Ken Bailey

Wycliffe Bible Translators-JAARS, LETU Class of 1973

In the case of JAARS, the primary focus of missionary aviation is providing communication and logistical support to our linguists, so that they can stay on task doing Bible translation. The linguists do Bible translation with the God-given gift of language. I do Bible translation with my God-given gift of working with things mechanical. Because we are often the only air transportation option for anyone, we serve everyone, whether it may be a medevac, transporting government officials, helping the local university place students for field work or hauling tubs of fish or peanuts from a remote village to the market in the city.

In the early 1980s, I was working at a remote linguistics center, 180 miles from the nearest town. There were no roads. Aviation transport was, and is to this day, the only practical transportation option. My motivation to maintain the aircraft well was very high — After all, that plane brought my groceries!

I knew I was called by God to mission aviation from the time I was 11 years old. This gave me a severe focus and determination all the way through high school, college (LeTourneau University), and my first couple of jobs in the commercial aviation industry. My eye was on the goal of service overseas to further the Kingdom of God. And oh, by the way, I loved flying. I obtained my Private Pilot Certificate when I was a senior in high school. While in college, Merrill Piper, a JAARS pilot, looked me in the eye and asked, "What will you do, if you lose your medical?" It was a sobering question, and I didn't have a good answer. After all, I was called to be a missionary pilot.

As it turned out, the medical did not keep me from being a missionary pilot, but money to get the necessary ratings and flight hours did. After five years of bending wrenches, the thought came to me that perhaps the Lord had other things in mind. I had oodles of commercial maintenance experience but only a couple hundred hours and a private license. So we joined Wycliffe, I as an aircraft mechanic and my wife as a librarian and school teacher.

God has blessed me with an incredible career, both before and in Wycliffe. I thank LeTourneau University for teaching me how to think (not what to think). There is no way we can see into the future and know what challenges we'll face. By learning how to think and how to track down resources to solve the problem, then you are prepared to meet the challenges of the world. I've worked in aircraft manufacturing, production flight test, R&D, certification flight test, high production light aircraft maintenance (100 hour inspection completed every day), developed and obtained STC's, Chief of Maintenance, national training, parts department, technical services and now as Chief Inspector of our Repair Station, where I'm responsible for the quality control of everything that flies or might fly someday that comes out of our hangar. That, and keep peace between JAARS and the FAA regarding aviation maintenance issues. All that with just an A&P license. It has been quite a ride, and I still have a lot of years to go before I can retire.

Merrill Piper was also fond of saying, "We don't need pilots. Pilots are a dime a dozen. We need people committed to the cause of Christ and Bible translation who happen to fly and are good at it." That was true 40 years ago, and it is still true today. Commitment to the furthering of God's Kingdom is essential, or you will fail as a mission aviator. What is your motivation? If it is touchy feeling emotion, it will not carry you very far and will lead to frustration and possibly get you killed.

God needs all kinds of people for all kinds of ministry. Whether you fly a plane over a remote jungle or transport car wreck victims by helicopter to a medical center here at home, you need to be sure that your heart is right with God. Then, and only then, can you have a satisfying career.