Three young men from three different places—Papua New Guinea (PNG), New Zealand, and the United States—came to JAARS for the same reason: to serve unreached people overseas.
These young men—Liam Roffey, Josh Hamilton, and Zac—are maintenance specialists who will join four experienced JAARS maintenance specialists in Papua New Guinea in August to help work on aircraft in SIL-PNG’s* fleet for about a month. “And not only [will they help SIL-PNG] catch up on maintenance, but the goal is also to expose some people that have never been to a field before to see the kind of work that goes on to help support Bible translation work,” Jon Damon, the JAARS maintenance training coordinator, said.
There is a huge lack of maintenance specialists at JAARS and on the field, which SIL-PNG feels acutely. According to Paul Stewart, the maintenance manager for SIL-PNG, “[Our organization] is critically low on aircraft mechanics, and there are some larger projects that keep getting put off due to lack of manpower. They require specialized skills that many of our mechanics don’t have. This [JAARS] team comes with supervisors who have the specialized skills that we need, plus the manpower to get the work accomplished.”
The JAARS team of seven mechanics will relieve a lot of stress for the current maintenance- team members, who are dealing with aging aircraft but don’t have the workers to keep up. Without the JAARS team, this work would have to be done by someone on the SIL-PNG team, which would leave the aircraft grounded longer and the worker unable to take on other important tasks. “So sending this team ultimately allows us to serve more people with our aircraft!” Paul explained.
And there are a lot of people to serve in Papua New Guinea! The country is home to the most languages in the world—about 840—and many of the people still need to hear the gospel in a language they can understand well.
SIL-PNG uses its aircraft to support Bible translation, literacy, Scripture use, church engagement, the work of other mission organizations, and community development needs. In a country filled with vegetation-cloaked mountains and rugged roads, aircraft are necessary for sharing and showing God’s love!
Liam, Josh, and Zac, along with their supervisors, will modify one aircraft to fly past its 5,000- hour limit, upgrade the sheet metal of other aircraft, and install new flight-control cables and windows.
These three men have limited experience, so to prepare them for the work in August, JAARS offered them the PT-6 engine course and the Kodiak course, which they found helpful and relevant.
Josh had been serving at SOAR (Service Oriented Aviation Readiness) when he was invited to join the trip to PNG. Using stories of unreached people groups asking for mission workers to come to them, God had given him a vision for supporting Bible translation. “I thought that God could use the skills I already had, and the passion that he’s put in my heart on the mission field.”
Josh hasn’t had much turboprop-engine experience—which is what the PT-6 engine course provides—so taking the course was a game changer for him. “I’ve learned so much. The classes go by really quickly.” He’s eager to see what being overseas is like after hearing about it for so long.
Josh, Zac, and Liam also took the Kodiak course at JAARS because they’ll work on Kodiaks in PNG.
“I [had] never touched a Kodiak before,” Liam explained. He had seen one across the hangar floor several times and had even gone through his training program alongside a Kodiak, but that was the extent of his experience with one. “So I [went] through this training to understand all the different systems, how the Kodiak works the way it works, why it was constructed, the way it was constructed, and all the different quirks and things that [can be] wrong with it, so that when I do get to Papua New Guinea, I’ll be more useful and have more of an idea of what I’m doing.”
Of the three young men, Zac is the most familiar with Papua New Guinean culture because he grew up in PNG: “I know the people there, I know the language, and [this trip] will be a good opportunity for me to grow as a mechanic in a place that I’m familiar with.”
As the Aviation Maintenance Technician Fellow, Zac has had a few more training opportunities at JAARS than Josh and Liam have had, including taking the Pre-Field Orientation course and spiritual-vitality and life-skills training: “It’s been a lot of good learning opportunities, whether it’s just personal life, spiritual vitality, or aviation maintenance.”
Without maintenance specialists, the aircraft in PNG and elsewhere couldn’t keep flying, so we are thankful that these young men are willing to serve the Lord and that we can help meet SIL-PNG’s maintenance needs in this way.
Join us in praying that God will use this trip for his glory and that more maintenance specialists will join mission aviation!
*A partner of JAARS