A Valuable Souvenir

By Rachel Greco

The wonder of flying hooked Rachael Stoner the first time she stepped onto an airplane. When, as a child, she clambered into one to visit her dad down in South Carolina, she knew they would be a major part of her life. 

When Rachael was 13, her family went to a JAARS Missions at the Airport event in Kidron, Ohio. Her brother won the free flight, and Rachael vowed to bring her own money the next summer so she could fly. 

Rachael standing next to one of the Cessnas in the JAARS training fleet

But at that Missions at the Airport event the next year, Rachael did more than just sit back and watch the plane skim the clouds. The pilot asked her if she wanted to take the controls! Shocked but thrilled, Rachael took the yoke—the steering control. “He had me do turns and climbs and descents, and then we came back down,” Rachael recalls. 

When they landed, the pilot asked if Rachael had a log book he could sign. When she explained she didn’t because she was just getting started, he said, “You don’t need a log book.” He gave her a little piece of paper, signed it, and told her to stick it in her logbook whenever she got one. 

Rachael carried that little slip of paper around in her Bible for about four years until she got a logbook. At a church camp when she was 17, Rachael committed her life to serve the Lord full-time in Christian service as a missionary pilot. 

Now, after serving for 18 months in Cameroon with her husband and children, Rachael has returned to JAARS. Originally, she was going to serve with the Missions at the Airport team and at the Brigade Air event—a week-long aviation experience at JAARS. But when COVID-19 cancelled these events, leadership gave Rachael and the others a new assignment: to come up with another kind of aviation event aimed at youth. “It was just a concept,” Rachael explains, “and I just started throwing ideas out.” Then the idea for Vision Flights—a program that introduces 12—21—year—olds to mission aviation by flying—was born. 

“God [definitely] did this,” Rachael says, “because this is not something that I came home from Cameroon to do. But it’s clearly a perfect fit for me and where I am in aviation with JAARS right now and my history of the little logbook experience I had when I was 14.” 

Rachael doing a medical evacuation in Cameroon

One-on-one flights will be held at JAARS every Thursday morning beginning January 7. The participants will first see the big picture of JAARS in a brief tour, ending in the hangar. Rachael will then guide the participants through a pre-flight briefing and a pre-flight lesson, using a booklet she and Tracy Tooley, the director of Multi-Gen Engagement, designed. This booklet contains the four forces of flight and their parallel Spiritual truths—since both are key to a missionary pilot’s success—and a pre-flight checklist. 

Rachael will then take the student up for a 30-minute flight and invite the student to take the controls, experiencing the wonder of flight as Rachael did when she was fourteen. 

After landing, Rachael will then debrief the flight and sign the student’s flight certificate and logbook page in the booklet, which will be more official than a slip of paper. To conclude the experience, she will then guide participants through a checklist of how to become a missionary pilot in case that is where they feel the Lord is calling them. 

Rachael operating a Vision Flight with her son, Isaac

Rachael is excited to share her love of flight with young people and show them the world from a different angle. Not only that, but she’s excited to explain that mission aviation is something these students can do with their entire lives that will make an impact for God’s kingdom. 

She still has the slip of paper from her first flight experience stapled to her logbook as a reminder of where her calling came from. She hopes these Vision Flights will produce many valuable souvenirs for future mission pilots. 

Register here  for a Vision Flight and experience what God might have in store for you or someone you love.