Art, a US Air Force pilot based in England, flew B-24 bomber missions over Germany during World War II. One time, he and his crew hobbled back to England on just three engines. Their loss of the fourth engine was compounded by a low fuel supply.
Suddenly they heard a crash as their navigator crumpled to the plane’s floor. Close inspection showed that he was alive but unconscious. One of the external gun turrets had rotated, smashed through the Plexiglas window and knocked the navigator unconscious. He gradually regained consciousness, but was still confused and disoriented.
With his navigator down, Art was unable to discern their exact location. He knew they were just at the French coast and headed out over the ocean. Battling strong winds and with low fuel, he decided to fly south in search of an emergency landing site. Finally he saw an abandoned German airstrip!
“Thank goodness…” But this airstrip had been designed for fighter planes, which are much smaller and only need a short runway. The strip was far too short for a B-24 bomber. Besides, the retreating German army had filled the runway with craters, leaving it unusable. But it was the only option. Art had to get his crew on the ground.
As they approached the short strip, Art took every advantage. Bringing the plane down so the wheels touched as close to the beginning of the runway as possible, he braked at full force. Miraculously, they came to a complete stop before crashing into anything.
Art and his crew parked the plane by a nearby stand of trees to make it less obvious, and then climbed out to explore the area.
To their delight, they met friendly French and discovered genuine camaraderie. Art and the engineer were invited to dinner at a French doctor’s house. Leaving some of his crew to guard the plane, Art and his buddy hopped into the waiting car. Inside, they shared the seats with chickens and rabbits! Without usable currency, the doctor accepted payment in kind for his services.
After dinner, Art returned to the plane to check on his guard crew. French townspeople had congregated around the plane, laughing and trading with the airmen. The locals were enjoying bomber tours from the crew, and everybody was having a wonderful time!
At sunrise the next morning, the French showed up with shovels, rakes and wheelbarrows to fix the holes in the runway. The engineer was hard at work repairing the failing fourth engine.
Incredibly, the airmen discovered that a British airbase was not far away. At Art’s request, a truck load of fuel in five-gallon cans was delivered to their plane. The crew filled their tanks until they were sure they had enough to get them home to England.
Despite reports from the British that a fighter plane’s airstrip was too short for bombers to use, Art was determined to get that B-24 off the ground.
After four days of preparation, Art gave his crew three options. They could stay with the French, take refuge at the British air base, or trust his judgment to successfully lift off and go back to England. The crew made a unanimous decision — they were going to stick with their pilot.
The crew got the plane in position for takeoff. By applying full power before starting the roll and by keeping the plane on the ground to the very end of the runway, Art was able to pull into the air at the last possible second.
They were on their way home! Sticking with the pilot was the right choice.
I marveled as Art shared this amazing story with me. Our heavenly Pilot came to Earth’s airstrip as an emergency action to save the lives of His crew. He knew the slim odds for His mission’s success before He landed, but He stuck with His plan.
Some say that our Pilot will never be able to get His crew safely home. Others like it here on earth and plan to stay. But the Pilot has promised to take us back with Him. He promises that He will accomplish the mission, and He has an excellent track record at turning emergencies into successes.
Jesus Christ is our Pilot. Preparing for that trip off this planet is a major operation and He’s given each of us an important task to do in preparation. Christ asks us do our individual part as if our very lives depend on it. But he also gives us the choice of whether we want to go home with Him or not. Those who know the Pilot personally and who’ve been working on His team are convinced His plan will work.
Just as the plane needed to be repaired in order to take off, our bodies and minds need to be tuned and adjusted to be in the best possible working condition. This way we are more able to do the work God has given us. If we neglect special care for our bodies and minds, we are essentially asking God to use defective machinery for a delicate and dangerous mission. Even worse, we may be no better off than the unconscious navigator lying on the floor.
Imagine God asking you to have a part in this momentous mission! To be an efficient crew member in Christ’s eternal flight, we need to follow the Pilot’s plan to keep our bodies and minds healthy and running strong as well as encouraging any others who might want to join us. As we do our part He supplies skill and power. He promises to finish this important mission soon.
Let’s stick with the Pilot– all the way home!