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Excerpt from a letter written by Avant (GMU) Missionary Ralph Harvey to a supporter on May 4, 1968.

We experienced the mighty working of the Lord here at GMU yesterday. The Directors and office workers wrapped up their work for the weekend and left for home. The May Gospel Message. contained an article by Doris Austin, missionary in Ecuador, about safety in travels. Editor Stenbock had just finished editing another article by the same author for the Autumn Gospel Message entitled “Vehicles”.

After supper in the Mission Home, most of had us retired to our rooms when the telephone rang and someone answered. It was a long distance call from Dallas, Texas. A distraught voice on the other end reported, “Keith Austin was to arrive in Dallas at 4:58 PM aboard Braniff International Flight 352. He was en route to Kansas City for the GMU General Council Meeting (Keith is Field Director for Ecuador). The voice faltered for a moment and then continued with emotion, “A report has just come in that Flight 352 exploded in the air and crashed. Of the 79 passengers and 5 crew members, none are believed to have survived.” Radio reports confirmed the news. Braniff had 16 daily flights between Houston and Dallas. The pilot of Flight 352, a 4-engine turboprop Electra, radioed in at 4:14 and estimated his arrival time at 5:03 (five minutes late), but the plane never arrived. There were no survivors.

The Mission Directors were hastily notified and within minutes they were back at the mission for special prayer together with staff members and missionaries (including ourselves). About an hour later the phone rang again. The caller said, “This is Keith Austin, calling from Dallas.”

Keith had been overcome by hunger while waiting for his flight in Houston. When he discovered that he could take the next flight and still make his connection for Kansas City, he asked an attendant if this would be possible.


Following are the two articles by Keith Austin’s wife, which appeared in the Gospel Message:

May 1968 Gospel Message
by Doris Austin--- Ecuador


If you would ask Mr. and Mrs. Average Ecuadorian about how they fared on a recent trip, they would most likely answer, "Oh, it was `sin novedad' (without incident )."

What to them is a very routine, ordinary, run-of-the-mill trip, to one of us seems quite replete with close shaves, nagging delays, overworked drivers and neglected equipment.

Take my recent return trip from Colombia, for instance. We left Tulcan in a bright orange bus that shimmied altogether too much to suit me. Before I had too much chance to worry about it, we had already sideswiped a truck that appeared to be parked on the right side of the road. Just as we were about to pass, the truck moved toward the left. Our bus and the truck were sandwiched together without room enough in between even for butter!

The irate drivers of both vehicles, Doris Austin-Ecuador aided and abetted by the passengers, jumped down and began the customary shouting and arm waving. Someone suggested trying to separate the bus from the truck and some, at east, closed their mouths long enough to "heave to." We were on our way only to resume the battle at the traffic control station a few blocks down the road. When we finally were permitted to continue the trip, the driver was minus his license. On the plus side he had one ragged disposition!

As we weaved along over roads "under construction" things seemed to be settling down to uneasy normalcy when the conductor, who rides hanging on to the outside of the bus, banged frantically on the roof to signal the driver to stop.

"Now what?" I sighed. A piece of baggage had fallen off and he had to run back to retrieve it. On the way again. “Nothing but delays," grumbled the man beside me. suddenly the driver was all excited.

"Leave it alone, don't touch it!" he yelled at the man seated at his right. ('There was a passenger to his left, too.) Someone had placed a car battery to the right of the chauffeur's feet and the acid was oozing out and running down the aisle of the bus. Without slowing down noticeably, the offending passenger was duly cursed. Some of the acid was wiped up. Ten hours and four customs checks later we arrived in Quito ``without incident."

I pondered this trip and the many others that are made yearly by missionaries here in Ecuador. They add up to thousands of miles. I marveled at the Lord's mercy and protection on the land, on the sea and in the air. There have been narrow escapes and minor injuries, but no fatalities that I know of. "To God be the glory; great things He hath done."


November, 1968 Gospel Message
by Doris Austin--- Ecuador


The Bible says that Elijah ascended into heaven in a chariot of fire, drawn by horses of fire in the midst of a whirlwind ( II Kings 2:11 ).

I have often wondered if Elijah hesitated to seat himself in that blazing buggy or if his trust in God was so complete that he immediately surrendered himself to his flaming UFO. The Scripture points out that the prophets were subject to like passions as we are . . ." (James 5:17), so I wouldn’t be too surprised if Elijah had turned his head the other way as he drew his robes about him, objecting all the while in just about the same manner as you and I would have done.

"Look, Lord, it's sizzling! I'll be a cinder before I pass the third heaven! How about it, Lord, wouldn't it be just as easy to fix me a cooler car- like a cloud coach, maybe?!”

God didn't allow Elijah to choose the vehicle that would convey him to celestial heights. He expected his servant to accept with joy and confidence the vehicle of his choice- and the whirlwind that went with it!

Life's trials and testings are vehicles. Too often too many of us look upon our testings as crosses to be borne with dignity and resignation instead of recognizing them as the vehicles that God intends them to be. Vehicles designed to bear us ( not be borne by us ) closer to God, nearer to his heart that we “...may know him, and the power of his resurrection, and the fellowship of his sufferings...” (Phil. 3:10)

Although these vehicles come in all shapes, sizes and colors, they have but one Designer-God, and one design-to lift us to Him that He may reveal himself to us in all His fullness.

A few years ago I attended a meeting where a friend, a missionary for many years here in Ecuador, was to give her testimony. Delores' death sentence had already been written. Cancer. Her face was radiant and her spirit triumphant. She testified that it was worth all her suffering to come to know her Lord as He revealed Himself to her during her illness. She had mounted the fiery vehicle that the Lord, in His wisdom, had prepared for her and the victory that shone on her face was confirmed in her smile.

After the meeting was over she came up to me to inquire about Michael, my retarded son. "And how is Mikey?" she asked.

“Oh, he's just fine," I assured her. Her next statement shook me.

I’d so much rather have cancer than to have a retarded child,” she said. “Your trial is so much more difficult than mine.”

“Oh, no!" I objected, "I'd much rather have Mikey than cancer." On the way home I pondered her words and thought of another missionary friend whose vehicle came twice in the form of a small coffin. Two precious children died in infancy here in Ecuador where she and her husband are serving. Not long before, she had remarked to me, “You know, Doris, I’d much rather have buried two children than to have a retarded one."

Again my heart rebelled. "Never!" I cried. "I'd a thousand times rather have Mikey than to have twice buried my heart beneath the cold mountain soil!”

Slowly the truth seeped into my heart and brain. God chooses the right vehicle for each of His children. Cancer for Delores, two dead babies for Marion, years of widowhood for the wives of Auca-speared missionaries and a mongoloid son for me. Different vehicles, carefully chosen by a loving Father, the Master Designer. The one He chooses for me may not be suitable for you at all, nor yours for me. ". . . but God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able . . ." ( I Cor. 10:13 ).

A trial can be a cross or it can be a vehicle. It all depends if it's riding you or if you are riding it! Christ's cross became the vehicle through which He drew all men unto Himself ( John 12:32 ) . Don't flinch from the furious flames that surround your chariot or pull against the stubborn stallions that seem to be drawing it. Climb up, get in and let it carry you to the unknown and glorious heights that God, in His love, has prepared for you.

Ralph V Harvey

Click here for a sequal from out own experience