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
Wycliffe.org
SIL.org

 

 

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2013 Summary (January-August)

Welcome to our new website! We’re glad you stopped by. From our end, this new platform has greater ease in writing and sharing photos and video. We encourage you to subscribe via email at the sidebar subscribe link. Your email address is protected and secure. As always, feel free to leave comments.

In lieu of our usual newsletter we are giving a summary of 2013 from January to the beginning of August. We know it is lengthy, but it has been quite a year. As you read, you will see what we mean. This post brings us to the night before we left for Guatemala. Due to the size and scope of our trip to Guatemala, as well as some extensive projects at JAARS, we felt it would be better to make that a separate post. So the next post will cover Guatemala and the remaining year.

We also invite you to view our Facebook Page. Click on the following link:  “Mike & Kathy Smith: This Week at JAARS”.  There we give brief “bites” of happenings here at JAARS. So here is 2013.

January: Mike begins the huge attempt to begin writing a “Standards of Best Practice” for Land Transportation. This involves a lot of data gathering. This will be ongoing throughout the year. He is also involved in a new Land Transportation brochure. We begin plans to go with our sending church, Cape Bible Chapel in Cape Girardeau, Missouri, on a missions trip to Guatemala in August.

February: A fourth Kodiak airplane arrived to JAARS to be made ready for service in Papua New Guinea. Mike is involved in training Intercultural Communications Class (ICC) participants in four-wheel drive, both driving and maintenance.

March: JAARS Day. Lots of great conversation takes place as Kathy is at the Information Table in the hangar. Mike is at the Land Transportation table or taking attendants on four-wheel drive rides. The blog post on our website on March 16 tells about a few of the conversations.

April: This month we completed “Family Rounds” and the Cape Bible Chapel Missions Conference. We  didn’t get to see everybody but managed to see most. 1900 road miles total—packed and unpacked at four places. Two days home and Mike headed to Florida for a one-week JAARS Aviation event.

“Family Rounds”

May: Kathy’s brother-in-law, Stan McCall collapsed suddenly on May 16 while at work and passed away one week later. He was 56 years old. Not only was he a dear relative but he was a strong believer and one of Mike’s closest friends. We are still feeling the void he left. He was especially close to our children as well.

We are thankful as we look back at April. We usually don’t travel to Missouri in April but looking back we see it was the perfect time as it would be the last time we would see Stan on this earth. During the April visit Stan was excited to share all the new deep truths of the Scriptures he was learning at a men’s Bible study he attended.

Our daughter, Karen, had major surgery the same day Stan collapsed. We simultaneously helped her through her first few days and made travel plans.

We traveled to Missouri for an extended time for the funeral and to support family. Karen was cleared by her surgeon to travel by flight and made it in time for the funeral. But the morning of the visitation she began to run a fever and had to go to the Emergency Room to be checked due to the recent surgery. Everything checked out fine and it was deemed to be a virus. (What a trying day that was!)

It was a sweet time with family as the funeral could not be performed until after Memorial Day. Stan’s children and Mike gave the eulogy and it was absolutely beautiful.

Mike, Katie, and Sean headed back home a couple of days after the funeral. Kathy stayed behind to go with Karen on a flight home a few days later. While booking the flight Kathy noted a sudden huge price increase on the day they wanted to leave. A better priced flight was found but it was two days after they wanted to return. Turns out, there was a good reason for the delay.

Snapped a quick picture before running downstairs

Snapped a quick picture before running downstairs

A bad storm was heading our direction in St. Louis. It was Friday night and we just enjoyed a nice dinner of barbecue. The weather was nice and I (Kathy) was sitting on the front porch enjoying it. Suddenly we heard the tornado alarms blaring. Karen and niece, Schendell, just left five minutes prior to make a short errand. We quickly called them and they headed back home.

We made quick for the basement and soon lost power. We lost cell phone service so had no idea what was going on. We just stayed put. We stayed down there until a neighbor came in and ran downstairs to see if we were alright. He told us the entire neighborhood was hit. And how right he was! With it being dark and not having any power, we all went to bed. The following link takes you to a video I took with my phone. It’s what we woke up to the next day.

Through God’s provision a friend brought over a generator on Saturday and taught Kathy and her sister, Chris, how to use it. The weekend was such a story of God’s provision and Kathy and Karen left on Sunday. Chris’ power was restored on Monday.

So May was quite a month for us. We still feel the deep pain as we miss Stan so much. Despite this huge loss, how blessed we were to find out Samaritan’s Purse was donating finances to buy 15 motorcycles to send to the Congo.

June: Another JAARS Day. We enjoyed meeting a group of Christian motorcyclists from Virginia, who donated enough money to buy a motorcycle for overseas.

We join the motorcycle group for dinner

We join the motorcycle group for dinner

At the end of the month we enjoyed a visit from Kathy’s sister, Chris. Accompanied by niece and grand-nieces, we were able to enjoy a wonderful time.

It was also a time of great comfort as we spent time together. We are all still going through the grieving the loss of Stan.

July: We make ready for the trip to Guatemala. Our financial support for the trip is complete! Mike has been in pretty high-gear mode. Here’s a list:

  • 1. Researching and compiling facts to write a “Best Practice Manual” for mechanics world-wide.
  • 2. Lots of phone and email consulting, as well as real repairs to help the Auto Shop when they need it.
  • 3. Written material for our brand new Land Transportation brochure, that is now hot off the press. (See below)
  • 4. Training ICC attendees in four-wheel drive driving and maintenance. (ICC attendees are new missionaries). They have arrived and are scheduling one-on-one time.

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(Click on the photo for a larger view. Since this is a photo of the brochure it might be a bit blurry.)

Mike helped a young couple with five children, serving in Indonesia, go through all the hoops necessary to provide them a suburban for their furlough in the states. They found the suburban. He is working on a few repairs to it, as well as helping them get the title, paperwork, etc, so it will be ready. It has been a three-month process so far.

20140125-114659.jpg

Here is a letter we received from the couple: “We are so thankful for Mike’s help! We think it will save us thousands of dollars while we are on furlough. We ended up paying $3500 for it. If we had to lease something, even from a Christian organization that helps missionaries, it was going to cost us at least $1000/month … for nine months! OUCH! We can hopefully sell it when we return to Indonesia.” 

We’re sure Mike can help with that sale as well. Incidentally, he repaired the gas gauge. 🙂

What a blessed ministry we have here. It’s rich in relationships, culture, and we get to hear all the stories of how the Lord is changing people and cultures through Bible translation.

August: It is now Friday night and we leave for Guatemala in the morning. Mike just told me he received a call from a mechanic in Papua New Guinea requesting he come and do some advanced training there. But for now, I just told him, “Goodnight, dear. We have a flight to catch in the morning. Let’s talk about it on the plane.” We appreciate prayers for safe travels and good health as well as the Lord’s blessing on our work there.

(Our next post will highlight Guatemala and the rest of the year.)

Thanks to all of you for your continued prayers and support
Mike & Kathy
Speeding Bible Translation at JAARS

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