I’ll Fly Away – Christian Pilot Listens to God Saves 140 from Indonesian Quake

PALU, Indonesia – On Friday, September 28, 2018, Icose Mafella awakened with an unsettling feeling that would not go away. A devout follower of Jesus, he knew that he needed to stay calm so that he could hear the voice of God. 140 fewer people died in the Indonesia earthquake that day because he did.

On Friday, September 28, 2018, Icose Mafella awakened with an unsettling feeling that would not go away. A devout follower of Jesus, he knew that he needed to stay calm so that he could hear the voice of God. 140 fewer people died that day because he did.

Icose is a pilot of Batik Airlines. Part of his itinerary on September 28th was a flight into and out of Palu, just 48 miles from the epicenter of the 7.5 magnitude earthquake that would hit Indonesia that day.

Icose is known to hum worship songs in the cockpit on his flights. On September 28th, the unsettled feeling he had prompted him to sing them out loud. His Muslim co-pilot joked that Icose should record a CD of worship songs.

The Palu airport is tucked between to mountain ranges – the kind of airport that pilots refer to as a valley of death.

It was, nonetheless, a routine flight for the crew.

As he was making his approach, Icose felt that the Holy Spirit was prompting him to circle one more time before attempting to land. As he circled, he prayed the 23rd Psalm.

I may walk through valleys as dark as death but I won’t be afraid. You are with me and your shepherd’s rod makes me feel safe. (CEV)

Still feeling unsettled, he chose to remain in the cockpit in preparation for the next leg of his trip. He instructed his crew to shorten their between-flight break to 20 minutes. He requested – and received – permission from the control tower to depart earlier than scheduled.

Even with the earlier departure, the captain felt an urgent need to speed up the departure process which, along with his co-pilot, he was able to do.

As they propelled down the runway the cockpit crew began to feel the plane swaying noticeably to the left and right. As they cleared the airport, the runway was “moving up and down like a curtain blowing in the wind.” The Indonesia earthquake was beginning to hit, but the Batik plane and its 140 passengers had been saved because Captain Mafella remain calm so that he could hear the voice of the Lord.

Speaking to a church group the following Sunday, Icose reminded believers that,

Whatever happens, we must be calm, not in a panic, so that we can clearly hear the voice of God coming to us by the Holy Spirit.

On a somber note, the 21-year-old air traffic controller who made sure the plane got off the ground early died in the quake from injuries he sustained jumping from the control tower as it crumbled. Despite his fellow workers’ pleas urging him to leave, he refused to do so until the plane had safely departed.

As the world mourns the thousands of lives lost in Indonesia earthquake, the tsunami, and the volcanic eruption, pray for the survivors and give thanks for a Christian pilot who set an example for all of us to be calm in all circumstances so that we can hear the voice of the Lord and follow where He leads. Give thanks for the 140 who escaped alive because of an otherwise obscure pilot who listened to the Lord God.

Remember that Captain Mafella did not know a quake was about to hit. But he did clearly hear the voice of God speaking through the Holy Spirit.


To read more posts on Missions Box on Indonesia, go here.