A Spiritual Battle

“We are in a battle. Not against flesh and blood, but against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places” (Ephesians 6:12).

God revealed this truth to Bob Weber when he volunteered to help at his first JAARS Missions at the Airport event in Birmingham, Alabama, last summer. The New Rising Star Church (the Star), located in a high crime and poverty area, partnered with JAARS for the event. They warned the Missions at the Airport team that their neighborhood is in the news at least two or three times a week because of violent crime. Pastor Thomas described the church’s response to these tough conditions: “Our church does an amazing job with local missions. We are very involved in community development via education, financial literacy, workforce development, housing, recreation, and the church.”

However, the Star has not been involved in overseas missions. So they invited JAARS to hold a Missions at the Airport event to introduce their members to foreign missions—how God is moving all over the world.

Members from New Rising Star Church

Bob thought, before he went on the trip, that he and the others on the Missions at the Airport team would fight crime, poverty and hunger, since that’s such a big part of the church’s location and ministry. “But I found out that we were fighting a spiritual battle,” Bob recalls. Several times, both before and throughout their time in Birmingham, the team and church needed God’s intervention so they could hold the event.

The first battle occurred over gaining authorization for their helicopter flights. Since the Missions at the Airport pilots would fly from a location within the airspace of the Birmingham Airport, they had to communicate with Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) controllers. With the helicopter performing about 100 flights during the day, the FAA was concerned about having so many flights so close to their landing and takeoff area.

Over the previous month, John, the point person for this Missions at the Airport event, had coordinated with the FAA and Birmingham Control Tower leadership and received helpful advice and guidance. However, when he contacted the operational staff, they imposed rigid flight limits on the team. When this occurred only days before the team’s departure to Birmingham, the team contemplated cancelling the event. 

But God intervened! During a final discussion, the tower chief assured John the tower would work with the JAARS team so the event could take place. 

When the team arrived in Birmingham on Friday, John went to the air traffic control tower to give out some promotional pamphlets and talk with the operational supervisors. They had left for the weekend, so John gave the pamphlets to an airport staff member who promised to deliver them to the tower personnel.

Then the next battle ensued—a significant mechanical failure in the helicopter. The team questioned whether they could hold the program the next day. But if they couldn’t, many in the community who were looking forward to a helicopter ride would be disappointed. So the team asked the Star church to pray while the pilots, who are also mechanics, worked on the aircraft.

God intervened again. He ensured that the helicopter was operational and ready to fly.

Some of the JAARS Missions at the Airport team with members from New Rising Star Church

The following morning, the Missions at the Airport team set up for the event in the city stadium parking lot. On their initial tower call-up, the helicopter pilots were respectful and professional to the controllers. After just a few takeoff and landings, the controllers became more flexible.

Later in the morning, a senior controller picked up one of the promotional pamphlets and asked if he could bring his family out for a helicopter ride. Afterward, he talked about future opportunities for partnership with the team and church.

The tower controller and his family who received rides

Before the helicopter rides, Pastor Thomas enjoyed hearing the testimony of Nard Pugyao, a JAARS-trained pilot who took the gospel back to his country. This showed Pastor Thomas “the reality of people in the world who’ve never heard of Jesus and who don’t have the Scriptures.”

Loading the helicopter

Even though they baked in the sun from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m., Pastor Thomas believes the heat and exhaustion were worth it to expose his church to foreign missions. Since the event last year, his church’s vision has expanded. They continue to serve their city, but have also sent groups of people on foreign mission trips to Uganda, Haiti, England, and elsewhere. “We want to keep the fire burning,” he says. “That is why we plan on doing this event again in 2020.”

It was clear to Bob and others that Satan didn’t want this Missions at the Airport event to take place. Yet, God worked out everything so all might see his glory.

Will you join us in praying that this event takes place next year so many may hear of God’s heart for the nations, regardless of how many battles arise between now and then?

Rachel Greco