Missionary Maintenance: How to Kick-Start Your Ministry

By Rachel Greco

Feeling Stuck?

Do you feel like God is calling you to serve overseas with your technical skills or to make a difference with your money, but you’re not sure where or how? That’s how Whit Palmer and his wife, Skiler, felt not long ago.

Whit was pursuing missionary maintenance. The couple spoke with mission organizations, but for one reason or another, God kept telling them, “It’s not time yet.”

A white man in his thirties stands in front of an exposed Kodiak engine in an airplane hangar.
Whit stands in front of MAF’s Kodiak the orientees are using for the inspection.

The shut doors built up until the Palmers felt stuck. “We weren’t sure what to do next,” Whit recalled. “We needed something to kick-start our ministry.”

That’s when God brought JAARS to their minds. Whit heard about the JAARS Fellows opportunity and applied to be the Aviation Maintenance Fellow.

This 11-month, merit-based, full-time, professional opportunity allowed the Palmers to come to JAARS for training before having to raise support. “It’s a really unique and cool opportunity,” Whit said.

Whit’s training alongside other missionaries and more experienced people has reignited his vision and desire to keep pursuing what God has called them to.

Like a Gandalf character, JAARS is coaching and guiding them, so that when God opens the door to serve overseas, they’ll be ready to step through.

If you’re feeling stuck, the Fellows program might be the best way to kick-start your ministry! We also have summerlong internships for many kinds of positions, and a two-year Apprentice program for pilots and mechanics.

A Day in the Life of a Missionary Maintenance Orientee

As the Aviation Maintenance Fellow, Whit has been able to attend Pre-Field Orientation, the three-and-a-half month course that prepares pilots and maintenance specialists to serve in some of the most remote places on earth.

Each day, the orientees interested in missionary maintenance either attend a lecture, learning about a specific engine or airframe, or work in the hangar on the engines and airframes that they just learned about.

Whit’s recently been attending the Kodiak class. This aircraft was originally built for mission aviation. “It is an incredibly effective airplane for what we do,” Whit explained. “It’s able to bring heavy loads into short, rugged strips, and it’s able to do it consistently.”

Our partner SIL-Papua New Guinea Aviation uses the Kodiak in its mission to reach people in remote places with God’s Word and love. Last year, we sent a team of maintenance specialists to work on the organization’s Kodiak and other aircraft, and we will do so again this year.

The Kodiak course has enabled Whit to learn the ins and outs of the aircraft. That is important because he lacked experience with this type of aircraft, and it’s likely that he will maintain it wherever God calls him and Skiler.

The Fellows position has given Whit a greater opportunity to grow than he expected. “I came here understanding that the Fellows [job] was an entry-level position. So I fully anticipated coming here and sweeping floors and doing little things here and there.”

However, the maintenance team surprised Whit by inviting him not only to join PFO, which is usually reserved for pilots and maintenance specialists ready to go overseas, but also to lead the inspection on the Kodiak. “It’s an honor to be believed in,” he said.

Only God knows how you might grow as you step into an important role or receive training here at JAARS. Let us help cover the gaps in your knowledge so together we can cover the last mile to the unreached!

Whit works on an engine during the JAARS Pre-Field Orientation course.


The instructors at JAARS care about their students on a deep, spiritual level.

Whit received his A&P license at a state school, where he received a good education, but not the kind of care that he’s experienced at JAARS. “Everyone here has the same mission in mind,” Whit explained. “They want to see lives and hearts changed by the love of Christ, which carries over into the way that our teachers instruct us.”

The JAARS instructors treat their students well. “I’ve had multiple instructors here that have taken me and my wife under their wing and poured into us spiritually and emotionally. Everyone here has made us feel like family and like we’re home.”

What excites Whit about working with JAARS is that we are willing to go the extra mile to reach people with God’s Word and love. Not only with aircraft, but with motorcycles and boats as well. “It’s all vital to safe and effective mission work,” Whit said.

You, too, can have a vital role in the work of reaching remote people with the gospel! Like Whit, you can use your God-given technical skills or gifts to glorify God. Explore opportunities.

What’s Next?

Whit doesn’t yet know what God has in store for him and Skiler as they enter the world of missionary maintenance. JAARS, too, is undergoing many exciting changes as we transition to being more operational and serving people located in the Green Band part of the world who still need the gospel.

We are trusting God to provide. And even if you don’t know where the Lord wants you, join us in trusting the Lord together. For we know that if God is in it, he’s going to take care of us. We don’t have to worry about the details; he’s going to work everything out for his glory.

So, are you ready to join us?