We'd been waiting for two hours at the Villavicencio airport with our traveling companions and new co-workers, the Rushes, when they spotted the blue and white Evangel in the sky.
Within minutes, Ron McIntosh, our pilot, strode across the pock-marked tarmac to meet us. “Sorry I’m late,” he said. “Bad weather in southern Colombia forced me down.” We’d soon learn that pilots, travelers—all of us—wrote our schedules in pencil, not ink, because of weather and iffy communications.
|Our first look at The Evangel|
So there our family stood with our first four Lomalinda friends: Ron, Loren, Laura, and Doug. We were off to a great start.
At the time, we didn’t realize Ron had a reputation for his exceptional skills in challenging circumstances and that, day by day, he was living a story that many still talk about all these years later.
Budd Davisson, an accomplished airplane guy himself, wrote one of the most enjoyable articles I’ve ever read, a piece about Ron and the legendary Evangel. Budd’s article, “Evangel 4500,” begins with him sitting next to Ron in the copilot’s seat as they approached a landing strip in the Amazon jungle:
“As we turned final, my heart nearly stopped because it was wedged solidly against the back of my teeth.
“We had the gear down and were pointed at this ridiculously tiny box canyon. It wasn’t actually a canyon, but it might as well have been because it was just a slit in the jungle and the trees on three sides were 60 feet high. What was scaring . . . me was that the whole ‘canyon’ was a little over 900 feet long, and we weren’t exactly flying a Super Cub.
“The sweat running down my legs was starting to pool in my boots. . . .
“I figured the pilot, Ron McIntosh, knew what he was doing, but twin-engine airplanes just don’t land on airstrips like this one—not more than once anyway.
“We crept over the first row of trees and Ron slowly brought the throttles back and started to flare. . . . I couldn’t take my eyes off the trees at the other end of the runway. I thought about my wife and child. I thought about the five bucks I owed a friend.
“The trees were staring down on us as the tires thumped onto the runway, and I instinctively slid my feet up on the rudder pedals to help Ron smash the brakes to the floor.
“Then a crazy miraculous thing happened: We stopped moving. Just like that.
“The brakes helped a little, but even so, we hadn’t used more than two-thirds of what they laughingly called a runway.
“Then I heard a loud rush of air and I realized I’d been holding my breath. . . .
“Was I scared? I’d prefer to say pensive, but I’ll have to admit that I saw the Evangel 4500 do things that no twin-engine plane has a right to do.” (Click on this link to read more and see photos: “Evangel 4500” by Budd Davisson.)
Oh, what adventures awaited us!
What remarkable people God was giving us as friends!