Gary Stearman

Flying Home

You could say that I was born to fly. I come from a flying family. As a toddler, flying with the grown-ups, I thrilled to the lively tug of a joystick, and dreamed of the day I could ascend into the blue on my own.

I would like to revisit the years past that have brought me to the present moment.

My central observations about life were shaped in the drafting rooms, tool shops, manufacturing plants and airports of my youth. I grew up in the exciting atmosphere of aircraft design and flying adventure. From then until now, I have taken to the air with joyous anticipation.

When it came time to go to college, I enrolled in an intensive aeronautical engineering curriculum at Wichita State University, known for its emphasis in this area of study. While there, I was employed as a machinist in the Walter H. Beech wind tunnel, then one of the premier test facilities of its type.

At that time, Wichita, Kansas proudly called itself, “The Air Capital of the World.” And rightly so, for between its many manufacturers (Cessna, Travel Air, Laird Swallow, Beech, Boeing, Stearman and many others), it had turned out thousands of personal, business and military aircraft … more than any other city in the world.

During World War II, the famous Stearman Model 75, designated by the military as the PT-17, trained most of the beginning aviators who went to war. Almost 8,500 of these wonderful planes were built. To this day, the Stearman is known as the biplane “built like a truck” that “flies like an angel.” Nearly 3,000 of them are still flying.

Beginning in 1925, in the years before being sold to Boeing during the war, Stearman Aviation had produced a variety of aircraft. My great uncle, uncle and father (as well as many other family members) were designers, builders and manufacturers.

Aviation lived and breathed in their many stories about the formative years of aviation and its legendary characters, like Clyde Cessna, Walter Beech, Lloyd Stearman and Wiley Post. Their partnerships and competitions gave America the golden era of commercial and private aviation. I came by my love of flight honestly.

But during those college years, a change began to come into my life. I was studying at one of the best aeronautics schools in the country and working in aviation, but I began to find the pursuit of the family dream strangely unsatisfying.

I discovered a love of languages and literature that soon eclipsed the math and methods of the designer. I found that Shakespeare and Milton were far more exciting that derivations and projections.

I studied Greek, French and German. I was introduced to philology and descriptive linguistics. Literary history and secular philosophy brought an exciting new consciousness of mankind’s troubled march through the halls of heritage.

But upon entrance into graduate studies, I found that the call of aviation was still strong. I felt that I could merge an engineering background with a writer’s skills. I became employed as a writer in commercial publications at Beech Aircraft Corporation. There, I developed the owners’ manual for several executive aircraft. Then later, at the Cessna Marketing Division, I held the dream job that combined flying with creative merchandising.

In an era when Cessna, alone, produced over 2,500 aircraft each year, the pulse of aviation was robust and exhilarating. Being on the cutting edge of commercial aircraft production should have produced a satisfaction and contentment that brought peace.

But it didn’t. In fact, I experienced a number of personal setbacks that made me face myself as I never had before. In one case, a college friend, blinded by depression, took his own life. Intellectual pursuits … literature and history … brought no answers. As time went by, I found myself deeply troubled, with a million unanswerable spiritual questions, and without hope that there was any central, organizing principle that made sense of it all.

I had been raised with only a smattering of formal “religion,” but I never doubted the existence of God. I knew that somewhere in the vast reaches of the universe, He lived in supreme glory. Never in my wildest dreams, however, did I suspect that He could be reached, or that He could touch my life with His love.

Quite the contrary, I had read the Bible as literature. Once, however, while reading in the book of Revelation, I had become seized with fear at the awesome judgments it unfolded. I slammed the book shut and pushed it to the back of a shelf, where it remained untouched for years.

In the late 1960s, I had prayed to God, saying words to the effect that, “God, if you’re real … if you’re there … please show me.” His answer was silence. My questions grew.

I married. Now, a few years later, I had a wife, two small boys and no real answers. Still, I searched. Then, while trout fishing on a family vacation in Colorado, I heard a radio pastor, J. Vernon McGee, explaining how Christ is depicted throughout the book of Leviticus.

Not only was I fascinated by his analytical method, I was spellbound by a sudden realization. Christ, the Messiah, had come at a certain time in history, in fulfillment of specific types, symbols, prophecies and metaphors written by Moses a millennium-and-a-half earlier!

I came home from that vacation determined to dig out and dust off my old, childhood Gideon Bible. (Believe it or not, when I was a boy, the Gideons used to pass these out in public school.) Possessed by the desire to understand Scripture, I studied for days, and eagerly continued to listen to Dr. McGee. Shortly thereafter, I knelt in my study and prayed to receive Christ. By His Spirit, He graciously came to me, at last revealing the God whom I had always known was there, but never thought could care about me.

From that day to this (for the last forty years), I have studied the Word, filling my life with His wisdom and my study with reference books. I delightfully discovered that the college time spent delving into languages and literature now gave me the tools I needed to discern the deeper meanings of Scripture.

Principles of linguistics and explication now became exposition and exegesis. The Variorum of Shakesperian studies became a concordance of the Bible, as well as the lexicons, wordbooks and historical analyses that have enabled the modern student of the Bible to bring clarity to the Word of the Lord.

I organized home Bible study groups that finally coalesced into a congregation. Since 1983, I have pastored the Bible Church known as Grace Fellowship in Oklahoma City. Like that first congregation so long ago, we expound upon the Apostles’ doctrine, fellowship, communion and prayer. Our goal: Maturing the saints.

Since 1987, I have worked with J.R. Church, here at Prophecy in the News. We regularly produce a monthly magazine, as well as weekly television broadcasts and daily webcasts, devoted to the exposition of Bible prophecy, applicable to these contemporary times. These, we believe to be the latter days, approaching the prophesied period known as the Great Tribulation. We teach the “blessed hope,” commonly called the rapture of the Church, which we believe will take Christians home to heaven before that horrific period of the Lord’s coming judgment.

Early on, I was obsessed with the joys of physical flight. I love it to this day. But beside the spiritual flight that comes from pursuing the word of God, it is nothing.

Once, I thought I could find joy among the clouds of the earthly skies. Now, I look forward to that final flight among the clouds of heaven. Following His lead and His timing, I’m flying home.