Monday, March 12, 2012

A Matter of Obedience

"If you ever begin to think that God can't do something without you, you are heading into dangerous territory." 

These words were part of the sermon that we listened to yesterday morning as we attended another Nampa church for the first time.  The sermon was about Moses, and how he took the glory from God when he chose to use his staff to hit the rock and water came out, rather than obey God and speak to the rock (Numbers 20).  It was a quick sentence, but it stuck in my mind and generated some other thoughts as the sermon continued.

It's still weird for me to hear myself introduced by the title, "missionary".  It seems so formal and some times it kind of feels as though we are being elevated to some mystical level of spirituality because we are "missionaries".  Not so.  We have never felt that way about ourselves, and we really hope that others are not thinking that way either.  In our minds it is simply a matter of obedience.  That's it.  It really is that simple.  When we are asked about why in the world we would uproot our family and move them to far corners of the earth, we try to communicate that we are just doing what we have been asked by God to do.  As I look back on our journey to this place in our lives, I really don't know WHY God has called us to do this, only that He has.

My seat in 1-8-Uniform
Some times I also get a vague feeling that some Christians (maybe even non-Christians) judge other Christians who do not go overseas as missionaries.  I have become quite uncomfortable with this.  As I said above, our decision to go overseas as a missionary pilot family didn't seem like a decision at all.  God asked, and we said "O.K."  This has never been about any kind of prestige that may or may not be associated with being a missionary.  It has only been about obeying what God has asked us to do.  When I take a step back and look at myself and my family, I can find myself really wondering why God would ask us to do this at all.  We are not perfect.  We have our own set of issues and struggles that we go through.  In my mind I can look at families around us and think, "They would be much more suited to being missionaries than we are.  Why us?"  I don't know.  I'll never know.  We're not perfect.  Not even close.  But God has asked us to do this, and because of that simple fact, we move on.

I mentioned this apparent judging that can some times go on between Christians.  It bothers me even more when I look at it with this "obedience" outlook.  Take financial supporters, for instance.  God has not called them to go overseas.  What is He asking them to do?  I don't know.  That is something between them and God.  One thing that I do know is that God has called them to be INVOLVED in overseas missions, and has called them to support MAF financially.  They are doing what God has asked them to do in the same way that we are.  It's no less legitimate or somehow inferior.  For them, it's just a matter of obedience.  What about those who do not financially support MAF?  Are they somehow less Christian?  It again comes to obedience.  God has not asked them to financially give to MAF.  Why should I expect them to do something that God isn't expecting them to do?  Some of them God has called to pray for us, and their prayers mean a tremendous amount to us.  They are not "less Christian" than we are, or even close to it.  They are simply obeying God in what He has called them to do.  They are not obeying God any less or more than we are.  I'm not going to say that we Christians are always obeying God and living in some blissful state of perfectness all of the time.  That would be burying my head in the sand.  I can't speak for others, but I have my own personal issues that I deal with just like everyone else.  I just hope that when those times arise I will be able to work through those issues in a way that shows others that I love the Lord and that even though I'm not perfect I am trying to honor God with my life.

These are some of the thoughts that flooded my mind when the pastor was speaking on Sunday.  I hope and pray that I never make the choice to take the credit for the things that God is doing like Moses did.  It is amazing to me that God would ask a relatively normal guy like me to do something like this for Him.  I give Him all of the glory and honor for anything good that comes out of this all, because I know that it is God working through me and through my weaknesses and inabilities.  If I were to try something like this on my own, I can't even begin to imagine how much of a flop it would probably be.

So having said all of this... What has God been doing in and through us lately?  Well, the last two weeks for my family have been spent in Nampa, Idaho, where I have been going through some pretty intense flight training in preparation for our departure to Uganda.  The first week of it all we (7 pilots) were in a classroom as we went over various topics and learned a lot about the SOP's (Standard Operating Procedures) and rules that MAF has put in place for our safety and to make things as efficient as possible.  My mind slowly returned to "airplane mode" after having been away from the flight world for almost 15 months.  Monday was a great day.  That was the day that I actually returned to the skies behind the controls of a Cessna 206 aircraft.  Again, I give God the glory as I have watched my skill level increase from flight to flight, quickly getting me back into top shape as a pilot after not flying for so many months.  It has not been easy, but it has been encouraging to find that my skills have indeed not faded into oblivion, but have merely been laying dormant until this opportunity to use and enhance them arose.

Abort Practice.  Another MAF plane and pylons can be seen behind.
One of my favorite things that we have done so far is the abort practice.  Pilots must consider many things that our passengers either take for granted or never even stop to consider.  In the rough terrain and type of flying that MAF does, these decisions must be made even more intentionally as there is much less room for error.  Aborting a take-off is one of those things.  I and my pilot instructor flew into Oregon to a long dirt runway that is no longer maintained.  MAF and a few local pilots are the only ones who use it, along with the occasional local sportsman who finds it a great stretch of land to use to sight in his rifle when airplanes are not around.  We set out pylons at 200 foot intervals, and then we began our abort practice.  We found that with the 206, even if we are already airborne when we choose to abort, it takes almost exactly the same amount of distance to stop that it took us to start.  This means that if it takes me 600 feet to get there, it will take 600 feet to stop from that point.  It's good information to know, and a good skill set to have!  I know that it doesn't sound that interesting, but any time that we pilots are allowed to take our airplanes to their maximum performance and test in reality what we believe to be true in theory, it makes for a good day.  It's probably one of the only times when I will be able to brake as hard as possible, feeling the tires slide and hearing the sand and gravel splatter against the side of the fuselage from the force of the braking.  Good times!  The braking is so intense that we had to take off and fly for a few minutes after two or three aborts to cool the brakes and prevent them from starting on fire!

In the coming week we will be taking the 206 into progressively shorter airstrips with increasingly less margin for safety.  I am looking forward to being able to learn new things and sharpen my skills so that when we arrive in Uganda (just over one month from now) I will be able to do the work that God has called me to, and do it at the best of my ability, bringing Him the honor and glory that He deserves even through the act of flying an airplane.  We are excited to be so near to our departure, and we look forward to sharing here the things that we are able to do and the difference that MAF is making as we serve God through aviation.  It's a matter of obedience.

1 comment:

  1. Great post.
    I can identify with you that there's nothing inherently "special" about someone who chooses to obey God by following Him to another culture or country. I would hope that any believer would do the same if similarly called.
    In fact, one might even be tempted to think that, as an outsider in that new culture, one's life and character should be more beyond reproach than another Christian's life and character who remains in their own culture. However the bar has been set at the same level for all believers and the bar is Christ.
    Your post also made me excited for my return to Nampa. Great to hear that all the bells and whistles came back to life after months of cold storage.