Sharpening a Machete

By Rachel Greco

Kay Smoes wears several different hats—and not the kind that keep the sun off her. Along with being a wife and mother, she works in literacy and has been a member of the team that plans and leads spiritual retreats for translation teams in Cameroon.

Just as sharpening the entire rounded blade of a machete allows it to do its job, translators need to be sharpened in every way, not just technically. “We’ve always seen the spiritual retreats as being able to file other parts of the machete that before we were not thinking about,” Kay explains. These retreats also teach team-building skills that the participants wouldn’t receive anywhere else.

Kay Smoes at the guest house where they facilitate the retreats.

Putting on these retreats comes with challenges. One language group is in the far north of the country. The first year that Kay and the rest of the team held the retreats, the location was in Yaoundé, the capital of Cameroon. But getting so many people there was difficult, and they didn’t acclimate well to Yaoundé’s higher elevation and climate.

So for several years, Kay and the others traveled to the language group’s location in the north.

Last autumn, when it came time to hold the retreat up north again, the two airplane pilots who normally flew the team were on a break in the States. SIL Cameroon Aviation told Kay’s team to use either the local airline or public transportation because it had no one available to fly them.

Kay, however, felt no peace about this. She didn’t trust the local airline as much as SIL Cameroon Aviation, and always feels uncomfortable as a lone woman whenever she uses the local airline. But when she flies with SIL pilots, whom she views as brothers, she feels secure and protected. “For me, [that] is a big thing.”

She also loves that when she flies with SIL Aviation, God always speaks to her. “He always has something that the pilot says to me that is what I needed to hear.”

Public transportation to the northern part of the country would have consisted of an overnight train trip and a 10-hour bus ride.

After wrestling with what to do, Kay told her husband and Mark Spangler, SIL Cameroon Aviation’s helicopter pilot, “I cannot fly [on the local airlines] with someone else’s peace. I need to have my own peace, and I don’t have it. When I fly SIL, I have peace.”

Kay with her teammate Alain in front of the helicopter.

Kay wrote to SIL Cameroon Aviation to say, “I know it’s a long way, and it’s expensive, but can the helicopter go [up north]?” Thankfully, the organization agreed, and with people like you giving to JAARS Aviation Solutions, we were able to provide subsidies that enabled Kay and her co-facilitator to fly with Mark in the helicopter.

They put on two one-week retreats. Although the team did basically the same thing both weeks—leading a study of first Peter in the mornings and team-building activities in the afternoons—they knew that the two weeks wouldn’t look the same. The Holy Spirit highlighted different things for each group. The first group wrestled with what it looks like to give a non-verbal testimony for Jesus.

God taught the second group how to suffer courageously with joy when an injustice has been done to them. Kay enjoyed seeing how God used the same passage of Scripture to speak specifically to the teams and meet them where they were.

Hopefully, the benefits of the retreats reach far beyond the participants themselves: “[We’re] trying to help [the participants] grow in all aspects because we know that since a lot of them are pastors, whatever they gain, it overflows to their families, it overflows to their churches, and it overflows to their communities,” Kay said.

Thank you for enabling this flight and many others to happen! Consider giving to Aviation Solutions so translators and other language workers can receive the sharpening they need.