“There’s Room in My Chart Bag,” Ensign, Sept. 1989, 67–68
Delivering airplanes is an unusual job, and I sometimes end up in unusual places. This was the case when I left Recife, Brazil, in a small single-engine airplane bound for Abidjan, Ivory Coast, in Africa. Powerful, unforecast winds pushed my plane off course. Without any navigational aids except a compass, I was grateful when I finally made landfall. To my surprise, I found myself some eight hundred miles off course, near Banjul, Gambia.
Tired after my seventeen-hour-long journey, and since I had to leave early the next morning, I decided to spend the night at the airport in a small tent I carry for emergencies.
As soon as I began to set up the tent in the warm darkness of the African night, the duty electrician came out. “You may rest in my shop,” he said.
“No, I don’t want to interrupt your work,” I answered.
“But I am only on call and will probably sleep, too. Besides, there are the snakes.”
“Snakes don’t bother me,” I said. “They probably couldn’t get inside my tent, anyway.”
“Two nights ago,” he stated matter-of-factly, “a cobra spit in a man’s eyes. Now the man may be blind.”
At that, I rolled up my tent. He was delighted to have me as a guest and showed me a long desk where I could stretch out for the night. Satisfied that I was as comfortable as possible, he went off to attend to some duties, and I turned out the light.
After a few minutes, I realized I had forgotten to read my scriptures for the day. I got up, flipped on the light, and pulled my Book of Mormon out of my chart bag. I began to read from Third Nephi. I was deep in the story of the visitation of the risen Christ to the Nephites when my electrician friend came through the door. He saw me reading and apologized profusely for interrupting my prayers and meditation.
I was about to assure him that it was no interruption, but instead I blurted out, “Have you ever seen a Book of Mormon?” He replied that he had not. I found out that my new friend was part of the Christian minority in the Gambia and that he had studied the Bible fervently. It was a wonderful experience to share the words of the Savior from the Book of Mormon with him. I explained that the Book of Mormon is another sacred testament of Christ.
For over half an hour we talked, and I briefly covered Joseph Smith’s First Vision, a short history of the Church, and the significance of the Doctrine and Covenants and Pearl of Great Price. My electrician friend was fascinated but had to return to his duties. Before he left, he urgently requested a copy of the Book of Mormon and some pamphlets. I copied down his address and promised I would send them to him.
I departed for Abidjan early the next morning without seeing him again. As soon as I arrived home I sent the requested material. Perhaps I will hear back from him, perhaps not. Either way, I have the satisfaction of knowing I have done a small part to help spread the gospel in a remote corner of the earth. Now, though my chart bag is chock-full of flight materials, I have reserved a sliver of space for pamphlets and a Book of Mormon. Next time a missionary opportunity arises, I will be ready.