Africa Aviation Initiative

In Africa, 1,500 language groups still have little-to-no Scripture in their own language. But Bible translation there is increasingly being embraced and led by local churches, denominations, and national Bible translation organizations. That’s good news.

What's Going On

In Africa, 1,500 language groups still have little-to-no Scripture in their own language. But Bible translation there is increasingly being embraced and led by local churches, denominations, and national Bible translation organizations. That’s good news.

Safe, affordable aviation transportation is a crucial service for these Bible translation efforts. Throughout much of the continent—countries like Cameroon, Central African Republic, Democratic Republic of Congo, and Tanzania—road infrastructure is poor-to-nonexistent. The McLean family, who work in northwest Cameroon with the Mfumte people, describe the road to their village of Lus as “little more than a mud path carved out of the side of a mountain.” They explain how aviation has allowed them to be more efficient with their time:

                  “Instead of spending two to three days getting to our village from the capital city,
                    we can get there in a few hours using [air transportation]. The aviation program
                    has been a huge blessing to our family.”

And in many of those settings, the same pilots and aircraft that support language development and translation efforts also make it possible for hospitals and clinics to serve the most remote people groups—sharing God’s love in the most real-time and practical ways possible.

The problem? With existing translation projects poised to expand, new translation projects (in new locations) beginning regularly, and aviation costs rising substantially, national translation organizations in most cases do not have the resources to fund this crucial enabling resource.

What Can Be Done

We’re committed to the people of Africa. And we’re committed to working with our translation partners as they provide the Good News to the millions who have yet to hear or read it in the language they understand best.

In the context of this broader commitment to language development and Bible translation in the region, we’re announcing the Africa Aviation Initiative. This initiative will focus less on individual aircraft and more on providing locally appropriate, sustainable, and timely aviation solutions across a broad and volatile region.

How will this differ from our past approach? Through the Africa Aviation Initiative, we can be:

  • More flexible. When we define needs in terms of transportation requirements rather than assets or equipment, the range of possible solutions increases. We can respond more quickly. In some cases, we’ll also be able to reduce financial risk to JAARS or our partners.
  • More responsive. Making large commitments to specific equipment can put translation projects at risk due to long-term fundraising cycles. Instead, we’ll work with translation partners to identify a range of solutions upfront. Then, as the Lord leads financial partners to invest, we’ll collaborate with multiple regional translation partners to identify and deploy the most important, practical, and timely solutions possible. Our goal is to support the greatest translation impact possible.

More focused on the best/right solution. With rapidly changing conditions in mind, funding may go to new aircraft. Or it might go to upgrades, maintenance, equipment leases, or re-deployment of existing aircraft. It may even go to charters and airfare subsidies where existing aviation infrastructure exists. Our intent is to enable whatever it takes to protect the progress of current projects and set the stage for future translation without undue delays or risk.

Who This Will Help

Translators and literacy specialists who live and work in hard-to-reach language communities. It can take days, even weeks—especially during the rainy season—to reach these communities overland, and it can be dangerous as well. Aviation creates a lifeline between people living in remote villages and the outside world.

Cameroon. Initially, the largest project on the boards is our commitment to SIL Cameroon to protect and potentially upgrade their helicopter capabilities. They currently support 14 language projects directly and other language communities indirectly, in addition to saving lives and easing suffering by serving a number of regional hospitals and clinics in the mountainous northwest and southwest regions of the country – and could serve more with the added capacity of a larger helicopter. In late 2017, though, their existing helicopter will go out of service for up to 12 months for mandated overhaul work. Without an alternative solution, their existing mission will be severely constrained.

On the other hand, upgrading their capabilities to a turbine helicopter with more power and an additional passenger seat, the capability to carry a heavier payload, more accessible jet fuel, and lower costs for users would enable them to expand the mission’s impact significantly – including the possibility of impacting even more language communities with Bible Translation support as well as supporting other Christian missions working in the same challenging environment. At a cost of $2 million, this solution would also include spare parts inventories, and future maintenance funding.  
We are praying and working for their opportunity to expand their work, to support people and language groups both spiritually and medically over a larger area … but, in any case, our commitment is that the required overhaul in 2017–2018 will not constrain their current mission. Now, we need partners like you to participate in this solution, to both protect and help define the scope of their ministry.

Central African Republic and Democratic Republic of Congo. Translation partners in Central African Republic and Democratic Republic of Congo need transportation subsidies for travel using existing commercial infrastructure.

Tanzania. We’re beginning research on a possible commercial partnership in Tanzania that would spin off operating profits to help fund a wide range of mission aviation needs across the continent.

Overall, we believe that our partners in African countries may need aviation solutions totaling several million dollars over the next five years to effectively support more than 1,500 translation projects in process or needing to begin.

That’s a significant number, but one that pales next to the significance of the lives of millions of Africans desperately waiting to hear, read, and understand the gospel.

We invite you to come alongside us. Through the Africa Aviation Initiative, we’ll be working to solve significant, life-changing needs in the region and to be—along with our field partners—the best stewards possible of your investment in language development, Bible translation, and life transformation!

Photo by Rodney Ballard