February 24, 2019

A Winter Storm, an Unresponsive Plane Engine, and the Hand of God

After flying in the Adventist World Aviation (AWA) Cessna 182 aircraft to Sioux Lookout in northern Ontario, Canada, Janet and Ryan Kennedy, along with Cree Rillo from Adventist Development and Relief Agency (ADRA) Canada, began planning a follow-up diabetes and health program in one of the northern Ontario First Nations communities.

With plans in place, they departed northbound on a wintry Tuesday morning from Sioux Lookout, a small town some 1,100 miles (1,770 kilometers) northwest of Toronto. Despite weather delays, the three eventually made it to the First Nation community up north.

The Kennedys and Rillo had planned on a two-day trip, but because of deteriorating weather, they had to make a decision. “We had to choose between leaving early on Wednesday morning and canceling half of the planned program, or wait out the weather,” Ryan said. “We decided to prolong our trip until Friday so we could have more time serving the local people.”

During their stay, the AWA-ADRA team held information sessions and a cooking class in the small nursing station. “We were able to meet more people and start building real relationships that would otherwise have been impossible had we left early,” Ryan said.

Friday morning came, and the bad weather was lifting, so the three packed their bags and loaded the plane, only to find that it would not start. “With the wind blowing in sub-zero temperatures, I tried to troubleshoot the problem while keeping warm by running around the plane," Ryan recalled. The sun began to set, and the battery was not charged up, so Janet and Rillo got a ride, with their bags, back to the nursing station to spend the night.

Ryan stayed with the plane and received help from the local foreman for the Ministry of Transport. “He was very helpful and aided me in removing the battery from the plane and bringing it into their heated facility to charge overnight,” Ryan said. “He even offered his services should we need them over the weekend, even though he was off work.” Over the next 48 hours, there would be more troubleshooting and multiple rides to and from the airport.

On Sunday Ryan decided it was time to try to jumpstart the plane with two 12-volt truck batteries. Once again the trio gathered their bags and got a ride to the quiet airstrip. “We went out to start removing the covers from the plane,” Ryan said. “I opened the door and thought that I should try turning on the master electrical switch again, just to see. I said another prayer and flipped it on. This time I heard the instruments begin to buzz and spool up as they should! We had power!”

Ryan quickly asked Janet and Rillo to remove the final cover and unplug the heating cord before he tried to start the plane. Turning the key made the engine turn over and start. Not wanting to shut down the aircraft again, Ryan stayed inside while the engine warmed and made sure the plane didn’t move, while Janet and Cree loaded the luggage and supplies into the plane. “The entire time, the propeller blew freezing wind in their direction, shutting the cargo door while they tried to load the luggage,” Ryan said. “They worked fast, motivated in part by the gusty, sub-zero conditions, and before long we were taxiing down the snow-covered runway to takeoff.”

Ryan said that they were blessed to spend extra time building relationships in northern Canada. At the same time, he added, it felt great to be back “south” in Sioux Lookout. “Even better,” he said, “is to know that we serve a powerful God who controls the wind and weather patterns, as well as the battery in our plane!”

The original version of this story appeared in the February 2019 issue of Canadian Adventist Messenger.

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