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God at the Controls Part Two: Ambush Two pilots

Paul Dye and Steve Estelle were New Tribes Mission pilots in Colombia, South America. Paul had been a jungle pilot for a long time. Recently he had been teaching Steve how to land on airstrips carved out of the jungle.

It was Saturday, and the two men were getting the airplane ready. They were going to fly to the Puinave village where Tim and Bunny Cain lived.

Tim had called for an airplane to come and get him because he was sick.

Paul almost told Steve to go alone this time because Steve was doing a good job of flying, and a chance to go alone would be good experience for him. But at the last minute, Paul decided to ride along.

Meanwhile, for the first time since Steve had come to Colombia, he didn't want to fly. He had been away from his family too much lately. Here it was another Saturday, and he wanted to finish making a doll house for his daughter's birthday and help his son with a fort. But in the end Steve too decided he needed to make this flight.
What a glorious morning. The plane cruised along with Steve at the controls, and Paul beside him reviewing Bible study notes. They dropped off mail and food to some missionaries along the way, then flew on to the Puinave village.

Just as they got close enough to see the village, a thunderstorm suddenly moved in like a solid black wall. They could see palm trees down below bent over double from the wind.

How on earth would Steve land? Maybe he should just turn around and go back. But no, Tim was sick and needed their help.

As the experienced pilot, Paul took charge: "Looks like the only way to land in this is to come in with the wind behind us. You're going to have to use everything you know to land this one." He slid his seat up to help as Steve's copilot.

The storm was so fierce, and Paul and Steve were concentrating so hard on landing safely that Paul forgot about something -- he forgot to look for the village signal showing whether or not it was safe to land.

The plane bounced and pitched in the wind, but finally they were safe on the ground. Steve let out a long sigh of relief and Paul praised him on his neat landing as the plane rolled to a stop.

Finally Paul looked out at the village. "Man, this doesn't feel right," he said, frowning. Usually there were Puinaves around the landing area. Today nobody was there, not even Tim or Bunny. Strange, since Tim had called for the plane.

Then Paul saw guerrillas coming toward them from front and behind. The guerrillas looked scary, with long tangled hair. They carried guns and had hand grenades hanging from their belts. The guerrillas ordered the pilots to get out of the plane.

"You are our prisoners," the guerrillas told them.

"We want you to take two of our men to another airstrip. If you help us, we will let you go. Does it take two pilots to fly this plane?"

Steve spoke quickly, "It makes it easier."

Meanwhile, Paul was thinking: Steve does not want to fly alone with these fellows! And if he has to fly over a part of the jungle where he hasn't been, he will get lost. Besides, it sounds like they just want the plane and a pilot. If they get that, maybe the guerrillas will let the other one go. (By now Paul was sure that Tim and Bunny had already been taken captive.)

"Steve is a new pilot. I'm the senior pilot, so I'll take the plane," Paul volunteered.

"Get in the plane then."

"Where are we going? asked Paul, "I have to make sure we will have enough fuel."

"How much fuel do you have?"

"Two hours' worth."

"That's plenty. Let's go!" commanded the guerrilla leader while pointing his gun at Paul.

Paul climbed into the pilot's seat. One guerrilla crowded in behind him and another sat beside him with a gun barrel pressed against Paul's right side.

Paul was just ready to reach in his pocket for the key when he felt as if God stopped him and gave him an idea. Leaning out the window, he spoke to Steve: "Hey, Steve, I need the keys."

Steve gave Paul his keys without a word, but he knew that Paul already had his own keys in his pocket.

Paul put the key in the ignition, and then paused.

"Come on!" growled the guerrilla beside him.

Calmly Paul said, "I always pray first."

"Well, go on!"

Paul chose to understand that as meaning, "Go on and pray," so he prayed, "Father God, we place this flight and our lives into Your hands. Amen."

No one stopped him. Outside, one of the guerrillas said to Steve in surprise, "Hey, he's praying!"

As Paul turned the key in the ignition, he looked at Steve. Steve gave Paul a thumbs-up of encouragement as the airplane rolled away.

Steve watched as the plane flew into the sky. Then the guerrillas made him walk toward the village path. The walk into the village with with guns pointed at Steve's back seemed so long.

But during that time a verse came to Steve's mind: "Thou wilt keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on thee: because he trusteth in thee."

How Steve wished he had his Bible! He was glad that Paul had his on the airplane. Then another verse came to Steve's mind: "You, Lord, give true peace. You give peace to those who depend on you. You give peace to those who trust you."

The guerrillas were proud to lead Steve into Tim and Bunny's house. After all, they had just captured an airplane and two pilots! Tim and Bunny just hung their heads. Big tears rolled down Tim's cheeks.

"Why did you land? why?" was all he could say.

"Don't blame yourself," Steve murmured. "You tried to let us know there was something wrong. God ... well, maybe God wanted us to land."

The guerrillas stuck Steve in another room, but they soon had to change that. The Puinaves had not been saying anything, but they were angry at the guerrillas. Now they spoke up for Steve.

"You say you're good people, but look at how you are treating these missionaries," the Indian leaders said to the guerrillas. "These people speak the same language. You should let them be together!"

So the guerrillas put Steve back in the same room with Tim and Bunny. Steve shared the verses with Tim and Bunny that had come to his mind on the walk into the village. And later, at a time when the guards were quite relaxed, he fixed the radio so that no more planes could be called in.

Steve kept listening for the sound of the plane. He remembered that the guerrillas had promised, "If you help us, we'll let you go." But as the sun went down and the sky turned dark, he knew the plane was not going to come. One thought stayed in his mind, which he shared with Tim and Bunny: God was allowing all these things to happen for their good, according to Romans 8:28.

Meanwhile, back at the mission's headquarters nobody noticed that anything was wrong until 4 o'clock in the afternoon, when Paul had a Bible study scheduled with someone. No Paul! That was very unusual. By 7:30 it had been dark for quite a while, and everyone knew something was wrong. Jungle planes didn't fly after dark. Also, the radio had been silent all afternoon. No news, no plane, no idea what might be wrong -- it was time to do something.

That night they reported the missing plane and called the main New Tribes Mission office in North America. From there people called the missionaries' relatives and a few churches. Soon many people were praying for Tim, Bunny, Paul, and Steve, even before they knew exactly what to pray for.

When Steve's wife, Betsy, heard that something was wrong, she decided not to tell the children anything until the next day -- maybe then the mission would know more exactly what was going on.

But the children had been hearing other people talk. At bedtime, they asked their mother what had happened.

Nine-year-old Kimberly had tears in her eyes. "You mean guerrillas might be holding Daddy?" she asked.

But God had been preparing the children.

They had been reading a book called, All Things--Even Frisky.

It was about a kidnapping and showed how true Romans 8:28 is. Remember? "And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God...."

Kimberly told her mom about the story of Frisky and said, "So we know this is all going to work out for good. too." A little later, she was asleep.

POSTED ON Dec 02, 2014