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Hot Air Balloonists Find Success Out of Past Failures

In her article "Soaring Journeys," Jill Carattini relates that on March 1, 1999, Bertrand Piccard and Brian Jones stepped into the gondola of a hot air balloon and lifted off from the Swiss alpine village of Chateau d'Oex. Nineteen days, 21 hours, and 55 minutes later, traveling 28,431 miles, they landed in the Egyptian desert. Their journey successfully marked the first nonstop flight around the world in a balloon, earning them the distinction of a world record, a book deal, and a million dollars from the sponsoring corporation. Their victory photograph now rests in the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum beside the "Breitling Orbiter III" itself.

But like almost any significant life journey (like spiritual growth), the journey of the Breitling Orbiter III didn't take an easy or straight line. As its name suggests, the Breitling Orbiter III was built upon two previous attempts. In fact, the journey that would end with a world record actually had three hopeful starting points and two frustrated finishes. The original Breitling Orbiter launched in January of 1997. Only a few hours after takeoff, the balloon was forced to land when the crew was overcome by kerosene fumes from a leaking valve. One year later, the Breitling Orbiter II stayed in the air nine days longer than its counterpart, but their flight was cut short when they were refused permission to use the airspace over China. Yet both of these setbacks contributed to the strategy that would allow Piccard and Jones to finally pilot their balloon across the Pacific.

Possible Preaching Angles: Spiritual growth; Spiritual formation—The journey of knowing and growing into Christ also takes many twists and turns, many failures, before we finally start to make progress.

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