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April 16, 2014

Press Photo

BCF Mission Professor Rich Elligson and student Emily Pope with JAARS Pilot Nard Pugyao.

The Baptist College of Florida (BCF) in Graceville hosted an exhilarating event for the very first time on Saturday and Sunday, April 12 -13, at the Tri-County Airport. In hosting JAARS, a North Carolina based ministry that provides technical services for Wycliffe Bible Translators, the college was able to expose the community to the value of mission’s aviation in spreading the gospel.

According to BCF President Thomas A. Kinchen, the event was “an opportunity for people to experience something new in ministry.” This is perhaps most relevant in reference to the airplane and helicopter rides that were available which mirror the efforts of missionary pilots. Many in attendance took advantage of the opportunity to “take to the air” and find out what it’s like to ride in one of the missions vehicles. “This is missions familiarization. Missions is bigger than we realize,” stated Kinchen. “God wants us to tell people about Jesus regardless of where they are.”

Helicopter rides were a first for many participants, ranging from young children to BCF students and professors. BCF student Martha Seals, whose husband Dennis is a retired military pilot, brought her two young grandchildren to the event. Clad with face paint to resemble his favorite hero, grandson Jacob Seals climbed into the helicopter with his grandfather, potentially igniting a passion for future missions aviation.

BCF student and missions major Justin Toffolio took to the skies in a helicopter for the first time on Saturday as well. “It felt like we were gliding through the air,” stated Toffolio, commenting on the view of the Florida swamps from the helicopter windows. Toffolio was able to take advantage of the many resources available from the JAARS representatives, buying several books that sparked his interest in missions.

Another first time helicopter ride was had by BCF Missions Professor Rich Elligson. Regarding the Missions @ the Airport event, Elligson said that it was a “great experience to see how real missionary pilots are able to get into places where not everyone can get to. I can’t imagine what it would be like to land on a mountaintop or along a narrow river bank.” Elligson stated that “it was my first helicopter ride, but it won’t be my last.”

Missions @ the Airport was enriched even further by BCF’s Baptist Collegiate Ministries (BCM) providing food and drinks, the American Association of Christian Counselors (AACC) providing baked goodies and the Teacher Education majors coordinating a very active Kids Zone. “We see education as a mission. It’s good to see our students working with the kids at a missions focused event,” stated Susan Wegmann, BCF’s Chair of the Teacher Education Division.

The JAARS team conducted special presentations during the day indicative of the different techniques of an airplane to reach remote locations in support of missions. JAARS pilot and Missions @ the Airport Director Mike Mower demonstrated distinctive maneuvers including a short field landing, short field takeoff, canyon climb, canyon turn, wing-rocking pass, and three-point landing, as well as several others.

All of the JAARS pilots are well-trained and extremely skilled. However, not all of them have a story like Nard Pugyao. Nard piloted the helicopter that so many visitors went up in at the Missions @ the Airport event, and during his flights he would often share a little of his interesting history. Nard comes from the Philippines and is the grandson of a headhunter. He came to know Christ because the gospel of Mark was brought to his people, translated into their heart language, Isnag, by Wycliffe Bible Translators. After being exposed to the gospel and giving his life to Christ, in 1964 Nard went on his first airplane ride. “I thought flying was for the birds,” stated Nard, but then in 1971 a missionary took Nard “under his wings” and he came to America where he became one of the first indigenous pilots for JAARS. Nard spoke of how exciting it has been over the last 30 years to see more and more indigenous people becoming involved in missions. However, the best part of his experience with JAARS is undeniable by most; “I was able to fly the first 500 copies of the Bible, translated into Isnag, back to my home.” Nard spoke an overwhelming truth during one of his helicopter flights, “That’s what the scriptures do, they change lives.”

Fun memories were made at Missions @ the Airport and many eyes were opened to a whole new world of missions and aviation. Most of the visitors left with an acquired knowledge of missions aviation and information on how BCF is leading the way in offering a degree in missions with a concentration in aviation.

For more information about the school that is “Changing the World Through the Unchanging Word®” call The Baptist College of Florida at 850.263.3261 ext. 460 or visit the website at www.baptistcollege.edu.

Press Photo

BCF student Casey Butner waves to his wife and two daughters before going up in the JAARS plane.