A Trip Around the World

By Rachel Greco

Some families recently traveled the world with JAARS. For this journey, though, only a willingness and ability to move around and learn was necessary, and no one even left the JAARS center! 

This annual event, known in the past as Passport to Christmas, looked different this year. It’s usually held in the Townsend building at the JAARS Center, where JAARS staff members acting as tour guides lead groups of children and their parents on visits to rooms decorated as various countries. 

This year, due to the pandemic, Deb Bender, the organizer of Passport to Christmas, was trying to think of other options. The Lord gave her an idea: Have the event outdoors to provide more space and to bring participants up close and personal to this year’s theme—aviation.  “Every year at Passport to Christmas, we’ve tried bringing airplanes and [vehicles] inside on a video. But why not take [our visitors] to where the airplanes are?” 

So that’s what Debbie and her team did. They held the event in the JAARS hangar and its environs, and since the event took place in October, when it’d be warmer, she renamed it Passport to Missions. 

Grab your passport and take a trip with us around the world—all without leaving JAARS! 

Our first stop is in the main hangar, where we split up into different groups. The aircraft is so close we could touch it. 

Then a deep, accented voice draws our attention to the makeshift stage, where Nard Pugyao shares his story about growing up in a village deep in the Philippines. We learn that he then came to the U.S. and learned to fly planes. He even received training in this very hangar! Later, he flew the New Testament translated into his language home to his friends and family.

Nard Pugyao speaks to the children and parents in the hangar at Passport to Missions.

When Nard finishes, we follow the rest of our group out of the hangar and into a room used by land transportation and maritime teams. Today it’s been transformed into Papua New Guinea—complete with a mural of trees. A man outfitted in a pilot’s uniform and headset who flew in Papua New Guinea explains about the need for aviation in this mountain-wrapped land. 

Our next stop is the obstacle course, where we take turns grappling with the logistical challenges many Bible translators face, all while carrying a bag of Bibles. We race through a “jungle” in cardboard cars. Then we put on life jackets and hop into a stationary boat because translators must often use boats in the Pacific Ocean. Next we cross a precarious bridge and climb through a tunnel before emerging and shooting our toy planes through a hoop—reaching the unreached at last! 

Kids ride on cardboard cars through a jungle in the obstacle course.

Now our tour guide leads us all the way to the African nation of Cameroon, which is back in the main hangar. After getting our passports stamped, we meet a pilot who’s served in this country. He challenges us to see how the different parts of an airplane can represent different facets of our spiritual lives. 

Dan Stoner shares stories about flying in Cameroon.

After thanking him, we walk back outside to the Deaf-languages area in the smaller hangar. We learn the words to Acts 1:8 in sign language: “But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.” We practice signing the words in a song and find out that it isn’t as easy as just singing them. 

Children learn how to sign Acts 1:8.

Our last stop is similar to a “heyride” but much better because it’s on a boat! We ride around the center on a JAARS boat pulled by a trailer while the staff shows us a ditch kit—a bag of essential maritime safety tools that the JAARS staff trains mission workers to use. We even get to pass around the personal locator beacon. 

Going on a “heyride” around the JAARS center.
Learning about boats and maritime safety at the obstacle course.

Then, sadly, it’s time to make our way back to the hangar to meet up with the other groups. We all practice our sign language of Acts 1:8 again; then it’s time to return home with the challenge to pray, give, go, and tell others. 

Passport to Missions is just one of the many family-friendly events that occur at JAARS. Click here to learn more.