Divine Appointment with an Airline Stewardess
By Margaret D. Mitchell
God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble. – Psalm 46:1
On my first trip after September 11, 2001, I knew I would be facing new territory. One week after the bombings, God gave me a trip with a New York City layover. I praised the Lord and asked Him to protect us and guide my every step. I felt the Spirit’s strength abound within me, and I knew I was ready, like a soldier.
In between one of our flights, I sat in a passenger seat, reading Left Behind. Tess, the head stewardess, approached me and asked, “How can you read that at a time like this?”
I smiled and replied, “How can I not?” I explained to Tess that I was a Christian and that I had prayed for God’s peace and protection over us and our airplane. Tess thanked me for my wisdom and then explained that she had begun to attend church with her brother and that he had encouraged her to develop a deeper personal relationship with the Lord.
After takeoff, Jo, the stewardess who worked the coach cabin with me, walked to the rear jump seat and sat down next to me. She lamented that a couple of men who were seated up front stared at her and Tess during takeoff. Jo was clearly scared. I stood up and walked to the front of the airplane to look at the men’s eyes. On my walk up, I prayed that the Holy Spirit would give me clear discernment as to their character. When I reached the front, I turned around and walked back down the aisle and glanced at the men.
I returned to the back of the airplane and informed Jo that I wanted to pray about these circumstances, these men. I asked her whether she wanted to join me. Jo declined, saying that she wasn’t religious and that she wasn’t sure about any specific higher power. I excused myself and locked myself in the lavatory and prayed once again for protection and peace and for the presence of angels.
After Jo and I served the passengers, we nestled into a row of seats to ourselves. She pulled out her camera and clicked away at the views outside her window. “I like sunsets,” she said. “I have lots of pictures of them.” While Jo continued to snap shots of God’s graceful beauty, she shared a little about herself. I learned that she had been a professional firefighter prior to becoming a stewardess. “Tess was a firefighter too,” she said. “Volunteer.”
On the next day of our trip, we boarded a flight in Orlando, bound for New York LaGuardia. As the airplane filled with passengers, a man walked to the back and approached me. “Have you noticed there are some Arab men on the plane?” he asked.
“No,” I replied not having walked through the cabin yet.
“Aren’t you concerned?” he said, nervously.
“Well, I am,” the man retorted, “and so is my wife.”
The man said that he would like to deplane and take a later flight. I invited him to do so, adding that people of Arab descent may be on his next flight and that there may not be any seats available. He quickly discussed the issue with his wife, and they decided to deplane. I spoke another affirmation of protection for us and over them as they exited.
Our airplane arrived in New York safely. As we passed near the island of Manhattan, we gazed out the windows to see the smoldering mass that was once the World Trade Towers. My heart sank.
Later, the ride in the hotel van into Manhattan was somber. I had made plans to meet my longtime friend, Ellen, that evening for dinner. Ellen had lived in New York City for a couple decades. She knew the city well. She explained to me that everyone she knew had known someone who had died in the bombings.
That evening, she and I headed out to one of her favorite restaurants in her neighborhood. Along the way, we passed the city morgue and the trailers that were used to haul human remains from the bombing site. We also passed Belleview Hospital, observing the many makeshift memorials that lined its long entrance.
As we sat at a swank restaurant eating our gourmet food, I realized that I had never witnessed the gospel to Ellen. So I asked her, “Do you have a Bible?” Ellen hesitated and then said, “No.” I knew that she had been raised Catholic and had grown away from the church, but I never knew whether she had a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. Through our restaurant window, I saw a large bookstore across the street. As soon as we finished our meals, I took Ellen’s hand and led her across the street. “I’m buying you your first Bible,” I said.
I tore the plastic off the Bible and turned to Jeremiah 29:11-13, which I chose because Ellen had recently experienced a divorce. Once back at Ellen’s apartment, I read the scripture to her and handed the open Bible to her. I shared how God had a plan for her life and what having a personal relationship with Jesus meant. I advised her to attend church and to seek salvation.
The next day, Tess and Jo seemed more frightened. Tess’ fears surfaced in what appeared to be conviction and humility. Jo’s concerns surfaced in edginess and irritability. I learned that both of these women stayed in their rooms during most of the layover. I have no doubt that having been firefighters, they were even more aware than I of the raw nature of the destruction that lay just blocks south of our comfortable hotel.
As the day progressed, God presented more opportunities to share Jesus with these women. Tess was very receptive. Jo, on the other hand, became angry to the point of mild tantrums. Still, Tess thanked me for my wisdom, right in front of Jo. I knew God was encouraging me through Tess. And I acknowledged that the wisdom I exhibited was not my own.
In the end, Jo apologized for what she described as her “drama.” I knew that the Holy Spirit had convicted her and kept me steadfast. Through these experiences, the Spirit illuminated to me that the post-September 11 trips, which He assigned to me, offered greater opportunities for outreach, prayer, and protection.
Margaret D. Mitchell is a former airline stewardess of 16 years and a writer. She has published work in National Geographic Traveler, U.S. News & World Report Great Vacation Drives, and the Baltimore Sun. She earned an MA in journalism from New York University and is a former Miss Maryland. She and her husband, Glynn, currently reside in the Atlanta area. Visit her Web site, www.margaretdmitchell.com.
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