Delivering airplanes from the factory to clients is an unusual job, and I sometimes land in unusual places. This was the case when I left Recife, Brazil, in a small single-engine airplane bound for Abidjan, Ivory Coast, in Africa. Powerful, unforecast winds pushed my plane off course. Without any navigational aids except a compass, I was grateful when I finally landed safely. To my surprise, I found myself about 1,200 kilometers off course, near Banjul, Gambia.
Tired after my seventeen-hour-long journey, and since I had to leave early the next morning, I decided to spend the night at the airport in a small tent I carry for emergencies.
As soon as I began to set up the tent in the warm darkness of the African night, the duty electrician came out. “You may rest in my shop,” he said.
“No, I don’t want to interrupt your work,” I answered.
“But I am only here in case my services are needed and will probably sleep, too. Besides, there are the snakes.”
“Snakes don’t bother me,” I said. “They probably couldn’t get inside my tent, anyway.”
“Two nights ago,” he stated matter-of-factly, “a cobra spit in a man’s eyes. Now the man may be blind.”
At that, I rolled up my tent and joined him. He was delighted to have me as a guest and showed me a long desk I could sleep on for the night. Satisfied that I was as comfortable as possible, he went off to attend to some duties, and I turned out the light.
After a few minutes, I realized I had forgotten to read my scriptures for the day. I got up, turned on the light, and pulled my Book of Mormon out of my chart bag. I began to read from Third Nephi. I was deep in the story of the visitation of the risen Christ to the Nephites when my friend came through the door. He saw me reading and apologized profusely for interrupting my prayers and meditation.
I was about to assure him that it was no interruption, but instead I suddenly said, “Have you ever seen a Book of Mormon?” He replied that he had not. I found out that he was part of the Christian minority in Gambia and that he had studied the Bible fervently. It was a wonderful experience to share the words of the Savior from the Book of Mormon with him. I explained that the Book of Mormon is another sacred testament of Christ.
For more than half an hour we talked, and I told him briefly about Joseph Smith’s First Vision, a short history of the Church, and the significance of the Doctrine and Covenants and Pearl of Great Price. My friend was fascinated but had to return to his duties. Before he left, he urgently requested a copy of the Book of Mormon and some pamphlets. I copied down his address and promised I would send them to him.
I departed for Abidjan early the next morning without seeing him again. As soon as I arrived home I sent the requested material. Perhaps I will hear back from him, perhaps not. Either way, I have the satisfaction of knowing I have done a small part to help spread the gospel in a remote corner of the earth. Now, though my chart bag is full of flight materials, I have reserved a small bit of space for Church pamphlets and a Book of Mormon. Next time a missionary opportunity arises, I will be ready.