Thirteen Years and We’ve Only Just Begun …

It was the Fourth of July in the year 2000, the first Independence Day of the new millennium. We celebrated as did everyone else. But we started a different kind of celebration. On top of a mountain in Idlewild, California and after completing five weeks of intense study and face-to-face meetings with Wycliffe personnel, we received our acceptance letter from Wycliffe Bible Translators that very day. While our nation celebrated Independence Day, we began what we call our “Dependence Day”.

From that day we began a journey of dependence on the Lord and a memory every Fourth of July. Last month marks fourteen years of our journey with Wycliffe. This time we stood atop a parking garage and watched fireworks over the city of Charlotte, North Carolina. And this month we celebrate ten years since arriving to the JAARS Center. We’d like to take a moment and recap the past ten years for you. As the days fly by it makes us a bit dizzy to think ten years have passed. But as you see, God has been so faithful.

The days here are unpredictable and never routine. Some events happen so rapidly their significance escapes us. And so it’s good to look back. It helps us see and summarize that God indeed is at the helm.

Many of you are new to our ministry and others have not seen how we moved from the first assignment in the Automotive Shop here (the more local ministry) into Land Transportation (LT), the more global aspect of the ministry.

When people find out we are missionaries usually their first question is, “What countries have you served in?” Well, our answer is the United States. And why is that? There is only one answer. This is specifically where the Lord called us. Through many circumstances and events, it was unquestionable that the Lord called us to use Mike’s mechanic skills in the Auto Shop. But the answer grows ever larger as we see the growing sphere of influence in the development of real relationships with our missionaries worldwide. Much takes place on these six-hundred acres known as “The JAARS Center”.

Mike's beginning days

The Beginning

In 2003 I began work at the JAARS Automotive Services. The Auto Shop was responsible for maintenance of about thirty center-owned vehicles, 5 emergency power generators, and servicing missionaries returning to the United States on furlough. When time permitted we would offer service to members and volunteers assigned here at JAARS. It was, needless to say, nonstop. (Click on a photo to begin gallery side-show.)

In time and after many conversations, we developed an interest in how we could help our colleagues in other parts of the world where getting their vehicles repaired was much more difficult. In 2005 I made my first overseas trip to the Southern Philippines to work on missionary vehicles at our regional center, Nasuli. There I met Jim Patterson and began consulting work via email and telephone. Sometimes our emails included photos and diagrams.

In 2006 John Pepper, the Director of Land Transportation (LT), which focused on four-wheel-drive (FWD) training and basic maintenance, invited me to join him on a trip to Ethiopia. John was conducting driver training for members of the regional SIL center in Addis Ababa.

In 2007 I traveled there and met a unique “church run” auto shop of 52 employees. This was the Mekane Yesus Church. I spent part of the two weeks at this shop and assessed their need for equipment and training for the newer vehicles they were servicing. It was a blessing to meet these highly skilled nationals and I was very motivated to help them. This auto shop would not only serve our missionaries in Ethiopia but other mission groups, too.

I joined John at the SIL Center at Addis Ababa and we expanded the Land Transportation training to include more in-depth maintenance of the missionary vehicles. The staff was highly motivated and wanted us to help them get their vehicles in good shape. We were asked to stay four weeks instead of two. Unfortunately, our trip itinerary could not change.

The response to our combined training program was so well received we started looking at expansion to other parts of the world. The Land Transportation Department wasn’t equipped with the tools and data base that I had in the JAARS Auto Shop, so our plan was to merge the two and share the resources.

We started a more aggressive recruitment of mechanics to send overseas for short trips and for long-term assignments when necessary. It took some time to carry out this plan but with persistence we started to see results and mechanics began to arrive here. We used the Auto Shop as a training ground to prepare mechanics to serve overseas and a place for those coming home on furlough to brush up their skills on the new technology.


In 2010 I was in a major car accident. Though limited physically, while I recovered I devoted myself to full-time to training and consulting. New opportunities opened overseas to do consulting with mechanics working in the field as well as the arrival of mechanics to send to fill important positions. Finally, after many years of prayer and recruiting, the Auto Shop had enough staff and I moved full-time into Land Transportation.

I continue to be a resource to the Auto Shop and am continually helping them with questions and some of their more difficult jobs. Some of the mechanics for overseas work spent time with me receiving additional training before taking their assignments. I keep in touch with them most of the time through email. It is also part of my job to provide equipment and repair information to them and help solve problems.

I am responsible for communication with groups and people who want to know more about JAARS Land Transportation and how they can get involved. We have some exciting relationships being developed with FWD and motorcycle clubs.

We join the motorcycle club for dinner

We join the motorcycle group for dinner

Two of our staff just returned from Ghana teaching indigenous pastors and missionaries how to safely operate motorcycles and to maintain and repair them. Some of the motorcycle clubs we partner with help fund the purchase of motorcycles for those ministering overseas.

We continue to build a network of people willing to support LT needs. I develop training materials and communication with those in the field. In fact, we are working on making videos of our class and hope to have them available online for our missionaries. Many connections start with JAARS Day. Kathy is a regular at the Information Table at the Hangar and I staff the LT table.

Recently, we made a connection with a FWD group in Uwharrie, North Carolina. This past April we were invited to host a table at their annual Jamboree. They are now interested in providing a larger space to highlight JAARS and we are working with Public Relations to host a “mini-JAARS Day” at their next Jamboree, which includes bringing a JAARS helicopter to provide rides.

JAARS Tent at Uwharrie, NC 4WD Jamboree

JAARS Tent at Uwharrie, NC 4WD Jamboree

We are excited about this new connection, which is one of many, to raise awareness and recruit those the Lord is calling to missions.

Kathy continues to help me with all our communication. She is also a regular at leading praise and worship for our weekly Center Meetings and cooks many a meal-sometimes at the last minute-as we host missionaries passing through the area. We enjoy ministering to them while here, whether spiritual encouragement or vehicle needs. Their stories of how Bible translation is making a difference kindle excitement, amazement, and motivate us to help them meet the challenges they face.

Again, we want to thank so many of you who’ve partnered with us through the years. Most of you have been here since the very beginning. Words can never express thanks for your financial and prayer support. Many of you pray for us everyday. How do we say thanks?

To close, we have great joy to report that when we arrived at the JAARS Center the number of languages needing Bible translation were around 3000. This year we saw that number drop below 2000. Most recent the number is around 1800. All glory to the Lord for this.

Jeremy Lott contacted us via our Facebook page and attached of picture of himself working in the shop at Ukarumpa SIL, Papua New Guinia. This is one reason we keep our Facebook privacy settings on "Global"

Jeremy Lott contacted us via our Facebook page and attached of picture of himself working in the shop at Ukarumpa SIL, Papua New Guinea. Jeremy is one of the mechanics Mike did advanced training with.

We invite you to explore the latest Wycliffe and SIL websites for some great stories about how Bible translation changes a community.

Well, that sums it up for ten years. Many stories and relationships have developed through the years and we are  thankful the Lord called us here. And as you can see, we’ve only just begun.

In closing we’ve posted a gallery of our prayer card photos through the years. Enjoy!
Mike and Kathy,
Speeding Bible Translation at JAARS
P.S. Don’t forget to “Like” us on Facebook, where we post photos and short updates weekly about life around JAARS. Click on the following link and click the “Like” button.
Mike & Kathy Smith: This Week at JAARS

Related Links:

JAARS Land Transportation



Previous Post
Leave a comment

1 Comment

  1. In spite of the many challenges you’ve faced, except for a few white wisdom wiskers in Mike’s beard, you guys haven’t aged a day in ten years.


We'd love to hear from you!

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: