Though it was 20 years ago, I can still hear my cross-country coach’s voice booming, “Head up, Imie!” Why the exhortation? Well, there are a lot of reasons that was sage advice. With every step I took, head bowed and eyes fixed squarely on the ground beneath my feet, all that was about & before me quickly faded away. My field of vision narrowed to exclude anything beyond my next step. My ears tuned out the sound of the thunderous cheers from those lining the race course. My shoulders slumped and my mind drifted to that twinge of pain in my legs and mulled over how tired I was. As all that played out my pace progressively slowed. Freeze that scene for a minute, we’ll come back to it.
Fast forward with me 18 years (or just rewind 2 years from this week if that’s easier). I’d jumped in the car with Mary Kate & Imie IV (Amy was at a conference) and we struck out for Smoketown, PA on what I thought was a bit of a whim. It was 17 Aug 2013 and just the night before I’d seen a Facebook post about the annual Mission Aviation Fair being held there that weekend and figured why not go check it out?
JAARS was giving helicopter rides and the kids really wanted to go up (okay, so maybe I really wanted to go too). Serving as the safety briefer and line organizer extraordinaire was one each, Andy Gudeman. Between the obligatory safety spiel and the return of the helo for our ride a conversation ensued which began with nondescript small-talk but ended with a life altering challenge. We’d come to that natural lull in the conversation where you just stare uneasily at the person across from you. Andy broke the silence, though, with a pretty bold statement, “Imie, from what you’ve shared with me I really think the Lord is calling you to act on the commitment you made to serve Him through mission aviation. The time to pursue it is now.” How could he say such a thing? Who was he anyways?
This is where the two stories merge. See, when I heeded my coach’s words in the cross-country races many years before some amazing things happened. As my head came up my thoughts snapped back to race and my deadened senses sprung alive again. As my gaze shifted forward to what lay ahead I began to see and hear people cheering for me along the way, spurring me onward. I also began to see teammates around me. Pulling alongside them I offered encouragement and issued a challenge, ”come on, go with me!”
So who is Andy? He’s a brother in Christ and a dear teammate in this race of life. He was running the race set before him, pursuing full-time ministry through mission aviation, himself compelled by God just the year previous at that same event. Andy was running with his head up, ears tuned to the voice of the Master, eyes fixed forward. As he pulled alongside me that day he gave the call, “come on, go with me!”
Andy introduced me to Mr. Dwight Jarboe, CEO of MMS Aviation and through the ensuing discussion I saw for the first time a clear path forward from where I was in my career to where I knew the Lord was ultimately leading our family in mission aviation. Other than a brief e-mail exchange a few days later, though, I never heard from Andy after that. That is, until just a few weeks ago when I had the privilege of meeting the rest of his family as we sat down and caught up over dinner. For the remarkable story on how the Lord crossed our paths again check out their blog post, “Meeting Mr. Mark”.
I sit here today in Coshocton, OH (MMS Aviation’s center of operations) just 2 years after that Saturday in Smoketown: Missionary Training Center course finished, NTM membership official, FAA maintenance technician certification ¾ complete. It’s largely because one man was content to not merely run his own race but sought to encourage others to join him along the way.
So what’s all that to you, you ask? I don’t know…
- Where’s your head today? Is it hanging wearily as you plod onward, oblivious to your surroundings or have you heard and heeded the Master’s call, “Head up!”? Do you see/hear the great cloud of witnesses about you spurring you on?
- Are you pressing forward in such a way as to win the heavenly prize for which God is calling you? If so, who’s running close by that you could come alongside and challenge today, “come on, go with me!”?
“…dear brothers and sisters…since we are surrounded by such a huge crowd of witnesses to the life of faith…let us run with endurance the race God has set before us. We do this by keeping our eyes on Jesus. I focus on this one thing: looking forward to what lies ahead, I press on to reach the end of the race and receive the heavenly prize for which God, through Christ Jesus, is calling us.”
(Philippians 3:13-14 & Hebrews 12:1&2, NLT)