A few weeks back I got to do one of my favorite things working for Aspen Flying Club as a mechanic. One of the airplanes that's a part of the rental fleet got stuck in Granby, CO., a small town with a small airport tucked up in the rockies. The exhaust valve on one of the cylinders on the engine got stuck open which meant the engine wouldn't start, and the cylinder would have to be replaced before the airplane could fly home, and without a maintenance shop at the airport in Granby, it meant I had a trip to take. So I loaded nearly every tool I own into the back of an airplane along with a new cylinder fresh from the engine shop and flew up to Granby. Every other time I've had to do an intensive job on an engine like changing a cylinder, it was in a nice warm shop with every tool I could need close at hand and an extra pair of hands just a shout over my shoulder away. A job that would normally take me two hours ended up taking about 6 hours on a very hot and sunny asphalt tarmac at 8000 feet above sea level. To make it even more exciting, afternoon storms seemed to be brewing, making me think I wasn't going to make it back home that day.
Once the new cylinder was installed and I had the engine all put back together, my friend who was with me in the plane we flew out had left to head back home hours ago, so my ride home depended on the quality of work I am capable of, and maybe a little luck. A new cylinder meant doing a test run to check for leaks before the flight home, so I climbed into the airplane turned on the master switch to get some electrical power and nothing happened. Turns out, the pilot who had been flying the airplane when it broke down, ran down the battery trying to start it. Since I didn't know about the battery issue, I wasn't prepared with a charger or a new battery. So I grabbed the airport car, which I was extremely thankful that the airport provided for pilots, and headed into town for a meal and hotel...and hopefully some aloe for my new burns from working in the sun at that altitude. The next morning another friend of mine flew up to Granby with a power jump box, much like the ones you carry in your car for emergencies. We got the airplane started and I flew it back home hoping and praying the whole way that my work would hold up and I wouldn't have any engine problems, and that, since the battery was bad, the alternator held out so I didn't have any electrical problems. It certainly wasn't a worry-free flight; unnerving at best, but I made it home safe and sound.
Even though I was unsure about how the airplane was going to work, and frankly a little scared of the outcome, there are some flights that remind me why I'm a pilot, and this was one. After I pushed the throttle in to take-off and checked that my engine instruments were in the green, I started praying that God would see me home safe. Granby is nestled on the north side of a wide valley in the rockies, and on the other side of a 13,000 foot ridge that has to be crossed to get to Denver. As I climbed in the valley, flying circles to gain altitude, it really hit me what I was doing. The air was perfectly smooth, the airplane was working great, and I was flying through some of the most gorgeous terrain in the world. Even though my knees might have been a little shaky, I believe God was seeing me through a smooth flight home. The best part about flying from Granby Airport to Centennial Airport is once you clear that 13,000 foot ridge, you just start descending about 300 feet a minute until you hit the runway 50 miles to the east. It was an absolutely beautiful flight, and even though the trip took longer than I planned, I wouldn't trade the experience for about anything.
There are a lot of mission organizations whose work revolve around airplanes. Organizations like Mission Aviation Fellowship (MAF), JAARS, and even Doctors Without Borders relies heavily on the speedy travel an airplane provides. In fact, they're used to such an extent that most people, I think, relate mission work to aviation. I've been asked at least a dozen times already, "Are you going to do a lot of flying when you get to Uganda?" or "You must be so excited, I bet the flying out there is incredible!" And I guess I have to agree with that, because I'd bet it's incredible too. But the truth of the matter is, we're not joining MAF or JARRS, we are joining along with a start up mission, one that is so new, it doesn't even have a name yet because we're still in the process of establishing the non-governmental organization (NGO). The advantage of MAF is that they are already established, they have the airplanes, the facilities to store and maintain them, and the support to keep them flying on a daily basis all around the world. As part of a start up mission, we don't even have the capital to build a hut, let alone fund an airplane operation. Some people would read that last sentence, and see it as a discouragement, but I just see it as an opportunity to be faithful; a time to say "God, you called me, and I don't know what's going to happen, but I'm going to answer the call." If Jesus conversation with rich young ruler (Mark 10:17-22) teaches us anything, it's that religion doesn't cut it. That God never honors compromise, only sacrifice. That following Jesus means getting uncomfortable. And that for me, I might not fly for a few years, I might not fly for a few decades, I may never get to fly another airplane again. But if that's what takes for my footprints to match Jesus', then I will do nothing less. Besides, in light of eternity of Jesus Christ, what can I even consider to be a sacrifice on earth. What's a lifetime of flying in light of an eternity of soaring on wings as eagles!
To answer the question we started with, What wouldn't I give up to follow after God? The answer is nothing. The reward of having stuff is getting more stuff and never being satisfied, the reward of following God is living everyday satisfied. Whatever plans we can make for ourselves, no matter how big, no matter how awesome; God's plan will ALWAYS be bigger, and it will ALWAYS be more awesome. I want to live out what God has for me. My prayer, as we stick my thoughts forever on the internet, is that whoever this post reaches will have a desire to live the same way. But don't just stop at a desire, let God develop a desperation in you to live out His plan for you, to follow after His footsteps, to see what He has in store for you!