“Some of the airstrips we fly into are short, sloped, slippery wet, grass, runways at altitude carved out of the side of mountains towering well above 5000 feet above sea level. Many of them are one-way airstrips; which means that there is an abort point beyond which the only way to avoid becoming a statistic is to somehow get the aircraft onto the prepared surface. Many that are not built on slopes are surrounded by tall trees of the dense jungle and are soft, wet and muddy due to frequent heavy rains.”
-Randy Smyth (bush pilot in Papua New Guinea)
I read an article about the training of those brave pilots who fly into remote locations to deliver mail and supplies and also to transport missionaries to the field. These bush pilots risk life and limb on a daily basis. And, as the article indicated, the landing is the hardest part. Not only is the pilot setting his plane down upon the rough, sometimes rocky terrain of a primitive airstrip, but there are other factors involved, namely, obstacles on the landing strip (in Africa these tend to be livestock). This is where an interesting phenomenon occurs; humans tend to steer vehicles in the direction that they are looking. If something draws your focus, you unconsciously begin to steer in that direction. One trainer said that he must get the pilots to focus, not on the obstacles, but on the opening between the obstacles. He went on to say, “If a pilot looks too closely at the object, and not closely enough at the clear space, it’s only a matter of time before he steers right into the one thing he is trying to avoid.” A successful landing in the backcountry requires that you see “the hole” and take it.
Ever have “livestock on the runway”? We all do; “No temptation has overtaken you except such as is common to man…” (I Cor. 10:13a). Each one of us faces the same struggles. Though the details may vary, ultimately, we approach our own landing strips with very similar obstacles. And God supplies us with an opening; “…But God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will also make the way of escape, that you may be able to bear it” (I Cor. 10:13b). We must avoid focusing so sharply on the “livestock on the runway” that we miss the opening among the cows. Notice that the verse reads “the way of escape.” It would be nice if we had multiple avenues of escape, multiple runways out in the bush. If one was covered with problems, not to worry, just drop into the next valley, the strip there is always clear…but that’s not reality. You get one runway, one life, clear or not, to make your landings. And no matter how crowded it may seem with obstacles and problems, God will always provide a means to land successfully. We must listen to our Trainer when He points out the way to touch down on the hard scrabble while avoiding all the livestock, because His directions are always faithful.
- Dustin George (ManFire guest author)