Volunteer Angel Flight Mid-Atlantic pilot Steve Craven glanced at the corkscrew curls of the Hasidic Jew in the co-pilot’s seat. As they taxied down the runway in Craven’s Piper airplane, he wondered whether he should pray for the man and his wife, who had just visited a specialist for her chronic pain. Craven finally asked permission, the couple agreed, and he recalls, “I closed in Jesus’ name. They thanked me.”
Since he began in 1997, Craven has prayed at the beginning of each of his 200 Angel Flight missions. Angel Flight and its parent organization, Mercy Medical Airlift, provide free flights to East Coast trauma patients who cannot otherwise afford transportation to major medical centers.
Craven wanted to fly ever since he was 10, when John Glenn orbited the Earth. However, flying was expensive, and he never found time for lessons. He married and had five children, taking over his father’s small tire business in 1980: “We tried to make the business as much of a ministry as we could.” He hired a chaplain for his employees and put a display of Bibles and tracts in each location. The business grew so much under Craven’s leadership that in 1996 he could afford to pursue his dream: He bought a plane and earned a pilot’s license.
A fellow church member introduced him to Angel Flight, and Craven went on his first volunteer mission two days after he earned his instrument rating. After he sold his tire company in 2007, Craven devoted even more time to Angel Flight and developed a safety management system. This year he won the Virginia Governor’s Volunteerism and Community Service Award.
Craven only considered selling his plane once—when the economy slowed and flight restrictions tightened after 9/11—but business picked up enough for him to keep the plane. He has never regretted the time and money he has spent: “I didn’t make many sacrifices at all to do this.” He remembers people he has flown, most of whom have cancer or are burn victims. He once helped a Gulf oil fire survivor to profess faith in Christ as they flew at 9,000 feet.
Craven said he is simply one of thousands of volunteer pilots: “It’s just being able to use the talent and resources God has given me for His glory.”
—Rikki Elizabeth Stinnette is a WORLD intern
The American way of celebrating Christmas—an overabundance of gifts, family gatherings, and over-the-top decorations—carries expectations that are often disappointed. Many books exist to suggest remedies: Slow down; simplify; keep Jesus as the reason for the season. In A Better December (New Growth Press, 2013), Steven Estes goes to the biblical book of Proverbs for insight into why we sometimes feel alone when surrounded by family. He shows how Solomon wrote about greed, perfectionism, covetousness, disappointment—the same kinds of issues that Christmas exposes. With humor and pathos, Estes tells little stories that point to the gospel story. —Susan Olasky