Snakes and Surprises

By Rachel Greco

Sometimes God calls us to serve overseas. Other times he calls us to serve him right in our home country. Either path can contain unwanted surprises—all used for our good.

Debbie Newby grew up in a missions-oriented church. At age six, she began giving to missions. Two years later, at a missions conference, she told God she would be a missionary if he wanted her to, even if it meant he would send her to a place with snakes—a serious sacrifice, since she was petrified of snakes. As it turned out, God called her closer to home—a place with only a handful of venomous snakes.

Dale Newby was also no stranger to missions. He had several missionaries in the family and remembers greeting them at the airport.

Dale and Debbie at JAARS

After Dale and Debbie married, they attended a Christian and Missionary Alliance church that cared well for its overseas workers. The couple often hosted some of them during their church’s annual Missions Conference.

When Dale grew tired of shoveling snow in Michigan, he and Debbie moved to South Carolina in 2009. Debbie found a job at the Culture and Heritage Museums in Rock Hill, and Dale continued his Michigan job remotely from Rock Hill.

A few years later, Debbie was included in a large layoff. One of her colleagues mentioned there was a museum at JAARS. The only thing she and Dale knew about JAARS at that point was that it had airplanes, a museum, and did something with Bible translation. Curious, the couple decided to visit the organization at a JAARS Day.

“I was impressed with the amount of computer software and systems they use to support Bible translation,” Dale remembers. “JAARS [and its partners] were attacking these large complex problems in innovative ways. God opened my eyes to how he could use someone with my experience and computer skills for missions.” At the time, Dale thought JAARS would be a good place to volunteer after he retired.

God, though, had other ideas. Soon after the visit, Debbie found another job, but the next summer, after working at a software company for 15 years, Dale was laid off. What did God have in mind for them?

The couple attended another JAARS Day because they hadn’t been able to see everything the first time and wished to learn more. Dale spoke with IT professionals about their work at the JAARS Day. He began to think that God was speaking to him about working at JAARS now, not after he retired.

While Dale watched the airplane demo in the hot sun, Debbie visited the information tables in the hangar. A lady at one of the booths asked her what she did for a living. “I’m the Executive Director of Iredell Museums,” Debbie replied.

Debbie giving a talk at the Mexico-Cárdenas Museum

The woman grinned and said, “Our museum director just retired and we’re looking for a new one. You see that lady down there? You need to go talk to her.”

Debbie was shocked. Never in her wildest dreams had she thought that she could combine her museum experience with her interest in missions.

A couple months later, the Newbys attended a Check-IT-Out conference and learned how God is using computers and technology to support Bible translation. “My heart was touched,” Debbie says. “It made me think about how important it is for people to be able to hear God’s word in the language they clearly understand.”  

Dale programming away

Dale now works at JAARS as a computer system administrator, and Debbie manages the museums. God has clearly revealed to them that this has been his plan for them all along. Although the Lord didn’t call Dale and Debbie to a snake-infested jungle (although North Carolina can feel as humid as one at times), he called them to JAARS, where they enjoy serving him and Bible translation.

“We have learned that you never know where God may take you or the road you may travel,” Debbie says. “When I was laid off one year and Dale was laid off the following year, we learned to trust that God had a perfect plan for us, one he had been preparing us for all our lives—and that turned out to be serving at JAARS.”

“Many are the plans in a man’s heart. But it is the Lord’s purpose that prevails.” Proverbs 19:21

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