Traveling in Ethiopia brought to mind a man I met there and got to know in the 1980s. Andy Meakins was a gentle giant of the faith, an Englishman who loved Jesus Christ and served Him in Africa for many years. In 1996 an Ethiopian Airlines flight was hijacked and crashed into the ocean just off the Comoros Islands after running out of fuel–you may have heard the story. The dramatic moment of impact was caught on home video and broadcast around the world. Only later did we learn of something even more dramatic happening in the cabin as the plane headed for disaster.
Andy Meakins and his wife were on that plane, seated together. The hijackers demanded to be flown to Australia even though there wasn’t nearly enough fuel for that distance. As they neared the Comoros Islands in the Indian Ocean, one engine flamed out, and the pilot told passengers that the remaining engine would soon run out of fuel as well. Immediately, Andy’s wife heard the snap of a seatbelt being unbuckled and turned to see her husband stand up.
“Many of us might die in this crash,” he called out, “so there’s something you need to know.” Andy then began explaining the Gospel simply and urgently, moving to each part of the cabin so that everyone would hear. He invited people to place their trust in Jesus Christ in repentance and faith.
A flight attendant heard Andy’s words, bowed her head, and asked Jesus to forgive her sins and come into her heart. She watched many more respond and, along with another survivor, later told the story.
Of the 175 people on board, 125 died, including Andy, who was still on his feet preaching the Gospel as the plane hit the water.