Filling Great Needs

By Rachel Greco

What do eight families serving with four organizations heading to at least four different locations have in common?

They all have a heart to serve the Lord through mission aviation and are willing to lay down their desires for him. They are sacrificing their time by coming to JAARS for our Pre-Field Orientation (PFO) Course that began earlier this month and runs through June.

After the course, the families will head overseas to serve the Lord by serving his people. Join us in welcoming this year’s PFO orientees!

Jonathan and Diane Lewis

Organization: YAJASI, an aviation partner of JAARS in Indonesia

Favorite Food: Coffee

The Lewises

Jonathan’s father was a U.S. Air Force pilot, so Jonathan’s desire to be a pilot dates back to his childhood. Along with flying, he loved learning about other cultures and realized that his personal “heroes of the faith” (Eric Liddell, Nate Saint) were mission workers. To him, working to spread the gospel to the ends of the earth was a dream worth pursuing.

After 12 years of service in the Air Force, where Jonathan obtained pilot training and gained valuable flight experience, he and his wife, Diane, felt the Lord telling them that it was time to transition to full-time mission work.

Jonathan hopes that the PFO training will teach him how to maintain and operate complex aircraft in remote and challenging environments found in Indonesia.

“The young churches in Papua Indonesia are desperate to get the word of God in their languages,” Jonathan said. “Their translation teams rely on aircraft to make their work possible, and I’m honored to take part in filling this great need.”

Lenny Yarita

Organization: SIL-Papua New Guinea (PNG) Aviation

Favorite Food: Almost anything!

Lenny Yarita

Lenny, a Papua New Guinean, grew up on the SIL-PNG operations center in Ukarumpa, where he spent a lot of time at the hangar. He had an urge to serve in mission aviation, and although he wanted to be a pilot, God led him to be a maintenance specialist instead.

He’s been working in SIL-PNG’s hangar as a Licensed Aircraft Maintenance Engineer but is looking forward to having the authority to sign off on inspections after completing PFO. “With the training I am getting,” Lenny explained, “I am excited to continue serving God with my skills and abilities in maintaining airplanes in an airworthy manner to fly missionaries and their supplies into their village locations so their work of translating the gospel may continue.”

Gabe and Naomi Lawrence

Organization: YAJASI

Favorite Food: Thai

The Lawrence family

As a boy growing up in a small church, Gabe was intrigued when a Wycliffe mission-worker family shared about translation work in the Solomon Islands. “Learning there were many people throughout the world who do not have the Bible in their language caused me to want to help reach them with the gospel.”

When he learned about JAARS, he became excited to participate in Bible translation through mission aviation.

While here at JAARS, Gabe is looking forward to building skills for aircraft control and maintaining a safety margin during all stages of flight. He sees PFO as an opportunity to learn about variables he’ll find on the field such as varying runway types and lengths, cargo, and weather.

He is eager to partner with brothers and sisters in Christ—both foreign and national mission workers—for the common goal of Bible translation in Indonesia.

 Sam Fiala

Organization: South America Mission (SAMAIR) Peru

Favorite Food: Chicago tavern-style pizza

“I felt called to missions when I was a senior in high school after I recommitted my life to Christ,” Sam said. He always enjoyed hands-on work and math and science classes. While researching types of mission work, he learned about mission aviation and pursued it.

Sam Fiala

After studying mission aviation at Moody Aviation in Spokane, Washington, Sam spent time working and then joined SAMAIR, a JAARS aviation partner.

“I think this training will help refine my technical skills so I can better serve the missionaries in Peru.”

Sam can’t wait to see how God works when he arrives in Peru, and what opportunities he’ll have to serve the Lord. “It has been an adventure so far getting into mission aviation, and I haven’t reached the field yet, so I am excited about what God has in store.”

The Kulp Family

Bobby and Sarah Kulp

Organization: African Inland Mission (AIM) AIR

Favorite Food: Ice cream

God used a JAARS-trained pilot, Mark Wuerffel, to interest Bobby in mission aviation. During Mark’s presentation at their church, Bobby began to pursue mission aviation. He has spent the last 14 years preparing to meet the requirements and is here at JAARS to finish them during PFO.

“I’m really looking forward to learning from experienced missionary pilots,” Bobby said. “I think [PFO] will help the transition into the flying aspect of ministry go smoother. Then I can focus more on the difficult part of helping my family thrive and serve well in a foreign context.”

Bobby can’t wait to deliver translated copies of God’s word to people who have never had access to it. He’s also looking forward to encouraging and serving the mission workers and local people in Kenya.


Zach and Stephanie Smith

Organization: YAJASI

Favorite Food: Southern comfort food

The Smiths

Zach has always been interested in missions. He learned about it while attending Moody Aviation. Then, as a couple, he and his wife, Stephanie, decided to join JAARS.

He is looking forward to learning from the instructors’ experience while here and building relationships.


Organization: Unknown

Favorite Food: Unknown

Zac grew up in Papua New Guinea, where he saw firsthand people’s need for God’s Word in their own language.

From an early age, Zac wanted to serve overseas, but he didn’t know in what capacity until his senior year of high school in Ukarumpa, PNG. During Zac’s last semester, he had the opportunity to take a manual arts class. “That confirmed even more that I’d like to work with my hands and work with metal,” Zac said.

He also was able to work with aviation for about nine weeks at the hangar in Ukarumpa, and God used that time to show him that aviation maintenance was the right path to pursue. “Not often as a missionary kid do you feel like you’re part of your parents’ calling and mission,” Zac recalled, “but I felt that [calling] when I was out there working on the planes. That’s what gave me the aviation bug.”

Zac is taking PFO as a requirement for his role as the JAARS Aviation Maintenance Technician Fellow, and he is thankful for the opportunity to grow his knowledge and skills.

Josh and Sarah Cowles

Josh and Sarah Cowles

Organization: AIM AIR

Favorite Food: Thai and Indian

“I count it a great privilege to have grown up with believing parents who encouraged me and my siblings to love God,” Josh says. In high school, he realized that he needed to make his faith his own. If God was real and what he said about himself was true, then Josh’s response to that was the most important thing about him. “I began to look for ways to use my life for his glory.”

As Josh started talking about devoting his life’s work to God, his parents suggested that he look into mission aviation.

Almost a decade later, Josh had finished his degree at Moody Aviation and got married. He and his wife, Sarah, began researching mission organizations. They felt that Africa Inland Mission— which has a mission statement saying: “A Christ-centered church among every African people group,” was a good fit for how God has gifted and wired them.

Josh and Sarah were accepted with AIM Air in November of 2021 and are grateful to be able to be trained at JAARS as they take this final step of preparation before heading to Kenya in July.

“It is said that most mission workers come back from the field due to interpersonal conflict or spiritual drought,” Josh explained. “The training at JAARS really emphasizes and teaches communication, conflict resolution, integrity, teamwork, and spiritual discipline. JAARS is able to integrate personal development with intense technical training, and I think that will be very useful overseas!”

Praise God for these men and women who are willing to dedicate their lives to the Lord, to step up and fill needs as they serve him around the world.

Pray with us that God will protect these individuals and families as they finish preparations to move overseas, and that they will cling to Christ above all.