With Christmas only three months away, it’s important to know that 2,000 years later God is still doing the same thing. In the Christmas story we read of three wise men who journeyed to Israel looking for a new king.
They showed up at the palace of King Herod to make their inquiries, a logical place to go if you are looking for a king. Herod, a narcissist and megalomaniac, knew nothing about this new king and was immediately concerned.
He asked the wise men to come back to the palace after they found the new king. However, after finding Christ, the wise men received a dream warning them not to go back to Herod and they returned to their home country by a different route (Matthew 2:12).
God warned them. They listened.
At the end of September, the Holy Spirit warned a Christian pilot with Batik Air, an airline flying out of Indonesia, about similar danger. With a population of 261 million people, 10% of the population is Christian and 89% Muslim.
On September 28, 2018 a powerful earthquake hit Indonesia resulting in a tsunami that killed over 1,400 and injured thousands more.
The earthquake that registered 7.5 struck Central Sulawesi, a mountainous region of Indonesia, 48 miles from the area’s provincial capital of Palu, population 336,000. The city is located along the coast and between two large mountain ranges.
Captain Icoze Mafella was on a flight to Palu before the earthquake hit.
God Reports wrote about the testimony that Mafella gave at a church service on September 30, 2018. Mafella said he felt uneasy the whole day because he believed the Holy Spirit was speaking to him.
When he took flight these feelings of concern started to grow.
Normally while flying Mafella hums Christian songs, but this time he began singing out loud and his Muslim copilot joked that Mafella should produce a Christian CD.
When they arrived at the airport with their 147 passengers, the uneasiness intensified. Mafella saw that the winds were a bit stronger than normal and circled the airport an additional time before landing. Because of its location between the two mountain ranges, the Palu airport has been tagged with the nick name “valley of death” and as they were landing Mafella recited Psalm 23:
Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,
I fear no evil, for You are with me;
Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me. (Psalm 23:4 NASV)
When they landed, Mafella purposefully shortened the crew’s break, telling them to return to the airplane in 20 minutes. Normally, Mafella would have left as well, but this time he decided to stay in the cockpit.
When the crew returned, he hurried them to ready the plane for the remainder of their journey to Jakarta, Indonesia’s capital.
Though nothing was happening at this point, Mafella’s concern was growing and he even helped the copilot with some of his pre-flight responsibilities so they could continue their flight sooner than scheduled.
With the airplane ready to go, Mafilla asked for permission to leave. Unable to shake the growing urgency, Mafella requested permission to leave even earlier and was given a three-minute boost to their departure time.
And as the plane was taking off, Mafella said he goosed the engines more than normal to gain altitude. The earthquake actually hit as their plane started down the runway. The jet started swaying left and right. Unsure of what was going on, both Mafella and the copilot were terrified by what was happening, but the plane was able to successfully gain flight.
Unfortunately, the air traffic controller, Anthonius Agung, who gave them permission to leave earlier was killed in the earthquake.
When the earthquake hit, people fled the air traffic control tower. They urged Anthonius to join them but he refused to leave his post until the plane was safely in the air. When the roof of the tower started collapsing, Anthonius jumped from the tower, but died on the way to the hospital.
In a later interview, Mafella referred to Anthonius as their plane’s “guardian angel.”
As they gained height, Mafella had no idea what was going on but saw strange things happening in the ocean below the jet. This was the first stage of the building tsunami that would hit 30 minutes later. When he radioed the tower, he got no response.
It wasn’t until he arrived at their destination that Mafella heard about the earthquake and tsunami that hit Palu. The shaking they felt on take off was the power of the earthquake that had transformed their paved landing strip into rolling waves of asphalt.
Mafella believes the Holy Spirit was behind all the urgency he was feeling. God knew the danger that lay ahead and Mafella was listening. It is interesting that stories of what happened is being published in several Muslim newspapers around the world.
- Indonesia tsunami: Pilot hails ‘hero’ air traffic controller: BBC
- Indonesia: Christian airline pilot prompted to speed departure before earthquake and tsunami hit: God Reports
- Heroic air traffic controller dies after ensuring last flight escapes Palu earthquake: Jakarta Globe
- ‘I’m still in pain’: Six days after Indonesia’s double disaster, needs remain acute: Washington Post