Sharpening the Axe

By Rachel Greco

Maria Cruzat had hoped to be in the Philippines in 2020, conducting health research. Instead, God led her to JAARS. 

As a college senior with an interest in conducting research, Maria applied for a year-long fellowship in the Philippines where she was born. Maria ended up not getting that grant and fellowship, but with COVID-19 occurring shortly afterward, it might not have happened anyway. 

So Maria searched for opportunities online, and somehow JAARS Fellows popped up. Maria had never heard of JAARS before, but the mission on the JAARS website—to make Bible translation possible in the most remote places on earth by enabling locally sustainable solutions—lined up with her interests in missions and languages. 

Maria received a message from Paige Williams, a JAARS Human Resources Fellow, and promised Paige she’d apply, even though her heart was still set on working overseas. 

When the last day to apply rolled around, Maria’s heart convicted her, and she submitted her application for the Outdoor and Multi-Generational Ministries Fellow position. Working outdoors with different ages appealed to her. 

Cohort Alpha Fellows Lyle and Hannah and Maria take a JAARS helicopter ride

When Maria was accepted into Cohort Bravo, she asked her college discipleship leader for advice since she had several good post-graduation options. Her discipleship leader’s question challenged her: “Where do you think you will see Jesus more and grow the most?” 

The opportunity for spiritual development coupled with professional and personal development as a JAARS Fellow grabbed Maria’s attention. “I could commit to a year doing this, even if it’s not [what] I had imagined.” 

A friend and another Fellow helped Maria see her Fellowship here at JAARS in a new, encouraging light: God is sharpening her like an axe. “I’ve seen this in a lot of ways in the weekly Bible studies that we [Fellows] do, and just the overall mission of JAARS. I’m growing in my faith and my walk with the Lord every day.” 

Although being in the U.S. was not what Maria had expected and COVID-19 has limited her Fellows role, she’s thankful for how God has sharpened her so far. One way is by reminding her of the power of prayer. 

Maria has loved seeing prayer woven through everything her department does every day. She’s also enjoyed working alongside people who come from different denominations, but who are all unified by the gospel and their desire to see people hear the gospel in a language they can clearly understand. 

She and the other Fellows were tasked with developing a prayer team. “I never considered having an inner-circle prayer team [to share updates and to ask for prayer]. So to have that as one of the life hacks has been good, though I was [a little] hesitant because I’d never done anything like that [before].” 

When Maria began asking people to join her prayer team, her nervousness grew into excitement. “I think the Lord will show me more about the power of prayer.” 

She has had the opportunity to help with the new CrossVenture|Coastal program, which has taught her about the role of maritime service in missions. 

Maria takes over the helm at CrossVenture Coastal while Glen Adams, a JAARS maritime staff member, supervises
Practicing some in-water scenarios for CrossVenture Coastal

Maria has always been a person who loves getting things done. But the slower pace of the last few months as a Fellow has taught her the value of relationships and rest. “I’ve learned that the things I accomplish don’t give me my identity and worth. The slower pace has given me more time to rest in and look to the Lord.” 

Maria has experienced waterfalls of grace in the various tasks she’s tackled—everything from designing a crew handbook for CrossVenture|Coastal to operating a drone for the Scripture Celebration. This has lifted the normal pressure of accomplishment off her shoulders. 

Maria (third from left) and other Fellows from both Cohorts Alpha and Bravo lead worship for a JAARS event

In a way, God has even brought an overseas community to Maria by putting her around people, who, for the most part, have served overseas anywhere from two-to-thirty plus years. And if or when God calls her to go overseas, Maria will now be a sharp axe, equipped to be used however the Lord deems fit. 

A new group of Fellows, Cohort Charlie, has arrived at JAARS. Please pray God uses their time with us to sharpen them and draw them closer to him.