After meeting with the FAA on Jan. 28, Rev. Sam Childers discovered his nightmare was not over.
The FAA refused to retract its fine charged to the missionary for transporting motor oil, WD-40 and diesel treatment, which were to be used to run a generator that would power the showing of The Jesus Film.
The initial $28,000 fine was issued last fall to the reverend for transporting "hazardous" materials on a missionary trip to his orphanage in Sudan. When they found that only one of the three liquids was flammable, the fine was reduced to $14,000.
Childers, the president of Pennsylvania-based World Missions Shekinah Fellowship (WMSF), said his ministry would be hard-hit from paying such a fine.
His assistant pastor at WMSF, Michael Bishop, is concerned about the impact FAA fines can and have had on other American missions organizations.
"It was a sobering reminder of how the FAA wields its power to shut down missions through extensive fines," Bishop said.
Through the process, Childers came to a grave realization.
"I now know that the FAA is very serious about their fine by refusing to drop the fine, even though I have promised that I will become properly trained and learn the proper procedure of packing and transporting hazardous materials," he said.
Even though the motor oil was legally shipped and was later found to not be a hazardous or flammable material, all the fines were not lifted. Only the WD-40 spray was a fire hazard by FAA standards.
According to Childers, the FAA insists that it is not responsible for informing people about the law.
He claims that it isn't right for the FAA or any other government agency to write fines without properly understanding the laws they are supposed to enforce.
Through the experience, Childers wants to warn other missionaries who need to ship potentially hazardous materials.
"They need to be looking at and checking all items they might be taking, whether they think they are hazardous or not," he said.
Childers says that other missionaries can easily fall into the same trap he did.
Such exorbitant fines can end up putting an early end to missions' outreaches of spreading the Gospel worldwide.
To Pay or Not to Pay?
Even though the fine was reduced by half to $14,000, Childers still would not have any part of it.
"Our ministry does not have the extra money to pay a fine like this," he said. "And if we ever have extra money, we will be using it to do more in the field."
Childers went on to say, "There are people dying every day from lack of food."
The FAA attorney then asked Childers if he would pay the fine if it was further reduced.
"Before I will pay a fine, I will go to jail," Childers replied. "You are not the one that has to tell the children of Sudan standing in the food line that we have no more food today and send them home hungry - all because the FAA has given me a fine."
When the FAA's attorney explained the legal process to Childers and said that the FAA was the one filing suit and passing judgment on the case, Childers said to himself, "Wow, these people believe they are God."
At the end of the meeting, the FAA tried to give Childers a reduced fine again.
The missionary stood his ground.
"I'm sure that people before Paul and Silas were put in prison," Childers replied. "Those people also tried to make a deal with them, but the Bible says 'Let your yes be yes and your no be no."
He then gave the FAA attorney his final answer.
"I will not pay this fine," he restated. "I will go to prison before I pay it."
A Call to Compromise
But the attorney would not give up and replied, "Most religions will usually come to a compromise."
Childers had a response for this, as well.
"That is the problem with most religions, because the Lord Jesus Christ doesn't compromise," Childers said.
"There are a lot of choices we make in life," the attorney countered. "And the choice is all yours."
Standing on the Rock
Childers then used a teaching from the book of Deuteronomy that he preached earlier in the week.
"We all have to make a choice, and that choice is life or death," referring to life through standing with Jesus Christ.
Regardless of the consequences, Childers "will choose to stand with God the Father and refuse to pay the fine."
He still calls for any attorneys to assist him in the suit and reminds travelers, along with the FAA and Transportation Security Administration, that they must become more educated in the rules and regulations of the air.