Monday, 18 June 2018 10:48

Soaring

Written by  Bob Crittendon
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You go into the experience of an airplane flight with the expectation that you will routinely get to your destination, more or less on time, with only a minimum of inconvenience - maybe some turbulence, perhaps a snafu with the baggage.  But, the passengers on a recent flight from New York to Dallas had another thing coming.

 

The ChurchLeaders.com website tells the story of what happened to the 149 passengers on that plane that day: “An explosion in the left engine of the plane sent a piece of shrapnel through one of the windows of the plane. A woman was partially sucked out the window but other passengers managed to pull her body back into the plane and a registered nurse administered CPR until the plane landed.”

 

That passenger, Jennifer Riordan, did lose her life; 7 others were injured.

 

The pilot guided the plane to safety, making an emergency landing in Philadelphia.  Her name is Tammie Jo Shults.  The article says:

 

 

Shults would have had plenty of practice keeping cool under pressure during her career in the Navy. She was the first female pilot to fly an F-18, a fighter jet. While she wasn’t allowed to fly in combat situations, Shults was an instructor pilot.

 

 

She was a graduate of MidAmerica Nazarene University in Kansas.  The article states:

 

 

MidAmerica Nazarene’s director of alumni relations, Kevin Garber, describes Shults as a “solid woman of faith,” NBC News reports. Shults’ brother-in-law, Gary Shults, describes her as “a very caring, giving person who takes care of lots of people.”

 

Indeed, Shults’ concern for others was apparent after she landed the damaged plane. Passengers on board report Shults walked through the aisle to check on everyone. According to passengers, the plane erupted in applause as she came through the cabin.

 

And, according to the ChurchLeaders.com story, “She says being a pilot gives her the opportunity ‘to witness for Christ on almost every flight,’” and it points out that she was certainly a witness to those 149 passengers.

 

Dallas Morning News story on Shults reports that she and her husband, also a pilot, attend the First Baptist Church in Boerne, Texas, about 30 miles from San Antonio.  It says:

 

 

Longtime friend and fellow church member Staci Thompson said a deep Christian faith has guided the way Shults lives.

 

Shults has taught nearly every grade level of Sunday school at their church. She’s volunteered at a school for at-risk kids and turned a cottage on her family’s property into a temporary home for victims of Hurricane Rita and widows.

 

“She would tell you everything she has she’s been given from God, so she wants to share it,” Thompson said.

 

 

Tammie Jo was one of the first female pilots in the Navy, and is profiled in a book called, Military Fly Moms. Even though she had faced rejection, she is quoted as saying, “In my heart, I hoped that God had given me an interest in flying for a reason. I had never touched an airplane, but I knew flying was my future.”

 

She can teach us about possessing a sense of readiness.  The ChurchLeaders.com story states:

 

 

You can listen to an audio recording of Shults talking to air traffic control as she makes the emergency landing. Shults is a picture of keeping calm under pressure. She is also an exemplary leader.

 

 

Regarding the application of faith, we can remember that the time to prepare to respond with in God’s strength is generally not in the midst of pressure.  Shults was trained, she was prepared, so when the trial came, she was able to activate her skills and apply her training, so that she could land the plane successfully. 

 

Also, her view of her call and purpose is inspiring.  Every flight could be an opportunity to witness for Christ, in her estimation.  As the result of her application of honed skill to land a plane under adverse circumstances, her story has spread and her Savior has been glorified.

 

She is someone who has a sense of purpose and, as the Dallas News story described it, “fierce determination and laser focus,” combined with “sweetness.”  The story pointed out that she had been told in a high school vocational class that her dream of being a pilot was not realistic because there were no professional female pilots; and, she did not allow her initial rejection from the Air Force to deter her.  She was convinced that God had instilled in her an “interest in flying for a reason.”  She did not give up in her pursuit of what she believed the Lord had called her to do…and neither should we!  We can rely on the Spirit to give us the determination to persevere and to not give up, even when we want to, even when discouragement sets in. 

 

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