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Adventist Mission


Fiery Plane Crash

To Sabbath School teachers: This story is for Sabbath, January 21.

By Andrew McChesney


Seventh-day Adventist miraculously escaped a fiery airplane crash as he sought to visit a church that he had planted in a remote region of the Democratic Republic of Congo.

Pius, a 53-year-old Congolese lay evangelist, and the pilot jumped from the An-2 single-engine biplane moments before it hit the ground.

The other five people on the flight perished.

“He survived with only his cellphone,” said his wife, Nicole.

She received confirmation about her husband’s condition via photographs sent by a friend shortly after the crash. Pius had a head and leg wound, but he had no broken bones.

The photos that she received on her cell phone showed her husband looking dazed and wearing a blood-soaked shirt, with a cell phone in his hand.

Nicole was unable to speak with her husband for three days, but his first words by phone were filled with praise to God.

“I will never leave this God,” he told her. “He is wonderful.”

Last Moments of Flight

The cause of the crash was unclear. The Soviet-built plane, operated by a local airline, apparently developed engine trouble shortly after taking off from the town of Kamako for a 90-mile (150-kilometer) flight to Tshikapa, located near the border with Angola.

The pilot looked for a place to land, but the engine problem got worse. As the plane lost altitude, smoke filled the cabin, and Pius saw the pilot emerge from the cockpit.

At that moment, he sensed a voice saying, “Follow the pilot.” He saw the pilot open an exit and jump out. He also jumped out. Moments later, the plane slammed into the bush and burst into flames. The plane went down about 2 miles (3 kilometers) from the airport.

In the aftermath of the crash, local Adventist leaders offered condolences to the families of those who died. The passengers included businesspeople and an Angolan mother.

No Sabbath Flights

Pius, a lay evangelist who also works as a diamond dealer, had boarded the flight in hope of visiting a church plant of 15 people that he had opened after evangelistic meetings. But when he tried to book a direct flight to the town with the church, he learned that the plane would only depart on Sabbath.

He explained to the airline representative that he chose not to fly on the Sabbath.

“I can’t because I worship on Sabbath,” he said.

“But the flight only goes on Saturday,” the representative replied.

Pius resolved to find another way to reach his destination that same day. After looking around, he bought a ticket on the doomed flight instead. He called his wife from the airport to announce his change in plans. He hoped to find another way to reach the town with the church plant.

That afternoon, Nicole waited for her husband to call that he had arrived at the alternative airport safely. But he didn’t call.

Finally, a cousin called and asked, “How is your husband?”

Nicole said they hadn’t spoken since morning and asked whether the cousin had heard from him. The cousin hung up without replying. Nicole immediately called back and demanded to know what was going on.

“Keep praying and serving God,” the cousin said. “The plane that your husband took crashed, and everyone died except your husband and the pilot.”

Nicole went to her bedroom and fell on her knees to pray. A short time later, a friend called to say that he had sent photos of her husband and the plane crash over the Internet. Nicole rushed to an Internet cafe to access Wi-Fi and to see the photos.

She was relieved to see that Pius was alive despite his injuries.

Nicole has many questions about what happened that day. She doesn’t understand why her husband and the pilot survived but the others died. She doesn’t know whether her husband’s decision to keep the Sabbath played a role in the story. But she believes that he was delivered as promised in Psalms 91:14, where the Lord says, “Because he has set his love upon Me, therefore I will deliver him” (NKJV).

“Be faithful to God because he can protect us at all times,” she says.

Thank you for your Sabbath School mission offerings that help plant churches in the Democratic Republic of Congo and around the world.