Pre-Flight Check Off
by Bryce Onjukka
I’ve had dream since I was 7 or 8: a dream to be a mission pilot. Ever since my first experience in a homebuilt plane, I was hooked on flying. Since then, flying has been a big part of my life.
When I found out I could receive my pilot’s license, and possibly an instrument rating by the time I graduated from high school, I jumped at the opportunity. That brought me to Heritage Academy.
I didn’t know much about Heritage until the end of my sophomore year at Guam Adventist Academy. That’s a long way from Tennessee, 8000 miles to be exact, but to me it was worth the sacrifice to leave home so I could pursue what I feel is God’s calling for my life. After a lot of prayer I made the decision to go. It has been one of the best decisions of my life.
The summer ended all to quickly and my brother and I flew across the ocean to attend school where we only knew one other student, a senior, also from Guam. On registration day, I received my flight bag, complete will all the materials I would need for the year. I was ready to fly, or so I thought. I was told the plane was down for maintenance but that it would be up and running in less than 2 weeks. It was disappointing, of course, but really not a big deal. After all, the school year is 36 weeks long, plenty of time to get the 40 hours necessary to take my check ride. The time passed, and the airplane still wasn’t ready. What was originally just a 100-hour inspection turned into something more major. A bad cylinder needed to be replaced. A few more weeks, the instructor told me, and we would be in the air. But again the plane wasn’t ready. I smiled and said something about maintenance taking longer than usual being normal for airplanes, but inside I was trying to hide my frustration. I couldn’t understand why God had led me to Heritage so I could fly and then not give me a working airplane to fly. The first quarter was halfway finished, and I had not even seen the airplane. I prayed over and over again that I could fly. But God seemingly didn’t answer. Every day I would go to the flight office and wait for the words I was hoping for, that the plane was ready to fly. But everyday I sat in the office, flying the simulator, which by this time was thoroughly boring to me.
One day my instructor came and asked me if I wanted to go flying. I was ecstatic, and I couldn’t wait for classes to be finished for the day. The local airport had a Cessna 172 for rent, and since the maintenance on our plane was taking so long, we finally decided just to rent the airport plane. But just before we were about to leave, Mr. Miller informed me that the 172 was not available because of a prop strike. Up until this point, I was pretty upset. But after that day, my attitude changed completely. It was as if God spoke directly to my heart. That still small voice was as clear as ever.
“Bryce, Do you really trust me?”
“Of course I do!”
“Then let me handle the situation.”
“OK God, I’ll trust you.”
“OK, but it’s not going to be what you want right now. You still need some “ground school” before you fly. You are impatient, and you are letting your zeal to work for me get in the way of the purpose of your work.”
As soon as I gave the situation to God, I had immediate peace. I realized two things. First, I realized that God brought me to Heritage for more than airplanes. In my zeal to want to work for God I had forgotten the importance of character development. I wanted to be a mission pilot, but God wanted me to be a MISSION pilot. Airplanes are wonderful tools, but if my purpose for wanting to be a mission pilot is so I can fly an airplane into short airstrips in the jungle, I am hindering God’s work more than I am helping it. The second thing I realized was that God was trying my patience. James chapter 1 says, “the trying of our faith works patience.” Could it be that in trying my patience, the converse of the verse was true, that it actually worked faith? I think so. Now that I can look back and see how God has led, I can have faith that He will get me through tough times in the future.
It took the rest of the first quarter for the plane’s maintenance to be completed, but the time seemed to pass quickly. I began to try to find out the other reasons why God brought me to Heritage. One of them is to share Jesus. We are called to be missionaries wherever we are. If we aren’t then we are a mission field.
On the first day of the second quarter, I had my first flight, and on the last day, I completed my first solo. It was an amazing experience, one that every pilot, no matter what age, can explain in vivid detail. As I applied full power to be begin my takeoff roll, I knew I was fulfilling part of my dream. The wheels lifted off the ground, and I was flying. I looked over to the right seat, now empty. Now I envision that I had an unseen copilot, one that will be with my on my flights for years to come.
Now that the third quarter has started I have four days of flying per week instead of two. I currently have over 15 hours and am on track to receive my license (God willing) by the end of the year, thanks to those 2 extra days per week. I like to think that God gave me those two days just to make up for the 15 hours I missed during the first quarter. Thanks, God!