Fire and Water

By Rachel Greco

JAARS CrossVenture|Coastal staff at Lake Wateree (JD is on the far right)

What’s my purpose now? How can I continue serving God?

These questions haunted JD Thomas as he lay on his back recovering from back surgery in May. Prior to this surgery, he’d been working remotely from home as a training officer with the Charlotte Fire Department. His inability to serve in the ways he once had was causing clouds of depression to roll in. JD wondered, “What is God’s plan for me? How can he use me now?”

JD prayed for several days that God would continue to use him and open doors to new opportunities of service. He wanted the Lord to do something that would “blow his socks off” so he would know that it was God.

Shortly after praying for these requests, as JD sat at home with his wife one evening, he received an email forwarded to him from a co-worker who’s a strong Christian. This man’s dad used to work for JAARS. Glen, who serves in the JAARS Maritime Department, had sent out some prayer requests. The request that struck a chord in JD was the one asking for a captain for the new JAARS CrossVenture|Coastal program. This budding program’s purpose is to engage youth who are passionate about the water to use their passion in missions.

The maritime program, scheduled to take place at Fort Caswell, North Carolina, would teach youth about maritime safety and operations and encourage them to explore the needs of maritime missions overseas.

JD is a licensed Coast Guard boat captain and has spent almost 30 years serving at the Fort Caswell retreat and conference center. In fact, most of his boating experience has occurred around Fort Caswell, which was the exact area Glen needed expertise with!

So when he saw Glen’s prayer request for a boat captain for this area, JD thought, “This isn’t a coincidence.”

He called Glen that night and explained his experiences and passion for serving youth, especially via maritime ministry.

Glen’s first words were, “Wow. What an answer to prayer.” Both men were amazed at how God had orchestrated their paths to bring them both to this new, exciting adventure.

Besides operating the boat, JD will help teach the week-long CrossVenture|Coastal groups about navigation, tying his lessons to biblical principles. He already has experience teaching this subject with youth. For about 15 to 20 years, he took high school seniors and college students in a sailboat from Miami to Bimini. Out of sight of land, JD would teach the students to navigate using a sextant, chart, and the stars. He used these principles about navigation to teach the youth truths about the Christian life. For example, he often pointed out that neglecting the Word of God can cause followers of Jesus to slip off course in life just as easily as neglecting to attend to key navigational readings on a boat. “Those are the very things I’ll be teaching [in CrossVenture|Coastal],” JD explains.

He’s excited, along with the other maritime staff, to pour his passion about the ocean and boats into the next generation while pointing them deeper into a relationship with Christ. But there’s much to be done before this new program is launched.

The JAARS CrossVenture|Coastal staff is in the beginning stages of planning this new maritime program. Later this month, they plan to conduct a weekend-long test program at Fort Caswell, and are excited to see what God does with it!

Please pray that the test program goes smoothly and God continues to open doors for this program to proceed next summer and impacts youth for future mission service.