Brother Bennie Demerchant tells the story of an incredibly desperate place in his book Full Throttle in the chapter called "Extinguished Candles." The work in Brazil had been very productive with churches being established and converts being won. But in August 1976 he would face one of the darkest trials of his life.
He was invited to come and preach at a rally 165 miles east of Manaus and the only way to get there was by his seaplane. So on the afternoon of August 31, 1976, Brother Demerchant, Sister Margaret Calhoun, and a young preacher, Jose Cinque, boarded the plane to go to the rally.
About eight miles away from the city, a rain shower along with heavy winds, overtook them soon after takeoff. In the middle of that storm, the engine stalled and the plane plummeted toward a bay of water. The storm was whipping the winds into six-foot waves and down the plane bolted toward them. He managed to land upright but the storm surge caught one of the wings and cartwheeled the plane. The plane begins to sink with all of them trapped in the plane. Somehow Brother Demerchant made it to the back of the plane and punched out a window and swam to the surface. But Jose and Sister Margaret could not get out and drowned despite their efforts to get them to the surface.
Unable to free them, a boat from the shore managed to tow the plane to the shore. Brother Demerchant said that when they unloaded the bodies of this young man and young woman they had to lay them on a boat ramp until the police and fire department arrived. He said that it seemed like an eternity before they finally got there.
The next three days were difficult at best as he went through all the arrangements of taking care of Jose's funeral and shipping the body of Margaret Calhoun back to the states. But during this time the media in Brazil had a field day. Some creative reporter wrote the crash had been on purpose for the sole reason of collecting insurance settlements. Others dreamed up other stories that were meant to totally destroy Brother Demerchant in Brazil.
He felt so betrayed because some of the prominent members of the community whom he had helped to fly many thousands of miles for medical reasons turned their backs on him. The loss of those two lives exhausted him and he could not sleep and discouragement shouted at him to give up and quit!
But in the early morning hours of September 3, he wept and prayed earnestly as he questioned God. "Why, why, why, Lord, would You allow this to happen when it seemed the future was so bright?" Suddenly a tall man in white appeared in the door of the room. He approached Brother Demerchant, turned sideways, and slightly bent his shoulders. He looked down at Brother Demerchant as he placed his hand on his shoulder.
"Have I not called you to this country to preach the Gospel? I am pilot-in-command of your life. Get up and go on with the work. I will bless you and the work as never before!" He turned and went out the door.
Brother Demerchant wrote that a calmness and relief came over him. A tremendous load had been lifted. He felt light on his feet and even giddy in believing what that man had told him. Fearlessness buoyed him. He knew that thousands had heard of the accident and were praying for them, but this incident engraved itself permanently in his mind.
There is more to the story but needless to say, God always meets us in our desperate places and it will be for the ultimate glory of God!
(From a sermon by Philip Harrelson, Desperate Places, 8/6/2010)
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