Memorializing a Meeting and a Miracle
This is a picture of what we found in the middle the middle-of-nowhere, Kansas, a few miles outside of the small town of Chanute. This is what you would personally see, were you to make the drive to this lonely little place in the heartland of America – the scarred field that is the site of the plane crash that ended the lives of four young men who were passionately committed to the gospel, and the site of the very miraculous of saving of my daughter Hannah’s life.
A few days ago, my son and I traveled to Chanute on a quest to discover more of what took place on May 11, 2012. We were met in town by one of the two young ladies who first found Hannah and Austin as they stumbled out of the wreckage and made their way onto the gravel road that runs near the field. She was going to take my son and me out to the site of the crash.
We were already 10 miles out of town on a small country road when we turned off onto an even more inconspicuous road. She told us how she and her friend were traveling along the little country road that afternoon and thought they saw some smoke. They began to question what it could possibly be — a farmer burning his field? Someone burning an old rubbish pile? One of the women reasoned that, with the size of the plume of smoke, it must be some sort of gasoline that ignited. This prompted them to turn down the gravel road that we were now driving on to investigate. After about a mile, they found Hannah and Austin wandering in the roadway, looking for help.
The woman took us to the place where Hannah and Austin must have come on to the road. We got out of our car and started to trek off into the adjacent field. No more than 100 yards in, we found exactly what you see here in this picture. Someone had already been here and set up a small memorial at the crash site. It was a stunning and stark moment for us.
This location, an otherwise entirely forgettable place, has now become the focal point of our lives. This place where three young men met God face-to-face and the fourth, Austin, did soon thereafter. This place, the location of an utter miracle as Hannah was saved from what would have otherwise been her own destruction.
It made me think about all of those places in the Bible where other people met God, places where God performed miracles. He never wanted them to forget those locations.
Remember how God told the Israelites, after He led them through the middle of the Red Sea on dry land, to build a monument to this place so every time they came by it again, they never would forget the miracle He performed there. Another example is the night Jacob wrestled with God. God told him afterward to build a monument so he would never forget what happened in that place where he met God.
And so here, in Kansas, we have a memorial to a miracle, and a memorial to meeting God.
It made me review in my mind those places in my life where I met God. Once was at camp, another time at a friend’s house.
This might be an occasion for all of us to think about, “When did I really meet God?” What was the physical location and what was your state of mind? Or what about the place where you had some of the biggest miracles take place in your life, where you know God had done something on your behalf?
That place could be just as seemingly insignificant as a field in Kansas, but the testimony of those who perished in the tragedy of that field caught the attention of the world. More than 1,000 news organizations have reported this story, and the testimony of these five lives has been broadcast around the world.
I pray that, as you consider those places and moments where God met with you, where he stepped in and miraculously rescued you, you would honor those places in your heart and make a vow to live your life just as courageously, just as sold-out for the gospel, as those who met God face-to-face in that field.