I fly a lot.
Most of the time it is the fastest way to get from point A to point B so you can do what you have to do.
Sometimes God does little (or big) miracles on planes.
They usually take the form of the person sitting next to you. You know, the unusual person that you start a conversation with and are glad you did. Yes, I recognize that this happens only occasionally, but when it does, it's astounding.
Here is one:
I was flying from Tokyo to Dallas on a Thursday. The prior Tuesday was spent being introduced and catching up on the amazing work of the underground church in a SE Asian country. As I waited for the flight I reflected on the energy, commitment, and personal perseverance of those I'd met with. I really loved the fact that they were listening and following God’s plan for their country and not being influenced by anyone (or group) from the West.
As we had wrapped up an amazing day together, prayed and confirmed our relationship in Jesus one more time, I asked if there was something special they needed that would make a major difference in reaching an expanding group of people. The leader answered clearly, “Yes, we need the Bible translated into into more of the tribal languages.” Not wanting to reflect total incompetence in this area I acknowledged the request and said I’d see what I could do.
Boarding that flight I was thinking about that problem and trying to conjure up creative solutions, or at least a process I could follow up on in order to find help. I thought of numerous things I could do, “Just call Wycliffe Bible Translators and see if they could help", "Google the topic and see what comes up", "Check with a few friends in the Gideons to see how they could help", "Send a note to the heads of the 20 mission organizations served by Envoy and see if anyone there could be of assistance", etc... At least I was trying to solve the problem with a bit of an action plan.
Settling down in my seat I awaited the arrival of my seat mate. For some unknown reason, I was anxious about who it would be. Maybe it was just the fear of it being a lady with a crying child or the omnipresent risk of it being a transoceanic alcoholic. It was neither. An American man around the age of 50 with the look of being well traveled sat down looked over at me with a smile, put out his hand and said, “Hi, I’m Bob." I think I was relieved and figured that at least he would not bother me during the hours of sleeping, reading, and catching up with the latest movies. I was wrong.
He asked a question. I answered. And the talk was on. Determined that we were both men of faith and had some acquaintances in common led me to ask the inevitable question. A question that took this conversation from interesting to “You’ve got to be kidding!” “What do you do?” Doesn’t seem too astounding, does it? “I’m the Regional Director for the Seed Company” was his reply. I supposed he was in the agriculture business and asked, “What kind of seeds?“
Bob smiled with that look signaling he’d been asked the question hundreds of times. “Seeds that grow to change lives and produce disciples for Jesus”. Like you, now I was immediately intrigued. My mind raced to the parables of Jesus about seeds trying to find the connection to his description. No luck.
“The Seed Company is in the ministry of Bible translation. We are committed, along with others, to finishing the task of translating the Bible for all the remaining 1650 languages groups that still cannot hear or read God’s message to man.”
You could have blown me over with a soft wind.
Here I was trying to be my creative best and find a way to help the underground church expand their ministry but God already knew the need and was preparing the way for the problem to be solved, the solution discovered, and the path to success prepared. Check this out: The need for additional and specific Bible translation into 5 tribal languages that I was sent to hear about and then carry that priority with me on an airplane two days later only to meet the person who could help facilitate the answer to the need sat down next to me on a plane from Tokyo to Dallas. If that isn’t both amazing and encouraging at the same time, I don’t know what would be.
There is more to the story, which I am saving it for another time.
Here is another experience that reflects a different need and presented itself on an airplane:
This time the flight is from Atlanta to Charlotte - quite a bit shorter than Tokyo to Dallas. Same situation in which I was burdened with an issue as I boarded the plane. I’m writing a book about what I’m calling “The Retirement Reformation.” The thesis of the book is that there is a need for a big change in the way we think about retirement”. My concern I was wrestling with was how content was going to be received and the need for the Reformation acknowledged. It is just one of those needless fears that come up when you are striking out into new territory.
Again, the man who sat down next to me stuck out his hand and said, ‘Hi, I’m Richard." Some exchange of pleasantries later, it turns out Richard was a businessman who’d sold his very interesting business about 10 years prior. I could not resist and asked him how he liked retirement. That turned Richard loose. He unloaded his 10-year journey of bucket list travel and experiences. And then he stopped and turned to me. He looked me right in the eye and said, “ You know, I think I’m about at the end of nothing."
“The end of nothing?"
“I’ve got to change the way I’m going and find something to do that means something more than doing nothing.” Again, you could have blown me over with a gentle wind. He delivered God’s message to me by way of a living example of the need for “The Retirement Reformation”. We talked some more about what that might look like and how he could explore his options. When we left the plane he had a more determined attitude towards the future and I was joyously encouraged. You see, that brought clarity to the need for changed thinking and confirmed the purpose for my next 10 years. A praise indeed.
So why share those two airplane stories?
Simple. God answers prayer and provides the very human ways we are all called to Build the Kingdom. Imagine the changed lives inherent in the outcomes of those two stories. Amazing!
Stay with us as we Journey with Trusted Advice along The Way.