An Immense Privilege

By Rachel Greco

If a man is drowning under a bridge, but you don’t know he’s drowning, then you have no obligation to help him. But if you hear or see him flailing about, then his life becomes your responsibility.

Nate Gordon had seen that ‘drowning-man’ in the faces and cultures he had lived among in India and Nepal as a child. He couldn’t forget them as an adult.

Nate was also exposed to mission aviation at an early age. His parents worked in remote locations in Nepal and utilized JAARS air transportation services (which no longer operates there). Nate has early memories of sitting on his dad’s lap watching out the window of a Pilatus Porter as the Himalayas soared by below—a sight that stirred his interest in aviation.

Nate didn’t take this interest too seriously, though, because it believed it to be a passing childhood fancy like growing up to be a fireman or famous basketball player. But he also knew—from watching his dad—an academic who had the patience and perseverance to sit at a desk for 16 hours straight—that he couldn’t follow in his dad’s footsteps. “I just knew I had to have dirt under my fingernails and be outside,” Nate explained.

Toward the end of high school, Nate wondered what he would do next. Since his family was living in the Philippines, his dad suggested, “Why don’t you spend the summer working at one of the aviation programs here? You can see if this is really what you want to do.” Nate agreed and worked at the northern base in the Philippines for the summer between his junior and senior years.

Nate enjoyed the work immensely and worked closely with Nard Pugyao, a JAARS-trained Filipino pilot-mechanic who now serves at JAARS. At the end of that first summer, Nard told Nate, “You need to be a missionary pilot, and you need to go to Moody Aviation.”

So Nate went to Moody, 100% set on serving overseas, but not 100% set on serving in mission aviation. He said to the Lord, “I’m going to walk through this door because everything is lining up, everything’s pointing in this direction.” He asked the Lord to shut the door if he didn’t want Nate to go down the path of mission aviation.

Nate flying over Papua, Indonesia

But everything Nate learned clicked, and the Lord blessed it and kept the door open.

At Moody, Nate renewed his friendship with Sheri, a young woman he had known in high school in the Philippines before Sheri moved with her family back to the U.S. After he and Sheri married, both wanted to serve in a country they had never lived in before, which turned out to be Indonesia.

For over twenty years Nate and Sheri served in Papua, Indonesia, with YAJASI—a JAARS aviation partner. Sheri worked first for the director, then began ministering to Indonesian women who served in ministry—a great joy to her. Nate served primarily as a JAARS-trained pilot, but also served as the flight coordinator, helped with training, and managed YAJASI for many years.

Looking back at that time, Nate says, “I’m very grateful for the opportunity to do something [I felt] like [I] was designed for.” Flying into some of Papua’s gorgeous, yet tricky airstrips was an enjoyable challenge to Nate. He relished meeting the spiritual and material needs of some of the most isolated and forgotten people on the planet: transporting food, medical help, educational support to remote communities, and, of course, God’s Word.

“My overwhelming sense has been that God has given those of us involved in this [ministry], an immense privilege.”

Nate and Sheri saying good-bye to some friends before returning to the U.S.

When their son graduated high school, Nate and Sheri recognized they needed to be home in the U.S. for a season. They returned with open hands, not knowing what doors the Lord would open or shut.

One of those doors led to JAARS. Nate and Sheri came here with the initial intention of getting their feet on the ground and resting after a grueling last term on the field.

But then the JAARS president, Woody McLendon, asked Nate to be his assistant. After praying about it, Nate told him yes. The job gives Nate time to wear his other hats: software development of aviation apps used on the field and writing his memories of Indonesia. Nate hopes these stories will open the doors of people’s hearts to see God’s glory and goodness.

What doors is God opening for you? Perhaps JAARS is one of them. Visit here to learn more.