Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Against All Odds ...

my cousin hot air ballooning in Finland

this excerpt is copied from Ruth Bell Graham's book, Legacy of a Pack Rat.

Vero Beach
Spring 1971

The little plane lifted off the runway, disappearing into the light cloud cover.

The next day Franklin called from school to say they had arrived safely, adding matter-of-factly that they had had some trouble on the way and had to make a forced landing in Jackson. Nothing more.

So when Calvin Booth, his flight instructor, wrote, we opened his letter eagerly. Racing through his opening remarks, we came to . . .

"You are probably still a bit hazy as to the details surrounding our return trip, so I will seek to briefly cover the events.

The odds are probably at least one in ten thousand against this particular failure, but i feel that the Lord placed us in this position to prove His goodness and constant care in a very dynamic way.

A check of enroute weather at Mobile revealed an area of thunderstorm activity across southern Mississippi and Louisiana so we decided to go north to Jackson and west to Longview. This course took us over a number of larger cities with lighted airports, whereas a direct flight would have taken us over a sparsely settled area in Mississippi and Louisiana. In the area of Jackson, while flying in the overcast, the generator failed and the battery ran down, leaving us without lights, navigation, or communication capability. A quick prayer provided the necessary calmness and we decided to descend out of the cloud and look for Jackson, as we were only thirty or forty miles west of there. Frank and I were mutually thankful for each other and I have only praise for his help and performance during that seemingly endless fifteen or twenty minutes.

When safely settled on the ground, we went up to the tower to express our appreciation for what we thought was a great deal of help on their part, only to find that they didn't even know we were around until lthey saw us on the runway. We were thrilled to see the miracles unfold as the controllers told us that they were demonstrating the airport lighting system to a couple of visitors at the time. They had turned the lights up to full brilliance just as we approached the field and also turned on the flashing strobes which we thought to mean indication of their assistance. We were happy to see the lights and were even happier to be on the ground.

It seems that Franklin is getting more than his fair share of learning experiences lately, but I can assure you that this was a very worthwhile experience for him as well as for his instructor. A lesson learned under this type of circumstance is not soon forgotten. I think that something like this is good from time to time as it renews our awareness of God's role as guardian of our lives."

To what extent God had guarded them that night, we did not learn until four years later.

During the Jackson crusade, someone sent my husband a newspaper article from Jackson dated April 15, 1971, by Wilbur M. Irwin, Pastor, Forest Hill, Jackson.

". . . Gary Cornett, minister of music at Forest Hill Baptist Church, and his wife, Pat, had arrived at the airport at Sydney's invitation to see the various operations. They were allowed to go up into the tower, and Sydney began demonstrating the various equipment. He had received a call from Memphis concerning the small plane but assumed that they had made contact with each other and passed on to other matters. Sydney demonstrated a light-gun which has tri-colored lights. He turned on the red light and a white light while the gun remained inside the tower, but for an unexplained reason he held the gun out the window when he demonstrated the green light and said, 'If I were going to give a pilot clearance to land I would point this light directly at him and turn the green light on.' A fellow worker asked Sydney if he would demonstrate the run-way lights. Sydney started to turn them on, and gradually they got brighter and brighter until they reached the state of high-intensity. The latter degree of lighting is for emergency, and the lights are designed to pierce fog and clouds to give pilots in emergency situations a view of the run-ways.

"Sydney had scarcely completed these demonstrations when his co-worker said in excitement, 'There is an unlighted plane coming in.' Sydney responded, 'There isn't a plane within 50 miles of us in the air.' Upon closer examination with the aid of binoculars it was quickly learned that an unlighted single-engine plane was coming in for a landing.

". . . In one sense Sydney McAll was demonstrating the lighting and signal system to Gary Cornett, but the pilot of that plane is positive that God's providential Hand was in it all. He commented, 'God's hand was in it. You see, we just left Billy Graham there in Florida and he prayed for our safety before we departed.'"

The writer of that article did not know who the copilot of that little plane was [Franklin, Billy & Ruth's eldest son].

* * * * * * *

"I think that something like this is good from time to time."
Calvin Booth, Franklin's flight instructor, had written us after that flight,
". . . it renews our awareness of God's role as guardian of our lives."

* * * * * * *

The following year Calvin Booth was killed in a plane crash.


passing-thru said...


Maggie Ann said...

Wow! gives me goosebumps... its so wonderful and just amazing how God cared for them. &...thanks for caring about my health..thats sweet of you. *smiles*

jel said...



your are a blessing!

hello To Leo :)

Saija said...

passing-thru ... i cried the first time i read this ... this is the God who cares for each of us ...

maggie ann ... it definitely is a goose bump story ... :o)

jel ... isn't it tho'! hi backatcha!

auntibeck said...

Whoa. What a story. Thanks for sharing the providence of God this morning.

Saija said...

antibk ... isn't it a wonderful testimony of God's care ... i'm glad Ruth wrote the story down ... tho' i know God has similar care of His saints on a daily basis, we just don't hear about it ...

Maiju said...

We always admire those hot air balloons on top of Helsinki. They look so beautifull. Never done it ourselves - too expensive!

It's true that God is our guardian! When I was on Juha's plane for the first time of my life werun into serious trouble when the wind suddenly got very strong when we were landing. the tower actually guided others after us to land somewhere else. It was Juha's first flight with private pilot's license! When we hit the ground the wind was so strong that it almost made the plane fall. Well, God helped us trough that!

Saija said...

maiju ... that's a great story ... since i'm a nervous flyer, i'm sure my heart would have been in my throat already!!! with many prayers inbetween ... not that i'm afraid to die - it's just that i hate rides of any kind!!!