Saved from Collapse

“Under his wings you will find refuge” (Psalm 91:4).


The helicopter. Photo credit: Jeremiah Diedrich

Exciting things were happening at Ethnos360 in Brazil. Their much-needed R66 helicopter had arrived and was operational, advancing their ministry. Months of prep had gone into this: obtaining an agreement for JAARS-trained pilot Jeremiah Diedrich to fill Ethnos360’s need for a helicopter pilot; 11 months of helicopter training for Jeremiah—first at JAARS in Waxhaw, North Carolina, and then at Ethnos360 Aviation in McNeal, Arizona; almost a year of searching for the right aircraft; all the delays and waiting associated with importing the R66 to Brazil and getting it up and running.

Jeremiah and Edite Kulina unloading boxes of Kulina New Testaments. Photo credit: Annika Sticher

Flights were already revealing the benefits of having this tool in place—like one Jeremiah flew in June to transport brother and sister Bira and Edite Kulina out to their home village for the Kulina Bible dedication. Bira and Edite had grown up in this Kulina village and are now ministering to their own people.

In September, Jeremiah took Bira out for another trip. This time they went to a different Kulina village which had received very little of the gospel message because of its remote location. Bira planned to deliver the very first copies of the newly translated Kulina New Testament to this village, which is almost entirely monolingual, with few Portuguese speakers. When they landed, they were surprised to find that no one was expecting them. Two weeks earlier, Bira had met the chief and some others in the nearby town of Feijo to get permission to land in the Kulina village, yet none of that group was present.

Finally, two hours after touchdown, the group arrived home from Feijo after a 12-day trip on the river! Jeremiah and his passengers had just covered the same distance by air in an hour and twenty minutes. What an example of how the helicopter makes long-term ministry in a nearly inaccessible area possible!

Jeremiah and Bira holding Kulina New Testaments. Photo credit: Annika Sticher

Bira conducted programs about the Bible with both adults and children, and they seemed interested to learn more. They felt excited and hopeful that the trip was the first of a long and fruitful ministry among the many Kulina villages in the upper stretches of that river.

Then just days later, on the very day the newest pilot arrived to join the Ethnos360 team, everything suddenly changed.

As Jeremiah was washing the helicopter at the airport, rain started blowing into the hangar. He climbed into the helicopter and was polishing the instruments while sheltering from the rain. The winds picked up, reaching speeds of 100km per hour, and Jeremiah realized this was no ordinary storm. Then, before he had the chance to do anything, the roof started to shudder. Suddenly, as he watched from inside the helicopter, the whole hangar roof buckled. A nearby airplane was thrown into the helicopter, and both aircraft were pushed into a side wall as the roof and the other wall collapsed. Jeremiah was sure he would be crushed to death. Miraculously, he found himself positioned on the seat and in the foot well of the helicopter—pinned but protected by that airplane’s wing above him.

This photo shows the dark navy blue helicopter in the back with the white airplane wing inserted into the bubble. The grey beams are the hangar structure. Jeremiah found himself lying down under that wing, which was holding the hangar structure off of him. Photo Credit: Jeremiah Diedrich


Jeremiah was sitting in the seat farther away from the camera when the airplane wing pierced the bubble and forced him to lie down. The wing then held the hangar structure off of Jeremiah and protected him. Photo credit: Joel Rich


A tunnel was created by the collapsed hangar roof. The airplane is not visible because it is on the other side of the roofing. This angle shows how the entire focal point of the hangar roof was on top of the helicopter. Photo credit: Joel Rich


Jeremiah, along with Bruno, the new Ethnos 360 helicopter pilot, examined the damage with emergency personnel—an amazing open door to share the gospel with these men who agreed it was a miracle that Jeremiah survived. Photo credit: Joel Rich

Jeremiah was a bit bruised and scraped up, but okay. With the storm still raging, he needed to get out quickly in case things collapsed more.  So he struggled to get free, breaking part of the windscreen which already had a hole, and somehow crawling out through that hole. He ran to find the other two people who had been in the hangar, fearing they had been crushed. They were safe but amazed to see that Jeremiah was okay after watching the roof collapse on him.  Together, they ran out to take shelter in a concrete building.

God had protected the people, but the helicopter was completely destroyed. Just as it was beginning to be a game changer to ministry teams, it had been demolished—in just a few seconds. Please pray for those whose ministry has been hindered and for Ethnos360 as they work to secure a replacement helicopter, enabling flights that can ensure the Good News can be shared where it hasn’t yet been heard.

Based on information supplied by Jeremiah Diedrich, who lived to tell us this story!