A few days ago, Randall was flying. I know he will admit to certain tensions associated with flying, because he has said so. So, his admission to kissing the ground of the Calgary airport upon landing isn’t too surprising.
I wonder why we become apprehensive – OK, downright scared – of specific modes of travel. I know of several people who have been killed or turned into quadriplegics while riding their bicycles – struck by passing vehicles. I know of many people who have died in traffic accidents. I have had people close to me die in motorbike accidents. People die in boating accidents. I personally don’t know anyone who has been injured in an airplane crash.
Maybe it is the fact that while flying, another person is in control of the plane and we are rendered dependant on their abilities to do that well. If something happens, we are unable by our own actions to get to safety.
I guess that flying has never made me that frightened so maybe it is not fair of me to tell my story of learning to fly without great fear. Maybe I should tell instead of my fears of small boats. But that is another story.
In the Congo, one has to fly. I guess there are ways to get there and to travel around the country without flying but life would be a whole lot more complicated without air travel in Africa.
Leo and I flew south to Pimu, a little mission station in British Baptist territory. Leo went down to teach the nurses about Leprosy and TB. I went to do dental work. Following our week there, we parted company. Leo went on his way to another hospital to teach again. I was to head home, back to the kids and my regular work. The pilot came down, picked Leo up and flew him farther south then came back for me and the visitor travelling with us from American Leprosy Mission to return us to Karawa.
We took off from Pimu into a sky full of storm clouds. MAF has some of the best pilots and we learned that they were so trustworthy that we generally relaxed as they flew. If there is danger, they don’t take chances. But we took off into this bad weather. I think there may have been some pressure to get the visitor back to Karawa to catch his plane back to the US. The pilot began to weave his way through the clouds to the north. But the storms kept moving in around us. Tropical storms can be extremely violent. The winds that accompany them come suddenly and tear at whatever is in their way. So it was that day.
I have never felt as if the wings could be torn off the plane by the sheering force of the wind either before or after that day. You can imagine some of the things going around inside my head as we were buffeted by the storms, hitting air pockets that plunged the plane suddenly downwards. If this plane went down, who would break the news to the kids? Who would go and get Leo? Would they ever find the plane in the thick forest below?
I realized that I had no choice but to trust. If God wanted me around to be the one that cared for my children, he would care for me and get me home. God was in charge and I was completely at his mercy.
I know I prayed that afternoon. What began as prayer prayed in fear of what might happen ended in a prayer, at least semi-confident, of placing my trust in a God who loved me and my family; a God that was totally trustworthy; a God that was in control of the plane, as well as the weather and what happened to us in it.
I have flown many times since. Every time, I am reminded of that day, that small plane, that storm and of getting home safely. God is good. I might as well relax and enjoy the flight.
And I don’t have to go around kissing dirty airport floors!