We had been working on our college production for our Junior-Senior Banquet for months. It was an original musical drama, written and directed by my roommate and me, based on the book of Esther. The orchestra had rehearsed night after night, the chorus had rehearsed, the actors, the light crew, the sound crew; we had prepared as much as we could. The night before, we had the dress rehearsal. But all those months of preparation and practice came down to one evening-the night of the big performance, and it was show time!
We were having a fabulous time sailing across Long Island Sound on a large sailboat. The sky was blue with little puffy white clouds, there was a warm, steady breeze moving us along and the kids were making memories. As for me, the sun and the water had me feeling like totally relaxed, or collapsed maybe. Suddenly, Dave, our skipper and host, said, "We're heading into the harbor." Everything in me wanted to scream, "Whaaattt? Why? Why would we do that?" But I didn't. It was his boat. It was his right to do what he wanted with it of course. By the way, he had heard a little static in the radio, but that told this veteran sailor that bad weather was on the way. I can't believe it! Sure enough, just as we sailed into the harbor, the skies opened up with a really nasty storm.
One of the wonderful gifts the Lord has given us in our Ministry Headquarters is a great studio for producing our radio programs. (Oh, that's where I am.) As our building was being built, the builders had to keep the concrete floor of the studio area separate from the floor of the rest of the building. It's called a floating floor, which simply means that the studio floor is totally isolated from the floor under everything else. And why would that be? A radio studio has to have an environment where no outside sound affects what you're recording. So to help create a totally controlled sound environment, you have a floating floor so other sounds won't travel through the floor and infect the studio area. (Aren't you glad you tuned in today to get so smart? Wow!) If you want a pure sound, you have to isolate yourself from all outside vibrations.
Apparently, the drunk driver liked our side of the road better than his side of the road. With our whole family aboard, our car was suddenly hit head-on. By God's grace, none of us was seriously injured, but our car went to car heaven and wherever totaled cars go. I don't know where that is, but I had a busy ministry schedule during the next few weeks, and our only car was gone. So a friend called actually and offered to lend us his car while he was in Florida for the next six weeks. That was awesome! An hour later, he drove into our driveway with his brand new Cadillac Coupe DeVille. That was good news and bad news. The good news was that for the next six weeks I'd be driving my friend's brand new Cadillac. The bad news was that for the next six weeks I'd be driving my friend's brand new Cadillac! I've never driven so carefully in my life! I stayed well under the speed limit, I got the oil changed about three times a week, and I didn't allow one scrap of food or drink in that vehicle. Hey, this was somebody's treasure I was driving!
The wind was blowing so hard that day, I was afraid someone was going to end up in Oz; and this isn’t even Kansas, Dorothy. I was in my office during one of those blustery hours, but you could not miss the roar outside. At times the winds were approaching hurricane force. I mean, they were knocking out electric power to many customers, they’re tearing branches off trees, and in one case while we were still living in the northeast, it was causing the deaths of four schoolgirls in New York City. They were actually in their church-school van when a 60mph gust whipped down the street, uprooted a 68-foot high maple tree, which fell on the van, killing those girls instantly. But the next day the mayor suggested that this was a tragedy that did not have to happen. Several months earlier, a nearby sidewalk had been paved without a permit, and that possibly weakening the roots of that tree. So, it may not have been the storm that caused the tragedy; it might have been the weakened roots.
I felt like the Big Bad Wolf in that story of Little Red Riding Hood; the part where he's masquerading as grandma. Little Red says, "What big eyes you have!" That was me the day I left the ophthalmologists' office. He had put dilating solution in my eyes for an eye checkup. Well, the checkup was over, but somebody forgot to tell my eyes. They stayed dilated for the next couple of hours. And everyone said, "What big eyes you have!" It wasn't much fun. Even though it was basically a cloudy day, I was squinting and I was trying to cover my eyes. With my pupils so big and so wide open, the light was blazing right into my eyes. I wasn't missing anything and it was blinding!
It was some years ago when we heard unsettling words on the evening news, "airline pilots strike." Man, I hate words like that! The threat of my particular airline and its pilots going on strike? Well, it threw everyone affected by it into a tailspin. (I guess that's a bad example.) Panicky travelers were scrambling to double book their reservations on another airline just in case. Resort areas serviced by this airline began to add up the zillions this might cost them. The White House started adding up the devastating financial cost on the economy-so much so that the President actually stepped in to at least delay the strike. The simple fact is, planes aren't going anywhere without pilots. If they don't show up for their job, it just gets real crazy real fast.
When our friends heard that our family had been invited to Alaska for a week of ministry, they were all excited for us. They said, "Oh, it's beautiful, you're going to love it! When are you going?" "February." "Oh." See, I get invited to places like Florida and Arizona in the summer, and Alaska in the dead of winter. We had a wonderful week, but the time came for my wife and kids to fly home because they had to get back to school, and I stayed for several more days of ministry. We were out on the Kenai Peninsula, in an area that felt fairly remote. We arrived at this small airport one night to rendezvous with our pilot. Dick was a missionary pilot, trained by Moody Bible Institute's top-flight pilot's school and he was experienced in flying into many remote areas of Alaska. But that night his cargo was the people I love most. My first cause for a little worry was his request to help him push the plane out of the hangar and onto the runway. That was new! Yeah, and it was icy. I had never pushed my plane into position before. I didn't like that runway. It was covered with thick, deeply-rutted ice from one end to the other. And at the end of this fairly short runway was a big stand of trees you could run into. Oh yeah, and it was heavily overcast-no moon, no stars. Well, I helped my wife and three children crowd into Dick's little Cessna, I waved good-bye as they started bouncing and maneuvering down that icy runway. I really didn't like the conditions, but I was okay because I really trusted the pilot.
Years ago we were just beginning the process of building our Ministry Headquarters. At that point, all that was on this field was the footings for the building and a barn that was on the property. Volunteers were in the process of renovating and weatherproofing that old barn for storage when some friends donated a truckload of office furniture to our ministry. It was going to be a few days before we could bring that furniture into the barn, so we had to leave it next to the barn, which meant it had to be covered to protect it, right?
Our Native American outreach team traveled across Alaska one summer to villages that were a long way from the nearest road. So, we spent a lot of time on small missionary airplanes. Missionary pilots, man, they are some of the best pilots in the world - my heroes. They have to be. I mean, every travel morning, they're on the phone, carefully checking the weather conditions. And if the weather wasn't safe, we didn't fly until it was no matter how urgent our schedule. And that's a good thing. Our pilot explained to me a condition that has cost many a pilot his life – it's referred to as get-thereitis. You know, it's cutting corners, rushing into your flight because you're obsessed with getting there. Then he told me a pilot's saying that I had to think about for a minute. He said, "Many a pilot has been buried on a sunny day." Translation: if only he had waited just a little longer.