Randy Smyth

New Tribes Mission, LETU Class of 1984

The early years of my life were spent in the Seattle, Wash. area. Boeing had a very large presence in the area, so we would often see the new airliners as they finished final assembly. There are many smaller airports in the Seattle area, so smaller aircraft were frequently overhead, and we often saw float planes operating off of the lakes. At the age of six, I came to realize my position as a sinner in the hands of the Holy and Righteous God, and placed my faith in the finished work of Christ, who satisfied God’s wrath against my sin. About two years later, my parents presented to the family the idea of obeying God through carrying the message of eternal life to people living in remote parts of the world who have never heard. As a family, we all agreed this was something we wanted to do.

My parents joined New Tribes Mission (NTM), and we moved to one of NTM’s missionary training facilities for a year of training for jungle ministry. The particular facility where we moved was also NTM’s headquarters for training missionary bush pilots, so we often had aircraft landing on the runway in our front yard. Several of the other missionaries-in-training and staff were also pilots. One of them gave me my first airplane ride. Later, in the Indonesian part of Borneo, we had frequent interaction with MAF pilots and aircraft as my father purchased supplies for our co-workers living in remote locations and transported them to airport for delivery.

At about 15 years old, I thumbed through a catalog for what was then “LeTourneau College” and contemplated my future. As I looked through the training curriculum for aircraft maintenance, I recognized a lot of skills that were much in demand as the missionaries around me tried to "make do" with materials around them: hydraulics, pneumatics, electricity, electronics, engine repair, fiberglass and composite work, sheet metal work, welding, woodworking, painting, machine shop work, etc. I thought aircraft maintenance might be excellent background training if I were to pursue work as a missionary in tribal church planting. The next several years, my family lived in the remote jungles in the center of Borneo, where we spent much time pushing dugout canoes through river rapids, wading through swamps and hiking over mountain trails as we opened a church-planting work among the Urun Da’an people. If only we had an airstrip, we could have our supplies in an hour or two instead of spending three or four days on the river and a week to recover from the diseases we picked up along the way!

My desire as I launched out into the adult world was to speed the work of tribal church planting through missionary aviation. After I returned to the U.S., God opened the door for me to acquire the aviation maintenance licenses I needed there at LeTourneau in Longview, Texas. Each step after acquiring the aircraft maintenance licenses was also a step of faith as I looked the Lord for work, Bible training, pilot licenses, work experience as a flight instructor, missionary training, provision to live in a foreign country and, later, a spouse who would join me in the work. I have been able to serve with my missionary co-workers as a bush pilot here in Papua New Guinea since 1994. In that time, we have seen churches born in over 28 language groups who might otherwise not have heard of God’s tremendous provision for them through the blood of Jesus Christ. Thirty-five other language groups, previously reached, have continued on in the faith. We have had a front row seat as we have seen God’s power and glory demonstrated in the changed lives of these tribal men and women.