One afternoon I flew slow circles inside Ecuador’s Amazon jungle clouds. Not completely gray, I’d pop in and out of bright sunshine pockets above or narrow holes open downward to treetops a half-mile below. Tantalizing glimpses too small to stay in, but hinting I might accomplish my new mission after all.
My two passengers were missionary guests, riding to see with their own eyes and hear with their own hearts what the Lord was doing. When we left Shell 45 minutes earlier the radio operator at Charapacocha, an Atshuar Indian village, reported good weather. But it got bad. I explained to him we’d try again another day and started a turn back.
But suddenly he radioed from the village below. “A new mother has delivery complications,” he said. “Baby won’t come. Lots of bleeding. Can you take her to the hospital?”
I had room, but low clouds still hid the strip. Couldn’t land if I couldn’t see. The weather arrived quickly. Would it leave quickly? How long could I wait?
In the year 1225, St. Marher said, “Time … waits for no man.” Even Einstein taught, “Time is an illusion.” Great thinkers, but wrong.
Time’s actually a liquid. It has weight—6 to 7 pounds per gallon. It has color—clear or blue depending upon type. It has aroma—sweet if you’re a pilot, for others maybe not so much. It sloshes, evaporates and burns. You can buy it and store it, so it does, in fact, wait for you. Its tangible reality makes it less mysterious, but also incredibly precious because when it’s gone, it’s gone.
I took off with 45 gallons of fuel. That liquid gave me 3.0 hours aloft, enough to cover the 1.5 hour round trip, plus the mandatory 1.0-hour reserve, plus another 40 minutes, “just in case.” As I orbited at low power, every one of those extra “just in case” gallons bought the girl and her baby five minutes better chance to live.
In 30 minutes, when the clouds lifted, I was ready. An hour later mother and child were in doctor’s hands. A week after that they returned home, beneficiaries of 10 gallons of time.