WHO HAS PACKED YOUR PARACHUTE?
Charles Plumb was a jet fighter pilot in Vietnam. After he flew 75 combat missions, his plane was shot down by a surface-to-air missile. Plumb ejected and parachuted into enemy territory. He was captured and held prisoner for six years
After surviving that ordeal and returning home, one day Plumb and his wife were sitting in a restaurant when another man came up to their table and said, “I know you. You’re Plumb. You flew missions in Vietnam from the aircraft carrier Kitty Hawk and you were shot down.” Charles Plumb asked the man how in the world he knew all of that. The man said, “Because I packed your parachute.”
After meeting the man Plumb couldn’t stop thinking about the man who packed his parachute. “I wondered how many times I might have passed him on the Kitty Hawk. I wondered how many times I might have seen him and not even said ‘Good morning, how are you?’ or anything, because, you see, I was a fighter pilot and he was just a sailor.” Plumb thought of the many hours the sailor had spent on a long wooden table in the bowels of the ship carefully weaving the chords and folding the sails of each parachute, holding in his hands the fate of someone he didn’t know. When Plumb became a motivational speaker, he repeatedly asked his audiences, “Who has packed your parachute in life? And who is packing it right now?”
When I pondered the question, “Who has packed my parachute in life? I immediately thought of my parents who taught me how to work, take responsibility and put my faith in God. Then I thought of these four people, who probably never realized that they had a hand in determining the destiny of my life:
- Aunt Lydia, who was like a mother to me when I was a child. She loved me, noticed me, held me, talked to me, watched over me, and always gave me candy when I met her in church on Sunday. Little things to be sure, but little things mean a lot.
- “Old Man Schmidtke,” as we affectionately called him, a neighbor and deacon in the church, who took an interest in me as a young boy. And later, when I became a teenager, trusted me with his brand-new John Deere “D” tractor to work his fields.
- Phil Link, a member of the church, who singled me out as a young man, lit up when he saw me, greeted me, talked to me, made time for me, joked with me, affirmed me, and treated me with honor, love and respect. Again, little things, but it meant a lot to me.
- Joe Sonnenberg, my pastor when I was in my early ‘20s, who encouraged me to go to college, enter seminary and become a pastor. If it were not for him, I probably would have remained in Canada and become a farmer or remained in my job as a banker. But because he encouraged me to move beyond my comfort zone,” he packed a parachute for me in life that has been unbelievably enriching and satisfying.
It is interesting that all four people were connected to the church, and each in their own way, loved me, which did a lot to prepare me for life. Although these four people significantly influenced me in my formative years, there were many others along the way, who also had an impact on the outcome of my life. And those who still do today. It is also worth noting that this applies equally to my critics who wanted the best for me. They, too, prepared me for life.
When I innocently asked Nancy, “Who has packed your parachute in life?” she teared up and said, “You!
“Really?” I asked in astonishment.
“Yes, really,” she said.
“How so?” I continued.
“I probably would have married someone with low expectations and spent the rest of my life reading novels,” she responded. “You believed in me and encouraged me to go to college and seek something better.”
No sooner had she said that than it brought tears to my eyes and gratitude to my heart. Now it was my turn to answer the question.
“You did the same for me,” I responded. “You literally changed the course of my life. Until I met you, I was a shy and insecure farm boy. Inexperienced. Awkward. Provincial. My grades in college and seminary were greatly lacking. But then, one “enchanted evening,” I saw you from across the room, fell in love with you, and my life began to change. You turned the key that locked me into life.”
Nancy smiled, then teared up again.
“From that day onward,” I continued, “my life began to flourish in ways I never imagined possible. Least of all is the fact that my name suddenly appeared on the honor roll the following semester and continued until my seminary education was completed.”
“I did all that for you?“ Nancy countered good-naturedly.
“Yes,” I said. “You not only kept me from crashing but enabled me fly — to soar on wings like eagles. I owe you a big thank-you.”
“And I, you,” she responded.”
I went on to tell Nancy that she has been packing my parachute ever since – carefully weaving the chords of my “parachute” into what is best for me. I thought of our tender love and companionship, the deep conversations, shared values, and mutual ministry we enjoy. I thought, too, of the fact that she is both a helpmeet, and a soul mate.
We are approaching our American Thanksgiving. It is a good time to ponder the question as who has made a difference in our lives Perhaps saved us from some disaster and impelled us to new heights.
Yes, Thanksgiving (or anytime for that matter) is a good time to ask ourselves, “Who has packed my parachute in life? And who is packing it right now?” And beyond that to ask ourselves, “Whose parachute am I packing? We all hold the fate of someone’s life in our hands, often totally unaware of the impact we are making on them.
Donald N. Miller. November 10, 2020
Compassion in Action – Freda Emmons
Fall Intensive, 2020
Good Samaritan Ministries is the embodiment of Jesus’ parable from which it derives its name. GSM uniquely challenges every person who receives counseling, training, and/or any of the thousands of kindnesses given with great compassion. The challenge is first, to receive fully and gratefully all that God provides, second, to learn about Jesus and His love, and third, to explore what it really is to be as compassionate as the parable of The Good Samaritan describes – what it is to love your neighbor.
The intensive this fall was an excellent occasion to learn and be encouraged in the life-long endeavor to be a Samaritan. Teresa Stroup led the event with a great valuation of leadership, complete with a Scriptural focus on the life of the Apostle Paul. Vonda Winkle gave a strong and very informative presentation about Complex Trauma, with Power Point graphics to highlight the many details about this complicated issue. Vonda also played a video clip of an actual counseling session and then had breakout discussions both in-person and online, followed by a group discussion of the entire in-person and online audience. Out of that discussion, a profound opportunity was captured; Samaritans nearby and from around the world proffered questions about counseling and other aspects of their local GSM ministry. These questions were answered by this dedicated group of experts, Bettie Mitchell, Teresa Stroup, Vonda Winkle, and Cindy Womack. Those in attendance witnessed a truly unique experience; questions came from all corners of the globe and were answered quickly, with confidence and compassion. Leaders and counselors from all over and were trained, encouraged, and unified.
Cindy Womack continued this intensive with an excellent presentation about the physiology of trauma response. This subject is also very complex; Cindy also utilized Power Point slides to support the in-depth exploration of how the body responds to trauma. Lance Hallberg shared his personal ministry of counseling children. He did so in such a fun, informative way that everyone enjoyed learning about creative compassion. He encouraged Samaritans to bring creative fun into the counseling process, even with adults. In one activity, Lance invited a volunteer to join him and as he continued to explain, he demonstrated the simple activity of the volunteer taking a rubber band off a rubber band ball and handing it to him, which he then began to make a whole new rubber band ball. Just the simple activity makes it easier for people to share things are sometimes difficult to express. It was a warm, fun, activity that could easily be incorporated into our repertoire of counseling tools.
Betty Mitchell completed the intensive with worship, Scripture, and her unique perspective of this ministry that she birthed in obedience to God’s call to teach nothing but His Kingdom. There is a fullness here at GSM, like the feeling of complete assurance that you have found the exact place of God’s perfect will for your life. The challenge that Bettie offers is simply stated, “What is it that you are willing to do, give, and even endure, that another may be healed?”
This year has been one of great stress for people worldwide and GSM has also faced stress. However, it did not dissuade this ministry one bit; it challenged us to be stronger and go to further heights. In essence, the limitations in place from COVID-19 has forced us as a ministry to break the barrier of technology to even be able to meet the current need of GSM offices around the globe. Out of sheer necessity, we have struggled to learn, experiment, and gain the beginnings of expertise in technology. The intensive this year highlighted this ongoing project of growth, learning the myriad of details to make quality videos, presentations, and online communication to bring GSM to an even higher level of ministry. To be sure, there are glitches; we are in process. As a culture of a tremendously technological society, it would be easy to pass off such tech mess-ups as not “professional.” In reality, when the consideration is made that 99% of everything GSM does is donated by dedicated individuals, every step of technological advancement is truly a miracle. The intensive proved to be the highlight of our technological high-jump; it united GSM leaders and counselors from around the globe, providing encouragement and training and the growth of relationship with each other that goes way beyond our previous experience as a ministry. Indeed, the Fall, 2020 Intensive presentations can be viewed online, by going to the GSM website, https://goodsamaritanministries.org/ and scrolling down to the bottom right of the page, then clicking on the GSM YouTube link. There, all of GSM videos are available for viewing at your convenience. If you are interested in receiving the Power Point graphics, send an email to: firstname.lastname@example.org
The Kingdom of God Will Not Be Shaken – Freda Emmons
“Therefore, since we are receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, let us be thankful, and so worship God acceptably with reverence and awe…” Hebrews 12:28
We are in a season in which it seems that everything that can be shaken, is being upended and tossed about. Almost daily, a different set of instructions demand our attention and obedience. It is the easiest thing to succumb to confusion, anger, depression, and to do so, breeds an environment that is ripe for violence, looting, and lawlessness. Being aware of all that is around us, on every angle, it is also easy to feel that we ourselves are being shaken. However, because we are connected to the Lord Jesus Christ and His Kingdom, the things that are happening all around us are instead, working His purpose in us.
Lean into James 1:2-4, “Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.”
At Good Samaritan Ministries, the shaking all around us is accomplishing the work of the Spirit through individuals in the entire worldwide ministry, who are fully committed to teaching nothing but the Kingdom of God. There has been a process of honing, to uphold every step toward healing and every person, before the Throne of Grace. We have become more aware of how desperately we need each other; our ministry has always been one of face-to-face, even physical touch, to instill value into each other and those to whom we minister. How precious it is; we wait in great expectation, of a renewed ability to do so again, in all its fullness. We have become more aware of the significance and power of prayer; GSM’s foundation is in prayer, which is being deepened and strengthened.
This work of the Spirit, refining of our perseverance, has concrete applications within the GSM ministry. The counselors have continued to minister by phone or zoom visits, and recently, they have begun to counsel in the office, for those who feel safe enough coming in. There have been classes offered online, through zoom, and recently, meeting in the office – with social distancing. The work of the Spirit in the midst of this trial, has challenged us branch out, to accomplish things we had previously resisted, like our online ministry. We have found that when we offer events online, we touch hundreds more people, than without it.
Oswald Chambers describes this quite uniquely on page 210 of his book, My Utmost for His Highest, “God’s end is to enable me to see that He can walk (just as He walked on water) on the chaos of my life just now. If we have a further end in view, we do not pay sufficient attention to the immediate present. If we realize that obedience is the end, then each moment as it comes is precious.” Chambers encourages us to re-direct our thoughts, to what God is doing in, us in the midst of the shaking all around us.
Teresa Stroup, GSM’s International Director, recently addressed this same issue from her unique wisdom and perspective. She encouraged the group, “Keep the main thing, the main thing. What is God doing in this season? The world’s changing; cell phones are tracked, security cameras are catching constant images of everyone within range. Let those who happen to be tracking you to receive the testimony of the power of God. Let the cameras pick up images of a people of prayer, joy, and peace. Would the people listening to your cell phone conversation hear about the Lord, and His power and love? We were made for a time such as this, where we can shine in the darkest time, in the midst of conflict. We are not being persecuted; we are being exposed for the saints of God we are.”