LIstening for the Call

By JAARS Writing Team

Richard Shipman, a writer on the JAARS Communications team, has a diverse up-in-the-air background in aviation. So how did he ever land at JAARS? 

Richard graduated from Macalester College in St. Paul, Minnesota, at the height of the Vietnam War. Always captivated by sea and air, he joined the Navy and entered flight training.  

Richard in the Navy

After serving at sea, Richard continued active duty on shore as an advanced flight instructor in Kingsville, Texas. Three years in, he heeded a call to the Naval Safety Center in Norfolk, Virginia. There he edited their monthly aviation safety magazine for four years as he transitioned to civilian life.

He next worked as an aircraft accident investigator for six years. Then in 1984, he became a commercial airline pilot—first with People Express and later US Air. He made Captain in 1999 and retired in 2004. 

After leaving the Navy, Richard investigated aircraft accidents. Unfortunately, many accidents occurred in hard-to-reach locations!
Richard in the cockpit

After that, Richard played competitive tennis, took up tax preparation service for seniors, and became treasurer for his Methodist church in Concord. Yet he was also listening for God’s call. “Since my background was in aviation, this was the first area I considered.” About this time, Richard watched a documentary about a humanitarian organization that flew small airplanes all over the world to provide services to disadvantaged people groups and wondered if he was being called to such a mission. So he renewed his aviation physical, met all Federal Aviation Administration requirements, and began applying to mission agencies. 

After his initiatives were rejected for over a year, he became discouraged. “I couldn’t even give away my services!” he reflects.  

Well … God had something else in mind for Richard.  

One day, he remembered reading in an aviation magazine that JAARS trained missionary pilots. Much to his delight, he learned JAARS was located one hour from his home! 

What’s more, a JAARS Day—our version of an open house—was just three weeks away. “There, I had the opportunity to talk with several retired mission pilots. I discovered the mandatory retirement age was 68, but beyond that, the demands of qualifying for and becoming a mission pilot were far more extensive than I had imagined.” 

Richard also realized he had no experience flying small, propeller-driven aircraft like those in the JAARS fleet. 

Then, in a JAARS brochure he saw many volunteer jobs listed, including one as a writer in the Communications department. 

Since his Navy tour had included four years as a writer-editor for the Navy’s aviation safety magazine, Richard knew he could contribute as a writer. So, he joined the writing team in 2015.

While he’s always looking for good aviation stories, Richard also enjoys writing all kinds of articles that tell the JAARS story. But what he has enjoyed most about volunteering with JAARS is the people: “I am amazed by the skills and talents these workers have in their given fields, and how they willingly and happily share their experiences and testimonies. I am even more impressed–sometimes astounded—by the dedication and sacrifices so many JAARS workers have made to serve the Lord.” 

Richard hopes the articles he writes tell the JAARS story and help support Bible translation. “Whatever impact they have had, JAARS has had a greater impact on me.”

You too can see for yourself what JAARS is all about at our next JAARS Day on May 15, 10:00 a.m.—2:00 p.m. Click here to learn more!