The Lord says, “I will guide you along the best pathway for your life. I will advise you and watch over you.
PSALM 32:8 NLT
The guidance of God is incredible. It’s not something that I understood as it was being given to me; but looking back, I can see the hand of God moving in my life just as those Scriptures say. To guide simply means to give guidance to lead on one’s way. This is what the Lord does for His children, and this is what He did for me. In fact, He continues to guide me at this time in my life.
Let’s look back at the marvelous ways in which He was leading me, even when I was not aware of it. The last words I had with Mr. Green there at the Miami airport had to do with serving God. That’s not something I had ever thought about or talked about or even knew could be a reality in one’s life, but Mr. Green was being used by God to guide me. He didn’t know it — nor did I. “Do you have any skills that you could use for God?” he asked me. The question wound up hurting me on the inside. He didn’t intend it to hurt me, but it did. You see, at that moment I realized what a mess I had made of my life. I was completely discouraged from ever being able to recover what I had lost. The future looked very dim for me in my own mind.
Drugs had clouded my mind for a number of years. “I’ll never be able to fly an airplane,” I thought to myself. “I used to fly airplanes,” I said to Mr. Green. He went on to tell me about a Christian pilot named Nate Saint who had worked as a missionary bush pilot in South America. He explained to me that maybe God would use my life in service to Him through aviation. “That’s a possibility,” I thought, and tucked the idea away in my mind.
Well, off to Montego Bay I went on the morning of February 6, 1973, to finish the drug deal. To my surprise, the Customs agent at the airport asked me to go sit in a small room where he would later come and begin questioning me about why I was there and what my plans were. This frightened me. I had heard about young American drug dealers in foreign countries being put in jail and never being heard from again.
Sitting there, I had the clothes on my back (my small backpack had been taken from me and was in another room) and that little pocket Bible. Mr. Larry C. was the agent’s name. He began asking me questions about why I was in his country and wanted to know if I was dealing heroin. “Oh, no,” I said, “I only sell marijuana.” “And furthermore, I’m a Christian.” “A Christian?” he asked. “Yes, I’m a Christian,” was my response. He went on to say that Christians don’t sell drugs, they don’t use drugs, etc.; and that they didn’t live the way I was living — that they had lives that were changed, and so on. Well, it’s true. I was a Christian. I had just literally become a Christian, and my heart was changing, and this conversation was simply the Lord directing me…closing a door and opening a door.
Mr. C. left me to sit by myself for what seemed like an eternity. As I sat there, fear filled my mind with thoughts of having my backpack planted with heroin; and then I’d really be in trouble. One thing kept coming to mind, and it was that little Bible and the thought that God was with me and would be with me no matter what might happen to me. Looking back on that incident, I now know that the Lord was ministering to me and comforting me and giving me His peace. Pretty soon, Mr. C. came back into the room where I was waiting and informed me that I would not be allowed entrance into Jamaica and that I was being sent back to Miami on the next available flight. God had just closed a door and was opening another. God was guiding me and was directing me, just as the Bible says He will do.
Coming back to Miami, once again I had to go through Customs, only this time it was United States Customs. Approaching the agent with my backpack in hand, I felt very funny and awkward. You see, it was unusual for me to not have drugs hidden on my person or in my luggage. (Even to this very day, when I go through Customs, I feel kind of funny, even though it’s been 35 years since my old days of illegal activities.) The agent went through the normal procedures of asking me questions and looking into my backpack. What I said to him must have become fodder for a lunchtime talk with his co-workers later that day. “Can I help you?” I said to him. He asked me what I meant. “Look around at all these people who are like me,” I said to him. You see, the area was filled with young people like myself who were coming back in from the Caribbean and/or other countries in South America where drugs were plentiful and easily obtained. “Can’t you see what’s happened to them?” I said.
God was giving me that desire to do something to help others. I didn’t know it was God, but He was continuing to guide me and direct me. Oh, how I wish I could see that Customs man today. How I would love to tell him what God has done in my life since that day. His answer to my statement was that classic, “Don’t call us; we will call you.”
Through the door, I went, and guess what happened next. Two young people who lived as I did approach me in the terminal and asked me if I’d like to go to New Orleans with them to “sin.” Mardi Gras was in full swing. “No, thanks,” I said, and went on my way. This was an invitation to evil. The devil was now starting his never-ending efforts to destroy the work that God was doing in my life. It was not hard to say “no.” It was easy because the Lord was changing my heart and leading me to new desires within my life. One other thing happened with this couple. They gave me some marijuana joints to take with me on my travels. As a matter of politeness, and not wanting to insult them, I took them, put them in my pocket and went on my way.
“I’m heading for Waxhaw, North Carolina,” I said to myself. That night I slept under a tree in a park, not too far from the airport and freeway. Those two joints were placed under some Spanish moss on the ground … and left there. When I looked over at them that night, I couldn’t believe that I didn’t want to smoke them. Normally, I would have inhaled them instantly. But, my heart was changing; my desires were changing. My heart was peaceful as I went to sleep that night.
In the morning, I had to walk through a commercial neighborhood many blocks long. The strangest thing happened to me, block after block. I started sensing the love and power of God, of His mercy toward me and of the cleansing of sin inside my heart, and I would start weeping. Embarrassed at the thought of crying on the streets, I would run down alleyways between different buildings and get on my knees there behind a store and just weep and pray and try to compose myself. Then I would go back up the alley, back on to the sidewalk and begin walking once again. This same thing must have happened several times. It was a powerful and blessed experience for me. My life was changing from the inside out.
Once again, my mode of transportation was by thumb, i.e., hitchhiking. I made my way back up to Tallahassee to pick up my dog, Bernie. I loved that dog. Arriving in Tallahassee, I spent the night with some of my old friends. They were doing what we all used to do at night — sit around, listen to music and get high on “grass.” As the joints were being passed around the room and came to me, I declined and just passed them to the person next to me. Feeling out of place is an understatement. It seemed to me that the room was filled with evil, and these friends of mine seemed to be evil, as well.
When I went to bed that night there in that house, I once again clutched that little Bible and found comfort and peace by just holding it next to my heart. I was afraid and was ask- ing God to help me and to get me out of that place, safe and sound, and on my way to Waxhaw.
In the morning, Bernie at my side, I took off by thumb again, only to run into the most severe winter storm in many years up in Georgia. An older Christian couple gave me a ride in the back of their pickup truck somewhere up in mid- Georgia. I mention them among the many other rides I got, because somehow in them stopping to pick me up, we talked, and they told me they were Christians. God was encouraging me through them and through their kindness. They put me in the back of their pickup, lying down with Bernie under a tarp, and away we went. Oh, yes, I remember they gave me some fried chicken to eat, and I’m sure I must have given Bernie his share.
Approaching the JAARS area in Waxhaw, which was of course located at an airport, I went up to one of the aircraft hangars. It was late in the afternoon; the sky was clear; the sun was shining; it was cold, but a beautiful day, nonetheless. The hangar door was wide open, and down at the end of the hangar were two men kneeling down working on an airplane. They saw me standing there, looking out of place to them. They were clean cut. I was standing there with my shoulder-length hair, long beard, dressed in blue jeans, boots, and an army fatigue jacket (They were popular and cheap in those days for hippies.) and Bernie on a leash. They asked if they could help me, and I responded with, “I’m here to fly for Jesus.” “Pardon me?” they said. “I’m here to fly for Jesus,” I repeated.
I’ll never forget that moment or what ensued. “Just a moment,” they said. “Don’t move. We are going to get someone who can help you.” Soon the two of them and a Mr. P. approached me and asked if they could help me. “I’m here to fly for Jesus,” I said. You see, it was in my heart to do something for God, and this was the only thing I could think of doing for Him. Although, as I mentioned earlier, with the drugs I had taken, I was not sure how my mind would work in a cockpit. It was, at best, a real step of faith, but the Lord was directing me.
They began asking me who I was, and where I was from, and so on. “I’m a Christian,” I said; and “I’m here to fly for Jesus,” I repeated. I could tell they were not comfortable with what I was saying. I was afraid they would not believe me about my being a Christian, just like Mr. C., the Custom’s agent at the airport in Montego Bay. They took me to a home there at the airport, gave me a room to sleep in, and said dinner would be served shortly. To say that I was uncomfortable at the table would be an understatement. I couldn’t remember which piece of silverware to use with the salad, and I hadn’t seen a tablecloth under a plate in years. I was nervous, and I thought they were also. I kept thinking that they thought I was going to steal some of their silverware.
The next morning, Mr. P. asked me to join their team for devotions and prayer and then to come to his office. This was now the second desk at which I had sat in the last month or so. Mr. P. began asking me about myself, and so on. “I want to serve God,” I told him. He began telling me that I’d need to go to Bible school and prepare myself to serve God. My heart sank. School was the last thing on my mind. “I just want to serve God, and I don’t want to waste time going to school to do it,” I thought. He gave me the name of a place in Charlotte that he thought might be helpful to me. So, off I went, and guess who picked me up as I stuck out my thumb. By the way, later I’m going to tell you about the next time I saw Mr. P.