at 33,000 ft
By Rick Michelena
I would like to share my personal testimony and spiritual
journey towards a saving relationship with our Lord Jesus Christ.
I was born into a very devout Catholic family. I served as an
altar boy until the age of twenty. Our family attended church every
week. When it was necessary, as a part of my altar boy service, we
even attended Mass daily.
I attended a Catholic school and completed many CCD classes.
I eventually left the coal mining area, of my hometown, and
pursued a career in aviation. As I worked my way up through various
levels of aviation jobs and experience, I eventually was hired by a
major US air-carrier when I was just twenty-seven.
During the first day of our "new-hire" pilot
class, we received our freshly issued company ID's, our initial
aircraft fleet assignments, and a complete aircraft manual.
I'll never forget the instructor then saying, "Gentlemen,
welcome to Continental Airlines. I will be your ground school
"systems" instructor over the next few weeks. Before you
is the 727 flight manual. While you are employed as a pilot for this
company, you will be required to know the information contained
within it. Each of you will learn how to research and address any
problems that occurs while performing your duty as a pilot."
I left ground school highly motivated and looked forward to
simulator training. Before long, I was flying as a line pilot. At
the same time, I began to now enjoy some of the things my airline
career now offered.
My wife and I moved out of the mobile home we were living in and,
at the age of 30, we built a brand new 4600 square ft. home. At the
same time, we were both driving new cars and also had money in the
Despite, all the material gains, I had now achieved, I was not
happy with my life. I knew something was missing, but at the time, I
did not understand that it was God who was missing from my life.
One day, I saw a Flight Attendant whom I had known years before.
She told me that her life was now changed and that she had received
Jesus Christ into her life. At that time, I backed off and said,
"That's nice, I hope you're happy," because I wanted to
get away from her.
However, this was only the beginning of God putting people into
my life. Others soon followed and told me about Jesus Christ and how
I needed Him in my life. I dismissed most of what they said because
I was a Catholic and I thought I knew Jesus Christ. Yet, God was
still busy planting seeds.
As I began to think about my own relationship with God, I soon
realized that I was the one who had pulled away from Him. I then
remembered the flight attendants and many others who had challenged
me about studying the Bible.
One day, I thought to myself, "If I can trust my flight
manual for my career, why can't I trust the Bible for my
faith." After all, as a Catholic, I never really read or
studied the Bible.
On the night of Oct, 03, 1993, I was flying between Las Vegas and
Houston. I was flying with another Christian and had listened to him
talk about Jesus Christ earlier in the trip. Over the skies of El
Paso, TX, at 33,000 feet, I asked Jesus to forgive all my sins and I
have not been the same since.
I went home and told my wife what I had experienced and she
immediately said, "You got saved tonight." You see, she
was a back-slidden Christian who had no right to marry an
The truth is, we almost divorced because I was lost and I
hindered her Christian walk. Incredibly, God has restored our
marriage and we just celebrated 22 years together.
From that day on, I earnestly began to study Scripture. I even
applied to the Bible, the very same zeal I had for airplanes. As a
result, I grew in my spiritual maturity and soon began telling
others about Jesus Christ and what He had done for me.
Eventually God allowed me to share the Gospel with many, many,
other Catholics. Some of the first people I told were my family and
friends. I never realized what God had planned for me. My family
became extremely upset that I left the Catholic church and were
convinced that I was the one in error. This lead me into an even
greater reliance upon the Bible.
I soon realized that God's Will could never go against God's
Word. Therefore, I came to rely upon scripture alone. The knowledge
gained from the Bible now gave me the confidence to use the Bible as
the only authority for my faith. I now regarded the Bible as my
"emergency flight manual."
In pilot training, we were told to trust our flight manuals and
the procedures that had been established within them, because these
procedures have already been tested over time. We also understood
that the flight manual keep us from making the same deadly mistakes
that others have made.
I did not leave my Catholic faith because of what the Bible said,
I left my Catholic faith because of the things the church was
teaching that did not line up with the teachings of scripture. I
have now been teaching a Bible study class for ten years and over
80% of my class is ex-Catholic.
I grew up with religion, the Bible now pointed me in the
direction of a saving relationship with Jesus Christ. I still pray
for those who remain blinded to the simplicity of the gospel and the
incredible life that is immediately offered to every man, woman, or
child who comes to know Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord.