MH17 – No Easy Answers
Jul 22, 2014 2305
It could have been me on flight MH17. My son and I had been travelling for 5 weeks, and we were looking forward to coming home.
I had been in Brussels where I had been preaching the gospel, and the meetings had finished on Tuesday 15th July. Our flight home left from Amsterdam, so we could have caught the train to Amsterdam on the 16th, and we would then have been on flight MH17 on the 17th of July.
Instead, I had earlier decided to spend an additional day in Belgium, in order to visit the picturesque city of Ghent on the 16 July. And I had also decided to travel to Amsterdam on 17th July, and then spent a full day in Amsterdam with my son on 18th July, leaving for home on flight MH17 on 19 July. I thank God that I planned a more leisurely itinerary!
When I made a call for baptism at our final meeting in Brussels, one precious lady stood up to dedicate her life to Jesus. So on 17 July, at around about the time MH17 went down, we were baptizing her into the Kingdom of God in Oostende. At that stage I hadn’t heard about the tragedy of flight MH17. It’s as if the Lord was saying to me, “Even if I hadn’t put in your mind the idea of doing sight-seeing in Ghent today, I would have found more important things for you to do.” We visited Ghent briefly that afternoon.
The next day, Thursday, 18th July, we took the Thalys fast train from Brussels to Amsterdam.
When I woke up early on Friday, 18th July, I had an urgent text message from my wife asking if I was OK, and saying that some of my relatives in Spain were texting her, worried that I may have been in the Malaysian Airlines plane that had gone down. I thought that was strange. Why would they be asking if I was on MH370, since that had gone down months ago?
We had not had access to internet for 5 weeks, since we had been staying with relatives and friends who did not have the internet connected. But here in Amsterdam, in the very budget hotel we were staying in, at least we had wifi, so I connected to the internet and found out about the tragedy of MH17, which had been lost on 17 July.
I realized that we were also due to return home on the same flight MH17 the next day, two days after the tragedy. I then had to decide whether I would postpone out flight home. As I read through the details of the incident, I realized that Malaysian Airlines had not been specifically targeted, but that it could have been any plane. And so I decided to get on the flight the next day with my son. My son and I spent that day (Friday) riding around Amsterdam on some rented bikes, enjoying the better parts of the city and getting very sore bottoms (since we don’t have bikes at home).
The next day, Saturday 19th July we caught MH17 from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur. The Netherlands lost 193 people in the MH17 tragedy, and Schiphol Airport was full of media, and they were filming the smaller-than-usual queue at the Malaysian Airlines check-in counter. Some foolhardy souls who were still brave enough to take this flight were being interviewed.
I put on a brave face, but it was not easy waiting at the gate where all those people had waited, looking out of the window to see the A777 identical to the one that all those people had boarded.
When the plane took off I held my son’s hand and said the prayer I always say when I take off, “Lord cover us with your righteousness and may we fly on the wings of your angels.”
I said nothing to my son just after the cabin crew had cleared up the meal and everyone was starting to settle down to rest, because I guessed that that was approximately when I knew that that was approximately when the missile had hit two days earlier. It was all an eerie feeling, almost déjà vu.
I checked the flight map, and once we were well past Ukraine, having left if far to the north (the flight had been rerouted or else I would have not gotten on), I told my son we had gone past Ukraine. The flight from then on was slightly more relaxed.
I thank God that we were spared. I thank God that he put in my heart not to hurry home.
I am a preacher of the Gospel. Some people think that I am meant to have answers for everything. Why did those 298 souls on MH17 lose their lives? I don’t know. Why was I spared? I don’t know. It would be presumptuous and arrogant of me to say that the Lord spared me because he has a work for me to do, because somehow he loves me more than those 298 souls who perished. I have no easy answers.
God loves each of those who perished as if each one were the sole object of his unlimited affection. And he loves their families in the same way. My heart goes out to all of those families affected around the world. May you eventually find some consolation in God’s heart of mercy and love, and in the knowledge that your loved ones are at rest.
I was not spared because God has an important work for me to do. But in the light of his mercy towards me, I will work all the more so that untold millions will hear the word of salvation through the gospel of Jesus Christ through the ministry of Good News Unlimited. While there is time, we must respond to His love.