LOVE STORIES: Answering the Cry for Help

Pilot Steve Ottaviano loading blankets for Banda Aceh (Sumatra, Indonesia) tsunami relief in 2004. Photo courtesy of Steve Ottaviano, pilot.

Was it a coincidence?

When an urgent plea for help went out in June 1976, from Papua, Indonesia, in the aftermath of a devastating earthquake, JAARS had a Helio Courier and a pilot nearby in Papua New Guinea. The aircraft had been awaiting official consent to enter Indonesia for translation service there—permission that was now swiftly granted. Flights began immediately to bring in food and to take the injured to medical care.

It was an example of God’s perfect timing and provision. JAARS, along with MAF (Mission Aviation Fellowship), had only recently entered into an agreement with the World Relief Commission, an arm of the National Association of Evangelicals, to make available more than 140 aircraft for on-the-scene transport of food, medicine, and personnel to areas struck by national disasters. God’s blessing was evident when, as a result of the mercy flights, the relationship between JAARS and Indonesian civil aviation officials was strengthened.

More opportunities to show the Savior’s love and mercy soon followed. During a 1978 flu epidemic in Peru, JAARS provided transportation when the Peruvian army sent a doctor to help victims in the Sharanahua village of San Marcos. The following year, the JAARS DC-3 carried 31,000 pounds of food to five locations of southeast Bolivia to feed thousands of people left homeless and hungry when torrential rains caused flooding in the area. When hurricanes David and Frederic struck the islands of Haiti, Dominica, and the Dominican Republic, the World Relief Commission requested help from JAARS, the Christian Pilots Association, MAF, and the disaster relief division of the Southern Baptist Association.

Once again, God’s timing made the JAARS DC-3 available. The aircraft had been slated for service to Colombia, but was delayed due to minor exportation-importation problems. JAARS pilots and mechanics made several flights to transport food, building materials, medical supplies, and personnel to the badly devastated areas. JAARS partnered with Samaritan’s Purse to provide pilots.

The JAARS Center itself was struck by Hurricane Hugo in 1989. The Center was without power and water for nearly a week, but there was no major damage to buildings or equipment on the Center. JAARS provided food and housing for 54 repairmen who came from other states to restore power to the area.

Loading victims of 2006 Nias Island (western coast of Sumatra, Indonesia) earthquake onto the Samaritan’s Purse Cessna Caravan. Photo courtesy of Steve Ottaviano, pilot.

Humanitarian efforts following the devastating South Asia tsunami of 2004 sent IT staff speeding to Sumatra to help man a broadband satellite internet service. The communications assistance offered in that crisis not only brought connectivity to service organizations for relief to local people, but the experience birthed a vision for providing high-speed internet, email, and communications capacity for Bible translators living in isolated places.

Coincidence? No, just examples of the many times, over our seven decades of service, that we have witnessed God’s grace, goodness, and provision for his work.

Rescue of a Pennsylvania man crushed between a backhoe and rock at a construction site atop a mountain near Altoona PA, was accomplished by JAARS helicopter and pilot Roy Harris on Sept. 10, 1982. Praise God that JAARS was nearby for a Missions at the Airport program!

– Beyond, Feb.-March 1983


Compiled from accounts in Beyond and ConRod, JAARS publications.

Grace Miller

Grace Miller