No Tower of Babel

By Richard Shipman

A Tower of Babel syndrome can set in when teams who need to collaborate don’t share the same language. Communication is halting, at best. So, what does JAARS Aviation do when a Brazilian mission partner, who speaks no English, asks for training? They commence with the training, as long as flight instructors Mike Bunn or BJ Diggins are part of the training staff at JAARS.

Both Mike and BJ speak fluent Portuguese. They both were based in Brazil as mission pilots for many years, so they were happy to accommodate Asas de Socorro—our Brazilian mission aviation partner—when Asas requested recurrent flight training for one of their pilots. Brazilian pilots for Asas de Socorro (translated as “Wings of Help”) are now performing many of the transportation duties for Bible translation and humanitarian missions that JAARS pilots formerly supported. They even have their own missionary aviation training school, but it’s limited in scope and does not have an advanced training program like the one JAARS Aviation conducts. But thanks to a partnership established over the years, JAARS was able and happy to accommodate the requested recurrent flight training in Portuguese for Asas pilot Jefferson Gaino.

“One of the neat things about this training was how it evolved from our over 30-year history of partnering with Asas” says Mike Bunn, who was Jefferson’s flight instructor for the training. “I first went to Brazil in 1993 with YWAM (Youth With A Mission) to survey the area and see if we could put an aircraft in the Amazon. In 1994 I moved to Brazil to help build an infrastructure, but since there were no seaplanes at that time, I started flying the JAARS/SIL aircraft based there. I was asked to stay on, so I went to JAARS for training, then returned to Brazil as a certified JAARS mission pilot. Eventually, Asas helped me import the floatplane and I operated it under their certificate, with pilot and mechanic support from the JAARS/SIL program. This is typical of how our partnerships work for the common good.”

Partnerships are integral to Bible translation support worldwide. As local pilots increasingly replace ex-patriate staff, JAARS remains deeply involved in aviation training and support. The training with Jefferson went so well that Asas requested additional, more extensive training for Leandro Siqueira, one of their flight school instructors. JAARS tailored a specific course that mirrors its well-regarded pre-field orientation (PFO) for Leandro, and like Jefferson’s program, was conducted exclusively in Portuguese.

Leandro Siqueira, an Asas flight instructor at JAARS for training and JAARS instructor Mike Bunn

Are there challenges in teaching a technical program in a non-native language? “I’m comfortable in Portuguese,” Mike replied, “but the first thing Jefferson and I did was sit down and review words and phrases that demand immediate action. There were also occasions when I had to tell Jefferson ‘just fly straight and level’ while I searched for the words. But for the most part, I’m actually more comfortable with my Portuguese in the airplane than I am in a Brazilian church service.”

This worthwhile partnership will continue well into the future. Mike and BJ plan to travel to Brazil in the future to conduct training there, while new graduates of the Asas flight school will come to JAARS where they can train in more complex aircraft. The JAARS location is beneficial because training fields are close by and varied in geography and characteristics.  The future goal is for JAARS staff to “train the trainer,” and help Asas build an advanced flight training program in Brazil to better ensure sustainability.

The JAARS/Asas partnership eliminates that frustrating Tower of Babel syndrome. Language differences are not an issue when two partners work together to further the work of the Lord.  “Louve o Senhor!” (Praise the Lord in Portuguese.)

To join in this partnership with us, consider praying for wisdom and/or giving to our Aviation Solutions. Thank you!