Our plane ran out of gas and crashed in the black of night with four people on board. The impending lawsuit and trial lingered for 9 years… and in the end, we were found liable for $14,000,000.00 in damages!
It was a terrible test of faith.
In 2001, after we began our home building business, there were a few logistical problems. My young framing contractor was working a very large contract near the Mexican border. Sheila, at the time, was engaged in conversation with James, a friend of ours. James was a licensed pilot. This set of circumstances gave Sheila and me the idea of getting a loan at the bank and buying a used airplane. Our partner could get a ride back to Ft. Worth, the pilot could fly it at his leisure at no cost and we could use it too – hopefully for ministry trips. It would be a win, win for everyone involved. Within a month we owned a 1974 Piper Comanche like the one in the photo. We had the plane just two days before God allowed the enemy to play his hand – the plane ran out of gas and crashed!
The pilot misjudged the climb rate and fuel consumption on his very first flight back from the Mexican border and ran out of gas in the dark of night. The plane crashed with 4 people on board. No one was killed but backs were broken and a woman was left paralyzed from the waist down. Sheila and I didn’t even know that there were going to be passengers invited on the plane. It was the pilot’s fault but we were the note-holders on the plane. We only had a minimum liability insurance policy on the plane which we purchased the day before.
The lawsuit didn’t take long to materialize. It took eight painful, patience-building years of delays before we finally went to trial — and then the trial lasted three full weeks! The prosecuting attorney was determined to get at any money we might have. What the jury didn’t know was that we only had a minimum insurance policy. In addition, the jury was fooled by three legally complicated questions which the judge allowed into the jury’s deliberation. The deck was “stacked” against us.
On the final day of the trial, I walked the floors of the courtroom and “prayed in the Spirit” while the jury deliberated. I prayed into the night. In a small town like this, everyone, including the jury, remained sequestered in the building. It was 1:30 in the morning before the jury reached their verdict and came back into the courtroom. Though they had not intended it, the jury found us liable for $14,000,000.00 in damages! Sheila and I were personally liable for the entire monetary award. The machinations of the prosecuting attorney — and the nefarious, convoluted questions which he manipulated in to the jury deliberation — had done their job.
Though we stood, prayed and trusted that God would not allow the enemy to destroy our lives, we still had to endure the verdict. We were devastated! We were tested! But we stood on His promises!
We had to surrender all to the Lord… and we would ultimately have to file bankruptcy and lose everything we had.
Sheila and I learned that the legal process in the United States is sometimes very unfair, agonizingly slow and very expensive. The attorney fees for this nine year trial came to more than $2,250,000.00! Needless to say, the attorney fees alone would throw us into bankruptcy. But because of the favor of God, Avemco (our insurance company) hired an outside attorney firm to give an opinion regarding our attorney fees. The firm determined that our insurance company should pay our attorney fees. Avemco honored the outside opinion. Avemco would be paying all attorney fees.
It is now 30 days later and our attorneys have filed an appeal with the Texas Court of Appeals in Houston. We waited, trusted and stood on God’s promises for another 9 months before our appeal would be heard. We had peace because we believed God’s promises. Standing on His promises was the only weapon we had to fight the temptation to worry and fear. There was tremendous opportunity to live in fear. But we didn’t allow evil to destroy our daily efforts. All during and after the trial we continued to build homes and expand the ministry outreach. Much of what you see and read on this website was inspired during the nine year period of the trial. God is faithful to His promise “to never forsake His children.”
The day for our appeal finally arrived and we were instructed to drive to El Paso, Texas to face our adversary one last time. Our attorneys were extremely prepared as they were during our trial, but this time we were not at the mercy of a jury who did not understand the law and who could be manipulated by an evil adversary. This time justice prevailed. By the grace of God, the three-member Appeals Court reversed the judgment of the trial!
The prosecuting attorney then submitted that ruling to the Texas Supreme Court. After another two more months of waiting, we learned that the Supreme Court of Texas refused to hear it. Sheila and I were freed from the devastation the enemy of our souls desired to bring upon our lives.Glory to God!
The devil came in like a flood, but God was true to His Word and we were vindicated.
God’s Word gives promises to take by faith, believe in your heart and stand on for your life:
“No weapon that is formed against thee shall prosper; and every tongue that shall rise against thee in judgment thou shalt condemn. This is the heritage of the servants of the Lord, and their righteousness is of me, saith the Lord.” (Isaiah 54:17)
“Trust in the Lord with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding. In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths.” (Proverbs 3:5,6)
“Though He slay me, yet will I trust Him. Even so, I will defend my own ways before Him. He also shall be my salvation…” (Job 13: 15,16)