From the President: Serving God, Not Man

By Steve Russell

The throaty engine winds up the three-bladed prop on a Helio Courier airplane as it chops through the crisp early morning air. It signals the start of another day at the JAARS Center in beautiful Waxhaw, North Carolina.

Helio-Courier taking off at JAARS-Townsend Field.

As the new president, I have enjoyed wandering around the campus and asking people their stories. I’d love to share some of them with you here.

In the cockpit of the Helio, Gabe is learning the technical skill required to fly into mountainous jungle villages at the ends of the earth. His instructor, Tim, is well-suited for the task. After years of flying in Indonesia’s Papua Province, he now trains future missionary pilots such as Gabe in how to land on a 900′ handcarved grass strip that rises on a 19° slope while clearing another dense jungle mountain top on the approach. There is only one way in and the same way out of such an airstrip—regardless of wind conditions. The airstrip’s chart is made by pilots like Tim, with instructions that if the engine loses power on takeoff, it is better to crash right and aim for the dense narrow creek rather than crash into denser jungle terrain to the left—making recovery even more hazardous.

Pilot Tim Ruth approaching Langda, an airstrip in Indonesia’s Papua Province.

In talking to Zac, I learned he recently graduated from college. After growing up in Papua New Guinea where his parents were missionaries, he has a passion for engines and airplanes. Rather than use that passion to make money or serve the aviation industry, he applied to become one of our Fellows. He now works in our maintenance hangars, learning from our incredible mechanics, with a view to serve on the field and give of his talent, his time, and his treasure.

When one considers Roy, he doesn’t look like the bold type. Embracing his walker and now in his 90s, he offers a kind demeanor and smile as he serves people in our café. For many years, though, Roy flew into the dense Amazon jungle, working to bring God’s truth to remote tribes who had never seen other people, let alone an airplane. His task is different now, but not his heart or his desire to continue to serve God’s kingdom work in any way he can.

Walking through an open door near the airfield, I meet Adam. He is finishing sanding square cedar posts laid out on a worktable. The people he works with didn’t purchase them; they created them—first by harvesting cedars on campus and milling them. Then the saws buzzed, guided by skillful hands to remove anything that didn’t look like what is being made. Through his lush brown beard and youthful expressions, he tells me he is a third-generation missionary. He met his wife Stephanie while serving in the Caribbean. From there the new couple served in Zambia in south central Africa, a place where his dad was born. Now he serves other missionaries by using his skills to create whatever is needed in our carpentry shops. A Canadian by birth with an American wife, he knows his citizenship is in Heaven. He serves the kingdom.

Stay tuned to read more about how JAARS staff are using their unique gifts to serve the Lord.