Aviation is More than Aircraft

By Rachel Greco

For Kay Smoes, a literacy and education consultant in training who also does trauma healing and spiritual retreats in Cameroon, aviation is more than just aircraft. It’s about the willingness of her brothers and sisters in Christ to come alongside and serve her and her family in a multitude of ways.

Kay and her husband, Chris, lived in the remote northwest of Cameroon for 15 years facilitating the translation of the New Testament for the Misaje cluster of six languages.

Kay says that besides flying she and her husband to their village, “people in aviation have been a blessing to us as a family personally.”

The couple lived in their village for 18 months without children. Then they left on their first furlough, during which Chris worked on getting an MA in Biblical Studies. They returned two-and-a-half years later with a toddler and a 3-month-old.

Chris and Kay needed to set up their house but required help. Their teammates were out of the country, so an SIL Cameroon Aviation pilot at that time, David Carman, and his wife, Claudia, decided to lend a hand.

Chris and Kay stayed in their teammates’ house almost two hours away from their village while Chris and David worked on the Smoeses’ village house. They set up the cabinets, made sure that the solar panels were working, and checked that everything else was functioning.

Then the Carmans drove the couple to the village for the first time in two-and-a-half years. When the villagers recognized Chris and Kay, they became excited, and everyone came out to see them. “I had already lived there for a year and a half,” Kay remembered, “but now coming with a toddler and a baby somehow made it feel strange and made me a bit anxious.”

But having the Carmans there saying, “We will walk the road with you” and helping them in the transition was encouraging. You can’t put a price tag on that!

The first helicopter pilot who became the Smoeses’ friend, Eric Wolf, also went above and beyond “pilot” duties. He gave of his time to build closets in their rooms when they moved to a new location in order to better facilitate the work with all the language communities.

Over the years, the SIL Cameroon Aviation pilots, mindful of the couple’s remote location, would always ask, “We’re going to be coming your way; what can we bring you?”

One time when the Smoeses’ daughter was young, she wanted one of the pilots to bring her ingredients for a salad—a difficult thing to acquire in the village—for her birthday. So the pilots brought enough supplies. “The pilots tried to love us,” Kay explained. “Aviation has been like family to us. They cared for us in so many different ways. For us, a village family, aviation has meant a huge amount of support.”

Once, when Chris had a fever, Kay couldn’t bring it down. She began to panic. Their truck was a stick-shift, and Kay wasn’t comfortable driving it on the road, especially for eight hours to reach the hospital that had the specialized medical care he needed.

So Kay called a helicopter pilot, Mark, who came and took them to the hospital, a flight of less than 30 minutes. God orchestrated that a pathologist visiting from the States was at the hospital, and the doctor told them that Chris had an African virus. The doctor said that they should return to their village and allow the virus to run its course, so Mark came for them that day and took them back to their village home.

Salad, cabinets, and a flight to a hospital might seem like small things. But these tokens of love have reminded Chris and Kay that even in the remote place where they lived, they were not alone, giving them the courage and perseverance to continue serving the people in the Misaje cluster.

Because of instability in that region, the Smoeses now live in Yaoundé, the capital. Kay is just as grateful for aviation now, as she travels to workshops and retreats, as she was when living in the village. “Aviation means peace. It means security. It means my brother who knows me is flying.”

God willing, Chris and Kay will be celebrating the dedication of the six New Testaments sometime in 2024. These New Testament translations were made possible partly by pilots and mechanics trained here at JAARS and by subsidies given by people like you to Aviation Solutions. Thank you!

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