By Richard Shipman

JAARS has a well-deserved reputation as a leader in mission aviation training. For almost 70 years, JAARS has trained pilots who challenge mountains and jungles to land on primitive and dangerous airstrips so that the “roadless” people of the world can hear the Word of the Lord.  But as important as this mission is, there is another type of flying that also spreads the Word of the Lord—the kind Beth Latshaw does.

Beth currently flies 767s for United Airlines. She could very well be flying Kodiaks out of Papua New Guinea (PNG), except for the time and traditions of the era when she grew up. Beth has known about and been involved with JAARS most of her life. As a teenager, she took flying lessons through the JAARS flying club. She completed her private pilot and instrument qualifications at a nearby flight school. Interestingly, her instrument flight instructor at that school was Glenn Grubb, who subsequently became a JAARS-trained mission pilot. After obtaining her commercial pilot’s license, Beth then flew for a commercial airline for several years before being laid off.

Beth volunteered at JAARS while she searched for a new job. During that time, she questioned where her life and career were going and shared her discouragement with a JAARS pilot whom she met. He encouraged her to keep her faith in God and expressed assurance that she would be back in a cockpit soon “because God put that desire in your heart for a reason.”  Sure enough, she was soon back in the air with a new airline job, working her way up to her present Captain position.

Once a year, Beth swaps her United Airlines 767 for her PA-11 to volunteer at the JAARS Brigade Air Camp.

But just because Beth isn’t flying Bible translators in PNG doesn’t mean she is not sharing God’s word. “There’s a lot of time to chat with other crew members on long-haul flights,” comments Beth. “You can share your faith just in casual conversations. I have also engaged in faith discussions with people in other countries where I have flown.”

Beth also shares her faith through her volunteer work with Brigade Air, a Christian aviation program for teenagers. One week each summer, she swaps a 767 aircraft for her personal PA-11 Piper Cub Special so she can volunteer at the Brigade Air camp hosted by JAARS*.  Brigade Air conducts one-week summer camps throughout the United States to introduce teenagers to aviation and encourage them to serve the Lord. Kids 13–18 spend a week learning about aviation and the important role it plays in mission work.

Beth Latshaw with one of the Brigade Air campers from last year

During ground school, the campers study the basics of aviation with biblical correlations. They then take to the air with volunteer pilots in a variety of small general aviation aircraft. That’s where Beth comes in. She can share her faith, values and spiritual experience with youngsters in their formative teenage years.  “I really enjoy taking the kids flying and seeing their reaction. Flying has been such a big part of my life that I am happy to share that love with them. This is often a difficult time of life for them when they are not sure what they want to do in life, and I am glad to introduce them to flying and Christian service as one option.”

Beth Latshaw is a great example of how you don’t have to come from a traditional mission background to inspire the next generation of mission aviators.  She’ll be inspiring another group of Brigade Air campers in August 2021 when Brigade Air returns to JAARS for its annual camp following a one-year hiatus due to COVID-19.

The Brigade Air camps where Beth volunteers are just one example of the many activities JAARS supports through its Core Operations fund. Consider giving to this Solution fund so these important events and functions can continue. Thank you!

*As a precautionary measure due to the COVID-19 pandemic, we have canceled this year’s Brigade Air Camp. Mark your calendar for next year!