All Overboard!

By Rachel Greco

“Permission to come aboard?” 

“Permission granted.” 

This was a familiar phrase during the sultry August weekend at Fort Caswell on the edge of the Atlantic Ocean and the Intracoastal Waterway in North Carolina. For a weekend, nine participants whose boating knowledge consisted of “what a boat is” and “how to swim” became the crew to test out a new JAARS program, CrossVenture|Coastal. This new weekend or week-long program seeks to introduce participants to the need for maritime missions, teach basic boating and safety skills, and deepen the students’ walk with the Lord. “We hope that God will use [the] material to touch their hearts in a unique way,” Tracy Tooley, the director of Multi-Gen Engagement, said. 

The first evening of the test program, one participant told a story that emphasized the need for maritime safety in the U.S. and overseas. 

Chris Lifto, the Security and Safety Consultant to the Vice President of Transportation at JAARS, shared about a time when he borrowed a boat from a friend. Boat plugs, which are used to keep water out when the boat is in the water, would ordinarily be stored in the steering wheel when not in use in the keel. 

Since the plugs weren’t in the wheel, Chris figured they were in place in the keel, as intended. He backed the boat into the lake and docked it. He then put his son, his son’s friend, and their dog into the boat. While backing away, he heard a small voice ask, “Mr. Lifto, why is there water in the boat?” 

Water was lapping against the back of Chris’s seat, and the back of the boat was about an inch above water. By the time Chris got the boat beached, water had begun pouring into the back of the vessel. Chris thought, “I nearly sunk the boat and put all of us in a dangerous situation because it took me half an hour to find those plugs, which were up underneath the seat in the front of the boat.”

Checking for leaks in the bilge as part of the pre-departure checklist

Over the weekend, staff discussed the purpose of JAARS Maritime: to prepare mission workers who will serve in a maritime environment and prevent situations like Chris’s from happening. According to Glen Adams, who spearheaded the CrossVenture|Coastal program, “We see the need to better support our colleagues who are doing Bible translation around the world in some very remote locations and often travel by water.”

On the first evening, the participants had the opportunity to hear from the director of BTA (Bible Translation Association) in Papua New Guinea about the importance of all skills in missions. The director said that if you are supporting missions, you are a part of missions. “That struck me,” Chris said. “For people who don’t think they can be [the ones] who reach out to individuals and lead them to Christ, there is still a [role] for them in missions.” 

Practicing putting in the anchor

The group then chugged out into the moon-washed water to learn about star navigation. Like all the lessons, this one was mingled with spiritual truths, such as how easy it can be to lose our way if we’re not navigating life by God’s Word.  

On Saturday, the participants learned about the JAARS ditch kit. This bag is full of essential tools like a personal locator beacon, a life vest, and a whistle that help keep people safe during a boating emergency. After learning about each tool’s role, the students were taken out into the water to put what they’d learned into practice. When someone yelled, “All overboard!” they jumped into the water with the ditch kit. 

Practicing the water safety scenario
Tim McIntosh, Director of Maritime, teaches about the ditch kit

And what a difference it was to actually be in the water trying to use all those tools instead of being firmly planted on the ground learning about them! “It was jarring,” Hayley Potter, a JAARS Fellow, said, “because there was so much going on. We were all just trying to get together, and people were reacting in different ways, so trying to keep everyone calm and thinking through what we had been taught about water safety really points out the importance of it.” 

Overall, the experience impacted everyone involved, and JAARS maritime staff is excited to see what God does through this program in 2021. 

Join us in praying the Lord will do mighty things through CrossVenture|Coastal in the lives of youth for his kingdom.