Posted by: Mark D. Jones | July 27, 2010

Believe in Miracles – I do…

I’m jumping a little ahead of my storyline here to tell you about the fact that I believe in miracles – and would like for you to believe in them too.  Some people think that because the miracles of the Old and New Testament don’t seem to happen every day in our time – that miracles no longer happen and everything is the outcome of the scientific process or luck.   If you look around you – starting with looking in the mirror – the fact that we are beautifully made (not in the Hollywood sense but in actual flesh and blood), and exist on this perfect oasis of life that we call Earth as it speeds through a vast and unlimited universe; should be enough to see the miracle of life itself in a vast and wondrous universe.

During the early years of our marriage my wife and I had a lot of external stress that made life very difficult for us.  So I started an exercise that was born out of necessity, as a way to keep our heads above water when the odds were stacked against us and we needed to focus our efforts as a team to stay positive.  The exercise was a simple one – I took out a legal pad of paper and started writing down all the miracles that had happened in our lives – and continued to do so over the next few years until I filled up so many pages that I was amazed by the reality of what was a miraculous life.

As a result of my exercise I stopped writing down our miracles and opened my eyes to see and appreciate in real-time what God was doing in my life and the lives of the people around me.  In all of my travels and adventures around the world, the fact that God has taken care of and protected me from harm is miraculous enough for me to believe in miracles; and the only time I was ever injured – was when I sliced the tendon on my finger due to my own self-pride that I was solely responsible for.  There was the time when I was eighteen years old (the legal drinking age in Michigan at the time) and drank 21 shots of rum in an hour and a half – when by all rights I should have been dead through alcohol poisoning; but God had plans for me instead and allowed me the privilege of waking up the next day – and since then every day of my life has been a bonus. 

The reason God had plans for me had nothing to do with me individually; but His purpose focused on the people who my life would have a unique opportunity to touch.  For example, time was running and David was waiting to be born – but I was in Grand Blanc, Michigan and my future wife was in a little village in Germany called Bruch.  The Lord put a wanderlust into my heart – bicycling around America and Europe in a search for adventure before joining the Air Force; and before the sun set on my first day in Germany I was invited into the home of my future wife’s family.  Just over two years later we were married, and a year afterwards David was born.  The fact that David was born was against all odds – especially with everything we had to overcome – and for us it is a miracle he’s here. 

God wanted me – along with millions of others – to protect the lives of the people in Western Europe during the Cold War, and offer hope for millions more that were trapped behind the Iron Curtain.  God also wanted me to help – along with literally millions of others – give the country of Kuwait back to the people who it rightfully belonged to.  In addition, the lives of F-16 pilots and their families needed my best efforts as the Wing Electronic Combat Officer to help ensure everyone came home safely.   

But the reason for this article is not to recap the miraculous events that have occurred to me; like the time flying at Green Flag out of Nellis AFB in the F-4E when our aircraft was doing a ridge crossing at low-level – and inverted at the crest of the ridge – when an F-15 from the opposite direction came so close to us at high-speed that I could have reached out and touched it as it flashed by…just feet away.  Later I asked my pilot Woody how close we had come to hitting it in a mid-air collision – and he said, “you don’t want to know.”

What I do want to discuss here are two very specific miracles in my life that occurred to me in the time leading up to my assignment at Ramstein Air Base (AB), Germany.  The reason for this is because time is short and life is so uncertain – that if you are reading my blog and don’t believe in miracles – I want to offer you my story as a way for you to realize that Christ is actively at work in our world this very moment in time; and all you have to do is trust and believe in Him and you too will be able to see the miracles in your life that happen every day in the world all around you.

During the air war portion of the Gulf War, I was in a supporting role as a Wing Electronic Combat Officer, when my Director of Operations walked up to me and said the 614th Tactical Fighter Squadron (TFS) had a two-seat F-16D that they had just put back together – and I should go fly with them.  The conversation came completely out of the blue and I had no idea this was going to happen.  I had brought my flight gear with me just in case such a situation would happen or in case my equipment could be used as a spare for someone else.  I was a trained fighter Weapon Systems Officer (WSO) and this was my profession.

I had every reason not to go: I was not “Mission Ready” in the F-16 as a WSO, although I had a good bit of experience in the jet.  Also, I hadn’t flown since April 1990 when I cut my tendon on Weapons Training Deployment (WTD) with the 10th TFS at Zaragoza, Spain.  It was now January 1991, and the air war was well underway – and it was about a week prior to the start of the ground war.  I couldn’t say no to the offer and was packed and aboard a C-130 – stopping at every location along the Persian Gulf – prior to landing at my destination.

I finally arrived at the base where the 614th TFS was deployed and checked into their tent city, but nothing had been prepared for me and there was, “no room at the inn;” so I had to go “downtown” and stay in the most exclusive hotel that I had ever seen.  I walked into the hotel wearing my flight suit and carrying a canvas bag containing my flight gear and saw a gold filled lobby with the largest chandeliers I had ever seen – and Sheiks in their finest robes.  No one paid any attention to me as I walked through the lobby and took the elevator to about the fifth floor – where my room overlooked a beautiful marina filled with expensive private yachts.  The next day this “dream” burst its bubble as I was given a tent in the tent city to share.

Later in the day, the 614th TFS picked me up and took me to the building they were staying in; where I shared a room with a couple of other F-16 pilots.  The building the squadron was staying in was a small multi-story concrete dorm building with an open courtyard in the middle.  The pilots were flying combat missions around the clock and the squadron commander took me aside and talked with me for an hour or so in the open courtyard, where we discussed the war, Electronic Combat and our experiences at my other base.  On my two missions I sequenced in with the combat camera guys who were at the time documenting the air war from the back seat of the F-16D – and my first mission was on the day prior to the start of the ground war.

My pilot was a Fighter Weapons School Major who could have played middle linebacker in college.  In the days leading up to that first mission, I have never prayed to God as hard or sincerely as I did then – and promised Him that if He would allow me to return home in one piece after this war that I would do His will – whatever He called me to do following the war.  That mission turned out to be the most eye-opening experience of my entire life, and I had never been in a jet that did the things my pilot did with that aircraft that day.  I have always been impressed by the skills that a pilot uses every day in the cockpit – especially fighter pilots…and single-seat F-16 pilots in particular; but this pilot was simply unbelievable – and brought both of us back home in one piece – which was a miracle in and of itself.

My second mission was with another Major as my pilot, on the day after the ground war started.  The weather was terrible and our advancing forces were moving so quickly across the desert below us that it was a textbook case of the “fog of war” – but the intensity of the mission for me was nothing like on my first combat flight.  Shortly after the second flight as I was standing at the Duty Desk, we received the news that a ceasefire had been called by President Bush – and shortly afterwards I returned to my original base – and was on my way home (which is another story…) on March 15, 1991,  to prepare for my pending Permanent Change of Station (PCS) move to RAF Upper Heyford, UK.

The point that I remember most vividly though, was a seemingly offhand remark that our wingman made during the Intel Debrief concerning our aircraft as he followed us on our first mission unscathed over the target – twice.  His comment (which I won’t go into here…) literally took my breath away hearing it.  I was completely unaware of the fact during the flight, and at that moment I knew the protective hand of God had been around our jet; and that He delivered me and so many others in a very short time to return home to our families.

Unbeknownst to me, a year and a half later as I received my orders to Ramstein AB, the squadron commander of the 614th Tactical Fighter Squadron that I had flown with during the Gulf War received orders as well to become the Operations Group Commander of the 86th Wing at Ramstein AB, Germany.  God was working behind the scenes to put people in place to help me, which was another miracle in and of itself.

After my arrival at Ramstein AB, the new Operations Group Commander called me into his office and told me that he wanted to be able to recommend me for promotion to major, but that he’d have to have something to write about me.  So he gave me every job under the sun: 86th Wing Electronic Combat Officer, 86th Operations Group Inspector General, 86th Operations Group Quality Program Officer (when no Quality Program yet existed and I had to write my own), and a number of other important tactical combat related positions.

It was March 1993, and I only had about seven months at best before the paperwork for the December promotion board needed to be completed – which didn’t leave me much time.  Also arriving at Ramstein AB from Hahn AB at the time was another senior F-16 pilot I knew, that would take the position of 86th Wing Vice Commander – and it was his signature on my “Definitely Promote” recommendation that left Ramstein AB for the promotion board.

I had been worried about my chances on the next promotion board, but somehow I knew that God would take care of me and my family.  Behind the scenes He was moving people around the world in preparation for His taking care of me, which still required my efforts to do the jobs that I had been given – but God set the stage that made for my ultimate success and promotion…and all I needed to do is trust in Him.  Was it a miracle that I was promoted?  I know it was and have never doubted miracles after that time.  In fact, I look for miracles around every corner on every day of my life now.  And my pledge to God to do His will?  I wait upon the Lord as I attempt to do the best that I can for Him each and every day.

After my selection for major I began writing my autobiography in January of 1994, and if this blog becomes a vehicle that He can use for good in the world…then let His will be done.  I place St. Martin’s Cloak Foundation for Peace through Love at the foot of the cross – and if God so desires that this becomes the vehicle for me to do His will – then it will be done according to His timeline – and will happen because He wills it to be so.  In the meantime, I will trust in and wait on the Lord in all things.  Amen.

Mark

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