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Navy Pilot Saved by Tiny Light-Emitting Organisms

In February 1954, a navy pilot set out on a night-training mission from a carrier off the coast of Japan. While he was taking off in stormy weather, his directional finder malfunctioned, and he mistakenly headed in the wrong direction. To make matters worse, his instrument panel suddenly short-circuited, burning out all the lights in the cockpit.

The pilot "looked around … and could see absolutely nothing; the blackness outside the plane had suddenly come inside." Nearing despair, he looked down and thought he saw a faint blue-green glow trailing along in the ocean's ebony depths. His training had prepared him for this moment, and he knew in an instant what he was seeing: a cloud of phosphorescent algae glowing in the sea that had been stirred up by the engines of his ship. It was the "least reliable and most desperate method" of piloting a plane back onto a ship safely, but the pilot—future Apollo 13 astronaut Jim Lovell—knew that was precisely what he needed to do. And so he did.

While he did not articulate it this way, Jim's life was saved because of light. Not just any light, but "bioluminescent dinoflagellates," which are tiny creatures that contain luciferin, a generic term for the light-emitting compound. Bioluminescent organisms live throughout the ocean, from the surface to the seafloor, from near the coast to the open ocean.

Possible Preaching Angles: (1) Evangelism—How many people surround us daily who are in a spiritual condition that mirrors Lovell's dilemma? What will light their journey when they look into the blackness all around them? When their eyes adjust to the darkness, what life-saving light will they see? (2) God's Word—Is a lamp to our feet and a light to our path. (3) Jesus is the light of the world.

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