When you walk through fire you shall not be burned, and the flame shall not consume you.~Isaiah 43:2

My first foreign mission assignment, after completing a general surgery residency at Loma Linda University Medical Center, was a posting to Puerto Rico, to serve as staff surgeon at the Bella Vista Hospital (BVH) in Mayaguez. This hospital was a hub for medical training and caring outreach in the Greater and Lesser Antilles. Long before Bella Vista was founded, Loma Linda-trained physicians went to Puerto Rico to work for the sugar companies, caring for laborers as well as managers. They became the founders of our hospital and trailblazers for the many who followed.

Ivan Angell, CME class of 1950, was one of these mission-driven physicians based at BVH when we arrived there in 1973. He was also an intrepid mission-aviation advocate and participant. Since both he and I were licensed private pilots, I accompanied him on some of his flights to Haiti and the Dominican Republic, where he was actively supporting medical and education projects. Later, I made trips to those locations and others, piloting Ivan’s Beechcraft Bonanza, carrying supplies, students, and staff to various locations.

Fuel management is always a factor in flight planning, and Ivan set up procedures to maintain supply and minimize cost. Fuel was expensive and scarce on the western side of the island, but abundant and cheap in San Juan, to the east. Since the Bonanza was equipped with two main tanks and two wing-tip tanks, we would then off-load the fuel by hand pump into 50-gallon barrels, for storage.

One Sunday, when my son Doug and I went to transfer fuel, Ivan told me to use the new pump in the hangar. I was at the left wing tank with a hose in my hand while Doug stood at the gasoline drum, steadying the electric pump that conveyed fuel into the barrel.

Everything was going well, but then Doug shouted, “Fire!” Seeing the flames lick across the drum lid, I grabbed the pump and flung it across the floor. As I attempted to beat out the fire with rags, my son raced toward the terminal to alert the firemen. The fire was out when they arrived, but attached to the pump was the charred hose that had dangled into the drum.

I believe Divine intervention is the only explanation why fire and fuel did not explode into a conflagration that could have destroyed the plane and hangar-and ruin my hands! A surgeon’s hands are his most visible and viable tools. We like to think that we “are” Christ’s hands, as we pray with patients and perform surgical procedures. But the greater truth is that we are all in His hands every moment. Hands-my patient’s hands, my hands, and His hands-have all had profound meaning for me since that day-Jack L. Bennett, LLUSM class of 1962, is a retired gereral surgeon. He served from 1973 to 1980 at Bella Vista Hospital. He has provided student mentoring and short-term relief for missionary surgeons in Nepal, Honduras, Haiti, Ethiopia, Guyana, and China. Presently, he is a clinical instructor for the LLUSM department of surgery.