In the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, I would like to share a testimony with you regarding my return flight home after the 2000 U.S. National Church Conference (NCC). I praise and thank God that His love and mercy has allowed me to live to be able to share this testimony with you all and to lift up and praise His precious name.
On Sunday, November 18, 2001, I boarded a Continental Airlines flight that departed from Newark, New Jersey, at 5:10 p.m. From the outset, I could tell that this was not going to be a comfortable flight because the plane was filled to capacity. Little did I know exactly how uncomfortable it was going to be!
As we began to taxi down the runway and pick up speed, suddenly a very uncomfortable feeling came over me. It is difficult to put into words, but the feeling was very foreboding and unsettling.
As is my usual custom on takeoff, I closed my eyes in prayer and began to pray for a safe takeoff from Newark. As the plane began to lift off the ground, I couldn't help but think that the takeoff speed seemed a little slower than usual. As the plane began its ascent, I thought it was unusual for it to begin to yaw to the left and then yaw to the right. But eventually it straightened out and began to level off.
I was sitting in an aisle seat one row forward of the exit door over the right wing. Since my seat would not recline, it was difficult for me to close my eyes and take a nap, so I looked past the gentleman and lady sitting next to me and glanced out the window. As soon as I did, suddenly there was a very loud BANG and a very bright flash of light!
Several people screamed loudly and I shouted, "Hallelujah! Hallelujah!" We saw a large fireball travel from the tip of the wing that we were sitting over toward our window. Then it appeared to pass through the cabin and toward the tip of the wing on the left side of the plane.
Suddenly all the lights in the cabin and at the exterior of the plane went out. As we were sitting in total darkness, the plane began to drop suddenly—so suddenly that we could feel the seats pushing up against us from below, and we felt as if we were sinking into the seat cushions. At that moment, I knew that we were facing sure death.
I closed my eyes and began to pray in the Spirit. As I was praying, the man next to me kept telling me to shut up...I guess he thought I was in such a panic that I was incoherent. He did not realize that I was praying for us all.
For about the next three to five minutes no one talked, no one screamed, no one did anything but close their eyes. In total darkness we could only pray. While I was praying my thoughts were not of fear of death, but rather of how it was going to feel. How much farther did we have to fall before we hit the ground? Where were we going to crash? Would my death be instant or slow? Would I die from trauma or from fire?
Then I realized that these were all negative thoughts. God is all-powerful, loving, and kind. I then began to focus my prayer on worshiping Him and praising Him. I didn't realize I was doing it, but the people next to me told me that I began to sing "Precious Lord, Take My Hand," by Thomas Dorsey.
When my way groweth drear,
precious Lord linger near,
When my life is almost gone;
Hear my cry, hear my call,
Hold my hand, lest I fall,
Take my hand, precious Lord,
Lead me home.
Precious Lord, take my hand,
lead me on, let me stand,
I am tired, I am weak,
I am worn;
Through the storm, through the night
Lead me on to the light;
Take my hand, precious Lord,
Lead me home.
I knew that I was thinking of this hymn in my prayer, but didn't realize that I was singing it out loud! Later several people told me that it gave them comfort and made them feel better.
Praise God, after what seemed like an eternity, we suddenly felt the plane slowly begin to climb back up. A man sitting behind me started shouting, "We're flying... we're flying!"
Hallelujah! Indeed we were! After about another five to ten minutes, the pilot finally announced that we had experienced what is known as "static discharge." Static discharge! None of us had ever heard of that before!
A few minutes later, after the lights were restored, the navigator came walking toward the rear of the plane. As he and the flight attendants walked back up front, a passenger grabbed his arm and said, "Tell us the truth—what really happened?" The navigator said that it was because of the cold, dry air: since the plane is not grounded, it builds up static electricity. However, he did admit that because of the discharge, we had lost power to one engine. Since we were halfway to Cleveland, Ohio, we would continue at a much lower altitude and land there.
Praise God that the rest of the flight was uneventful until we landed—or should I say bounced—into Cleveland. We still had to negotiate the wind, snow, and sleet coming into the airport, but as soon as we landed a loud cheer went up from the cabin as all the passengers rejoiced!
I share this testimony because this near-death experience made me fully realize something really important. Through all of the various emotions that I went through—fear, anxiety, excitement, anger, calm—the final summary was an obvious one.
During the NCC, we planned, we proposed, we discussed, we disagreed, we prayed, and we fellowshiped with each other. I heard about the "Valley of the Shadow of Death" from a brother who nearly died due to lung failure. I saw death bravely faced when I spoke to another brother who is in the final stages of cancer. Then I faced death on the plane. Through all of this, I came to realize the truth in one of the statements our ministers have made: "Without the abidance of God, we can do nothing!"
Without the abidance of God and the fervent prayers of the brothers and sisters, our brother would not have been healed of his lung ailment and would not be with us today. Without the abidance of God, our dearly beloved brother in Christ would not so bravely and calmly be able to face the transition from this world to the next one that awaits him. Without the abidance of God I would have had no hope of survival as the plane was falling, no power in my prayer, no faith in His mercy and love, and I would not be with my family and you today. I am convinced that He saved us because of prayer. I know that I was not the only one praying on that plane. Many others, in their own way, were offering up prayers to Him.
But I truly feel that He allowed me this experience to show me an important truth. He has chosen each and every one of us in His true church to be united together with Him for the cause of the gospel. I bring you His "good news"—I am saved today because of His wonderful compassion and love. Whatever sacrifices must be made for the furthering of His gospel, we should make them. If it means that our churches must continue to work harder without the assistance of full-time ministers, then I pray that God will give us all the wisdom, strength, power, and patience to do so.
In His time, He will provide for our needs. We only need to trust in Him. By our own might we are limited, but with our trust in Him we are unstoppable. Allow God room to work in your life and in His church. Trust in Him, love Him, and obey Him. If our need is for more full-time ministers, then let all of our churches unite in fasting and prayer for this. If our need is for more members to take an active role, then let us fast and pray together for it.
Until our prayers are answered, we should dedicate our morning prayers to the calling out of believers to join in the full-time ministry. We pray that He will move more youth to look at ministry not as a "sacrifice," but as an "offering"—an offering of themselves to His service and mission. If we are united in prayer, He will listen and answer.
I give heartfelt praise and thanks to Him for allowing me the opportunity to share this testimony with you all. May the Lord guide and bless us.