitions and origins of sin in the universe.  [Note:  Obviously, at NTBI, "anthropology" has no relationship to the normal meaning of the word; and as to "harmartiology," the Greek word is "hamartiology" -- it starts with "ham," not "harm" -- and the concept of hamartia -- not "harmartia" -- isn't really "sin," but something like "deficient performance at a crucial time, with long-term consequences."  "Harmartiology" is the greatest show of scholarship that NTBI puts on; misspelling the word, twice, should be embarrassing.]

Of course a religious school will teach its own beliefs, but NTBI also teaches how to combat specific other varieties of religion.  One course, EV070, "Contemporary American Cults," is especially revealing.  The course is about Scientology, Christian Science, and Seventh-Day Adventism.  Scientology, invented by science fiction writer L. Ron Hubbard, is about ten years younger than New Tribes, and whatever you think of Scientology, it has far more members than New Tribes.  Christian Science is almost 150 years old and has between half a million and a million members.  Seventh-Day Adventism is a little older than Christian Science, and has about 16 million members.  New Tribes reveals a self-centered view of the world when it calls those groups cults.

New Tribes also looks down on mainstream American Christianity. The webpage at
states "the fundamentalist New Tribes Mission maintains a strict 'separation policy' prohibiting any of its missionaries from belonging to any church that is a member of the" National Council of Churches.  The National Council of Churches has a webpage at
that says its members "encompass a wide spectrum of American Christianity ... Protestant, Orthodox, Evangelical, Anglican, and African-American, historic peace churches and ethnic-language immigrant churches.  They include more than 100,000 local congregations and 45 million persons in the United States.  Beyond these member communions, more than 50 faith groups, from Roman Catholic to Pentecostal, participate in the Council's work ...."  New Tribes's strict separation from all of those churches is an indicator that New Tribes, which freely throws the word "cult" at religious groups that are much older and larger than New Tribes, itself fosters a cult-like state of mind.

After NTBI, New Tribes has another one or two years of training for missionaries and support staff.  As to the New Tribes operation in McNeal, it exists to train pilots and mechanics for its flights in undeveloped areas of the world.

III.    New Tribes, in practice

As noted near the beginning of this article, New Tribes's practice differs from its theory.  Although practical divergence from theory is not necessarily harmful, New Tribes may be committing actual harm in three ways, discussed below:  worldwide issues of child abuse and genocide, and the local issue of how New Tribes in McNeal treats its neighbors.

A.    New Tribes hurting its own:  covering up child abuse?

There are many allegations of New Tribes child abuse at boarding schools for "missionary kids" ("MK"s), and a long coverup.  The allegations are being investigated on two main tracks, and things may come to a head within a month.  At present, the allegations cannot be accepted as proven beyond a reasonable doubt, but they do suggest that before New Tribes in McNeal is allowed to go down the road to becoming a self-centered compound, the allegations should be considered.  It would be irresponsible for the County to ignore such allegations, before letting the local organization expand.

1.    One investigatory track is from New Tribes "missionary kids," MKs, themselves.  See
Almost all MKs remain devoted Christians, but are distressed that New Tribes is protecting its organization, but neglecting abused children.

LET'S BE CLEAR:  The MKs are not criticizing what New Tribes believes, only how New Tribes lets down its beliefs.  Almost all the MK criticisms are strongly pro-Christian.  Any suggestion otherwise would be a large red herring.

If you browse around on, and go to
you will see, at the top right of that page:
        "The Mik's story along with the communication between
    NTM proves that leadership knew and did not act....  what we
    find especially damaging is the abuse of leadership who
    chose not to protect us at the time ... and who have still
    not repented nor sought justice for us today, 20 years
At the top of
you will find these allegations about the institution:
        "... Most of the anonymous commenters are not MK's, but
    are former and current NTM missionaries who are righteously
    and rightfully indignant about being lied to by leadership
    about the type of environment they were placing their child
        "... imagine this scenario if you will.  You place your
    very young child into a boarding school where the child care
    provider (let's call him Uncle D) has no qualifications or
    training to work with children.  You are not informed that
    he also has at least one current claim of sexual abuse
    against him by a child....
        "One child claims Uncle D was sexually inappropriate
    with her.... but after Uncle D claims innocence and because
    the school has a shortage of workers the case is dropped,
    without talking to the child, or you, the child's parent, or
    any of the children's parents.
        "Now imagine one year later, another child ... claims
    she was molested by this same man...  She tells her father
    who ... contacts the school.  School officials believe her
    dad is making the story up ....
        "[Uncle D] admits he molested several of the girls at
    the school, but as he is already leaving the school due to
    personal issues the matter ... is dropped ... and in fact
    when parents try to get information they are admonished by
    the school officials to stop gossiping."
Further down that same page, there's a reaction to the example of "Uncle D:"
        "Consider the guest book entry by a person who checks
    this blog almost daily, hoping to see that New Tribes
    Mission has taken a firm stand and are fully supportive of
    'the least of these' - the children, now adults - who were
    harmed in what an NTM leader himself has called 'those dark
    days at the boarding school.'
        "This person wants to post anonymously, concerned lest
    their 'New Tribes affiliation could possibly backfire on'
        "How?  How could their New Tribes affiliation possibly
    'backfire' on them for openly 'rooting for both New Tribes
    to be who they can be [and] for the adult Mks'?...
        "How could there be the slightest hint of suspicion
    that NTM leaders would object to their missionaries'
    publicly declaring themselves in favor of justice?  Why does
    this guest fear the consequences of saying they are against
    child sexual abuse, that they are outraged at the conduct of
    the leaders with respect to this situation and they want NTM
    to take a firm stand?...
        "A New Tribes Mission Executive Board member told the
    bloggers:  'I can assure you that we have changed our
    leadership style and the way we work with people.'  Yet,
    their missionaries react with this kind of fear and
    intimidation?  What kind of 'leadership style' is at work
    here?  By whom, and to what end?  And, how?"
If you search for "quilliam," you will find
        " Ever since I was a teenager I have felt a bit like
    NTM is a law into itself.  Anyone can join, hide behind God,
    do whatever they like and nothing can be done about it!
    They claimed they were Christians guided by God and, thus,
    always did the right thing."

Also see
for more about an organizational coverup.  Also, there has been unsettling conduct, apparently not handled well, at the New Tribes headquarters in Florida.  See

2.    The other investigatory track is from an organization called GRACE, "Godly Response To Abuse In the Christian Environment," at

GRACE is a very serious organization.  It was begun by Boz Tchividjian, Billy Graham's grandson.  The GRACE page mentioned above includes:
        "... In the last 10 years, there have been an average
    of 70 child abuse allegations against American churches
    every week.  And those who survive child abuse face a
    lifetime of spiritual, emotional, and physical challenges.
        "The financial costs of child abuse are staggering.
    Child abuse costs this country more than $94 billion each
    year.  That translates to $258 million per day or $1,462
    annually for every household in the United States.  Within
    the Christian community, law suits were a result of 21% of
    the allegations made against Christian churches.  Child
    abuse has been both spiritually and financially devastating
    to the Christian community."
GRACE is working to find a real solution for such problems.

The webpage at
gives an upbeat update on GRACE's investigation of the allegations about New Tribes.  A September 7, 2009, posting includes:
        "In a nutshell GRACE's position on what occurred at
    Fanda and other schools around the world and in the church
    is this:  GRACE hates sin and coverups....  God does not
    excuse injustices committed in the name of the 'greater
    good'.  In fact He abhors it.  Doing good works is not an
    excuse.  The church (mission) is culpable spiritually and
    criminally for covering up."
As of this writing, the latest update on that page, dated February 23, includes
        "About 15 former MKs share[d] their stories in
    individual interviews with the Grace team.  Grace asked
    intelligent questions and displayed appropriate outrage
    about what happened at Fanda and the resulting NTM
    coverup....  Grace will speak to many more MKs and Ms
    (missionaries and former missionaries) in the next month and
    they are shooting for final recommendations by end of
    spring/early summer."
Sometime between April and June of 2010, the situation should be clarified.

B.    New Tribes hurting the people it targets:  Genocide?

For example, four tribes in South America:
-- the Zo'e; see
-- the Ayoreo; see
-- the Yuqu; see

-- and the Nukak; see

One reads of things like "heathens" being hunted down using airplanes as spotters, though sometimes people flee to new territories; reduced to handouts from missionaries, and dependence on corporations who destroy the tribal way of life; reduced in numbers by diseases brought in by missionaries, who do not provide adequate treatment.  

As to the Far East, New Guinea in particular, the page at
    "New Tribes ... has stated that it is their intent to reach
    and preach to every 'dark corner' of the planet.  But the
    people of West Papua have declared missionaries to be one of
    the 4 biggest threats to free peoples -- one of the biggest
    reasons being that they build airstrips in remote jungles
    which are eventually used by businessmen, corporations and
    military personnel.  First comes Christianity, then comes
    Coca Cola."
Opening up new airfields is, of course, inseparable from New Tribes's mission.  There is quite a bit of sociological discussion on the net about problems caused by well-meaning missionaries.

C.  New Tribes hurting its neighbors in McNeal

This of course is much less important, on a global scale, than the above two issues; but it is an important issue for McNeal.

New Tribes did not appear to get its original permit to move to McNeal in a completely straightforward manner, and did not completely follow the permit after getting it.

In 1991, New Tribes asked for a Special Use Permit to operate in McNeal.  New Tribes said it
    "... proposes to use this property as a Private Airport and Resident Housing for Tribal Air personnel....
    "... we plan on doing all we can to be good neighbors ....
    "We feel the proposed use of this property will ... increase, not only the value of this particular section of land, but also of the surrounding properties."
    "... single and twin engine small aircraft ... will each fly about six (6) flights per day Monday through Friday for a total of about 24 flights.  No other aircraft will use the field ....
    "4.  ... flights will be directed away from McNeal townsite, to the north, south and east ....
    "5.  ... twenty-five (25) housing units are proposed for staff and pilot trainees...."

On May 20, 1991, the Board Of Supervisors approved the permit, modified to allow six (up from the requested four) aircraft, with operations "to be conducted during Visual Flight Rule (VFR) Conditions only" and "Flight patterns to reflect patterns on approved plans, weather and traffic permitting".

The Board meeting was not pretty.  McNeal residents Tom and Florence Bohmfalk lived next to the airfield long before New Tribes arrived (now there is a row of houses, occupied by New Tribes people, between the Bohmfalks and the airfield).  The Bohmfalks wrote a description which was printed in the September 1992 issue of the Pearce "Sunsiter," and included:
    "... this 'hearing' was a travesty of justice....
    "... a representative for the petitioners made a statement ....  The representative had been in our home and given us a completely different story ....
    "...  Larger planes are being flown in and out than they stated would be used.  We believe there will ultimately be a further erosion of the tax base because this organization will seek to claim tax exempt status as a religious entity....
    "... These people change their story to suit the moment and the audience....  they intend to do whatever they wish believing no one can stop them...."

As predicted, New Tribes did, in the following years, try to "stretch" its permit.  On March 2, 1993, a Planning Department employee noted noise complaints; New Tribes said it would re-emphasize the proper flight patterns to its pilots.  In 1993, there was a complaint about New Tribes planes flying over the McNeal school; New Tribes stopped that.  In 1995, New Tribes attempted to add a fire station next to the Bohmfalks' property, but gave up after intense opposition.  From 1999 to 2000, New Tribes kept a helicopter, though its permit allowed only fixed-wing aircraft.

Things settled down then, but in 2007 New Tribes began systematic violations of its permit, by flying planes directly toward, over, and around McNeal, sometimes very low, often ten or more times per hour, five or six hours at a time.  Flights, instead of avoiding McNeal by landing from the east and turning east after takeoff, often landed from the west and turned west after takeoff, putting flights on all sides of McNeal.  Helicopter flights began, and the airport housed more planes than permitted (with at least one plane not from New Tribes) plus the nonpermitted helicopter.

This writer, who lives in McNeal, attempted a neighborly resolution with New Tribes.  We met on June 28, 2007.  During the meeting, New Tribes argued that if there was even the smallest amount of wind, New Tribes could fly any patterns it wanted -- an assertion which would nullify the conditions in the 1991 permit.  New Tribes argued that it can do anything the permit doesn't forbid.  New Tribes did not dispute that it was housing more planes than allowed, including a friendly rancher's airplane.  New Tribes claimed that a helicopter was the same as a fixed-wing plane, as far as the permit was concerned.  New Tribes added that the copter, and its pilots, would be gone by Fall; but New Tribes did not mention that they would be replaced by others.  In short, New Tribes took several insupportable positions.

My goal was to end the New Tribes violations, so I bent over backwards to be conciliatory, but New Tribes refused to continue the discussion in the following days, and continued flights that were totally improper.  New Tribes also met with the Planning Department; New Tribes's letter to the Department closed "Your help is greatly appreciated in accurately determining if Mr. Jackson's concerns are valid."  However, New Tribes's letter only raised three of the concerns I had raised in the meeting.  The Department should have included me in the discussion, but did not, and New Tribes got to present "my" case "its" way, without my knowledge.  Not very neighborly of New Tribes.

On October 25, 2007, after the one-sided discussion, New Tribes submitted a formal request to modify its permit to allow nine aircraft, including one helicopter.  On December 24, the Bohmfalks, who had also opposed the permit in 1991, submitted a written statement including:
    "... It has been our experience that NTM feels it is bigger and more powerful than mere individuals and can and will push for its goals similar to a bully in a schoolyard.  The [1991] hearing ... was a total farce and a waste of time....
    "It is our feeling that this present request for modification is only being done to give NTM the appearance of legality....
    "... NTM has a history of forgetting its promises and flaunting its ability to do whatever it pleases whenever the mood strikes.  We have experienced buzzing of our house on an average of once a week.  There always seems to be a hot dog student who gets a high from doing something he/she shouldn't, and after the deed is done what can be said?  If we complain, a gopher appears at our door, hat in hand, says we're sorry.  This gets old.
    "We have a vehement opposition to the possibility of helicopters being allowed at all....  We have had to tolerate the fixed wings for 16 years.  Why do they need more?  At the first hearing it was stated that it was primarily a teaching facility; the planes were secondary....
    "... Before the first hearing one of NTM's representatives told us [that] our opposition ... didn't matter, it was a done deal and anyway the only others who could complain were in the cemetery, and 'They aren't going to say anything are they?'  Everyone connected with this organization has had that attitude from the outset.  They will read their audience and will say what that particular group wants to hear...."

On December 31, 2007, the Planning Department submitted a report in favor of the modification.  The report said New Tribes was "proposing to increase [the] number of permanently headquartered plans [from six fixed-wing aircraft] to nine (two additional fixed-wing aircraft and one helicopter)".  The report did not dwell on the fact that New Tribes had already been violating its permit by flying a helicopter, nor did the report express any incredulity at New Tribes's argument that a helicopter was allowed by a permit which specified fixed-wing aircraft.  Such considerations matter to Planning & Zoning Commissioner Lee Basnar, who often states that he is against "rewarding bad behavior" by changing permits to allow practices that have been done illegally.

The report added that New Tribes "has apparently been a good neighbor in the McNeal community for almost 17 years, with no formal complaints or violations logged [sic] with the Planning Department" -- despite the contents of the file in the years after 1991, and the lodging of "informal" complaints.

The report added that New Tribes was "not proposing an increase in the total number of monthly flight hours, which are currently 50 to 60 per month, but rather, dividing the existing hours among more aircraft." Actually, flights typically begin at 7:30 a.m. on weekdays, and last 4 to 5 hours; that amounts to about 90 to 100 hours per month.  If the hours per day were cut in half, down to 2 or 2.5 -- still over what New Tribes promised in order to get its original permit -- then living near the airport would be more tolerable.

The Planning & Zoning Commission heard New Tribes's application on January 9, 2008.  New Tribes had 17 letters "for," and 6 letters against -- but no Commissioner commented on the fact that most of the letters "for" were from people associated with New Tribes compound.  This writer spoke against the application, noting, among other things, two recent crashes of New Tribes helicopters in New Guinea, after their pilots were apparently trained here; New Tribes did not respond, nor did any Commissioner raise an eyebrow.

Early in the discussion at the meeting, New Tribes stated that it wanted another copter; but later in the discussion, New Tribes said it wanted no limit on the number of copters.  This change during the meeting makes it reasonable to wonder if New Tribes will once again switch during the upcoming meeting, and ask for something that it didn't ask for beforehand.

As to flying "well away from the McNeal Townsite located to west and south of the site," New Tribes stated that this requirement was interpreted differently by it and the County, and that this condition was not possible to follow.  As to flying during "daylight hours only," New Tribes stated that night flights had been sought for its original permit, and that New Tribes had to land at night for practice.  That assertion appeared to completely contradict every document submitted by New Tribes in 1991.  The Commission did not challenge New Tribes's statements.

The minutes of the meeting, posted at
show that limitations on the flight path, and daylight flights, were stricken, and two helicopters were allowed.

At least, however, New Tribes was still not allowed to fly directly over McNeal.  But after getting the expanded permit, New Tribes proceeded to push its new limits, just as it had pushed the limits of the original permit.

On January 16, 2008, I emailed Department employee Mike Turisk:  "This morning, generally around 8 to 9 am, a New Tribes plane was taking off right towards McNeal, due west from the airport.  I believe that violates a condition in the expanded permit.  If it does not, please explain to me why it doesn't."  Mr. Turisk emailed back:  "In order for your complaint to be considered as official, you must fill out a complaint form".  I wanted to avoid an official complaint, so I did not file an official form.

On February 6, 2008, I emailed New Tribes:  "about 3 minutes ago, a helicopter flew [from the] west [directly over McNeal] and landed at New Tribes.  One of yours; and in your opinion, is such a flight allowed by your expanded permit?"  New Tribes answered the next day that this was a "gyro-copter owned by a pilot from Bisbee.  This was NOT our aircraft nor our pilot.... we will [try] and ask him to avoid flying near McNeal."  New Tribes did not address the issue of the pilot's landing at this private airport, which is not permitted by the County.

On April 8, 2008, New Tribes conducted normal operations -- but April 8 was a Saturday, when New Tribes's permit does not allow flights.  More weekend flights have occurred since then.

On August 4, I sent a note to New Tribes about another plane flying directly over McNeal.  New Tribes said that the pilot was not a New Tribes pilot, and they would not name him.

Such flights have continued on and off.  McNeal residents don't log every violation, as they would if this were a vendetta.  McNeal residents are taking the adult role, but, for an organization that officially says it wants to be a good neighbor, New Tribes is, in practice, showing a lot of disrespect for its immediate neighbors.

Safety issues persist.  In May 2009, a New Tribes training flight crashed near Bisbee.  "The National Transportation Safety Board determines the probable cause(s) of this accident as follows:  The flight instructor's inadequate supervision of the flight and inadequate recovery from a bounced landing."  See

New Tribes flying is not necessarily an asset to McNeal.

IV.    Summing Up

An old story says that a bishop, when asked, "Why so much evil and suffering in the world?", answered "God does things in His public capacity which He deplores in His private capacity."  So with the good people at New Tribes.  In their public role, they do things which they would never do in their private lives.

Whatever New Tribes is permitted to do, New Tribes will, if it acts as it has in the past, push beyond the permit.  The only defense for the people of McNeal is to restrict the permit, not expand it.

There's also the question, Should New Tribes be permitted to take any more steps toward building a compound?  What does a 6-bedroom guest house, or a private gymnasium, have to do with training pilots and mechanics?  A dormitory and gymnasium look, in fact, a lot like the first steps toward a boarding school.  Given New Tribes's record with boarding schools, does the County want to rush to permit New Tribes to go down that road, so soon before the investigation of the allegations will conclude?