Missions May Be Coming to an Airport Near You!
It’s a pleasant day at a small county airport. Gleaming aircraft are parked in displays around the grounds. The buzz of a Helio Courier taking off from the nearby runway attracts attention, and a line forms to buy tickets for a ride.
Excited children run from ice cream trailers to face-painting stations while their parents follow at a more leisurely pace, stopping to examine displays, watch short videos, and chat with former missionaries, retired pilots, and JAARS representatives.
The carnival atmosphere draws thousands of people every year for a more serious—and eternal—purpose. This is one of dozens of Missions at the Airport (MATA) events that JAARS has held across the country each year for more than 40 years. At airports, private landing strips, and even parking lots and open fields, the MATA team spreads the news about Bible translation and the support role JAARS plays.
Last year, Gerald Sweger invited Mike Mower, director of Missions at the Airport, to bring the program to Carlisle, Pennsylvania. The team arrived earlier in the week and flew the JAARS helicopter to several local Christian schools. The students, Sweger related, “got excited, went home and told their parents, and they all came back to the airport and enjoyed the weekend event.”
Sweger counts the experience a great success. “People got up close and personal with the missionary pilots, young people became interested in missions aviation, and everybody had fun,” he said. Local families offered lodging in their homes to the MATA staff, welcoming the opportunity to hear their stories about flying in remote places. Some of the pilots spoke in area churches on Sunday morning.
Sweger and Mower hope to be working together again in 2018. Preparing for the Carlisle event requires more time than money, according to Sweger. “We operate on a very low budget—usually less than 750 dollars—and we have corporate sponsors involved,” he pointed out. “Our organizing committee is about 16 people from 10 local churches, and it takes almost a year to plan.”
Mike Mower and his Missions at the Airport team are willing to travel almost anywhere to make people aware of Bible translation and how JAARS provides vital support. “The standard event is at an airport with airplanes and helicopters,” he explains, “but if we’re only bringing the helicopter, we can operate in most places without an airport. We have church and school events, camp and conference events. Churches sometimes invite us to be part of their missions conference, or we may be part of a festival the church is holding.” He also cites community celebrations and airport open houses and fly-ins where JAARS has provided airplane and helicopter rides.
Everywhere he goes, Mower has the same message. “I walk up to people standing in line for an airplane or helicopter ride, and I say to them, ‘Let me tell you about JAARS…’”
Would you like to bring a Missions at the Airport event to your church, school, or community? Contact Mike Mower, director of Missions at the Airport, at firstname.lastname@example.org or 704.576.1248.