Jim Novak

jimNovackENFORCING THE LAW AND RELYING ON GOD’S PROTECTION

We had just turned off the red lights and reset the Radar Gun after giving a ticket to a speeder. It immediately went off as a Camaro went by at high speed.  My partner wheeled the police car around and floored it, while I switched on the siren and emergency lights. We chased after the speeder in the late evening light.  Straining to keep the car visible by the receding taillights, we came over a small rise to see the car parked on the side of the road, with the brake lights on.  We looked at each other and said, ‘that’s him’.  Approaching cautiously, one on each side, hands on holsters, the Driver said, ‘what’s the problem Officer’.  We expected that, and let him know that he was caught speeding at more than 20km over the speed limit.  In spite of his claiming it couldn’t be him, we both knew it was him by style of vehicle and the smell of hot rubber and brakes.

You see we knew that we might be called in as witnesses, should he decide to fight the ticket in court.

Being a witness is a primary responsibility as a Police Officer. So too it is for us as believers!  The question may be asked, ‘why do you believe what you believe’? The Bible declares that we can believe simply by seeing the evidence in nature.

For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse. (Romans 1:20)

I stand here tonight only as a witness to the miraculous power of God.  Don’t look at me as someone who has achieved some higher plane of spiritual knowledge or giftedness.  No – I am only a witness and a sinner like maybe one or two of you!

‘Lord, please help us make it through the pass’, I prayed, as we flew along in the driving snow and failing light, just a few feet above the tree tops, trying to maintain visibility with the terrain.  In this case the terrain was the Rocky Mountains just northeast of Prince George.

We had flown to Prince George, which is on the western side of the Rockies, to bring our son Jim to a weekend hockey tournament. He was 11 years old. This was Sunday morning November 24, 1974, and we planned to fly back to Fort St John in our old Piper Tripacer, a single engine, small plane, best suited only for flying in sunny weather.

We flew along in almost whiteout conditions of driving snow, trying to find our way into and out of the Monkman pass, in northern British Columbia.  Was that the pass I wondered?  No!  Watch out, because this is a dead end canyon sloping up into higher and higher elevations!  Turn around NOW!  I put the plane into a sharp left stall-turn, to reverse direction, and still maintain sight with the ground. Whew, that was close!  Backtracking, I looked for another valley that might lead to the entrance to the pass.  We had no deicing equipment or modern navigation equipment, so it was really a seat of the pants type of flight.  I was good at it but also much too willing to take a chance.  Yes, there! Maybe that is the valley I need to follow.  Looks about right on the map and the several canyons we had already passed. 

As I uttered the silent prayer, I seemed to have an incredible confidence that God was always with us, and did not have any fear about proceeding deeper into the mountains, in what proved to be virtually impossible weather.

 This formidable high mountains range runs from Alaska all the way down to Colorado.  The occasion was a hockey tournament that young son Jim was playing in.  He was good at it, and so the trip was important. I operated a Radio Communications business in Fort St John, with help of Al Adams a young Technician, and because I loved flying, used the Airplane in that pursuit. Prevailing winds from the west had always to cross over this high mountain range, and in the process would drop their moisture on the western side, then becoming drier, would have less rain or snow, as in our case, on the eastern side.  I believed the weather reports, which indicated that if I could find a way across, I would get into slightly clearer weather with a wee bit higher ceiling.  Where we were in the midst of the mountains it was hellish to say the least, with a combination of sleet and snow.  My little plane was not certified to fly in these conditions – and neither was I qualified for instrument flying.  However, it was not the first time for me to fly almost blind into such weather, so with not too much fear, I plunged on into the failing light.

Earlier in the flight, I had ‘flight planned’ to proceed through the Pine Pass, which is where the highway crossed the mountain range.  The only way to go was by visual flight rules, but before we got very far out of Prince George, we ran into rain and then freezing rain.  Knowing that the plane could not take much of the latter, I turned around and crept along the southwestern flank, hoping to find that elusive opening that would get me into the twisting route called the Monkman Pass.

Well, this seems to be the pass I said to myself as we flew along, and I checked off all the turns on the map. Many years later I flew this route on a clear day, down on the deck, in my Cessna 310 twin engine plane, and could not believe how it was possible I found the route back in 1974.  By now we were down to 300 Ft. above the trees, and visibility of about a quarter mile.  Yes, that must be Monkman Lake. I should be able to see the entrance to the Murray River, which flowed out of it.  But where is it?  ‘Stay over the trees so you have a reference’.  Oh, there it is, I thought, as we zoomed on by with only a brief glimpse.  ‘Ok, do a 270-degree turn and come back lined up on the river entrance, Follow it carefully and it will lead you out to slowly increasing ceiling, until we get clear of the mountains. 

‘Oh, I’ve lost sight of the ground or what was now the frozen snow-covered surface of the lake’. 

No reference – just all dim snowy white.

 Nothing to do but pull up and see what happens. 

There was no time for any more thinking because in the next instant all I heard was the Gyros winding down and the ELT transmission coming through on the radio. 

The engine was silent and I numbingly realized that we had crashed!

For the eyes of the LORD run to and fro throughout the whole earth, to show Himself strong in the behalf of them whose heart is perfect toward Him.  2 Chronicles 16:9

Behold the eye of the lord is upon them that fear Him, upon them that hope in His mercy.  Psalm 33:13

I love speaking about this because I have noticed the impact it has on people. One thing I have learned is that we men must have opportunity to just get together with men and talk.  Maybe not as much as women do … but yes we do a lot of talking. When I hear how another man may have gone through a difficulty, it helps me face my own, and many times gives me hope and a change of perspective.  I strongly encourage every man to find a group of guys he can sit down with over coffee and just chat about life. 

Too often I have seen discouragement take over, and a man is driven to ultimate despair, or makes very poor decisions, with some even taking their own life. Believe me when I say it is not a pretty sight to see a body with a blown off head, a body in the bush all winter, or burned up to a crisp. Having to search out the family and then tell them their husband is gone is a very difficult thing to do. So fellas take the time to cultivate relationships with other guys so that you can release some of the fears and gain some hope, compassion and insight from someone who went the same road ahead of you.

Back to this story... My wife Carolee, who was sitting in the right-hand seat, was collapsed on the instrument panel.  I pushed her back and saw the severe damage to her face.  She was unconscious.  Son Jim was in the back - crying, saying “where’s Steven”!  Steven is our oldest. Knowing this was a desperate situation, since it was now getting dark at 4:30 in the afternoon, in spite of the trauma; I immediately went into survival mode and began to get us out of the plane.  The windshield had broken out, and snow was all over us.  I stretched out my legs so I could undo my seat belt, and it didn’t feel right.  I realized my ankles were broken, and also my right hand had difficulty to undo the clasp. It was broken.  

Now how to get out?  Something seemed wrong with my mouth.  I felt around and found that I had split my jaw. Now I had two mouths filled with broken teeth and some jawbone splinters.

The only door out of the front cockpit was on my wife’s side, the right side.   The snow is deep, and we seem to be buried in it.  The wheels are gone.  Somehow I managed to open the door, and then to push her out against the snow so I could get past. Ok, get the survival gear out and make a bed.  I helped Jim climb over the seat from the rear cockpit.  He has calmed down, and now with his help we drag out a sleeping bag, engine cowl cover and part of a parachute panel -that I carried in case of a crash, yeah!  Take it around to the other side, where Carolee is collapsed in the snow, and make a tent over the wing with the parachute panel, the wing now only about 2 feet above the deep snow.  Ok, we are now able to lie down and shiver.  It is dark, the wind is blowing, and there is nothing we can see, except every now and then a vague dark outline indicating where the shoreline is. 

I estimated later that we were about a quarter mile from shore. It is bitter cold, and since we came out of a warm plane the snow melted on our clothes and soon we are very wet.

I began to pray! Carolee was stirring and slowly began to regain consciousness, although she would go unconscious again several times.  We lay there shivering in an indescribable way, shaking and vibrating so very hard!  Although I was mentally quite clear, I do remember that for a very brief instant I may have gone unconscious myself, because I only recall bouncing back off the instrument panel, but no memory of the impact or crash event itself.  The Piper Tripacer has a rather severe and simple instrument panel, with a very sharply defined upper edge. 

It was this that we both slammed into, having come to an almost instant stop from 100 mph in about 50 feet. The propeller broke off and landed in the snow about 30 feet away.  The fuselage crumpled in its strongest longitudinal mode, so that these structure tubes were bent.  The flap cables snapped.  The left wing collapsed down but the right wing did not.  Had it come down even a few inches, it would have prevented the right cabin door from opening, and we would have been trapped in the plane. I learned all this later from the accident investigator.

The impact on the panel edge crushed Carolee’s face, breaking her cheekbone, nose and cracking her skull.  Since I was taller it struck me right on the lower jaw, while breaking my nose, severing through to break out almost all my lower teeth and fracturing my jawbone, leaving a large gaping hole, which I now called my second mouth.  I put my fingers in this hole and scraped out all the broken teeth and bone pieces.  At this point, there was not much pain - but it came soon after.  Jim who, believe it or not, had been sleeping on the back seat, (something to be said there about trust in his Dad huh!), was thrown up against the left rear doorpost, gashing his forehead and wrenching his hip.

So there we were, many miles away from civilization, in a spot so remote that to this day there is no access by road, but only by hiking, float plane or helicopter.  So what does a day bring?  Yes, it could have been fear, not knowing whether we may ever be found in time.  It is dark and very cold, about 11 degrees Fahrenheit (-12 degrees C). We were severely injured and bleeding. Not a condition one might want to be in for a night.  Knowing from Airforce training, that a search would be initiated for us at first opportunity, I also knew that they would not know where to begin looking, since we were far off our previously filed Flight Notification, which said we were going via the highway. That was now at least 65 miles west of our position. 

Now life does have some strange coincidences (or encounters hmm).  It just so happened that I was a Communications Technician and businessman, and this year of 1974 it became mandatory for all aircraft to carry an Emergency Locator Transmitter or ELT.  I had previously installed a fixed unit in the Plane, but also carried a portable one.

Let me digress for a moment to give you some background. About a year before, a friend, Ernie Fuhr and I, bought this airplane in Seattle and went there to fly it back. On our approach into Vancouver, the very old radio quit.  We were given a green light to land, and a pickup truck with a flashing light appeared to lead us over to the south side for parking.  I was told that I would not be able to take off again without a working radio. This was a Friday, on a long weekend, and all Avionics shops were closed.  I called my Mother who lived in Vancouver and asked if we could stay overnight. Being an enterprising radioman, I thought I would simply take it to a TV shop, test the radio tubes and hopefully that would fix the radio.  That did not fix it. The next day we had no choice but intended to call out an Avionics guy on overtime, and see if he could fix it. 

Ernie was not a believer!  On the ride back to the airport he and I got into a heavy and unusual discussion about ‘is God real’? As we approached the Airplane, in which I had previously replaced the sick radio the day before, I said to Ernie, ‘Hey if I pray for this radio and it works, will you confess and believe that God is real’?  Thinking he had nothing to lose, he said ‘sure’. By this time I was rather stirred up and I prayed a simple prayer; acknowledging that God could do anything, knew all about electronics and would He please fix the radio. I silently opened the door, turned on the master switch and the radio, waited for the tubes to warm up and suddenly we heard the Tower talking.  Without saying anything, but with my heart beginning to race, I turned the radio off.  I waited a few more seconds then turned it back on again.  Shortly, again we heard the Tower giving instructions to someone. Whew! Ok Ernie, now do you believe?  Yeah he said, ‘jump in and let’s get going’.  We flew the long flight to Fort St John and parked in the hangar. Later I tried the radio again, and it would not work. Since I had an Avionics shop of my own, I tried to fix it - but could not, and since the old coffee grinder was not worth spending too much time on, I replaced it with a new Radio PLUS an emergency locator radio as well. I realized just a few weeks ago, that this radio failure resulted in an ELT being operational when we crashed that Airplane.

I knew the ELT had activated as it was squealing so loudly over the (new) radio, right after the engine became silent.  Surely the search people would be able to hear it – or wait a minute - maybe not, because by next day the battery would be dead.

Now something else happens that cannot be explained easily.  I had exceptional peace and confidence that we would be rescued, so I simply began to sing.  When I think about it now, it must have been odd since I had in effect two mouths.  Sing what you might ask! Well simple choruses and of course Amazing Grace! I was extremely aware of our status as being in God’s hands, and that He was looking after us, even though I was the one who caused the crash. So I just praised him, in whatever words and songs I could.  I’m not very good a quoting scripture but managed to remember the first part of Psalms 23.      

The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want.

He makes me lie down in green pastures;

He leads me beside the still waters.  He restores my soul;

He leads me in the paths of righteousness For His name’s sake.

Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,

I will fear no evil;

For You are with me;    Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me.

 

Together Carolee and I would recite this as best we could between shivering shaking and consciousness!

While carrying on like this, I suddenly felt a warm sensation come over me.  I shook my feet to see if there was any pain.  They seemed to be alright and not flopping.  I said to Carolee and Jim, “I think the Lord has healed my feet”!  Then instantly I remembered something.  A month before, after a church service in Fort St John, while I was standing at the back ready to leave, the Pastors wife, Elaine Kennett, came up to me and said. “Jim I don’t know if I had a dream or a vision but I saw you sitting in a wheelchair and then suddenly you jumped up and said, He’s done it  He’s done it, He has healed my feet”.  Now at that time, I didn’t know what to say because I was healthy as a horse, and was so known for running around that my neighbor once said, ‘don’t you ever walk’!  But it did stick in my mind as I wondered what this might mean. 

Slowly the pain came back, and I realized I was not healed, but felt so sure that I would soon recover whole again.  Carolee was having her own experience, which only she can describe, as did Jim.  The wind was ripping apart our little tent and at one low point, Carolee was begging for some heat.  I got up and got some paper towel, which I soaked in the fuel tank and then lit on fire holding it by her face for some comfort, all the while thinking I may have to set the plane on fire in the morning so they can find us. 

About 10:30 pm I suddenly heard the ice crack.  When we crashed we had struck the ice almost flat, but broke open a big hole, slid across, sheared off the undercarriage, and came to the sudden stop in a huge bank of pushed up snow.  Now I realized the water was overflowing the hole with the weight of the plane, and the ice was softening, and would surely break open where we were now. 

What to do?

It was a few years earlier, during a time in my life of soul searching, and trying to learn more about God, that I had the opportunity to talk to a Pastor friend, Tom Loewen.  I asked him what it means to ‘hear from God’.  Do people really hear God speak? If so, how does He speak?  Tom carefully rehearsed some scripture stories, and principles, to clarify how and when God might speak.  Essentially, it meant to me, that yes, we can hear him, that most likely it would be silent in our head, or come at us right from written scripture, but in every case must come in agreement to God’s written principles, and with great peace.

Ok then, ‘Lord I need to hear from you right now’!  ‘Should we get up and try to walk to shore, or should we stay here’?  If we stay, we may end up in the water, and possibly drown, or at minimum freeze to death.  If we try to walk in our broken condition, we may also freeze out on the ice, get lost and be buried in snow where no one will ever find us’.

Almost instantly – as clearly as I might hear someone speak – in my mind, I heard him say, “Jim get up and walk”.  There was no doubt, no second-guessing.  I would obey - so I simply said; ‘ok we got to walk to shore’.  Now that was going to be a challenge at this time of night and with our injuries.  How do you do it?  Well, I got Carolee up and on her feet.  I put the portable ELT in her purse, and then I placed the sleeping bag over her head along with the cowl cover.  Not good! It hurt her too much with the weight.  So, I just pointed her towards the dark outline, which barely was discernable through the driving snow, and said ‘try and walk that way’! 

As I tell you this I realize that it sounds rather cold and heartless.  I’m sorry but I am a much focused person and I knew what had to be done and done quickly.  I tried to make a splint for my right leg, which was the worst one, using the tow bar and my belt.  However, I could not do it as my hand was broken. 

So I tied the parachute panel around my waist, threw the bag and cowl cover over my head, then holding my trusty axe in my left hand, and with my right arm around Jim’s strong young shoulders, we set out.

It was very difficult to walk in the deep snow. With broken feet, broken hand, smashed jaw, and shock, it was almost too much.  I paced myself to take ten steps and then lay down gasping for breath.  Trauma shock really takes the stuffing out of you. Jim would stand there patiently waiting, and no doubt struggling for energy himself.  Then he would say, “Come on Dad get up”.  I would struggle to my feet under the burden of the bag and cowl cover, and take another ten paces and lay down again.  This continued as we tried hard to stay on Carolee's tracks. 

However, the wind was blowing hard, it was so dark, and at one point we lost sight of her tracks.  I asked Jim, ‘slowly circle around me to try and see her tracks again’.  He found the indentations again, got me up, and on we proceeded.  I had no idea how Carolee was doing, nor even if she was headed in the right direction because of the dark and blowing snow.  Eventually, we came to the edge of the lake, and into water under the snow. Laying down was out of the question so I struggled to make it the last few steps, where we could see Carolee collapsed on the bank, out cold. She was/is an incredibly tough woman – and a City girl to boot!

 I was too exhausted to do anything, so asked Jim to make us a spot to lie down, in the bush along the edge of the lake.  He tramped out a small bed, laid down the parachute panel, then the cowl cover and finally the sleeping bag.  We got Carolee awake and helped her move into the spot, and while Jim lay down on one side of her, I laid down on the other. As best we could we tried to cover up with the sleeping bag.  It was too small to cover us all adequately, so I was only covered on the lower body.  Snow was falling, wind blowing, and tree debris coming down on us. There we lay shivering and in deep pain. Like we did under the wing of the plane, we prayed, sang, and tried to remember scripture.  All this time I was thinking about our situation, how foolish I had been to push on through terrible conditions, and contemplating my faith and relationship with God. Believing that there is a purpose in everything we experience, I concluded that this was both an instruction for me, and a test. Carolee and Jim were having their own lesson in faith, and now tell their own testimony of miracles.

I silently prayed and said, “Please God do not rescue us from here until I learn the lesson, and pass the test the first time, because I sure do not want to go through this again”.  I had the utmost confidence that we would be rescued soon; believing God always has good intentions for us. Talking for me was getting very difficult, as my mouth was too sore to move much.  I do not recall sleeping, but it was a long night so no doubt we did from time to time.  I tried to make sure we moved our feet, so we would not freeze up.  At one point, Jim said he could not move his legs.  I reached over to feel him, and found his legs locked straight out.  Placing my hand under his knees, I was able to break the lock and he could move again.  Later in the night I got up and tried to make a more comfortable bed, since our feet were sort of jammed into a small pocket, and hard to move.  While rearranging the bedding I scraped Carolee's congealed blood out of the cowl cover, as she was bleeding the most.

Monday at daybreak, we could see the weather was about the same as Sunday.  Nothing we could do but just lay there.  Before I had pointed Carolee in the direction of the shore, I had placed the portable ELT in her purse.  You must know that a woman will go nowhere without her purse huh!  Because she also had fallen down or laid down several times, on the struggle to shore, everything had fallen out of her purse except that rather heavy ELT radio. Imagine losing all your lipstick, wallet, Kleenex and stuff but not the heavy radio – miraculous! Now I tried to keep it warm, so that I could activate it if we heard a plane fly over.  Unbeknownst to us, that night a Canadian Pacific Aircraft flying from Fort St John to Vancouver, picked up our ELT signal and reported it to the Control Centre.  This started a search procedure by the Search and Rescue Squadron out of Comox BC.  They flew into Prince George, and then began a high-level overflight of our general area to try and pinpoint where we were.  An RCMP aircraft was called in to do a low level under weather, sweep of the area.  Unfortunately, because the weather was down to the tree tops, like the day before, he had to follow the Murray River in towards Monkman Lake, on which we were now hidden in the trees.  Whenever I heard the overhead search plane, I would activate the portable unit, not knowing if the fixed unit in the plane was still working.  About noon I heard the RCMP Beaver come onto the lake flown by Sgt. Garry McIver. 

He flew around the lake edge trying to see where the ELT signal was coming from.  Visibility was very poor, so not spotting anything he flew back out again.  Soon he came back in no doubt hearing my portable ELT signal again,  This time, as he went around the lake, he swung over the center, and I could see him swoop down low to the ice, where we could just see a hump in the snow which was our now almost buried wreck. With that, he left our area.  I knew that he would report finding the crash site, and we could expect a rescue helicopter to come in to do a search for us.

By now it is coming towards the end of another day.  We were all exhausted, feeling almost frozen stiff, not able to say much, and slowly entering a quiet state.  I was getting concerned about the approach of darkness, and not sure Carolee would survive another night. So I changed my prayer a bit and said, “Lord, please send that helicopter”. I was fading in and out of sleep when Carolee said, “I hear a Copter!”  Yes, now I could hear it too, and a flood of relief hit me believing we would now get rescued.  Oh no! He is hovering over the wreck, but there is no indication of life there.  Slowly he flies over to the edge of the lake, in a position about 90 degrees to us, and began a slow search along the lakeshore.  Good!  But what if in the dull light he doesn’t see us, covered up by snow and in the trees?  He only has time for one sweep, and will have to get back out of the mountains as it is getting dark.  You better get up and show yourself at the edge of the lake.  With difficulty, I got up and staggered to the edge and waved my arms. 

Praise the Lord, he instantly spotted us and flew over, hanging over my head about 100 feet, and raising up a terrible snow storm.  Being very cold and stiff, I tried to get him to back off by lifting my collar and turning my back.  He tried to land on the ice, but the heavy Labrador Helicopter broke through the soft ice.  Up he went again and held his position looking down at us.  I crawled back into our bedding and lay there watching.  The Pilot waved to me and I waved back. The co-Pilot waved and I waved again.  I’m thinking, ‘hey guys, enough of the waving’. Soon down came a rope, and then a rescue medic slid down the rope.  He crawled up to us and asked if the baby was ok.  I could not speak much, but simply pointed to Jim and Carolee.  He radioed up to the Pilot and told them that we were all alive.

Later I learned this was immediately transmitted out to an overhead aircraft that we had been found alive.

Now another medic came down followed by a stretcher.  They bundled up Jim and winched him up.  Next, they bundled up Carolee, wrapping her securely tied into the stretcher and winched her up too.  Down it came again for me, but they didn’t have a regular bag, just a mummy type bag. Being bigger and very stiff they had to slit the bag open to get me in.  All the down feathers came out and stuck to the blood all over my chest, so I must have looked a sight – all blood and feathers!  I told them I wanted my favorite axe and bedding, but they refused to take them. Once on board, they cut the rope, and lifted away, leaving me on the floor because there was no more room on a rack. Away we flew, threading our way back via the same route I had made coming in from Prince George.  But this was a helicopter I said to myself, so they can slow down if necessary to find their way out through the darkness.

I do not recall very much of the flight, but next remember lying on a cot in the Prince George ER, with a nurse attempting to cut off my jacket and cowboy boots.  I objected strongly, and asked her to cut down the boot seams so I could later have them sewn back up. She also pulled off my jacket.  I did have the boots resewn, but never wore them again.  Carolee and Jim were on cots next to me, having their clothing cut off, and all of us were wrapped in warm up blankets, to get our body temperatures back up to normal. I could see that God was still monitoring us, because along came a Catholic Priest.  This fellow was a sincere charismatic, and prayed over us all ‘in tongues’.  Coming to Carolee he prophesied that God was going to heal her completely, and do a quick work!  Remarkably, although they had to re-break their first attempt at fixing her face, when she left the Hospital weeks later, the Plastic Surgeon said he had never had a patient heal so quickly.

My Doctor sewed up my jaw wound and splinted my right ankle, which was broken free, whereas the left ankle was only cracked.  He didn’t seem too interested to do anything about my broken hand or nose, but I asked him to splint the hand as well, which he did.  Today it only has a small bump where the bones rejoined.  My ankle was the limiting problem, along with the loss of blood.  I recall once when they first attempted to have me try to walk I could not stand steady.  The Doc pulled down one eyelid and said, “Give him some more blood”.

Because the rescue was a result of finding us via the ELT, and this had only just become mandatory, it became a national news item. We had people as far as Nova Scotia send cards to us.  Our hospital rooms were so filled with flowers and cards it reminded me of a morgue.  At one point they put Carolee and me in the same room, totally surrounded with flowers.  Jim was released first, and a friend took him back to Fort St John.

Now during all this time, there were some very concerned people trying to find out what all was taking place.  First, the hockey team families, who had attended the tournament along with us, and having driven back along the Hart highway in very poor weather, upon hearing we were lost were very upset. Our other children Steven, Alan, and Kim were in the care of very dear friends. Steven, who was a year older than Jim, could understand the implications very well.  Alan and Kim only knew fear and wonder.  My Mother, who lived in Vancouver, first heard that we were reported missing and obviously crashed.  However, she had total confidence in the Lord, that we would be found alive, and told everyone around her so. A lot of prayers went up for us, and someday perhaps I will learn about the many who prayed right across Canada.  Eventually, I too was sent home, albeit with my jaw still in its broken state, and a cast on my ankle.  A clever fellow in the hospital made a special crutch with a shelf for my right elbow, and a steering handle, since I could not put pressure on my hand.

There was a day in the Hospital when I had what some may call an out of body experience.  I felt I was being lifted up into the heavens, toward a very bright light.  As I traveled along through the universe, past planets and galaxies towards this light, I became aware that this must be God.  The universe seemed to be receding as I got closer. My inquisitive mind was struggling to understand what all this meant.  The thought came, that I represented ‘Man’, and God was drawing me (us) to him.  I said, wait a minute what about Woman, since I was all alone by now.  The thought immediately came, ‘well don’t you know, Woman is part of Man?’  An overwhelming profusion of love infused and surrounded me as I came close into the very bright presence.  In effect, I heard from God that ‘Man’ was made for His pleasure alone; that the entire universe was only made for our wonder and pleasure. He so longs for us, that only our attendance upon him is satisfying. Then suddenly I was back in my hospital bed.  Now, this could have been hallucinogenic due to medication, but the peace, love, and feeling of being part of a greater being were incredible and never forgotten. Several months later, while in prayer, I had another infusion of the love of God which made me speechless, and so to this day, I can only wonder in awe that we humans can be so loved.  He longs for us so much that it hurts Him deeply when we deny Him.

Soon after I got back home I went to Church, and as was our habit there, personal testimonies were given by people who just wanted to talk about some recent life issue.  Too bad we don’t do that anymore! I stood up on my crutches, paused and looked around, wondering what people were expecting me to say, because I must have looked a sight. Not having had mouth surgery yet, my face was still out of shape. Then without knowing what I was about to say, I blurted out that I learned that God doesn’t really care whether we are healthy or wealthy!  I plunged on.  “He doesn’t say to himself, ‘you know Jim needs to be healed, or Jane needs a new car or someone needs this or that’. No, He is sitting there talking to Gabriele or some other Angel and says, ‘do you hear what Jim is saying?’  He understands that it is not what I say he needs and give him, as though it is my will he must have it, but rather, because he trusts and loves me that I say, Michael, go down there and just bless Jim!  I looked around wondering if the people thought I had just lost my mind.  I don’t know if they caught the message, but I sure did.  I am confident in only one thing and that is God loves us.  When we honor Him, He promises to honor us.  That does not prevent us from asking – and surely we must and do ask, but He returns His favor solely because of His love not because He too agrees that we must have whatever we ask for.  This is a simplistic description of Gods care for us, because scripture does say that he cares about what people have, particularly the poor.  The fact that we have poor people, and that He expresses concern for them, suggests He is saying that we do really need somethings. I have lived this principle for many years now and experienced His blessing so much that I am almost embarrassed to say I am blessed, because there seems to be no reason for a blessing when others go through similar hard times but cannot feel blessed.  Truly, He will never leave us or forsake us!  Oh, that everyone who hears or reads this would totally surrender their life to my God through Jesus Christ His son, and become part of His family where ‘all things are added to us’!

Remarkably, when I got home, suffering from very painful restoration of nerves, which were severely frostbitten, and could not stand to have anything touching my feet, an older man who I did not know yet, but who being a firm believer, and living on a communal ranch at which I was known, heard God say to him, “Go to Fort St John and take care of Jim”. 

Carolee was still recovering in hospital with her jaws wired shut, able only to suck through a straw. Can you imagine not being able to open your mouth or clear your mouth, only breathe through your nose? Ouch!

Now Joe had 6 children of his own, and I doubt he knew much about acting as a Butler and caretaker to me, but that is what he did. For about 3 weeks he helped me recover, along with others from our Church who brought over food, and helped with the children.  When his time was up he went back to his family, and although we never did communicate much after that, I will never forget Joe’s incredible sacrifice and sensitivity to God’s urging to come and help me get through this rough time.

Later I had mouth surgery in Edmonton, where my gums were rebuilt to accommodate a plate. My ankles recovered so well that six months after the crash, I built a 150-foot radio tower, standing on the rungs of the tower and bolting on the sections as they were pulled up by ground man Al Adams  - without coming down for 6 hours. 

My feet were made whole again as the Pastors wife said. Today these many years later, I still walk on ankles that were predicted to be immobilized in 5 years due to no cartilage.  My right ankle is arthritic but only sends me notice when I first get up, allowing me to walk many miles in a day. 

During the time of recovery Al took excellent care of the Business.  He did not like climbing towers at first (although he had to do a lot of it later), and used to say he used the 3 finger method!  ‘I only have 3 fingers loose at any one time’!  So at that time in his career I did the hard climbing.

Jim recovered totally, and has become assured of God’s care and love for him too.  Carolee recovered totally in spite of having had cerebral fluid leak out while lying in the snow.  The only reminder is a tear duct that occasionally needs clearing out, and a small dimple near her nose. But that is their story to tell. Seems she got a refill of fluid because today her mind is sharper than mine ha!

I can only testify that God is real, His love is great and I am blessed!

The Crash incident has always been an event that colors many things in our lives to this day.  Because of some unknowns about what all took place, a few years ago we took a trip to the Comox RCAF Base on Vancouver Island, hoping to see the Rescue Aircraft and learn anything we could about our search event.  A young SAR tech was assigned to show us around, and after showing us the Labrador and the Buffalo aircraft (not the same ones of course); he walked us back into the hangar. A Sargent was at a long table folding up a parachute.  Our guide introduced us, and mentioned that we had been one of the fortunate clients.  The Sarge looked up and said, ‘Was that Monkman Lake”?  Nothing had been mentioned about where the accident rescue took place, but it seemed he was somewhat inspired, because he began to tell us about the whole sequence of the event, even though it took place about 25 years earlier.

Sgt. Jerry Boucher was one of the SAR techs that slid down the rope and rigged us into the stretchers, winching us up from our reluctant deathbed.  He had been in the Buffalo twin engine Airforce Rescue aircraft, trying to pin down our location from the emergency locator transmissions coming from our radios.

They landed back in Prince George, and realizing it was soon to be dark and our rescue was in jeopardy, he convinced a Labrador helicopter crew to make one attempt at rescue that day (Bless you Jerry).  He jumped in the Labrador, and they slowly wove their way back into the mountains, at low altitude under the scud, to get to our transmission spot on the lake.  They were totally surprised to find us alive, since the wreck was now imbedded in the ice having sunk to the top of the wings.

Jerry was later transferred to Nova Scotia and served there for several years. Now he had been transferred back to Comox, and was due for retirement discharge in another month.  Had we been a month later in our decision to check Comox out, we would have missed this wonderful opportunity to talk to our rescuer. 

God is real, He knows and He is good!

That is my testimony and it is true! 

If you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For with the heart one believes and is justified, and with the mouth one confesses and is saved. Romans 10:9, 10

You did not choose Me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit, and that your fruit should remain, that whatever you ask the Father in My name He may give you.  John 15: 16

Jesus said to him, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.  John 14: 6

I did not know these scriptures when I was 12 years old, but one night as Mom and Dad and some other ‘old folks’, were having a hallelujah time in the kitchen, I became increasingly restless on the couch in the living room of the farmhouse.  Mom sensed something too, because she came in and kneeling down beside me asked if I wanted to accept Jesus as my Savior.  Without hesitation I said yes!  Something happened within me and from that moment a new perspective became mine.  One of the jobs on the farm for us kids was to milk cows and to clean the barn.  I can tell you that for the next few days I was so energized that while loading the manure on the stoneboat I literally could make it fly!

Growing up as a teenager was fast for me, as I voluntarily left home at 16 wanting to explore life and do my thing, particularly to fly. To pay for flying training in Ottawa, I virtually gave up eating properly, surviving on pop and chocolate bars. Got my license though at 17!

I practiced praying and reading the Bible, but struggled to do that with all the tempting life around me.  So I adopted a ‘kneel down by my bed every night’ to create a habit, which has held all these many years. God is very forgiving and patient with me, and Carolee can tell you that I need a lot of forgiving! Hey I could use more patience too!

But, and this is the best part - my faith is still strong and God has shown me, and used me, in several miracle events.  He will do the same for you!

The eye has not seen and the ear has not heard, nor has there even been conceived in the mind of man the things that God has prepared for those that love him, 1 Corinthians 2: 9

How about you? Are you sure of one day meeting Jesus face to face and hearing him say, ‘well done thou good and faithful servant? How is your life progressing? I have learned He often leads me into situations (I call them encounters), where an opportunity arises to say or respond in a way that will impact others to follow the Lord.   

I have witnessed several miracles of healing, but let me tell you of one unusual event that happened in Florida about 4 years ago.

We attended a special evening meeting in the First Baptist Church of Orlando, and while there made arrangements to meet a couple for coffee after the service.  Neither of us was familiar with that part of Orlando, so it kind of got messed up.  First I took a wrong turn and had to circle back. Then found when we reached the Starbucks that he too had taken a wrong turn, and ended up at another Starbucks in an opposite direction.  I said, ‘stay there and I will catch up to you’.  So getting back on the main road, I was in the center lane with a car just ahead and to my right, when suddenly out of the blackness a young man ran across in front of that car, which struck him and sent him flying through the air to land on the grass about 25 ft. away.

I slammed on the brakes and pulled over just a bit past the body, jumped out and ran back to see what I could do, half expecting to find him dead. Having been trained in emergency first aid I checked for pulse and breathing.  Pulse there - but no breathing! His body was contorted with legs out of position but lying on his back. I spoke to him saying, ‘hey buddy, you are going to be alright, while I checked to see if there was any reason not being able to breathe.  Immediately I began to pray and declare life over him, as I felt his head and neck.  He gasped and began to breathe, but with blood coming from his mouth I knew I had to turn him. Placing my right knee up against his side I rolled him towards me in the ¾ prone position, and placed my right hand under his head to hold his neck straight. There was not much else I could do to check for broken bones in that position, so just held him and prayed.  Carolee and another couple with us, Floyd and Judy Hildebrand were now standing there praying too, when another woman appeared who came around to the other side and kneeling down began to pray as well.

Someone called 911. Eventually an emergency vehicle went screaming by not seeing us, then turned around and came our way.  About 9 minutes had gone by as the young guy struggled to breathe all the while bleeding from a severe scalp wound onto my hand. When the medics took over, I stood up and found out that the woman was a nurse, who had been sitting behind us in church and recognized us.

Now that goes beyond coincidence, because by now we were about 45 minutes out of church, and at least 5 miles away having driven several back and forth’s to that point.  I am convinced that God arranged it all, so that we were all there to witness and respond in seconds to help poor Joe!  That is what I called him in my prayer list, because we could not find any ID and never learned his real name until months later.

Joe was taken to the Orlando Trauma center, unconscious for 2 weeks, and then having to be strapped into bed, because he became very agitated, with multiple fractures like ribs, legs, pelvis, both clavicles plus head concussion.  You should have seen the SUV.  He nearly ripped the fender right off. One day I got a call from a Lawyer representing an insurance firm, and asked for my statement of the events.  Joe’s real name turned out to be Duke Finley. I told him my recollection, and asked for him to pass it on to Duke’s mother, saying it was a miracle Duke was alive.

 In a few moments I got a call back from Stacy, Duke’s mother.  She was so happy to hear about the moment of the accident, and then asked if I would like to speak to Duke.  I was dumbfounded, not expecting to talk to him, and could hardly believe it when a strong young voice came on line.  Duke told me what he remembered of the subsequent healing recovery - but had no memory of the event.

Apparently, he lived with his Mother in North Carolina but had dropped out of school and gone to Florida to visit his Dad.

For whatever reason, he made that dash across the highway, and his life was changed forever. This drop-out young fellow, decided to go back to school, and began studies at the University for an Engineering degree.  I talked to him last week.  He is almost through the undergraduate program, and will shortly be able to call himself an electrical engineer; but is also halfway through a master’s program, with intention to continue to get a Ph.D. He has worked several part-time jobs to put himself through schooling with ‘A’ marks.  There are very little residual effects from all the many fractures, and it appears his brain is working perfectly. I remain in contact - because I have his blood on my hands! May the Lord continue to work in Dukes life to bring about the plans He has for him.

I learned something recently from the Bible 1Corinthians 7:29-31.

The important thing to remember is that our remaining time is very short, and so are our opportunities for doing the Lord’s work. For that reason those who have wives should stay as free as possible for the Lord; happiness or sadness or wealth should not keep anyone from doing God’s work. Those in frequent contact with the exciting things the world offers should make good use of their opportunities without stopping to enjoy them; for the world in its present form will soon be gone.

Would you like that confidence in your life too? Is there anyone here who is not sure of God’s forgiveness and has not asked Jesus to take control of their life?  You can right now!  In a moment I will lead us all in a prayer of repentance and acceptance.  Before I do let me know that you want to join in by looking me in the eye or raising your hand.