Life Upsets

By Karissa Uhlig

Sometimes, during tough experiences in life, our eyes are on the changing circumstances around us, when what we really need to do is keep our eyes on Jesus. For families planning to serve in missions overseas, part of their preparation is learning how to handle the tough “life upsets” they may face. One of the ways they do this is by meeting others preparing for the same struggles.

Penny Tallman and Nancy Ramsdale, whose husbands served in aviation through Wycliffe and JAARS, have organized a support group for women whose husbands are training in the JAARS Pre-Field Orientation (PFO) course. During the four-month PFO course, the women meet weekly to encourage one another. These women face many hardships and joys as they prepare to serve alongside their husbands in various capacities and countries overseas. 

The speaker at one of the latest PFO wives’ meetings was Rachael Stoner, a JAARS-trained pilot who served in Cameroon with her husband Dan. To encourage the women to rely on God when they face difficult challenges, Rachael shared an illustration from her recent Upset Recovery Training. During that course, she learned how to bring a plane out of a dangerous position (an ‘upset’) and recover safe control of the aircraft by correcting the attitude of the plane. 

Rachael during Upset Recovery Training

One of the main things Rachael learned from the training was that when the plane is in an upset state, the pilot has to look at the horizon. She related the upset of the plane to upsets in life. She said that during these difficult times, these “life upsets,” we have to look to Jesus, just like a pilot has to look at the horizon. 

During her years serving overseas, Rachael has experienced many of these life upsets. In 2013, while Rachel and Dan and their family were at language school in France, Dan was diagnosed with lymphoma, a cancer that attacks the lymphatic system. They didn’t have access to proper medical care at the time, so they had to fly back to the United States. God faithfully provided during this upset, supplying them with tickets so they could leave within two days and providing people to help them pack.

Rachael and her husband Dan during his cancer treatment

Rachael looked to Jesus even amidst the hardships of Dan’s illness. One night while they were in the U.S., Dan had a fever, which can be very dangerous for patients with lymphoma. While driving him to the hospital, Rachael looked at her husband and said, “This is what I imagine the joy of suffering is. [This is] your suffering, and I’ve entered into that with you, and it gives me such incredible peace [because God is still with us].”

At the PFO wives’ meeting, Rachael encouraged the women to rely on the Lord and accept his provision of help through people in tough times while on the mission field—another lesson she learned through her many life upsets. She and Dan had to rely on friends and family who helped them pack, took care of their children, cooked them meals, and picked them up from the airport. 

The wives appreciated Rachael’s encouragement, especially since it came from someone who has personally faced the unique challenges of mission aviation. 

Katherine Troyer, one of the women at the meeting, plans to serve in Cameroon with her husband, John, one of the PFO orientees. When Katherine considers moving to Cameroon, she has concerns about her husband and kids. “As a mom you always fear for your kids. But [tragedies] can happen [in America] too. You just don’t know [what could happen], so you pray that God protects you.” 

Katherine Troyer and her family

Rachael’s testimony encouraged Katherine to trust that God will provide in any life upset. She is prepared to look to the horizon, to keep her eyes on the Lord.

Please pray for these women and their families as they move overseas, that God would protect them and use them mightily for his kingdom!