It was one of the most exciting missions I had been involved in since getting my wings and assigned to the Night Vision Laboratories at Ft Belvoir, Virginia and flying out of Davison Army Airfield. We had an amazing mission in December of the past year where we flew a UH-1M (Mike) model from San Diego to Virginia, but this latest mission was alot more challenging and tactical or mission-critical.
We were to fly our 0-2 fixed wing and our UH-1H to Yuma Proving Ground in the early spring of 1981 to support the “Lab” with their night vision goggle testing for the Bell OH-58 Ranger Helicopter equipped with a 50 caliber machine gun in preparation for the Hostage Rescue in Iran. Yeah, sounds pretty serious if not confusing, but, that’s the mission we were on early in 1981.
I was not used to the conduct of missions as in-depth as this. I had just graduated from US Army Flight School in Ft Rucker Alabama and spent about two months transitioning to the AH-1 Cobra helicopter before joining my unit at Belvoir. My time up to flight school had been spent, mainly, in Eschborn, Germany as a combat engineer officer with the 317th Engineer Battalion of the 130th Engineer Brigade. My last job had been a company commander for 170 or so soldiers. Our mission was to support the Battalion with heavy equipment and administrative/logistical support as the Battalion worked with tactical units in western Germany; preparing for the Russian onslaught. (which never happened, thank God).
So, individual missions like the one we were sent on was pretty new for me. Thankfully, I was accompanied by three very experienced Department of the Army Civilians who had been supporting the “Lab” for many years before I showed up. So, suffice it to say, I was the rookie in this operation and was, definitely, in a supporting role. It was all cool.
I had made a decision in February to believe in Jesus Christ as my Savior after being encouraged by a book I had been reading to read the Bible in the morning and pray to the Lord for strength and guidance throughout my day. I was very new at this, but had begun to recognize changes in my inner self as I daily encountered the Lord in His word.
As I said, we were supporting Bell Helicopter in their testing of the OH-58 weapon concept and we were mingling with the pilots from Bell on a nightly basis. One early evening, I saw an open briefcase and inside could read the covers of some of the paperback books that were in there. They were books from Kenneth Copeland and Kenneth Hagin, I believe. I could tell they were Christian books by the titles (of which I don’t remember) and my interest peaked. I began to look around to see who’s briefcase that could be and I caught the eye of the Chief Test Pilot, Don Bloom, from Bell. I asked him if the briefcase was his and his face lit up as he bounded over to me and reached out his hand almost screaming, saying; “You’re the one I’m supposed to talk to during this mission. What are you doing for dinner tonight?” “Ah, I’m available, I guess, soooo.” I said. “Good. I”ll pick you at 6 PM.”
Don was there right at 6 PM and our conversation was spotty on the way to the restaurant. During our meal, he asked very pointed questions associated with my profession of faith in Jesus Christ. Finally, as we sat in the car on our way back to my billet, he asked the question; “Have you ever prayed the sinner's prayer?” “The what?” I said. “The sinner’s prayer confessing your sins to God and asking Jesus into your heart?” “No.” I said. “I don’t know what that is.”
Don said, “Let’s pray to Him.” And Don went through what I now know is the surrender to the Lordship of Jesus Christ, but, at the time, was quite surprised with what he asked me to repeat after him. “Did you feel anything?” Don asked following our prayer. “No, not really.” I said. “Angels are rejoicing in heaven that you have come home, my Brother!! Praise the Lord.”
Years later, I believe I was “saved” before that moment. I remember making a decision as I read Matthew, Mark and about half of Luke. My comment in my mind was; “I think I could believe that this guy, Jesus is real.” In accordance with Romans 10:9-10 “9 If you declare with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. 10 For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you profess your faith and are saved.” I was saved, but Don helped me grow further with his encouragement and the books he let me borrow.
The same situation probably exists for many of you. Do you believe? If so, how might we walk with you to “give the Gospel through golf”?
Trying to follow the Lord's will regarding ministry and the platform of golf.