The Current Work of JAARS in South America

By Rachel Greco

We continue to celebrate our 75th Anniversary by looking at the work JAARS is doing today in South America. Read the first article about our early work in South America. You’ll find the second and third parts here and here.

The Work Today

JAARS began serving in Peru 75 years ago and increased this ministry to another five Latin American countries. Over the years, it became difficult to be a foreign organization in some of the South American countries where we started. And in some cases, the work of SIL, which JAARS primarily served, was ending in some of these locations. So we handed over much of the work to national organizations that we continue to partner with today.

JAARS has worked with partners its entire history,” Steve Russell, the JAARS president, said. “Having partners in the work is essential.”

Our partners today have expanded beyond Wycliffe and SIL to include many local and indigenous organizations that are passionate about reaching their own people or neighbors for Christ.

Our role is very unique,” Steve Ottaviano, the Americas Regional Director at JAARS, said. “We’re the only ones focused on providing logistic and technical support and capacity-building [to these local organizations] in regard to Bible translation and Scripture engagement.”

Come see the work God is doing among the people in South America and how he’s using JAARS to come alongside local believers and ease their burdens and reduce their barriers as they reach remote people with the gospel.

A Physical Representation of God’s Work

Brazil is about the size of the U.S., and half of it is covered in jungle with few roads. Here, aviation is not just a luxury to get to places quickly, it’s a necessity. And it’s been valued by organizations ever since mission workers began using it in this part of the world.

In the 1980s, MAF (Mission Aviation Fellowship) was operating in Brazil and formed a national organization called Asas de Socorro, which means “Wings of Mercy.”

Today, Asas is an independent organization made up of many nationalities, and it has been a JAARS partner since 2018. Jeyson Braun, a Brazilian who flew with Asas and now works at JAARS as a maintenance specialist, said, “I think Uncle Cam would be excited about the work going on in Brazil.”

Christians from indigenous villages are increasingly going out to neighboring communities to reach them for Christ.

Marcos Baughman, a JAARS-trained pilot who serves with Asas, has been able to use a floatplane to serve a local Brazilian organization, MEAP (Missão Evangélico de Assistência aos Pesquadores) that promotes discipleship and church planting in river communities.

One of the floatplanes that Marcos has flown serving in Brazil

Marcos was able to help fly in supplies for the construction of a church in one community, and the building grew from just posts in the ground to a beautiful, hand-built church. “It was such a joy to see that church dedicated and to see that these young believers, who are just getting started and discipled, now have a place that they can call their church home,” Marcos said. “It was cool to be able to see from start to finish a physical representation of what was happening in that community spiritually.”

Another group whom Asas de Socorro serves, the Kiriku* people, once were antagonistic to outsiders, but they now have the New Testament and long to study and share it with their neighbors. Two JAARS-trained pilots, Peter Stuart and Jake Anderson, flew 80 Kiriku people from 16 villages to one location so they could come together to study God’s Word and worship.

Jake Anderson, one of the pilots JAARS sent to serve with Asas de Socorro, refuels a plane in Brazil

What a testimony to God’s power and grace to see this former rage-filled people group who killed those bearing Scripture now loving his Word, organizing an event to study it, and learning how to share it with others! What a privilege that JAARS and people like you who give, pray, and serve get to be a part of it!

A village where the Asas plane has landed in Brazil.

God is Raising Up Believers

In 2016, JAARS sent a JAARS-trained pilot, Jeremiah Diedrich, and his family to New Tribes Brazil** to start a helicopter program in northwestern Brazil. “This part of Brazil has a lot of [mission] work going on among the [local] people,” Jeremiah explained. “There are a lot of requests for people to come in and share the gospel, to translate God’s Word into their language, to plant churches, and to work in areas of community development.”

Bruno, the newly trained helicopter pilot, with Jeremiah Diedrich and a missionary couple they serve with the helicopter

While serving this part of Brazil with the helicopter, Jeremiah has seen indigenous Brazilians studying God’s Word in their language, and others who were slaves to fear and ancestral spirits now longing for their neighbors to come to know Christ.

Jeremiah used his JAARS training every day in Brazil. Because of it, he was able to fly through challenging weather conditions and land safely and consistently every time.

Now, Jeremiah is training Bruno, a Brazilian, to take over the helicopter program in northwestern Brazil from him.

Praise God with us for how he is raising up people in Brazil to share the gospel! As Woody McLendon, the previous JAARS president, said, “God is raising up believers from around the world who are called, committed, and passionately participating in getting God’s Word into their language.”

Crossing the Andes

The second-highest mountain range in the world—the Andes—crosses Peru.

Among these giants sits AIDIA, a local Christian organization that recently finished translating the Old Testament into a dialect of Quechua for people who live in the East Apurimac region.

An AIDIA team is now translating the Bible into La Union Quechua for people in the Arequipa region. They must travel monthly from their headquarters in Abancay to Cotahuasi, where the Bible translation takes place.

This trip is no easy feat! The bus route winds along the Andes’ spine and can take more than two days. It’s costly and tiring, leaving the translators too exhausted to work when they arrive.

The city of Cotahuasi, Peru, is surrounded by rugged mountains.

Another option is shorter—10 to 12 hours. It’s possible only with a 4WD vehicle because most of the road is packed dirt, and in rainy times, it becomes slippery.

To make this trek, the translation teams use their own vehicles, which are deteriorating.

With your help, JAARS has the privilege of partnering with these locals in their work by providing them with a 4WD vehicle so they can travel to Cotahuasi. They will also use the vehicle to facilitate Scripture use, literacy, and Sunday schools. “The [vehicle] would help us complete the trips in less time and reduce costs of the trip,” a member of AIDIA said.

You can help reduce barriers for AIDIA and other translation teams by giving to Land Transportation Solutions.

The Shawi’s Hunger for God’s Word

For many years, JAARS has partnered with SAMAIR (South America Mission) Peru in various ways, including providing training and refurbishing a Cessna 206 for the organization.

One group of people that SAMAIR serves are the Shawi people who live spread throughout 1,000 square miles along small rivers that flow from the foothills of the Andes.

Wycliffe began translation work among the Shawi in the mid-1950s. They completed the New Testament in 1978 and finished the majority of the Old Testament in 1991, with updated revisions finished in 2011.

Thanks to those efforts, as well as continued ministry by other organizations, there are churches in many Shawi villages, and they formed the Shawi Church Association. Each January, the Association holds a weeklong Bible conference; villages that have runways take turns hosting.

David Boogaard, a JAARS-trained pilot who works with SAMAIR, and another pilot flew 175 Shawi men, women, and children to a Bible conference in January.

David Boogard picks up passengers at a village for the conference

The 20 flights that David and his coworker flew saved the villagers days of hiking.

Despite using two airplanes and adding extra flights, the pilots were unable to move everyone who had hoped to travel with them.

One man was so disappointed when he couldn’t get on David’s last flight out of his village that he fought back tears. Although it was difficult for the pilots to have to tell people that they would need to walk to the conference, they encouraged that so many desired to be fed by God’s Word.

David Boogard flying over one of the many rivers in Peru.

At the conference, 900 people received seven days of Bible teaching preached in Spanish and translated by bilingual pastors. At the closing session, 34 believers chose to be baptized!

Oral Bible Translation in Mexico

Bible translation by Wycliffe and SIL began in Mexico, and it continues there today. However, in some places, the process looks different: it centers on an oral, rather than a literate, method.

JAARS recently helped fund an Oral Bible Translation workshop conducted by Faith Comes by Hearing (FCBH) to teach local people how to orally translate the Bible into Zapoteco de Santa Ana del Valle, a dialect of Zapoteco.

The Zapoteco de Santa Ana del valle team checks the Scripture with the community

From the first day of the workshop, the head trainer challenged the local translators to tell the story, which they had internalized during their devotion time, to members of their family or community every evening.

The translators invited friends and neighbors to come to their church and hear stories in the Zapoteco dialect, a first in the church.

The pastor has Bible training in Spanish and has preached for years in Spanish, having always been afraid that if he tried to preach in Zapoteco de Santa Ana del Valle, he might corrupt God’s Word. But now that fear is gone!

That night at the church was the first time that some of the attendees had ever heard God’s Word in their dialect of Zapoteco. Some of them confessed that it was the first time they really understood the message presented, because even though most of them know Spanish, it just doesn’t speak to them in the same way.

After listening to the story, three people asked what they should do to receive Jesus! The pastor presented the gospel to them, and they accepted it. Now they will be able to share that story and others they learn!

Traveling into the Heart of the Jungle

In a sensitive country in South America, JAARS is also partnering with a young and growing local organization that is translating God’s Word for six language groups. We had the opportunity last year to provide them with the funds needed to finish adding on to their offices space. They’ve enjoyed using the new offices, meeting room, and dorms for the translation of 1, 2, and 3 John and Jude.

These teams must also travel into the jungle to test the Scripture because the language of those who live in or near cities has been influenced by Spanish, making them less representative as testers of the native languages.

The only way to travel to these locations is to rent boats, which can be expensive and unreliable. To ease these burdens, we’re buying—with your support—outboard motors, helping these co-laborers with the costs of constructing the vessels in their country.

We’ve also sent them safety equipment and plan water-safety training later this year. What a privilege it is to reduce the barriers for these brothers and sisters in Christ so they can reach their communities with the gospel!

We believe there is spiritual power in unity,” our former president Woody McLendon said. “That means we’re committed to serving God’s purposes side by side, shoulder to shoulder, each of us bringing what we know how to do, and letting others bring their part, and allowing God to then take those pieces and multiply them to do more than what any of us could ask or imagine.”

Thank you for standing with JAARS and doing your part in its 75 years of work to deliver God’s Word to the most remote people! This eternal work requires all of God’s people working together.

There will be more to come on how God has graciously used JAARS in the last 75 years!

*Name changed for security reasons

**New Tribes Brazil is the same organization as Ethnos 360