I recently had a conversation that got me thinking about the last several months, and the ways that Tara and I have seen God's hand at work. I wanted to recount some of those here—both for my benefit and yours. It would take too long to give the details of each story, so I'll just touch briefly on a few of them.
When I started seriously considering missionary aviation in 2011, many issues weighed heavily on me. I was burdened by questions like "How will I ever pay for this?", "How will I support my family?", "Can someone with a color vision deficiency become a missionary pilot?", and "Is there a mission aviation organization that will accept me for
service if I am over 40?" (believe it or not, that is "old" for a new
pilot, by many organizations' standards!). But one-by-one God brought the right people into my life, at just the right times, to chip away at these concerns and increase my trust in Him.
The first couple months, Tad Henry (at Trinity Aviation Academy) and Rob & Jennifer Rice (with Great Commission Air) were great sources of encouragement to me. Even though we had never met, they took time to respond to many emails and encourage me to pursue the calling God had placed on my life despite the questions and challenges ahead. Not only did we correspond through email, but "coincidentally" the Rices were having a benefit less than an hour from my house, where Tara and I were able to meet them in person and hear about their ministry. Through these conversations I received the encouragement I needed to press on, truly believing that where God called me to go, He would make a way.
But pressing on meant facing the most daunting hurdle I had faced up to that point. The medical exam for pilots includes a color vision test, which most people easily pass at the medical examiner's office. Since I have a color vision deficiency I was unable to pass this test and was given a restricted medical certificate, which would not allow me to become a commercial pilot. To have the restrictions removed, two color vision tests would have to be taken with an FAA examiner. Any mistake on these tests would result in permanent restrictions, with no opportunity for a re-test. Needless to say, I felt a lot of pressure, knowing that one mistake on these exams (which would be taken in an unpredictable and uncontrolled environment) would forever close the opportunity for me to become a missionary pilot.
But at just the right time, God brought the two people into my life to encourage and help me through the process. Through the Rices, I was introduced to Theresa, a flight instructor in Ann Arbor. Even though I was a complete stranger, she went out of her way to help me arrange two practice tests. I am extremely grateful to her, and to God for once again bringing along the help I needed at just the right time.
Through an unlikely connection with a long-time friend, I was also introduced to Paul Jones (check out his blog). He was a commercial airline pilot when God called him into missionary service—and he has a color vision deficiency like me! What an encouragement to meet a commercial pilot, and missionary pilot, with the same color vision limitations that I have! Again, this was just the encouragement I needed to press on.
As the time approached to take my first FAA exam (a light gun signal test) some concerns arose, which caused me a lot of inner turmoil and had me doubting whether it was a good idea to go ahead with the test. Just as I was about to call and postpone my test, I felt an overwhelming sense that God was telling me just to trust Him and go ahead with it. It's hard to describe the incredible peace that I suddenly felt, knowing that the results were not up to me but in the hands of God. Though it was a sunny afternoon when I took the exam, a layer of clouds covered the sun just in time, making the signals more visible than they would have been in bright sunshine. Before long, I was calling Tara with the good news: I passed!
There is such a comfort in knowing that my life is not in my hands, but in the hands of a powerful, sovereign, and loving God. As I follow this dream, there is peace in knowing that I cannot bring it to fruition by myself. It can only come to be through the working of the One who has all things under His control! This takes the pressure off of me, as I learn simply to trust in Him. It is an exciting and humbling place to be.
There are many more things to write, but those will have to wait. In the next post I'll write about my final vision test, pilot friends, the Mozombites and MMS Aviation.