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Author Biography: Karen Kingsbury is the author of 14 inspirational books, including A Time to Dance,When Joy Came to Stay, and A Moment of Weakness. She lives in Vancouver, Washington.
A wonderful book for the holidays: a collection of true stories about ordinary people whose lives are touched in the most extraordinary ways.
"Karen is a gifted writer who confronts the hard issues with truth and sensitivity."—Francine Rivers, bestselling author of Redeeming Love
It was exactly one month before Christmas when Katy Anderson got word that her mother was dying of cancer in their hometown an hour out of Des Moines, Iowa. At just twenty-one years old, Katy was newly married and living several states away when she received the tragic news.
Her mother was only forty-five and, worse yet, she was alone and unable to care for herself.
"I can't let Mom die by herself." Tears streamed down Katy's face as her husband, Steve, held her close. "She was always there for me; now it's time for me to be there for her."
Although the couple's first Christmas together was fast approaching, they dipped into their savings account and scraped together enough money for Katy to fly to Iowa. It was a one-way ticket.
"God will help us find a way to be together, Katy." Steve kissed her good-bye at the airport, unashamed of the tears in his eyes. "Christmas is about miracles, after all."
Time passed and though Katy's mother greatly appreciated her presence, Katy was secretly terrified. Not only would she have to be strong while her mother wasted away, but she would have to do so without the love and support of Steve.
"You miss him, don't you?" Katy's mother took her hand one afternoon. "Go home, sweetheart. I'll be fine. Me and the Lord had a little talk and he's expecting me any time."
Katy shook her head and smiled, ignoring the heaviness that welled up in her heart. "I won't leave you alone. Besides, Steve says Christmas is a time for miracles. God will find some way for us to all be together."
Back home in Montana, Steve stood up in church the Sunday before Christmas and asked the congregation to pray for him. "I want to be with Katy and her mother." He paused, meeting the eyes of friends and family he'd known for years at First Central Community Church. "Pray that God will work a miracle and find me a way there."
It was nearly a three-day drive from Billings, Montana, to Katy's mother's house in Iowa, and though Steve's boss had agreed to give him five days off around Christmas, there was no way he could make the round-trip by car and still have time with Katy and her mother. Finally, three days before Christmas Steve got a call.
"Heard you need a little answer to prayer." It was Joe Isaacson, a local business executive and longtime First Central church member. Joe owned a two-seater Cessna that he often took out on the weekends as a way of relaxing. He was planning to fly on Wednesday, December 23, and was willing to go quite a ways farther if Steve needed a ride to Iowa.
Especially at Christmastime.
Chills made their way along Steve's arms and legs. He thanked Joe and made plans for when to meet him; then he called Katy and told her the news. "We're going to be together after all, honey. I knew God would give us a Christmas miracle if we asked Him."
Katy was quiet on the other end. "Hurry, Steve. Mom...she isn't doing well."
Small planes were not high on Steve Anderson's list of reliable modes of transportation, let alone means of relaxation. In fact, he'd never flown before and had always figured when the time came to board a plane it would be a jumbo jet. But the opportunity to fly from Montana to Iowa to see his wife for Christmas was too irresistible for Steve to pass up.
"It's a small plane, but smooth as silk in the air," Joe told him the day before the flight. "Tell you what—you can be my navigator."
In the recesses of his mind, Steve felt a slight wave of anxiety course through his body. He swallowed his fears and cleared his throat.
"I've never done any navigating," he said with a laugh. "But I'd be willing to fly the plane myself if it meant getting back to my wife at Christmas."
Steve met Joe the next day at a small airport outside of town. The morning was beautiful, clear and without any trace of bad weather. Strains of "Silent Night" played on the airport loudspeaker.
"The weather's beautiful. Looks like we picked a good day to hit the skies," Joe said, easily shifting his body into the cockpit.
Steve sized up the tiny aircraft and silently, almost unconsciously, whispered a prayer: Lord, guide us as we go and please get us there safely.
For the first hour the craft flew easily through the clear skies, but as they neared the halfway point of their flight they entered a thick fog.
"No problem," Joe said, pointing out the windshield. "You can see radio towers there above the fog. If we keep our eyes on them we'll know where we are. Besides, we have aviation maps on board. Everything will be fine."
For a while, it looked as if Joe would be right. Then, when the plane was just outside Pierre, South Dakota, the fog worsened so that the plane became cocooned in a cloud with no visibility whatsoever.
Almost at the same time, the plane's radio and instruments died. Suddenly the men could no longer see anything on the ground, and because of the instrument failure they couldn't monitor the fuel or talk to people in the control tower.
Steve may have been inexperienced at flying, but he did not need a pilot's license to know they were in grave danger. His thoughts turned to his wife and he began begging God for survival. Please, God, help us, he prayed silently, his hands clenched and his face white with terror. Please, get us through this safely.
At that moment they flew through a clearing in the fog and caught a glimpse of Pierre Municipal Airport just below. Joe maneuvered the craft through the opening in the clouds and smoothly down onto the runway.
"Thank God," Steve whispered as the men climbed out of the plane and Joe began tinkering with the fuse box. A burned-out fuse had caused the instrument failure, and Joe replaced it while Steve telephoned Katy.
"Listen, honey," Steve told Katy, "we're running late because of bad weather. Meet me at the airport about an hour later than we planned."
"Is everything okay? With the plane, I mean?" she asked. Steve could hear how Katy was trying to control the concern in her voice.
"It's fine," he said, sounding more confident than he felt. "And guess what? My boss says I can stay through New Year's. It's going to be the best Christmas ever, just being there with you and your mom. I love you, honey. See you in a few hours."
As they climbed back in the craft, Steve again uttered a silent prayer: you got us this far, God. Please see us through safely to Iowa.
In less than an hour the men were back in the sky, enjoying the fact that the sun had come out and the conditions were once again clear. By the time they flew over Sioux Falls, Steve's fears had nearly disappeared and he began looking forward to being with Katy.
Then, as the plane passed over a series of valleys the fog appeared once more and almost instantly engulfed the small craft in a dense, suffocating blanket of gray. Moments later they approached a mountain range, and Steve watched as Joe struggled to clear it safely.
"After these mountains it should be sunny again," Joe said, struggling to convince himself as much as Steve. "There's never fog in this area."
But as night fell there was indeed fog, and it was so thick the men could see nothing past the plane's wind-shield. The airport wasn't far away, and Joe immediately contacted the radio control tower for assistance.
"We're closed because of fog," the air traffic controller informed Joe. "We have no capability for instrument landing. Return to Pierre Municipal Airport and land there."
"That's more than an hour back; I can't," Joe said, a tinge of panic creeping into his voice. "We're almost out of fuel. We don't have enough to fly back to Pierre."
For a moment, the cockpit was eerily silent. They had no visibility, and Steve's eyes fell on the fuel gauge and the needle, which danced dangerously over the letter E. Again he silently prayed, struggling to control his terror: please, God, please get us out of these clouds safely. Let me make it home this Christmas, please...
Finally, a different voice broke the silence. "Okay. We'll get the ground crew ready. Come in on an emergency landing."
Steve clutched the side of his seat, his eyes wide in disbelief. There was no way they could make an emergency landing when visibility between the plane and the control tower was completely cut off by the fog.
Joe's voice snapped Steve to attention.
"Get the aviation maps."
Steve opened them instantly, and Joe estimated their location. According to the map, they should be directly above the airport. Gradually, Joe began to descend through the fog toward the ground. As he did, the voice of the controller entered the cockpit.
"Pull it up! Pull it up!"
Joe responded immediately, just as both men saw a split in the fog. They were not over the airport as they had thought. Instead they were over the lights of a busy interstate highway and had missed an overpass by no more than five feet.
Steve felt his heart thumping wildly, and he was struck by the certainty of one thing. Short of divine intervention, there was no way they would escape their grave situation alive. The memory of "Silent Night" playing in the airport earlier that day rewound itself in Steve's mind. Now the words took on a terrifyingly different meaning. Without anyone to guide them down from the skies, the silence in their cockpit that night might be the last they would ever know.
At that instant, the controller's voice broke the silence again. "If you will listen to me, I'll help you get down," he said.
Joe released a pent-up sigh. "Go ahead. I'm listening." Steve closed his eyes momentarily and prayed, begging God to guide them safely through the fog onto the ground.
Meanwhile, the controller began guiding Joe toward a landing.
"Come down a little. Okay, a little more. Not that much. All right, now over to the right. Straighten it out and come down a little more."
The calm, reassuring voice of the controller continued its steady stream of directions, and Joe, intent on the voice, did as he was instructed. The trip seemed to take an eternity, and Steve wondered whether he would see his wife again. "Please, God," he whispered. "Get us onto the ground. Please."
The controller continued. "Raise it a little more. Okay, you're too far to the left. That's right. Now lower it a little more. All right, you're right over the end of the runway. Set it down. Now!"
Carefully responding just as he was told, Joe lowered the plane, and when he was a few feet from the ground the runway came into sight. As the plane touched down Steve saw Katy standing nearby waiting for him, and his eyes filled with tears of relief and gratitude.
The two men in the cockpit looked at each other. Without saying a word, they bowed their heads and closed their eyes. "Thank you, God," Steve said, his voice choked with emotion. "Thank you for sparing our lives today. And thank you for listening."
Joe picked up the plane's radio and contacted the control tower. "Hey, I just want to thank you for what you did. We couldn't have made it without those directions. You probably saved our lives."
There was a brief pause. "What are you talking about?" the controller asked. He had a different voice this time, and he was clearly confused. "We lost all radio contact with you when we told you to return to Pierre."
Goose bumps rose up on Steve's arms and he watched as Joe's face went blank in disbelief. "You what?" he asked.
"We never heard from you again and we never heard you talking to us or to anyone else," the controller said.
"We were stunned when we saw you break through the clouds right over the runway. It was a perfect landing."
Steve and Joe looked at each other in silent amazement. If this controller hadn't been in contact with them through the emergency landing, who had? Whose calm, clear voice had filled the cockpit with the directions that saved their lives?
Today Steve is aware that he still cannot specifically answer those questions. But in his heart he is certain that God did indeed grant him a Christmas miracle that December night.
"I believe that God protected us that day and that perhaps he allowed an angel to guide us to the ground safely," Steve says. "It was a Christmas when Katy and I desperately needed to be together. God sustained me through that silent night and he continues to do so every day of my life."
Copyright ? 2001 by Karen Kingsbury