Off the Hook?

By Rachel Greco

For a long time Sarah Baer believed missionaries were either doctors or pastors. And since she didn’t qualify, she believed she was off-the-hook.

God used Sarah’s then-boyfriend Phil, who grew up as a missionary kid in Mexico, to introduce her to other ways to engage in missions. Phil relished radios and other ways of communicating with Wycliffe translators in remote villages.

Sarah and Phil when they first joined Wycliffe

After Phil and Sarah married, they attended a Wycliffe and JAARS orientation program in Oklahoma. The classes opened Sarah’s eyes to innumerable opportunities to serve Bible translation. Yet she wasn’t quite ready to join Wycliffe Bible Translators, even though they had both been accepted into the two organizations.

So the couple took a year off and then, as Sarah expresses, “The Lord just worked in my life to give me more awareness and understanding about where I could find my place and what the needs were.”

Sarah after she and Phil first joined Wycliffe went to Cameroon.

Once they joined Wycliffe, the Lord led Sarah and Phil to Cameroon. At the time, it was a new branch of Wycliffe, so they were only about the fourth family there. Phil’s job was to set up a radio communication system so that the people in the city could talk to translators in the villages. But government regulations prevented the installation of the system. Instead, Phil maintained aircraft radios and systems and trained Cameroonian workers in the repair shop.

Besides raising their two children, Sarah furnished the newly built training center and hired staff for its upkeep. The center was primarily used for translation workshops where Wycliffe translators could come and obtain consultant help. Cameroonian translators also came to learn how to develop an alphabet for their language, a process which stimulated interest by Cameroonians to do translations in their own languages.

The Baer family shortly before leaving Cameroon

“Without the center,” Sarah explains, “the teams wouldn’t have been able to do nearly as much translation.” Now, many years later, some of the translations begun by men who attended these courses will soon complete their New Testaments!

After 14 years of faithful service in Cameroon, Phil and Sarah and their children returned to the U.S. Phil felt like he had worked himself out of a job since he had set up the electronics repair shop, computer department, and audio recording studio and trained Cameroonians to run them. One of the men Phil had trained in the repair shop eventually attained his certification to be an aircraft mechanic, so he was able to do all the avionics repairs.

Phil had the vision to help translation teams use computers back in 1985 when personal computers first appeared. When he and Sarah moved to JAARS after their fourteen years in Cameroon, JAARS helped him with equipment and training, and he taught computer classes to translators.

Meanwhile, Sarah worked in the Human Resources department and helped with paperwork and logistics for JAARS short-term mission trips.

Most recently, Sarah has served as the Director of Creative Services and Assistant Director of Communications, holding the work together with her proficient organizational skills.

Sarah explaining something to a coworker

“My experience here,” Sarah shares, “has taught me that the Lord has people who are willing to serve and love this organization. When you think about the fact that people have so many choices [of places to work], then you have to be amazed that people are willing to [serve here].”

Sarah has loved working with the people at JAARS. “Here, you get to work with people you enjoy working with, who are like-minded. To me, that’s a gift.”

Sarah with some farewell flowers

Seeing the Lord provide both people and finances to the work of Bible translation over the years has encouraged Sarah. From a young lady who didn’t think she could or needed to serve the Lord in missions, she grew into a woman who now realizes how her unique roles over the years both in Cameroon and at JAARS are vital to reaching people with the gospel.

Even if you’re not a pastor or doctor, there’s a place for you in the rewarding task of Bible translation! Browse through some options here.