South Charlotte

His calling led him to be a Bible translator

The JAARS family celebrated Calvin Hibbard’s 90 birthday Nov. 14.

Hibbard is among the few remaining living members of an early group that worked on Bible translation.

That work continues to be supported by the former Jungle Aviation and Radio Service, now known as JAARS, which has its headquarters on Davis Road, five miles south of Waxhaw.

JAARS uses pilots and mechanics, software developers, media specialists, maritime workers, purchasers and shippers to support those who do translation and literacy work worldwide.

Hibbard was born in Chicago on Nov. 11, 1924. He joined the Army at 18, and went to France and Germany during World War II.

He married in 1948, and together with his wife, Cornelia, went to the jungles of Peru in early 1952, where he worked for 23 years at the JAARS base in Yarinacocha, Peru.

In a series of reflections on his life, Hibbard tells a fascinating tale of devotion and faith.

He has spent the last 64 years as a member of Wycliffe Bible Translators, about 32 of those years as administrative assistant to founder William Cameron Townsend.

“Without a doubt, the greatest call of God on my life was when he put me to work as Cameron Townsend’s administrative assistant in September of 1950, just four weeks after we joined Wycliffe,” Hibbard said. “It was none of my doing, but God brought circumstances together, with the result of my serving with Townsend over a period of 32 years.

“Occasionally, I helped Townsend as he related to Peruvian government officials, to gain permission to study Indian languages and translate scriptures into those languages. My career has been helping make the Bible available to Bible-less people abroad.”

Hibbard and Cornelia raised four sons in Peru. The Jungle Aviation and Radio Service was born there, offering the only way for translators and literacy workers to get to isolated jungle villages quickly and safely, and communicate by radio back to the WBT jungle base on Lake Yarinacocha.

Hibbard wrote in his journal about his experience in 1952: “We moved to Yarinacocha in the heart of the Peruvian jungle, near Pucallpa, market town at the end of the trans-Andean highway. We live in rented housing for about a year but then have local workers build us a three room house with screens in the windows and tocuyo (muslin) ceiling to keep out bugs, snakes, etc. We love the house and the location right on the shore of Lake Yarina which is about 11 miles long and half a mile wide, and beautiful. It is a perfect ‘landing field’ for float plane operation, already in full swing at the jungle base, rapidly growing with the arrival of new members.”

Hibbard also wrote about people he encountered in Peru: “In the jungle I knew Juan Sebastián Pérez, a Piro spiritual leader and teacher of his own people, a sound believer and a skilled Bible translator. He taught me something of the quiet inner life of walking close to God. He was never in a hurry, never angry, cheerful, thoughtful, and a pleasure to be with.”

After Townsend’s death in 1982, Hibbard said, “my wife and I felt God calling us to organize Townsend’s papers into a proper archive, which turned out to be a 16-year job.

“During this time, God brought dozens of special people to help in the large task of indexing and scanning the 47,000 documents.”

Hibbard still works with the archives at JAARS, and he also has scripted and narrated a history of JAARS aviation on DVD, which he occasionally shows to church groups.

In his “Father’s Legacy” journal, Hibbard recounts seven of life’s most important lessons he has learned. Number one seems most appropriate at this time of year: “You never lose by being generous. God will see to that.”