A week and a few days ago, on a Saturday, I gave a presentation at my brother Matt’s travelogue in Ephrata, Pennsylvania. He basically put together a glorified home video of his life in Alaska and then found six hundred people who didn’t have anything better to do that evening to sit down and watch it. How on earth did he find six hundred people? He writes books about his adventures in Alaska and has found quite the following among conservative Mennonites and Amish. I guess when you don’t have the internet at your disposal, a home video about a guy living in Alaska with some unreliable boats and unfortunate hunting stories has some appeal.
Having six hundred people in one place gave me an opportunity to stand on a soapbox and tell people about our ministry with MMS Aviation. It went well and I talked to many interested people who were interested in airplanes, in missions, or both.
When Matt asked me if I wanted to give another presentation in Ohio a week later, of course I said yes. Another crowd of six hundred people? It was definitely worth packing the car full of promotional paraphernalia and then driving four hours into the heart of Ohio so we could inspire more people to join our vision of reaching isolated people with the Gospel of Jesus Christ through aviation.
The event was in Millersburg, Ohio which is only fifty minutes or so from MMS Aviation’s hangars in Coshocton. Phil, the CEO at MMS, had wanted to see my presentation for quality control purposes. I guess he wanted to make sure I wasn’t trying to sell essential oils or Tupperware or other questionable goods on the side. I invited him to Millersburg to see the presentation in person and he agreed that seeing it in real life was better than squinting at a computer screen trying to decipher pixels coming through a Skype connection. We met for supper an hour before the presentation and caught up. I appreciate the way Phil makes apprentices feel like part of the organization before they are even working in the hangar. Raising support out on your own makes it easy to feel disconnected from the organization you’re trying desperately to join. Phil does a good job of reminding us apprentices that we are very much wanted and needed in the hangar.
Since Phil was there I really wanted to knock the church down with my presentation. I don’t mean literally knock the church down; we know what happened when Samson did that. Pushing pillars on top of your audience isn’t a good way to raise support.
When I got to the church where the travelogue was I found the parking lot empty. Oh well, maybe Ohioans just travel late. I unfolded my little table and rigged up my rickety banner behind it. My table still had oil splattered over it from when I rebuilt a motorcycle engine on top of it, so I threw some white fabric over the table and then some burlap on top of that. I had found the fabric in the basement and grabbed it impulsively. Onlookers would likely assume I planned the rustic look. As the start time drew near the church remained empty. Ten minutes after 7:00 pm the church had about twenty people in it. Oh well, the show must go on!
“Where are all the people, Matt?” I asked. “Did you insult Ohio in one of your books?”
“I didn’t really advertise it much, that might be part of the problem,” Matt admitted.
Turns out if you don’t tell people about something, they don’t know it’s happening.
I got up to give my sales pitch and as I searched my mind for the script I prepared, I realized it had blown away! It gets quite breezy in my head at times and I was alarmed to find that my carefully crafted, powerfully poignant piece of literary artwork had evaporated like cheap toilet paper. I started shoving words out of my mouth hoping that, like a five speed car with a dead battery, I could just jump start my brain by pushing it down a hill. Halfway through the presentation my brain stopped lurching and starting running smoothly. Then a video I had put on my slideshow of an Indonesian tribe receiving the Bible in their language for the first time didn’t work. There was no sound! I considered trying to yelp like an Indonesian tribesman so the audience could get the full effect of what was happening but I decided against it, knowing that conservative folks don’t appreciate overly charismatic performances. Of course, my high school music teacher would say my singing resembles the yelping of an Indonesian tribesman so maybe I could’ve pulled it off.
My parents were staying at a hotel in Ohio so I bunked with them for the night (although I slept in a different bed) and then on Sunday morning I made a beeline for home. Somewhere near Sandusky, Ohio I began a phone conversation with Janice. I hung up and smiled to myself; my head filled with sunshine, unicorns, and romance rainbows when suddenly my car’s cruise control quit cruising and started slowing down. I pushed the gas pedal down further. I wiggled the shifter and checked the gauges. It finally dawned on me that the car was completely out of gas! As flat as Ohio is, you still can’t coast the whole way to Indiana. I pulled over, looked up gas stations on my phone, and found that the Rambler’s Roost Truck Stop was 0.9 miles away. No way around it; I was going to have to exercise! I climbed over two fence rows, a rather prickly bush, and slid down a bridge embankment before I reached a road I could trudge down, looking lost and forlorn with sticks in my hair.
I finally reached the Rambler’s Roost. It was a dilapidated old truck stop with a faded sign that read “Open 24/7.” The building looked like it was thirsty; it was dry, cracked, & faded. I opened the door covered in peeling lottery posters and found shelves stacked with an odd assortment of highly processed snack foods and twelve packs of pop. I double checked every corner but couldn’t find any gas cans for sale! Usually gas stations are well stocked with $5 gas cans on sale for $20, hoping that motorists such as myself will stumble in with no other options. I wandered around and finally found a friendly employee.
“Do you sell gas cans?” I asked.
“Do you have, like, a milk jug or something I can use to put gas in? I ran out of gas.” I tried to look pitiful and desperate. It was surprisingly easy.
“Uh.. Let me check.” She wandered into a back room and soon returned with an empty mayonnaise jug. “Here. You can use this.” She also had a lid that screwed on the top. I can make that work.
“Great,” I said, “Can I get a gallon of gas on pump 4?”
“Sure!” She punched it into her register and I handed her my debit card. “Ooo..” She looked disappointed, “We have a $10 minimum on credit or debit cards.” At that point I felt like paying for ten gallons of gas so I could just pour the other nine into their trash can and light it on fire, but that’s what makes me a mature adult; I don’t act on my impulses. I sighed heavily to passively aggressively show her that I disapproved of the policy and then grabbed some junk food off of the shelves. I would have bought something useful but they didn’t sell anything useful. It was still better than walking to Indiana.
I was halfway out the door when it occurred to me that it would be nearly impossible to pour gas out of a mayo jar into my gas tank. “Do you sell any funnels?” I asked.
“No… sorry. I do have this paper funnel.” She grabbed a paper funnel off of the shelve. What on earth do you use a paper funnel for? If you need a funnel, it’s because you’re pouring a liquid. If you’re pouring liquid, then paper will absorb the liquid. I could see a wax paper working, but this was just an plain piece of paper glued into a cone shape. It looked like the funnels my dad had to pee into when he had a kidney stone. Remind me never to get kidney stones.
I weighed my options. “How much does it cost?”
“Sold.” I figured it was better than nothing so I was happy to trade nothing for it.
I filled up my mayo jar and started walking back to my car. I guess when you see a man trudging down the road carrying a paper funnel and a mayo jar of gas, it’s easy to guess the circumstances surrounding the situation. It didn’t take long for an older gentleman in a late model Chevy Impala to stop and offer to give me a lift. I took him up on his offer but warned him that my mayo jar was leaking gas all over my hand and that it might make his car smell like gas. He seemed to suggest that he didn’t want his car smelling like gas so he opened the window and I held the mayo jar out the window while he drove down the road.
I got back to my car and took off the gas cap, stuck the paper funnel into the opening, and then dumped gas out of my mayo jar as fast as I could so the funnel wouldn’t have time to disintegrate. The wind blew about half of the gas all over the back of my car but I managed to get enough into the tank that I could make it to the gas station. I fired that baby up and sped off towards the gas station. I got off the exit ramp and noticed my car was pulling to the left very badly. No sooner had I become aware of this phenomenon than I heard a fwoomp, fwoomp, fwoomp, fwoomp. You got to be kidding me! My tire decided now would be the time shred itself into oblivion. I pulled onto a small side road so I could swap it out with my little green spare doughnut. I was halfway done when a Chevy Impala pulled up beside me. “Need help?” It was the same guy who had given me a lift ten minutes earlier! I explained the updated situation and we both laughed. Well, he tried not to laugh because he was polite. Sometimes the best place to appreciate ironic humor is beside the road, covered in gas and brake dust while hanging out with a stranger.
Hey, you win some and you lose some but you’ll never win anything if you don’t try first. We are going to Colorado Springs in mid-November to receive training on how to get people to join us in our vision of reaching a lost world through missionary aviation. Since we want to be life long missionaries, it’s important to build a solid foundation now and we’re in that construction process. We have almost 24 hours of preparatory work such as reading, worksheets, and video classes before we actually do the two day workshop in Colorado so we’ll be busy!
We want to be at MMS Aviation this summer. We want to get on the mission field ASAP and so we’re going to be trying to get face to face appointments asking people specifically to join our team. If you’d like an in home, personal presentation on our ministry, let us know! (contact here)
Thanks so much for reading our blogs and sharing our vision with your friends and family! You guys are our heroes!