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Natural Disasters Offer a "Decisive Moment"

In her book, Unthinkable, reporter Amanda Ripley investigated why some people survive disasters and others don't. After examining fires, floods, hurricanes, and airplane crashes, interviewing dozens of survivors, she found three phases on the journey from danger to safety: denial, deliberation and what she calls "the decisive moment." Unfortunately, many people don't make it to that final phase—the decisive moment. They don't make a decision to act.

But as an example of the third stage, Ripley tells the story of Paul Heck, a man who knew how to act when his decisive moment came. On March 27, 1977 the 65-year-old Mr. Heck and his wife were sitting on a Pan Am 747 awaiting takeoff when an incoming plane hurtled through the fog at 160 miles per hour and slammed into the Heck's plane. The collision sheared the top off of 747 and set the plane on fire. Most of the 396 passengers onboard froze. Even Heck's wife, Floy, would later report that her mind "went blank" and she felt like "a zombie." But Paul Heck went into action mode. He unbuckled his seatbelt, grabbed his wife's hand said "Follow me," and then led her through a hole on the left side of the aircraft.

In an interview after the disaster, Mr. Heck noted how most people just sat in their seats acting like everything was fine even after colliding with another plane and seeing the cabin fill with smoke. But Heck also noted that before takeoff he had studied the 747's safety diagram. When the crisis came Heck knew it was a decisive moment. He was prepared to make a decision and head for the only exit that was available to him.

Possible Preaching Angles: (1) Conversion; Accepting Christ—The "decisive moment" about accepting Christ, making a decision for Christ. (2) Leadership; Courage—Every leader, every church, every Christian, faces "decisive moments" when he or she must act with courage and make a decision.

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