Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Modern Day Jonah, Part 2

The front wheel touched the pavement so softly most of the passengers were not even aware we were even on the runway.  The flight had very little turbulence and we actually arrived on time.  My mind began to argue with itself do I get a pizza for dinner or a hamburger? I had done my time, I had shared my faith, I had "suffered" this whole flight talking to my friend (if you don't know what I'm talking about, read part 1) I was ready for my alone, introverted time. My statement about faith being consistent all the time was the last thing said.  

I looked out the cockpit window. (on this style plane there is nothing separating the pilots from the cabin, so being in the middle seat I could see straight out the cock pit) Suddenly the pilot put the plane into a full throttle. The plane began to rattle and shake so much I thought to myself "there is no way parts aren't flying off all over the place. He put into a steep climb as well as a very sharp spirally banked turn. I looked out my window and saw how close we were to the ground. My eyes quickly turned back toward the cockpit and I saw sheer panic.

*This is how I thought it would turn out, one big fireball

The pilot was pulling back on what ever pilots pull back on and the co pilot was shouting as she held onto the radio with both hands. I looked past the pilots because something got my attention, oh, thats a huge radio tower in front of us I thought.  We turned and pulled up to miss it. My mind began to think what could have possibly gone wrong, was another plane on the runway? perhaps the landing gear got stuck? All the while my friend kept telling me "We don't land planes like this in my country" I finally turned to him and said, "We don't land planes like this in any country" and sunk back into my seat to notice the poor couple in front of us. A missionary couple from the Netherlands who had a small baby and had only been in Africa for three weeks. This was their first time on this particular aircraft.  

She turned to me and said, "Oh my goodness are we going to crash?  What should...." my friend interrupted her and said with all the confidence in the world, "The landing gear probably just fell off or got stuck, I heard a loud pop, we will have to make a crash landing" I saw panic rush over her face she turned to her husband, I looked at Holly as she rolled her eyes , I turned back to the couple in front of us and she was about to lose it. I had to give words of encouragement, I had to say it was going to be ok, I probably should have led us in a prayer, I needed to counter act with a more profound explanation.... so I pointed out the window and said, hey look a giraffe..... oh and a zebra (we were circling very low over Nairobi National Game Park) Wait, thats not what I wanted to say... oh well it worked, they were distracted.  

* Ok we didn't get this close to the animals, but you could tell they were thinking one of those giant birds was finally going to catch them

The plane came back for a second landing. This time making a much longer and faster decent onto the runway. We were turning steep to the left, then back to the right, the runway was not lining up the way it had so many times before. The Pilots were sweating, talking loudly, pushing all kinds of buttons, pulling levers, pointing out the window (which I could only assume was a bad thing like, hey if we crash lets not hit that huge gas tank or something like that) Anyway, I grabbed Holly's hand not knowing what was about to happen. Everyone had assumed crash position, well except my friend who was still talking about something.  I had tuned him out and was focused on the faint smell of smoke. We finally touched down. the plane began to fish tail back and forth. If it weren't for our seat belts we would have been thrown all over each other... did I mention my friend apparently didn't have his tight because he ended up in my lap. It took the whole length of the runway to stop the plane. We were afraid we would hit the building at the end of it, or flip over from the fish tailing. My last thought.... well it was "I'm going to be stuck in a pile of rubble with this guy on my lap talking to me about how he would have done it different", I wish  it were more spiritual, but it wasn't. Then, as quickly as the terror set in, the plane rolled to stop. The silence was broke by a nervous laughter.  The pilot stepped out and explained what happened. Apparently a reverse thruster getting stuck is not a good thing.  The fire trucks unloaded and turned off their lights. The airport, which had emptied to watch us crash, were applauding. Other Pilots were high-fiving and congratulating ours. One of which told me that our pilot did what very few could, and that we should have crashed. Our Pilot responded, "I don't know how we didn't" as we were all walking away.  

Then it hit me, not so much about what had just happened or what could have happened, but how my attitude through the whole flight was selfish, arrogant, and ignoring others around me.  I had been so focused on "I"m going to do something," instead of simply trusting God to use me. I had an opportunity to really show leadership in a crisis situation and I said hey look giraffes; I didn't pray, I didn't remind anyone of God's sovereignty or power or protection or the hope that what ever does happen doesn't really matter if we are a Christian, I missed out.  But I was also reminded of a quote I heard recently that being here is a privilege, God doesn't call the equipped, but He equips those He calls. I don't need to worry about doing anything in my own strength, I have His I can call on and should call on every day.

 Here we are, ready to kiss the ground beneath our feet. So thankful we made it safely.

Modern Day Jonah, Part 1

What a ride! thats what I would normally say all excited like after a twisting and turning roller coster at Carrowinds or Six Flags.  However, this time "What a ride" followed by a huge sigh of relief/exhaustion, and a "never felt so good to be over with" mind set. I have to confess, I think writing this blog is opening my eyes to why some of this had to take place. I know from now on, I will try to listen to the Holy Spirt and not my selfishness telling me to retreat.

It all started back in Loki a few days before our trip to Nairobi, when Holly and I went to church.  There we met a new "friend" a long talker from somewhere in Europe. He preached that day's sermon.  I twisted and cringed on every word as he was giving the worst gospel presentation of all time.  For example, I wrote it down because I couldn't believe it, "If you want to go to heaven, its simple there is one way, love your neighbor.... oh and your enemies love your enemies and your neighbors, that is what Jesus said was the way to heaven". I actually prayed, "Dear God please help the translator fix this guys mess." Maybe I should have prayed for the Holy Spirit to fix the guy.  Anyway after the sermon we found ourselves cornered looking for anyone we could find as an excuse to avoid talking for the next 2 hours.  Like good missionaries we dug deep inside for some excuse not to join him for lunch and  left, thinking we were finished...

Our very large plane

It never crossed my mind to go find him and ask him what he meant by some of the points he made? I ignored all prodding the Holy Spirit was doing to go and ask this guy his testimony. Well God had other plans... We left a few days later to go to Nairobi.  Holly and I spotted him at the airport and did everything we could to avoid sitting beside him.  God has a great sense of humor by the way.  It was a sixteen passenger plane, one seat on each side until the back where it is three across.  Yep, thats where we were, at the very back of the plane, I was in the middle with long and not to mention close talker with bad breath right beside me. For half the trip I heard in a very loud voice how horrible everything about Africa was, its food, its culture, its weather, what ever else, I pretended to be asleep after that but he just kept tapping me to wake me up....

*What I probably looked like for 3/4 of the trip

Finally in a Jonah like moment I shouted the words in my head "OK God, you win, I'll do it, please just make it stop" so I turned to him, and said, "Tell me how you became a pastor" ..... "oh thats nice, and just how did you become a Christian".... Then to my amazement he turned and said, "I've talked a while now, tell me, how did you become a Christian" I gave the clearest Gospel I could  I explained that I realized I was a sinner I thought I could be good enough to go to heaven, but realized thru God's Word, I wasn't. However, Jesus had died for my sin, so salvation is about what He has done, not what I can do.  We then talked the remainder of the flight about Theology and the importance of understanding the context of Scripture, that and how in his country churches were better then American churches, and African churches and every other place on earth.  Thats the moment I said the words, that couldn't have been better timed as we were literally feet off the runway, "You know the Turkana people in Loki, they are not like you and I, each day there is a real possibility they might be shot by an enemy. They face famine, disease, desertion, shooting, drunk men, corruption and death every day in the face.  Our God gave us a Gospel of hope, something that can be obtained, not earned by being good enough. We need to be able to face disaster and smile because we know with all certainty that our Salvation is reliable. And then chaos happened,

Hey, is that a problem with the wing?