A New Adventure

By Karissa Uhlig

Mike Mower was excited about flying to this year’s Oshkosh event. Though he had been directing this and other Missions at the Airport (MATA) events for 19 years, each one continued to bring new and exciting challenges. However, this year’s Oshkosh promised to be different: It would be the last year that Mike would fly himself there. 

Starting at age 60, JAARS Aviation requires its pilots to have an annual proficiency review, ensuring that our pilots maintain the highest level of expertise all the way to retirement. The typical JAARS pilot retires from flying at age 66, but some, Mike included, have been granted waivers to continue flying until their 68th birthday due to the exceptional skill and physical abilities they’ve maintained. Mike’s 68th birthday arrived during Oshkosh, so he was allowed to fly to the airshow but not permitted to fly back.

Mike will miss flying, but he sees this transition simply as time for a new adventure. Until he officially retires in March 2022, he will continue to serve as the non-flying MATA director. After retiring, Mike hopes to continue helping with MATA events. 

Mike Mower preparing to take off from JAARS Townsend Field for Oshkosh.

This Oshkosh was memorable for more than Mike’s last flight as a JAARS pilot. It also featured the most popular JAARS booth at an Oshkosh event; 700 people stopped by! Mike was pleased with the number of people who were interested in JAARS. “We had a good opportunity to engage with people,” he said. Also, at least one visitor to the booth completed the first step toward becoming a missionary pilot! Praise God for how he used this event and Mike’s leadership. 

Oshkosh team 2021

The Lord has taught Mike countless lessons during his 12 years directing MATA events, especially how to trust him. Mike explained that local organizers—churches, conference centers, camps and others wanting to bring an event to their area—help to host the MATA in their areas. It can be a big undertaking. These organizers, who put a lot of work into a MATA event, start to worry whether people will come. But Mike and the organizers have learned to trust in the Lord. Even though some MATA events are well-attended but others are not, the Lord always brings the people that need to come and learn about mission aviation. Mike said, “No matter what happens, whether we have a very strong turnout or a small turnout, it is the Lord’s program.” 

During his time as director, Mike has also learned to be flexible. Although each MATA event has a similar setup and mutual goals, no two are exactly the same. Mike mentioned that changes can occur right before the event. At Oshkosh, one of the JAARS staff members who had planned to participate contracted COVID-19 and had to be quarantined. So Mike had to scramble to find someone to replace him and the other participant who was also exposed. However, due to Mike’s quick thinking and God’s help, the event went off without a hitch!

Mike has thoroughly enjoyed his time directing MATA. Though he is retiring soon, he is excited about returning as a volunteer, making an impact for Christ’s kingdom and continuing to learn what God has to teach him in his new adventure.

Check out how you can serve at JAARS and learn about Christ’s kingdom!