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‘If you were to die tonight’

Hello from Paris. Being on this trip to Africa reminds me of our first trip there in 1999. I have a philosophy that if you’re postured for adventure, it comes looking for you. Crazy stuff is always happening to me in the strangest places. We were returning from Kenya. Karen and I caught a flight…
By Seth Barnes
By Seth Barnes

Hello from Paris. Being on this trip to Africa reminds me of our first trip there in 1999. I have a philosophy that if you’re postured for adventure, it comes looking for you. Crazy stuff is always happening to me in the strangest places.

We were returning from Kenya. Karen and I caught a flight from Nairobi to Paris.

After serving dinner and a movie, they had turned the lights off and everybody in the plane except the pilots were asleep.

I had a keep-the-light-out blindfold contraption covering my eyes and was out cold when I was awakened by a woman’s distressed voice across the aisle from me.

“Will someone please help us! Will someone please help us!” She was saying over and over again.

In great disorientation, I yanked off the blindfold to see what was the matter.

On the other side of the aisle from me was an Indian man, apparently the woman’s husband. It was hard to make out exactly what was going on, but he was obviously choking. In fact, he had vomited all down his front.

His wife was too large to unwedge herself from her seat and was helpless to do anything as her husband turned blue. He was completely unable to breathe.

This kind of thing happened to me once before – a man collapsed and had a heart attack just a few yards from me on the Mexican border in 1990. You never quite know what you’re going to do when you’re in a state of shock.

I unbuckled my seatbelt, jumped across the aisle, and reaching over the seat and around his stomach, began administering the Heimlich maneuver. I’d done this a couple of times when my children were smaller and gagged on a piece of meat or something, but this was different – he was a real, live choking person!

After a couple of upward thrusts of my fist toward his sternum, he expelled whatever was blocking his air pipe on my sweater and began breathing again.

Karen had pushed the stewardess call button and about that time a group of them showed up to clean the mess. We all then tried to go back to sleep.

The next morning as we were making our approach to De Gaul Airport and preparing to land, the man thanked me.

I replied: “God must have a special purpose for your life, having spared it last night.” Maybe it was a cheesy missionary thing to do, but I couldn’t help using the classic EE line, “If you were to have died tonight, do you know if you would have gone to heaven?

Comments (5)

  • Do you ever wonder where he is now? and what he made of his second chance? I love that question… “if you were to die tonight”… it’s one of my favorites… I actually got to use it with a phone survey person once… he called and asked if I had a few minutes to answer some questions for him, and I told him, sure, if when we get finished you let me ask you two or three of questions, too… and after a pause, he said, okay… so he asked his questions about what productes I use and I answered them all… and then I said, okay, you ready for my questions? he paused again, but said yes, and I asked him, if you were to die tonight, do you know where you’d spend eternity… he was quiet for a longer pause and then answered, hell, I think… and I asked, okay, is that where you want to go? and he said now… and I asked my last question, do you want me to tell you how you can go to heaven instead of hell… and he said yes, and so I gave him the plan of salvation… he didn’t make a decision that moment, but at least he had food for thought after our conversation ended… and I hope I meet him in heaven someday…

  • Thanks Seth for posting this story! It got me thinking about how many opportunities I miss daily to bring God or be Jesus to someone in the Wal-mart line or a neighbor walking out to their mailbox. The HOly Spirit can use the few words you offer. And Vickie posed a very good question, I wonder where he is now. Maybe God used you to change his thinking for life; maybe he started to wonder what God’s purpose for him really was; maybe he’s serving God in an awesome way right now b/c of those few words. You never know what God can do…I’m learning more and more what an awesome God we serve who can use anything and everything we offer to Him!

  • is it adventure or drama? hahaa…
    I love adventure, but always find myself in dramatic situations…hmmm…

  • Haha I went through a depression and thought that same question every night. “If I were to die tonight”… After a while I began endingg the sentence with, “then I would finally be happy”. Then I heard him speak to me and he told me I had people who had never met me but needed me more than ever. After that I began to heal and pray and I recovered in three years without one minute of therapy or any medicine. Just by the power of faith. Since I recovered I have never been happier in my entire life.

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Seth Barnes

I'm motivated to join God in his global reclamation project. He's on the move, setting his sons and daughters free from their places of captivity. And he's partnering with those of us who have been freed to go and free others.



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