Trials of faith – “A flat tire” Part 1
“Not now!!!” I said to myself as I heard the air gushing out of the tire. I knew immediately what had happened without having to look. A few days earlier I’d wrestled with the thought of replacing the right main tire on the Cessna 182 turbo. It had a bald spot, but I had decided to wait as I was running out of time. I needed to take a couple missionaries to a new project in Leticia, Colombia, while also taking my wife and five month old daughter, to visit family in Venezuela.
The flat tire could not have come at a more disappointing time. For weeks we had waited for a couple of bolts to arrive that would get the airplane airworthy. They finally arrived, and in no time, the airplane was operating again. But on the day we were supposed to leave, the turbo on the airplane failed and the flight had to be scrubbed. Finally a day late we had succeeded in making it to our first airport in Guayaramerin, Bolivia. After spending the night at the school, we stopped by immigration and stamped out of the country. We were now on our way to Leticia, or so we thought.
With the flight plan approved to leave the country and the airplane full of fuel, I slowly taxied to the end of the runway. As I neared the end, suddenly the airplane veered to the right as the air could be heard forcefully exiting the tire. I shut down the engine and just sat. It was one of those classic moments that leave you shaking your head in disbelief. I told the tower to cancel the flight plan, and soon they dispatched a few airport guys on some beat up motorcycles to come aid us. Everyone got out of the airplane, and with a lot of help, managed to pull the airplane off the runway and into the grass.
Many times life in the mission field is about faith and patience. They seem to go hand in hand, though I have always struggled with the patience part. The Lord has helped me out of many situations as a mission pilot, times where I could have likely died if it were not for his protection. I have faith, but my impatience is a virtue I still work at every day. “Had I been patient and got the new tire on in the first place, I would not have been in this situation,” I thought to myself.
Soon I had another plan. I needed to get a spare flown here from Santa Cruz, and in a couple days we would be on our way again. Steve Wilson sent me the spare tire via an airline that would hand over the tire to me the next day. I would get it on, and by Friday we would be on our way. Small delay, a little patience I thought.
After spending the night in the airplane in order to divert any would be thieves from stealing fuel or anything else, I awoke anxiously awaiting the spare tire. The night had not been so bad, with plenty of mosquito replant, I’d survived the experience in this humid jungle. “Only one night, not so bad,” I thought as I headed to the office to get my new tire. As I entered the office, I was informed that no tire had arrived. I was completely deflated to say the least. Apparently the airline could not fly due to bad weather. I just fumed in disgust as I had already seen a couple airplanes land that morning.
Airplanes came and went all day Thursday. I could not believe my situation! “Well if the tire comes tomorrow, I can leave Sunday at best,” I thought. But that would mean spending at least 3 more nights in the airplane! “Patience,” I remembered. “There has to be some logical explanation as to why this is happening?” My permission to leave the country was only good through Sunday. If I did not leave Sunday then I would need to renew permission which would take a couple days and I would not leave until Wednesday. Things were looking grimmer by the hour.
Friday came and with it came no tire. I was thankful a friend volunteered to spend the second night in the airplane. It was now the third night and I welcomed the Sabbath in the airplane. Maybe Sunday my part would arrive, I thought as I watched the last airplane depart. Patience is all I could think. Trust in the Lord and have patience.
Sunday there was no part yet again. Now I had to renew the permission for sure and leave Wednesday at the earliest. “Well Lord, I don’t know why this part has not arrived. It’s complicated my life in so many ways. My passport only has a couple weeks left to travel. I trust in what you are doing. I know the part will be here Monday for sure. You had this happen for a reason which I know nothing of. Please help me to be patient.” There was nothing else to do but to sit in the airplane talk to the Lord.
The next day I went to the office. Something told me my spare tire was waiting. “Your little tire arrived Saturday,” the man at the counter said. (He had no idea what that little tire could do!) I picked up my tire with a grin on my face. Yes!!! No more sleeping in the airplane! I quickly got the tire on myself and in no time taxied the airplane back to the ramp. I thanked the Lord and patiently waited for my permission renewal.
Since coming to the mission field four years ago, I have learned to be patient many times. One of my biggest tests of faith had to do with our airplanes not being able to fly. For three years our airplanes had sat grounded due to papers, money, and legalities. As the new chief pilot, I had many plans, but with one airplane that operated on borrowed time, I could not see where the Lord was leading us. I took it on as a faith building exercise. Things moved painfully slow, but eventually the Lord opened doors, and just like that we had two airplanes operating.
My plans that had been put on hold where now beginning to resurface again. “Lord I prayed, what do you want me to do with these airplanes? In what ways do you want me to use them? There are many things we could do, but I need resources now to make all these plans work. Please Lord, if they are not your plans, let them fail. But if they are from you, bless me!”
At the top of the list of goals for these airplanes, was to train some of our other pilots who have been patiently waiting for years, serving in the mission field in other capacities, to join Steve and I in flying missions. Gabriel Jones finished his training in the U.S. a couple years ago, and is almost ready to be a mission pilot, but due to the lack of planes and money, he has been patiently waiting his turn to be trained in. Gabriel’s training means much more than just another pilot to help carry the load. It means potentially basing an aircraft in northern Bolivia. This would spread us out better and make more efficient use of our planes.
For starters, if someone needs a medivac flight from Guayaramerien, the plane could be ready in a moment’s notice, eliminating the need of having to fly 3-4 hours to get someone all the way from Santa Cruz. The plane could also fly to the nearest city that has bus transportation on paved roads. This would help our missionaries in moving around and would help reduce costs by flying shorter flights.
Having a second airplane would also allow us to reach other cities that need our help with medical evacuations and any other needs. An airplane is a tool, a tool that allows access to people’s hearts when it’s used to help in ways that the common person could never have access to. Bible workers soon would follow to establish a presence in town and assist the local church if there is one. Literature and medical supplies could be flown in and even doctors and dentists.
The Red Advenir Clinic that you have seen in previous blogs has been growing steadily. My wife is leading in that project and has the same desire to join forces and use its staff to reach areas that need medical help. Our vision is to take a Doctor/dentist, an assistant and a health speaker to small towns that are difficult to reach, with our airplanes. We want to reach out to these communities with our missionaries, and at the same time have the airplane available to make medical evacuations.
The next step would be to bring in missionaries from the TV channel and schools to put on seminars and give bible studies. Going to each community using our airplanes gives us a great advantage. There are so many ways to help spread the light here in Bolivia. People who are in need of hearing what Jesus as to offer are out there, and now He is at their doorstep. The planes are here, the missionaries are here, the hard part the Lord has solved.
The opportunity is here to do something great and you can become a part of this. Would you be willing to become a part of this vision for Bolivia? We are now ready to push forward with what the Lord has blessed us with. Please consider the aviation program in Bolivia. We are ready to do battle for the Lord, and the time is now!
Patiently awaiting your response,
Gospel Ministries International
Project Name: Bolivia Mission Aviation
874 South McDonald, TN 37353