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




Photos from Germany

Here are more photos from Kathy’s Germany choir trip. I’ll be putting captions and adding more. These are the ones from the newsletter. Be sure to drop by on occasion for more!


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The view from the window of the room I shared with four other ladies.

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Dan, our wizard sound technician. He was the first to enter our venues. We’d wait in the vans for his return to receive instructions as to what equipment to bring in. EVERY time he returned within fifteen minutes. And EVERY time in another fifteen minutes he was hooked up and ready for a sound check! This is the scenario at the Evangelical Free church.

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Translation of the Article in the German Newspaper

The following translation was done by fellow-choir member, Sim Hughes. Sim was fairly fluent in German and was so helpful to me in personally communicating with the people. He’d written out the gospel in German for me and helped me with phrases. I still keep that tattered piece of paper with me to practice in case I get to go this year. Here’s also a larger photo you can click on and zoom, if you’d like to take a stab at it yourself!


Christmas in the American Style

Calvary Choir from North Carolina performed, as a guest, in the Advent Concert at St. Anne’s Church.

Modern yet contemplative, was the appearance of the choir from America at St. Wendel St. Anne Church. They brought a piece of an American Christmas to the house of God.

St. Wendel.

A visitor at St. Anne’s Church experienced a special type of Advent Concert. The Calvary Choir Christmas singers, 29 in all, sang traditional and modern Christmas carols, which they usually sing in their own church. They gave their best.

“In the US one has a very different way of celebrating Christmas,” said pastor and concert organizer, Michael Landoll, of the event. “Now with you, the choir would like to enrich our German Christmas.”

Colorful outfits

The principal difference, which was spoken of, struck one right away as the singers entered the church. Usually choirs perform their Christmas concerts in solemn black clothes with one or the other colorful accent, whereas with the Calvary Choir, all were colorfully and cheerfully dressed. Each member wore another eye-catching color and set the stage, as if magically; so before the first note a bit American Christmas spirit was present in the Church of St. Anne. The musical opening of the concert did not detract from this atmosphere. With beaming faces the musicians sounded under the direction of their conductor, Tim Hathaway, a little Christmas medley of “Hark the herald angels sing” and “Joy to the world”. Equally joyful was “Go, tell it on the mountain” and the African Christmas song “Sing Noel”. The choir also varied the style as the singers included reflective music as well. These included “Praise the Lord” and also “How deep the father’s love for us”. Such variation required a steady change in assignments for some of the singers. For example, at times the entire choir sang together, at other times it supported a soloist’s performance and occasionally a small group performed in the foreground. The song “Hail favored one”, began as a duet and dialogue between Mary, the Archangel Gabriel, and ended as a trio with Joseph as a third voice.

Choir members added a meaningful touch to the concert by relating a song to events in their personal lives. So singer, Brian, told the audience about his search for God, which came to a critical point with the birth of his two daughters and how the song “When I think about the Lord” reminds him about it every time: I realized that if I were to honestly answer my children’s questions about God, than I had to find my faith.

St. Anne Church was for the 29 singers’ just one stop on their tour of Saarland and West Palatinate. A total of six churches and eight nursing homes gave the Calvary Choir its best Christmas repertoire experience before they, the Choir, headed back to North Carolina, where the travelers to Germany will again complete the rest of the 150 voice chorus.

Guatemala, Here We Come!

Dear Friends,

This letter is a bit different than our usual update but we are excited to share with you an exciting opportunity before us. Our commissioning church–Cape Bible Chapel in Cape Girardeau, Missouri–is going on a missions trip to Guatemala in August. Through a series of communications and “one-thing-led-to-another”, it looks like our skills can be of great use on this trip. We are very excited to be a part of this team, comprised of both long-time friends and new friends.

Our goal is to spend one week there using our skills to help a wonderful ministry at the Rehobeth children’s orphanage in rural Parramos, Guatemala. Every ministry has a God story as to how it came about and this one is no different. Rather than go into detail here there is a website set up with more information. We invite you to take a look around. We depart on August 3rdand return August 10th 2013.
What specifically will we do? Mike will tackle repairs of a water pump station. Kathy will use her medical skills to fit people with eyeglasses. Anyone got any old prescription glasses laying around that you have no idea what to do with? WE CAN USE THEM.
They can be any type, as long as they are prescription. Using an oto-refractor, we will use them to match people with the prescription glasses. We hope to collect 300 pairs of glasses.
We are excited about this opportunity and hope you will consider your part in helping us.
There are several ways you can help us complete the goals of this trip.
  First, pray for effectiveness of ministry and health and safety in travels.
  Second, we need prescription eyeglasses. We would like to take a total of 300 pairs.
  Third, we need donations of anti-reflux medications (over the counter is fine), anti-inflammatory medications, and medications for respiratory problems.
  And fourth, we need to raise our financial support for the trip. At $1500 per person, we need a total of $3000 and we ask you to consider a one-time donation for this trip. If you choose to support us financially, we’d appreciate knowing your intentions as soon as possible or by mid-May so we can have everything ready for our departure date.
Important details:
  Please let us know if you will pray for us regularly. We will keep you posted of detailed prayer requests.
  If you have eyeglasses and medications mail them to the church address below in care of Joel Niekirk, Missions Committee Chairman. If you would, enclose a note stating you know us.
  If you would like to partner with us financially for this trip, the following is very important. DO NOT mail your donation to Wycliffe. All donations must be mailed to Cape Bible Chapel at the address below. You will need to include a note stating your donation is for Mike and Kathy Smith expenses for Guatemala. You will get a tax-deductible receipt.
We hope you will consider helping us meet the goals of this trip. As you can see, there are several ways you can help. We thank each of you for your continued partnership in the ministry at JAARS and consider it an honor to be an extension of you here, and now to use our skills in Guatemala.
Mike and Kathy
Address for Guatemala financial support:
Cape Bible Chapel:
2911 Kage Rd.
Cape Girardeau, MO 63701
c/o Missions Committee Chairman: Joel Niekirk
Attach a separate note stating “for Mike and Kathy Smith trip to Guatemala”

JAARS Day March 2013, Includes Dedication of JAARS’ Fourth Kodiak Plane

Mike at the Land Transportation display. 

It was a beautiful, clear Saturday. Much prayer, preparation, and passion was complete as JAARS held its first JAARS Day of the year. Once again, we participated.

The day is filled with visitors with a variety of interests. Some come out of curiosity, some want something different to do on a beautiful Saturday. Some are just tagging along with a friend or there are church groups or youth groups. And then there are those who know deep in their heart God is calling them to serve in missions. It is here they can find direction and where their skills and talents can be used. It is inspiring to hear their stories and see their passion with God’s call on their lives.

Kathy and Patti Wilson are the regular team at the Information Table in the hangar. There are three Information Table’s on the campus. It seems people are always most curious about the planes so the one in the hangar stays very busy. 

The hangar is filled with numerous other displays—sign-ups for plane and helicopter rides, vernacular media presentations, Maritime services, a children’s section where games are played, volunteer services where people can connect their skills and begin their journey in missions. Information Technology (computers) have their display in our second large hangar called the “T-hangar”. This display is one of the largest as computer technology revolutionized Bible translation.

In the picture above can you see how to find the answers to all your questions about JAARS Day?

This is the fourth Kodiak airplane acquired by JAARS. Through generous donations and God’s miraculous provision JAARS acquired this one in January of this year. The Kodiak airplane was designed specifically for missions. This one will be flown to Papua New Guinea (PNG) for use there. PNG has more languages than any other country in the world. The PNG Center there is the largest in the world.

 The control panel of the Kodiak.
Open for a peek inside.
 Gathering the crowd for the dedication.
Director of Aviation, Mike Brooks, introduces John Williams, JAARS Chaplain, who leads prayer for the dedication.
  The public joins hands for prayer during the dedication.
Prayers are offered for protection of the aircraft, the missionaries it will transport, the people groups it will be used to reach, and the mechanics who will maintain it. Every aspect of its use was prayed for.

 A Cessna was also dedicated to serve Bible translation in Australia.

Here are highlights of a few conversations we had.
  • We met a lovely family with seven daughters. Their fifteen-year-old knows without a doubt she is called to missions, specifically to northern India. This JAARS Day was her birthday and her requested gift was for the family to attend and spend her entire birthday at JAARS. She made rounds to all the displays, investigating each one. Last we saw her, she had an armful of literature. Kathy had an extended conversation with her mother. What an inspirational young lady this is!
  • Brian is a father of two elementary age boys. He received Christ two years ago and immediately sensed he was called to ministry. In the light of many older and wiser Christians telling him to take things slowly, Brian shared this calling would not leave him. He could not “not” do it. Brian shared how he then was laid off from his fifteen-year job in computers. With time on his hands and a passion for ministry, he enrolled in seminary. It was humbling to see his profound knowledge and application of the Scriptures. Once again, he was armed with literature and information, seeking the Lord if he is called now to missions. His wife was not there but she shares his passion.
  • Two pilots shared how they were from Fort Lauderdale, Florida and came here specifically for JAARS Day. They’d heard of the ministry of JAARS and Wycliffe at their church and thought it was time for a visit. What a joy to meet them.

These are just a few snippets of the conversations that took place that day. It was a full day of inspiration, encouragement, and excitement. JAARS Day is held four times a year. A lot of prayer and planning goes into these. We are thankful to participate. The entire center is busy with other aspects as well. Four-wheel drive rides, boat rides, construction displays with small building projects for the public to do, solar computing, ethnic activities. The museums are open and there are several translation modules presented in the Townsend Building.

If you’re coming this way, why not check out the remaining JAARS Days for the year and make a detour to our Center? We’d love to see you!

Mike and Kathy

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