Amelia Earhart - lost in the Pacific
Amelia Earhart was the darling of the airways in the 1930's. She had a string of records to her name including being the first woman to fly across the Atlantic from the US to the UK. She was born in 1897 and became a nurse during World War One. Amelia nursed scores of people back to health in Spadina Military Hospital in Toronto during the 1918 influenza epidemic before becoming a victim herself. Following bouts of 'flu, pneumonia and recurring sinusitis, she took up flying in 1921.
The family were wealthy so it was not a problem for her to buy her own aircraft. Her health gradually improved and she moved into competitive flying setting records as the first woman to fly across the Altantic, and the first woman to fly solo across the United States. In March 1937 Amelia attempted her first round the world flight. The first leg went well, but following an incident in Hawaii where the plane veered and was badly damaged during takeoff, the attempt was put off. The second attempt in June was more successful at first. Amelia flew in the opposite direction due to wind changes and completed 22,000 miles without problems. 7,000 miles across the huge Pacific ocean remained. After a long flight from Lae, New Guinea Amelia and her co-pilot were approaching Howland Island (which lays halfway between Australia and Hawaii) when something went wrong. The technology of the time was limited and used radio signals often bounced off ships. Amelia's radio signals were strong, but despite numerous desperate attempts by the radio ship Alaska, they were unable to discern her position. Running low on fuel, the plane must have ditched without finding Howland Island. Despite a frantic lasting for weeks, nothing was ever found.
A tragic story. What can we learn from it? Well, first of all, sometimes our ambitions are just too big and will inevitably end up in disappointment. I remember a few years ago that a pastor friend of mine took over a small church in a small UK town. He boldly announced to the congregation that the church would grow to a thousand people in the next few years. A courageous and faith-filled statement maybe, but unrealistic in the current spiritual climate in the UK. Sadly he was ultimately disappointed, the congregation were disappointed, and he moved on having at least seen a little growth. Amelia Earhart had a bold and courageous trip planned, but the technology of the day just wasn't up to the task and she tragically lost her life because of it. Trying to cross that much sea in a small plane with such poor navigational equipment was just not feasible in the 1930's.
Second, however good we are we need to work within our abilities. Over stretching often ends in disappointment. We learned this ourselves when we once planted out a second church from the first. We got through it, but only just! Being honest, we overstretched our resources causing over-work for some of the leaders and it nearly ended in disaster. For Amelia, despite good planning, she didn't have enough resources. When she became disorientated and started flying off course, there was only one ship attempting to track her. Three ships scattered around the area would probably have made the difference, but one was not enough, and when disaster struck she was alone.
Third, we need to beware the enemy called tiredness! When we are tired, simple things can go wrong. I have had near misses on the road, written down the wrong information and said things I never meant to say - all when I was too tired to perform well. Working when tired cannot always be avoided, but there are times when it is essential to be well rested before attempting a major task. Amelia was attempting a long and stressful flight, and she needed to be fresh and ready for the task.
So, if we have realistic goals that we can reach, then we will not be disappointed. That doesn't mean we can't take calculated risks or make faith-filled choices, but it does mean that we need to be sure of what God is saying before taking big steps. Stretching ourselves too thinly can bring disaster, so we need to be sensible with our decisions. And lastly, rest is so so important. God created rest. He took a day off from creating to set an example. People who work seven days a week are not heroes, they are disobedient.
The story of Amelia Earhart's final flight is a tragic one, but it is also a helpful teacher showing us that even the very best of us can fall foul of adverse circumstances if we fail to plan and prepare well enough, and if we attempt difficult tasks without enough rest.