WAXHAW, NC – Many older Christians may still remember William Cameron Townsend, the founder of Wycliffe Bible Translators. He also founded SIL International, a similar organization that specializes in translation works for some of the smallest language groups. An astute businessman, he knew that Bible translation doesn’t just happen.He knew that it would take expertise in logistics and transportation support to enable Bible translators to sustain themselves and their work in the field. So, rather than having to source services from diverse, independent sources, he also established the Jungle Aviation and Radio Service (JAARS) in 1948 in Peru. JAARS functions as a subsidiary of SIL International.
In 1961, the faith-based organization moved its headquarters to its current location outside of Waxhaw, NC, on 552 acres of land donated by Rev. Dr. Henderson Belk, the son of the founder of the Belk Department Stores and a member of the JAARS board.
The JAARS Center is the heart of operations supporting the FBO’s Core Mission, “Enabling locally appropriate and sustainable solutions in transportation, technology, media, and training.” Bible translation is still the goal. Townsend espoused and pursued the goal of translating the Bible into every language. He also realized that a global effort would take comprehensive, global support. His vision was for JAARS to be that support.
The JAARS website explains that, although they do not do the actual translation work,
“For decades now, we’ve landed planes on narrow rivers and towering mountains. We’ve outfitted boats and vehicles to reach villages that rarely see an outsider. We’ve set up radios in the rainforest. Satellite uplinks in the desert. Makeshift recording studios and theaters on islands and mountains alike. Over and over, we’ve watched God pave the way for people to translate and share his Word anywhere on earth.”
The commitment of the JAARS staff is “to be there when we’re needed . . . until the task is complete.” Their work is to provide:
- Transportation Solutions, including air, water, and land. The JAARS Center has a flight-training school with its own fleet of planes that are purposed for the missionary aviation use. Water transportation might mean helping to provide well-equipped boats for individual needs. JAARS sources and provides 4WD vehicles and motorbikes for accessing remote regions.
- Technology Solutions provide sustainable power and communication systems for translation teams. JAARS offers funding to upgrade IT equipment and to train field partners on the ever-changing needs in the IT world. Support and training are provided for both hardware and software.
- Media Solutions addresses the needs of oral learners. No vision for Bible translation is complete without providing for those who either have no copy of the Bible in their heart language, or who cannot read or write. JAARS develops and provides equipment, training, and facilities necessary for using the digital world for Jesus.
Although JAARS is not a Bible translation FBO, it, nonetheless, ascribes to the Forum of Bible Agencies International’s Translation Principles, including
“to translate the Scriptures accurately, without loss, change, distortion or embellishment of the original text. Accuracy in Bible translation is the faithful communication, as exactly as possible, of that meaning, determined according to sound principles of exegesis.”
Pray for JAARS, the people behind the scenes enabling Bible translation to prosper.
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