This is a Face-to-Face profile highlighting a clever and interesting individual who is part of MMS. This particular story features Rena Jarboe.
When did you first feel called to missions?
I am a missionary kid (MK) and spent the better part of my first 17 years in India. I often resented that people would assume that I would become a missionary since my parents were. However, once I finished college, God started growing a desire in me for mission work. There was not one specific moment; just this slow occurring desire. Also, in my more reflective moments, I would look back on my life and see how God had been preparing me for mission work since the time I was young.
After I graduated from Columbia International University, I taught kindergarten in South Carolina for three years. During that time I started exploring the option of teaching missionary kids overseas. However, that didn’t get far because a mutual friend introduced me to Dwight who then introduced me to missionary aviation. He was in orientation with Wycliffe Bible Translators’ technical support arm JAARS in Waxhaw, North Carolina (a short distance away) at the time. Our engagement was kept secret until I was in the application process with Wycliffe (the mission policy), and after my acceptance we married in August 1974 and committed to serve with JAARS/Wycliffe.
Tell me about your first years of marriage.
Our first two years of marriage were spent preparing to serve in Bolivia. We went to what Wycliffe called Jungle Camp in Southern Mexico for 12 weeks to learn how one would survive when in an extremely remote area, jungle survival, first aid, living without electricity and language learning skills. Following a short time at home, we went to Spanish language school in Costa Rica for 8 months. In 1976 we arrived in Bolivia, South America where we served for the next five years. Dwight maintained a DC-3 airplane. I oversaw the mission’s library and then additionally the second year taught Kindergarten in the missionary kids’ school in Cochabamba. The DC-3 program phased out, thus changing our assignment at the end of five years. We also adopted our two children, Jen and Scott, during that time which is another story in of itself.
How did you get to MMS?
Jim Miller, the founder of MMS, was a JAARS missionary and Dwight’s supervisor at the JAARS Center in North Carolina. There, Jim would talk with Dwight about his vision for a training facility to prepare airplane mechanics. While we were home on a short three-month furlough in ’77-‘78, we stopped in and visited MMS – then a reality of Jim’s vision. But, it wasn’t until the DC-3 program in Bolivia was finished that we felt that MMS is where God might want us next. When we came home from Bolivia in the summer of 1981 we established a four month temporary residency in Miami to complete the children’s adoption process. A house was provided for us, rent free by a couple who needed house sitters. Dwight, during this time was able to assist MAF (Mission Aviation Fellowship) in familiarization with the DC-3 he had maintained in Bolivia and was leased to MAF who ultimately based it in Ft. Lauderdale. We made the decision to take a leave of absence from Wycliffe and in early 1982 to join MMS. That spring Dwight built our log home in Coshocton with labor free assistance from the dealer who happened to be a friend of mine from college days! Other family members and friends helped with the project and we moved into our almost finished home in July 1982.
How were those early years?
Well, the house was just a shell, with no interior doors and no floor coverings. That was a challenge with the kids. But we did just fine and are amazed at how the Lord provided the many things we needed. We had to set up housekeeping all over again as we could not bring many things back from Bolivia. Many people donated household items to help us.
That first year and a half, I did not participate in the office, but my contribution was to babysit another MMS lady’s son while she typed correspondence for Jim at MMS. MMS did have a hanger, but the office was in a trailer that was unstable in one corner. We struggled with the furnace in the winter which would often blow out when the trailer door was opened. The finances of the organization were low and each of the families would take turns supplying toilet paper and other necessary supplies. It was toward December of 1983 that Jim Miller left and the board asked Dwight to step in as temporary Director. We then terminated our membership with Wycliffe. The temporary Director position later grew in to a permanent position and later the title CEO was introduced. Meanwhile I would go into the office 2-3 days a week and help with receipting, correspondence, developing forms, adding prayer and praise items to the include in the receipts and anything else that needed to be done of that nature. I also set up a follow up system to respond to pledges and to supporters. We worked before the use of personal computers, copy machines etc. Receipts were typed using carbon paper for file copies and cut apart with the paper cutter.
The years have just passed by. There have been many changes and additions. I even wrote for the Ground Crew, along with other wives, during its infancy. The editor was the Chairman of the Board, Bruce Huffman. The mailing labels were submitted to a company who printed them and sent them back to MMS. We folded the GroundCrew by hand – a very time consuming project. I have really done a multitude of things over the years, the only thing I have not done, that I recall is inventory, bookkeeping and of course working in the hangar! In the early years we were a small group, so many of us multitasked in several areas – anything from planning our annual conference, social activities, (which were monthly in the early days), prayer events etc.
With retirement coming up what are your future plans?
Retirement is not in our immediate future, but the replacement of the CEO position will happen soon. My duties at MMS have dropped off over the past year as Juli Pottner has taken some of them. I still do the MMS Grapevine, welcome materials for new arrivals and I still get phone calls from time to time asking for advice. I guess with all this history I am a good resource person. But for right now I am not sure what God’s next step for me is. I will continue to take care of my mom’s needs as she needs them. I know I will be supporting Dwight and he will be supporting me. That is all I can really say with any certainty. God knows the future.
Rena has been a steady part of MMS over the past 33 years. God has used her in a big way to be certain that MMS would prepare people and planes for world wide missionary service.
Rena, thank you for the time you took to chitchat over coffee and tea.