A plane crash, determination, and hope at Easter

SPD president Pastor Glenn Townend says Easter 1973 is one he'll never forget.

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South Pacific Division president Pastor Glenn Townend.

Easter, 1973. It’s an Easter I’ll never forget. It was my first as a child in Lae, Papua New Guinea. My family had just moved there, and we loved the place and the people. Dad was away on a preaching and teaching trip. 

Easter Sunday afternoon. I was downstairs lighting the fire for the hot water system. Dad would be coming home early from his trip. We couldn’t wait. All I could think about was cricket and tennis games with him. The house phone rang, my mother answered it. I heard her cry out, so I ran up the stairs to find my mum sobbing. Dad’s mission plane had crashed. He was in hospital in Goroka. Within minutes, we were surrounded by people in our house. There were hugs and more tears. By the time I went to bed, I knew that the pilot and two others had died in the crash. I remember lying awake that night, thinking of the flight our family would take to Goroka the next morning to see Dad.  

Dad was lying motionless on the bed, covered in bandages; tubes and wires everywhere. I was horrified. Last time I saw him, he was fit and healthy, and now this. Dad was airlifted to Australia for treatment. I was shocked when he returned to PNG seven weeks later as an invalid. He had back pain, limited movement, no taste, no saliva. Eventually all that came back, but he was never quite the same. Working through that as a kid wasn’t easy—we just had to accept it and try to help. I saw my dad model resilience and determination to keep doing God’s work, caring for his family, despite the setbacks. He even continued to travel in the mission planes over the next few years. 

Why did my dad continue to travel in small planes after this near-death experience? He wanted to share a hope that is stronger than death itself. That hope is the resurrected Jesus. Jesus, our perfect Substitute, took the punishment for our sin and evil. He was killed but rose from the grave and conquered death for everyone.

Those who died in the Goroka plane crash in 1973 can live again. As Paul said, we will continue to preach the resurrected Christ, the power of God to bring salvation to everyone who believes (Romans 1:16).

You can watch Pastor Glenn Townend’s video testimony here.