Friday, February 15, 2008


Flying out of Durango Mexico we found a small dirt airstrip near a tiny village. We landed and was immediately surrounded with a crowd of people. They were eager to hear the gospel. On the right of the picture in a white shirt was Jerry Whitt a wonderful missionary pilot. His plane is parked behind mine.

I need to tell you how I became a Missionary Pilot.

I went to church with my mother for years and it was just old, boring stuff to me. By the time I was 11 years old I had my own dreams and it didn't include anything connected with the church. It was 1943 and all I wanted to do was to become an Army Air Corp Pilot. Unfortunately I was too young to do that. I loved airplanes and built dozens of models, some that flew and some static replica's of the real thing.

One evening in the bed by myself I had a strange, very strong presence (sorry I can't explain it any better...) come over me and I knew it was the Spirit of God. It would be impossible to describe the struggle that I had for the next three weeks. To my dismay I knew that God was speaking to me. No, not in an audible voice, but something like "thought transference". God had access to my mind I knew what he wanted from me.

He was calling me to give my life and heart to him and make a lifetime commitment to be a Minister of the gospel. Alone, without telling anyone what was happening, I wept, pleaded, struggled and kept saying NO! During the day and especially at night that "presence" would create so much anxiety in me that I wept. I grew up pretty much by myself and being very self-reliant during this time I never told anyone what was going on.

My Father was a good man who worked himself almost to death to feed, clothe and take care of 10 people in our family during the worst of the depression. I respected him but we were not "pals" or close to each other. He didn't have time to do anything but work, worry and take care of his large family. He didn't like the church my mother attended, and so he would stay home on Sunday and cook a wonderful meal for the family. He was a smart, intelligence and gifted man.

After struggling for weeks I heard a message from this powerful presence that was with me all the time. The message was: "If I didn't do something my Father would be lost". I had been to church enough to know what that meant. God knew how to break my heart.

I never told anyone why I surrendered my life to the Lord. Especially not my parents or family. It was something between God and me. I promised to give up all my desires, plans, and ambitions and spend my life as a Minister. I didn't know how I could do that, but I knew God would have to make it happen. My dream of being a pilot was part of what I had to surrender to God.

It's odd that I never told anyone, certainly not my Father what had happened to me. I had a solid covenant with God and that's all I needed. I would give him my life, and he would save my Dad. When I graduated from High School at 16 years old, my Dad asked me what I was going to do. He wanted me to go to college and become an Engineer. When I told him I was going to be a Minister he became very angry.

I wasn't angry. I just felt sad because I couldn't do what he wanted me to do and I couldn't tell him why. A few months later I left home without knowing where I was going. I had nothing but a few clothes, my Bible, and $2.37 cents in my pocket. I would somehow become a Minister.

I'll skip lots of the story and fast forward to 1962. My wife Maggie and I were leaving a wonderful church we pastored in Indiana and many loving people who have remained our friends for over 45 years. I moved to Atlanta with very little money and started another church. I had learned like the Apostle Paul, to work at a variety of jobs to put food on the table. One day after long hours of hard work I was driving down the South Expressway to Griffin when God was suddenly talking to me again.

God told me to turn in to the South Expressway Airport - which was just ahead of me, and buy an Airplane. He was going to send me to the Mission field as a Missionary Pilot. I didn't have enough money in my pocket to buy a meal much less an airplane. I had learned not to question or argue with God so I found myself talking to John Galloway, the operator of the airport. I picked out an airplane...a Cessna Skyhawk 7504x and told John I wanted to buy it. He said: Fine! How do you want to pay for it?

I told him I didn't know, I didn't have any money. John was an old retired Air Force Captain and he laughed and said: "Well, Preacher, come back when you've got the money." I said: "Don't sell that Airplane because I'll be back for it in a few day."

The next day I was working as a graphic artist to keep us fed, and I prayed silently. "O.K. God, where are you going to get the $9,250.00 to buy that airplane?" I got an immediate reply. After a rebuke for my impertinent prayer God said: "Call a man in Marion Indiana and tell him to buy the plane for you." I had never in my life ever done anything like that. That night I called a former member and wonderful friend and told him timidly...."Harold, God spoke to me and told me to buy an airplane and be a missionary pilot. Will you pray with me about it."

"Nope..." he said. I won't do that". Now I was shocked! He said: "God spoke to me a month ago to buy an airplane for a missionary and I've just been waiting for you to call so I would know which plane to buy. I'll send you a check in the morning". A few days later I bought the plane and John Gallaway who ran the airport was shocked when I told him the story. So was everyone else. Including me.

God didn't tell me I couldn't learn to fly. I had worked at the Airport in Lanett Alabama and Fred Robinson gave me flying lessons before I finished high school. Fred was the best instructor I could have ever had. He sent Charles Lindberg to South Georgia many years before to buy an old "jenny" and to learn to fly. He fixed Amelia Airheart's Lockheed Vega at Candler Field in Atlanta. Fred helped design the B-29 during the Second World War, and taught the pilots how to fly them. He was a tough and hard instructor in the air, but he turned into a warm and kind friend on the ground.

When I bought the plane I started working with the best instructor pilots I could find. I needed to know a lot about terrain flying, dead reckoning navigation and high density altitude. Night flying, instrument flying, careful preparation for each flight were just a few of the things I knew I needed to stay alive. Often when flying I could hear in my mind the voices of my first instructor Fred Robinson, and many other wonderful Instructor pilots telling me what to do.

I was filled with joy and amazement as I flew all over the States, preaching and raising money for the Mission trips. I couldn't believe it. I had my own airplane. God called on me to give up being a Military Pilot and then gave me the opportunity to fly and preach the gospel in Mexico, Guatamala and Honduras.

Albert Einstien when he was living in America and had learned to speak english said: "God is strict - but he ain't mean". That certainly fits my case. With God's help I had many amazing and wonderful experiences as a Missionary Pilot.

I'll give you more of the story in the next blog.