A Bridge Through the Jungle

By Rachel Greco

After receiving training at JAARS as a pilot-mechanic, Jeremiah Diedrich went with his family to serve with SIL Brazil, a JAARS aviation partner, in 2006.

In 2016, Jeremiah returned to the United States to train as a helicopter pilot and flight instructor. Then he returned to Brazil to help Ethnos360 Aviation start a helicopter program in northwestern Brazil.

The people in northwestern Brazil are asking people to bring them the gospel—to come stay and work on translating God’s Word with them. “This part of Brazil has a lot of work going on among the [local] people,” Jeremiah explained. “There are a lot of requests for people to come in and share the gospel, to translate God’s Word into their language, to plant churches, and to work in areas of community development.”

Jeremiah serves a missionary family in Brazil

But this is one of the hardest-to-access areas in Brazil, a huge country. Few villages have runways, and due to regulations and logistical hurdles, there isn’t a good way to build more. So a helicopter is the best way to meet the transportation need. Almost every village has a soccer field, which makes an almost-perfect landing pad for a helicopter.

A Bridge to the People in Brazil

Jeremiah loved serving the people of Brazil and connecting the mission workers, whether they were from other parts of Brazil or the West, to those who crave God’s love: “Being able to be that bridge to see these people that God has called to go and give their lives, to invest in these people, learn their language and their culture, becoming part of their village, and showing them the love of Christ. And then telling them the love of Christ. [I loved] being the bridge that gets [the mission workers] to where they can actually do that.”

Just like you and others who give to Aviation Solutions, Jeremiah was one link in the chain that made it possible for people to jump that last 150 miles of impassable jungle to share the gospel.

“That’s been phenomenal. It’s allowed us to be a part—a small part, but a critical part—of so many ministries of the spiritual heritage and story of so many different [local] people,” Jeremiah said.

He and his family were also blessed to watch the villagers grow in their love for one another and their love for the Lord, all because of what Christ had done in their hearts through the gospel.

One time, while flying a fixed-wing aircraft, Jeremiah needed to get cargo to a village but couldn’t take it all on one flight due to the runway’s weight limit. Another village of a different people group was three miles away. Jeremiah decided to take some of the cargo and people to the second village, come back and pick up the rest of the cargo, go out once more, and then head back to the city.

He and a mission worker landed and came to a stop next to a little school building in the first village. A group of men whom they knew as brothers in Christ came out of the building.

The group told Jeremiah that they were having a Bible study. Some of the Scripture and material was in Portuguese, but some had been translated into their language. How neat that these men were studying God’s Word of their own accord!

Another time, Jeremiah and another pilot, Craig Russell, who now serves as the JAARS vice president of transportation, had to drop cargo from a Cessna 206 for a mission worker serving another people group. For this drop, they had to take the doors off the back of the aircraft so they could throw the cargo out. Jeremiah and Craig were to start the flight from a village only about 20 minutes from the drop point.

While they pulled the doors off the plane and were preparing to take off, the pastor of the village came over and asked what they were doing.

After they explained, the pastor left and returned with a group of men. “Before you take off, we’re going to pray,” he told the pilots.

When the pilots returned from dropping the cargo off, the pastor and other men were waiting on the side of the runway and came over to see if the flight had succeeded. Then they praised the Lord together.

“It was amazing to be there with brothers in Christ who 30 years before weren’t brothers in Christ,” Jeremiah recalled. “Thirty years before, they were slaves to fear, slaves to ancestral spirits that they worshipped, to the forces of Satan that kept them in fear and in a state of being enemies with those around them. Just seeing a radical transformation to brothers in Christ [who] wanted to see us help this neighboring [people] was amazing.”

JAARS Training

Jeremiah used the training he had received at JAARS during Pre-Field Orientation (PFO) for that cargo drop, his first, and he was thankful: “With the training that we received, we were prepared to do that kind of a drop: how to set it up safely, how to mitigate the risks, and how to accurately hit the spot in the middle of the jungle.”

The clearing was about 300 feet wide—about the length of a football field—which is pretty small when you’re flying across the treetops at 70 knots (80 miles per hour)! With the knowledge and skills acquired from PFO, Jeremiah and Craig were able to deliver important cargo to the mission workers: food, medicine, and a new HF (high-frequency) radio.

Cargo waiting to loaded in the fixed-wing airplane

Jeremiah used his training from JAARS every day in Brazil: “We flew into short runways in Amazon weather conditions, which are pushing your judgment so that you fly when you can, but you don’t fly when you shouldn’t. We had scenarios where, with the fixed-wing [aircraft], every day we flew into places that pushed the limitations of the aircraft.”

Because of his training, he was able to do this challenging flying and landed thousands of times, doing it safely and consistently every time.

What’s Next?

Jeremiah is now transitioning into serving at JAARS as a helicopter instructor. After getting his feet wet in this new role by helping transition Christopher Clark to fly helicopters in Papua New Guinea, he will be using his knowledge of Brazil and experience there for his next assignment.  Jeremiah and his family have left for Brazil for a four-month assignment: to train a new helicopter pilot for that program they helped start in northwestern Brazil with Ethnos360 Aviation.

The pilot, Bruno, was previously a fixed-wing instructor at Asas de Socorro, a JAARS aviation partner in Brazil. Jeremiah will do Bruno’s field checkout, which consists of flying in the environment. According to Jeremiah, “Amazon weather will eat you for lunch if you don’t understand it.”

They’ll be flying during rainy season, which means 12 to 14 hours of rain a day and tackling how to do that in a helicopter when you can’t fly in the clouds. And then they’ll be flying through transition season, when there’s less rain, but more thunderstorms—some of which are 500 miles long!

Jeremiah has his work cut out for him, but he’s well-equipped for the task, thanks to people like you giving to Aviation Training.

Praise God for the tool of the helicopter, which is the only efficient way of reaching the people in northwestern Brazil who are hungry for the gospel!

Join us in praying that God keeps Jeremiah and Bruno safe in the upcoming months and that the gospel will continue transforming lives in Brazil!