Crop Duster Now Spreads the Gospel
Article and Photo Credits by Jeffrey West
[Note: An edited version of this article originally appeared in a three-part series beginning
in the 10/18/06 issue of The Times Examiner]
During Biblical times the Lord spoke through His prophets, which sparks images of bearded men living in the wilderness. We may think that those days are gone, but there are still those that follow in their footsteps, though they may not look the part. Such a man is Sam Sarvis of Loris, S.C., who has a very important message and asks that you would please let him come to your church to deliver it.
He proves that age is only a number, and that God will give strength to His servants to accomplish His work. The stories of Old Testament heroes boost our faith, and likewise his will, too. He is like Caleb, to whom God gave incredible fortitude in old age as a testimonial reward for his lifelong faithfulness. He said in Joshua 14, "Forty years old was I when...the LORD sent me...to espy out the land: and I brought him word again as it was in mine heart. Nevertheless, my brethren...made the heart of the people melt...And now, behold, the LORD hath kept me alive...these forty and five years...As yet I am as strong this day as I was in the day that Moses sent me..."
The Lord blesses us with our friends, and God blessed me with the friendship of Mr. Sarvis. Although all Christians should be "thinking God's thoughts after Him" and thus have a similar worldview, on rare occasions one meets someone who thinks identically, as in our case. So many times we have independently arrived at the same conclusions on so many subjects.
Furthermore, it is continually amazing to see how God brings people together to accomplish His will under circumstances that occur beyond chance (if such did exist). This offers a witness from God of His power and glory, and strengthens our faith that He is in control. I met Mr. Sarvis about 10 years ago in Horry County while working on a wetland mitigation site for a highway construction project. A state representative had suggested using the property at the school district's Playcard Environmental Center. According to the Corps of Engineers permit, the site had to be planted and limed. It was too rutted to drive on and I had the strange notion that lime could be spread aerially, an unprecedented idea. I asked the local highway maintenance crew if there was a crop duster nearby that could do this, and they said that Mr. Sarvis could, and lived only eight miles away. It turned out he was one of the few people in the state with this capability.
We called Mr. Sarvis, who said he was about to run an errand and would stop by. Soon a tall, distinguished-looking gentleman appeared, neatly but not overly-dressed with his trademark straw hat and handlebar mustache. He looked to be in his early-sixties and in good physical condition, and his humble appearance belied a unique, highly intelligent person as evidenced by his conversation. We became briefly acquainted and he said he would be glad to do the job, and we set an appointment at his office at the Loris Airport to finalize the arrangements.
The small airport had a series of hangars and rustic maintenance buildings, and his faithful crop duster sat nearby. A soybean field extended out back as far as the eye could see. The idyllic scene reminded me of a Green Acres rerun, produced when America and our agriculture were stronger. I entered his small, dimly-lit office and we sat down among stacks of papers and books. It is said that a man can be judged by his library. The casual observer would have thought this was simply the dusty old office of an ag pilot, but as I perused the vast array of titles I saw immediately that I was in the company of an extremely learned man of both the Christian and secular worlds. The papers were not randomly scattered about in an unkempt manner, but were arranged in neat piles such that their owner knew their exact locations.
As we talked, Mr. Sarvis appreciated our project and lamented the destruction of the local environmental habitat which he had seen over time from the air as a crop duster. Historically there were vast stands of huge pine timber which had mostly disappeared, and the rivers and their fish were simply no longer as clean. He used to fly his son as a child to Myrtle Beach and land right on the beach, but of course it is now overrun with people from afar, including a substantial number of Muslim immigrants. We both agreed that God had given man dominion over the earth to be good stewards, and that the inheritance of future generations of Americans had been stolen through greed. He was very happy to help us and quoted a very good price. The deal was made and he banged out a receipt on an ancient typewriter.
As a result of the Lord making our paths cross through this incredible set of circumstances, we became friends and stayed in touch. As is so often the case, I felt recently that it was time for me to call him, and Mr. Sarvis gave me the reason. He said that because of recent world events, with the instability in the Middle East and the potential destruction of America at our doorstep from illegal immigration, it was time for him to travel and preach like the apostle Paul. He said that he was going to resign his position as chaplain at the local extended care facility and devote his full time to traveling and preaching wherever God led him, with no geographical limitations. He said that people need to know Jesus Christ as their personal Savior because time is growing short. I told him that God was likewise moving many people and that I shared his feelings completely, and that I would write an article about him because surely some churches in the Greenville area would be glad to have him preach.
The reader may wonder, "What sets Sam Sarvis apart from anyone else?" He is a true Southern gentleman, a very humble man and so I must be his press agent. He is unquestionably the most unique individual you will ever meet. His cultural background is similar to my grandparents, in that they were all born and reared in a bygone era of a simpler, more pure Christian America, which is immediately evident in their manners and demeanor. He is a person whose educational background, experience and intelligence command respect, and I know of no one, either personally or in the media, who has his knowledge of geopolitical, military and Christian affairs. The value of a person's words and opinions must be based upon their life experiences, and consequently his opinions should be heard. He has a B.A from Furman University, a Ph.D. and a Th.D. from Southeastern Seminary. (Yet he is so humble he would rather be called Mr., not Dr.) He has over 34,600 flight hours and the oldest pilot's license in S.C., and had originally planned to be a missionary pilot, but instead became a crop duster and pastor. He was a military pilot and POW in WWII and has flown across the world. He and his son are certified aircraft mechanics and repair airplanes, a profession with no room for error. The details of his adventures would fill several books, and are so incredible that some readers would consider them fictional. (I often imagine that when we get to heaven, we'll have to spend a thousand years or so just listening to everyone's stories of God's miracles in our lives.)
One does not survive to attain his level of pilot experience without the protective hand of God, as the Lord has spared his life on innumerable occasions. He has gone down in a plane 27 times and never been hurt, prompting a U.S. Senator to tell him that he had two guardian angels working overtime. It is obvious that God has a special purpose for Mr. Sarvis, and that Satan does not want the world to hear his message. I have long believed that there will be a revival across S.C. and the U.S., and I believe God will use people like Mr. Sarvis to accomplish this. He is a walking miracle, and even at his age (let's just say he was born in the '20s) he has the body of a twenty-year old. The doctor said that he has so much DDT in his body, that if a mosquito bites him it will die. He can read the fine print on an eye chart, and work as hard as anyone a fourth his age. His mother, who tragically died when he was a child, quickly taught him to read. He has only needed three hours of sleep a night since early childhood, so his parents told him to just sit by the fire and read quietly while everyone else slept, thus he is probably the most well-read person imaginable.
Most importantly, he has an incredible level of faith that testifies to his life's most extreme trials and tribulations, as God purifies us through fire. This is proven by his absolutely unmatched positive attitude. He knows that God is in control and will always make everything work out fine. Like Job, I have personally seen his faith allow him to endure circumstances which would have killed most men through stress. This did temporarily affect his health, which the Lord has restored, and a few years ago he had to undergo emergency quadruple bypass surgery. Less than 48 hours later, the surgeon made rounds and found Mr. Sarvis sitting up in bed, waiting on him. He asked in utter amazement, "What are you doing up? You shouldn't be able to do that." He pulled back the hospital gown and saw, miraculously, that the incision had already healed. The doctor said that he did not look forward to making rounds to see depressed patients who are hard to cheer up, but he always looked forward to seeing Mr. Sarvis, who in contrast always cheered him up. He did not even miss a single Sunday preaching, and was soon walking his usual four miles a day. His very existence is a testimony to the faithfulness and power of God, and though we live in perilous times, rest assured your spirit will be uplifted by his positive Christian message.
Regarding his background and evangelistic mission, Mr. Sarvis said "When I was born my mother started taking me to church when I was probably maybe less than a month old. And always had me in church. And I always enjoyed the singing as long ago as I can remember. I remember my card class teacher and how she would show us cards and explain the Gospel to us, and two cards I was always impressed with: One had a door, and Christ was knocking on the door. And she said, 'That's when He knocks on our heart. The door handle is on the inside, not on the outside. We have to open our heart from the inside for Christ to come in.'
"And the other has two little children playing by an old broken-down bridge, and there was an angel there guarding them to keep them from hurting themselves. And I'm fully convinced that I've always had and still have a guardian angel.
"And then my mother would not only take me to church but everyday she would read to me. She had a big old rocking chair and I'd stand beside it with my arms on the rocker, and she'd read out of a big old Bible, and then she would explain to me so that I could understand what she had read. And by the time I was three years old she had taught me how to read and write.
"And then I was so excited about going to school...And then when I saw airplanes I was always fascinated with them, and when I was six years old, one came over our house, and my cousin said to me, 'That's probably Lindbergh!' And I said, 'Yes, that's what I want to do. I want to fly airplanes.'
"And then, I had a birthday and I was seven years old and we came out of worship one morning, and I told my mother, 'I'm going to be an evangelist. I'm going to be a preacher.' And she was excited about this, and then tears came into her eyes, and I thought, "Gee whiz, if I'd known it would make my mother cry, I wouldn't have told her.' But then as I got older I realized those were tears of joy and her prayers were answered.
"Then I started preaching to my little classmates, even as seven years old, I would build us little pews and have us a little church and I had a pulpit and I would preach to them. But then, like I said, when I was in high school, I realized I had to get on the program. So I left the high school and went to a school that had the theological program and got involved in that. And then, as a young fellow, I received my pilot's license, and as a teenager, I was licensed in the ministry. And then through my educational program and my military experience, after I left school I started pastoring churches. I pastored churches for a number of years, and then I went back to school again to work on other degrees. When I came back that time, I wound up in a hospital as a mental health counselor and a chaplain, and I served there for a long time. And then I eventually came to my home town of Loris, to our local hospital and extended care center, of which I have recently resigned after all these years. But I have enjoyed the ministry and have a lot of wonderful experiences.
"But now I feel that God has a dynamic message for the world of people and I'm privileged to be one of the messengers to deliver that dynamic message. I'm going to do it very zealously, under the leadership of the Holy Spirit. I'm going to do my very best, as the great apostle Paul said in concluding his ministry, 'I've fought a good fight, I've finished my job, I've kept the faith. Now I'm going to be receiving that crown of righteousness, which the righteous Judge will give, but not to me only, but to anyone who will follow Christ.'
"[My mother] would read all through the Bible to me, but one of the books that I was deeply impressed with was the prophecy in the book of Daniel. And then she carefully explained to me that the book of Daniel in the Old Testament and the book of Revelation in the New Testament followed the same pattern...
"And the book of Daniel and the book of Revelation tell the same story. It talks about troubles in the world, when nation would rise up against nation, and kingdoms against kingdoms. There would be troubles, and wars, and talking about wars. There would be famines. There would be earthquakes in different places. And then as she carefully explained to me that this is the beginning of sorrow, when people will be against people, households against households, neighbors against neighbors, children against parents. And there will be trouble in the land, that the land had never experienced before.
"I believe that prophecy has told us that we are coming to one of the saddest times in the history of civilization. And God has a solution. He simply told us very carefully, 'If my people, that are called by My name will humble themselves and pray and seek my face, that I will hear from heaven, I will forgive their sins, and heal their land.' If we will repent of our sins and turn to God He will heal our world, our civilization. But unless we do, unless we turn to God, and love God and love our fellow man as we do ourselves, we are facing eternal doom. I believe that with all my heart."
God sends us signs that He is actively involved in earthly affairs. An incredible fact is that the Lord just led Erika Powell of Easley to travel across the state for a year as Miss S.C. and warn students of how an unwanted pregnancy will ruin their lives, and that they will suffer the long-term negative consequences of their mistake. And now that she is through, the Lord is leading Mr. Sarvis to warn people across the state using that same message by citing the worst example of an unwanted pregnancy in human history. Furthermore, they both are Furman attendees and will be fellow alumni.
Mr. Sarvis warns people of the long-term consequences of every sin. Although all the world's problems stem from the original sin of Adam and Eve, he cites the particularly notable example of the sin of Sara and Abraham and the unwanted pregnancy which gave us Ishmael, the father of the Arabs which are now terrorizing the world, and especially Israel.
He continues, "When we look at this fulfillment of prophecy, and if we'll go back and study civilization very carefully, we can see that how family feuds started off...[M]any, many years ago, there were various religious orders. But God looked down and realized, 'Here are these people and they're so religious, but they're not godly. They don't know anything about the true God. And He selected a young man who was trying to find out something about the true God. And his name was Abram, and later became Abraham...
"And He made a bargain with Abraham: 'Abraham, if you'll follow Me, and tell the world about Me, that I am the God of Creation, the One God, I will bless you, and make of your descendents a great nation. And from that great nation I will bring One that will bless the world...'
"And so Abraham, under that promise, headed out with his wife, Sara, but they didn't have any children. And then sometimes we like to jump ahead of God, and Sara thought that she would take over since God wasn't moving fast enough. But she called in her handmaid...to have that housekeeper become a surrogate mother for her son, that would be fathered by Abraham. The young lady's name was Hagar and the young boy was named Ishmael. And then later on, Abraham and Sara had a son of their own, Isaac. And then Isaac had two sons, Esau and Jacob...
"Sara made this decision to sell out that housekeeper, that young servant girl to her husband in an illicit affair. Call it anything you want, 'Oh, but back then, a fellow could have many wives.' No, sin is sin, and righteousness is righteousness, whatever age we live in. And because of that sin, because of that unwanted pregnancy, we're still having a fallout from it today. And we will continue to have that fallout...
"And someone said, 'Oh, but I do what I please, and I don't hurt nobody, and what I do is my business.' But I still maintain, under the old prophecy again, we are responsible to God, and we are responsible to God for what we do, and we are responsible to and for each other. For the prophets in ancient Israel declared that if one sinned, it affected all of the tribe. And I still maintain that we as individuals have an individual's responsibility to God. We have individual responsibilities to our culture, to our fellow man...
"But Ishmael had sons, too. And even if we look at the Middle East now, each of these descendents of these children will say, 'Well, I'm the descendent of Ishmael, I'm the firstborn of Abraham, I'm entitled to the inheritance.' Esau would say, "I was the firstborn of the twins and I'm entitled and my descendents are entitled.' And then Jacob's children, and his name was changed from Jacob to Israel, and his descendents would be called Israelites. And they say, 'We are entitled to the inheritance.'...So when we start looking at the family tree, it can get awful limby sometimes.
"But if you look very carefully at that strange area of families, you can understand what each one's saying: 'I'm rightly vying for the inheritance.' But we must go back and realize that when Jacob had his name changed when the angel wrestled with him, from deceiving Jacob to Israel. And there was a promise, a bond made, renewing that bond that had been made with Abraham, in Ur of Chaldea, the same contract, the same bargain was renewed in Jacob. And he became Israel. And from that point forward, naturally his children would not be the children of Jacob, they'd be the children of Israel. And that's where we get the great nation of Israel...
"And then He goes down as the years went by, and He gave Moses on Mount Sinai after they left Egypt, Ten Commandments, and many other rules and regulations that many of us overlook, but in particular the Ten Commandments were rules for us to live by. The beginning of those, He said 'You'll have no other gods before me and I'm a jealous god, and don't play around with other gods. I'll be upset.' And then He comes down to the latter part of those Ten Commandments and He talked about love. The first part deals with humankind, mankind, in relation to God. And the last part deals with man to man, or humankind to humankind. And then He talks about love. We are to love the Lord thy God with all our heart with mind, soul and body. And then love our neighbor, our fellow man, as ourself. And it creates a triangle. And then we were challenged, 'How can we love God when we've never seen him, and just like our neighbor we see all the time?' And unless we return to this love of God, as the only God, the great I AM, and then with that same love, love our fellow man, to create this triangle back to God, we're in trouble. Because animosity, or hate, creates hate. And my father used to say to me, 'When you see hate, sidestep it. He said, If someone quarrels at you, just listen, and then be submissive and walk away. If you should ever make the mistake of answering that quarrel, it becomes an argument. An argument escalates into violence, and violence escalates into tragedy and into death.'
"And we look now, and going back to the prophets, they said there will be wars and rumors of wars, all these nations against nations, and then we'll call 'Peace, oh peace, peace is at hand.' But the prophets simply said when we declare that there's peace in the land and peace at hand, sudden destruction awaits us. We will never solve our problem of sin with diplomats. We'll only solve that problem with repentance and devotion to God. It's as simple as that.
"And that promise that He made to Abraham in Ur of Chaldea, 'I'll make of you a great nation,' and He did this. We don't have to look at the recorded Scripture to see this. We can look at political history. And political history proves that that promise was fulfilled and they became a great nation from the descendents of Abraham. And from that great nation, came a physical body, that God's only begotten Son left heaven, and came to live in earthly form to live with us. And He said He left heaven and came to earth to live in the flesh, and condemn sin in the flesh, that we in the flesh would not have to pay the price of our sins in the flesh, but through Him becoming a sacrificial lamb on Calvary's cross and dying for us, He bought us back from sin. The physical birth is one thing, the spiritual birth is another. We all understand how the union between female and the male, there comes forth physical birth. But He said the spiritual birth comes only from God's grace, through our faith, that believing that Christ came from heaven to live in earthly form, to become that eternal sacrificial lamb for us, by His shed blood to buy us back or redeem us, simply means to buy back. And that is fulfillment of that promise that God made to Abraham: 'From your family tree, from your descendents, I'll bring this blessing. And that the world will have an opportunity to know me, and that I am the God of Creation, the God of Love, the God of Provision, the God of Forgiveness; but at the same time, the God of Judgment.'...
"And then we, with the ability to reason, the ability of choice, choose where that soul will spent eternity. God said in His Word, it's not His will that any of us should spiritually perish, but all come to the saving knowledge of the truth. And so, after God had breathed the breath of life into each of us, then one day this body must go back to the mother's earth, and after that physical death is coming to all of us, we will stand before the judgment bar of God and give an account of the deeds done in our body whether good or bad. So then with our ability of choice, Christ's shed blood is available. His power to save is available. It is a gift from God and we accept it by faith. But if we reject it, then we send ourselves to Hell. We come to that trail we call, there's two ways, one is narrow and leads up to eternal life. Few are going to find that trail. But there is another way that's wide, the gate's broad, the way's wide, many are going to go that way. And so many times, we encounter folks that are so self-righteous that they forget to ever be godly. Self-righteousness won't take us to that celestial city.
"I was invited to preach at this large congregation one time, and the person in charge of the meeting, it came time for me, and he introduced me, and he said 'This fellow here decided to go into the ministry when he was seven years old, and decided to be an airplane pilot when he was six, and learned to fly as a young man as a pilot and then eventually went into agricultural aviation and sprayed crops.'
"And so I figured I would use that in my message, and I preached about sin. Someone said, 'Well, how did you handle it?' I said naturally God's against it and I was against it.
"I said, 'Yes, that's a fact, I am a chaplain, I'm a mental health counselor, and I'm a pilot, and in one of those facets, I'm an ag pilot. But I'll tell you folks how to put me out of business on both counts. Because of sin, God said He would send pestilence, thorns to grow and make it hard for old Adam to make a living. Bugs to eat the crop.' And I said, 'I'm out there trying to spray with the airplane and get the bugs off the crop. And then on the weekends, or early in the morning, I go to visit the sick folks and pray with them and counsel.' And I said, 'You can repent of your sins and you won't need me to preach to you anymore because you are already converted to Christ. So you can put me out of business as a minister, as a chaplain. And then, when you repent of your sin God's gonna heal the land, and there will be no more need for pestilence, and if there's no pests, I don't need to fly an airplane putting out pesticides to kill the pests, and you've put me out of business as an ag pilot. So if you folks don't want me in the ministry and don't want me flying over your house making the noise with my airplane, you can put me out of business. Simply repent and turn to God."
We talked about how people sometimes get caught up in different eschatological views instead of tending to God's daily business. We both have an analogy which we discovered independently, and Mr. Sarvis explained it: "I gave a lecture at a university one time...[O]ne of the professors walked up and said, 'You know, it took me about three days to really understand what you had said.' I said when God created Adam and breathed the breath of life into Adam and he became a living soul, he came into physical existence, and he entered on the turnpike of time, or in time toward eternity...[O]ne day Adam died, and he exited that turnpike of time. And that turnpike of time is still running from the beginning of time to the end of time. We don't know how long that turnpike of time is. And folks are born and they enter the turnpike of time. And they travel down it for awhile and they exit by that exit of death. And for the last fifteen years I've worked on my family tree very diligently...
"I can go back to the entombments, and here's an ancestor and here's an ancestor, but they all lived here on earth...Born and died. I don't know how long the turnpike of time had been when they were born on it, I can calculate how many years they traveled down it, and then they exited it. And then one day I was born on this turnpike of time, and one day I know that I will exit, and I'll pass through that gate that we call death, from earthly existence to eternal existence, to go into another level of being with Christ.
"So my philosophy is we never know when we came on it, how far down that road that we entered that turnpike. But...we realize that one day we will leave it. And so this professor heard me and he said so what I was saying is that in my own lifetime God's going to call the earth out of existence. And then it suddenly dawned on him what I'd said. If God should allow time on earth to remain for billions and billions of years, or if he should call it out of existence today, the most important thing is, that when will He call for me? When will I exit that turnpike of time?"
We also agreed that, as we travel down that highway, we are also judged on how we behave. Did we speed, fail to signal, and jeopardize the safety of our fellow travelers, or did we obey the law and respect others? And what did we do with our time? God gives people different amounts of money, talent, etc., but everyone gets the same 24 hours in a day. So did we spend it with Christ in mind or in pursuit of selfish pleasures? And were we too concerned with when and how the highway would end, or rather with what we accomplished for God before we reached our exit?
Mr. Sarvis continued, "And in my ministry, I said this just recently, I've preached a lot of funerals in my life. I've preached funerals of children that were stillborn. I've preached a lot of funerals for just young, young people, teenagers that have gotten killed in accidents and all kind of things. I recently preached the funeral of a charming, charming lady, her mind as sharp as a tack and full of humor, just a great and beautiful lady. She was 108 years and four months old. But she would always talk about it and she said, 'I'm ready to go meet my Master...' But see no matter whether we're stillborn, or whether we live to be way over 100, we're going to go one day, and the important thing is to be ready when that time comes.
"I remember one time I was on a lecture ring, I was making a change in airlines, in this large city, a big hub. And as we were preparing to line up and go aboard, there was a beautiful lady came rushing in there and to get in line. And, as the ticket agent asked for her ticket, she was confident it was in her handbag. And she looked in her handbag and it wasn't there. She couldn't find it. She said, 'I know I had it, because I bought it. I know I had it.' But she couldn't find it. And she turned over from out of the line on the floor and poured everything in that handbag out on the floor and was going through every little thing. Every little thing very carefully. And it wasn't there. And it was so sad, I just waited patiently, to look at that girl and my heart was broke. All the line went in and I went on in to get my seat. She was still on her knees in the floor shuffling through the items in her handbag. But the ticket wasn't there. She probably lost it, it was home somewhere else, she just thought she had it. And this impressed upon my mind, that there's those in our culture, that are so religious, self-righteous, that they have never come to the saving knowledge of the Truth. They just think they've got their ticket...
"And so, I saw them close the door, I stepped on in and they closed the door, and I realized that young lady thought she had a ticket, she thought she was ready, but when I glanced back through that door as they were closing it, she was still on her knees on the floor, shuffling through her items. She just thought she had a ticket. She might have said, oftentimes folks say, "Oh, I know I'm saved, I go to church, I pay for the church, my mother sang in the choir, my grandmother was the pianist or organist and I had an uncle that was in the ministry.' No, no, no. Salvation is a personal thing. Many friends and family can help me do many things I need to do. But there's some things I have to do for myself. Nobody can eat for me but me. I have to eat my own food. No one can sleep for me except me. And no one can make that spiritual decision and let God into my heart except me. And that's where we come back to this individual responsibility again. Each person is responsible to himself or herself, they're responsible to God, for their salvation. And don't wonder, don't play around. See now that girl, before she ever left home, she ought to have made sure she had that ticket. And before Christ calls you home, before death captures you, make sure you've got your ticket."
Friend, do you have your ticket? Have you asked Christ into your heart? How about your family and friends? If not, please don't wait any longer. And even if you have, you will still love to hear the Gospel preached by evangelist Sam Sarvis, a modern-day combination of Caleb and Paul. His uplifting message will inspire you in these days of global instability. The Lord has called him to travel anywhere to speak, and he would especially like to return to Greenville and visit a series of churches. If you want him to come to your church, please contact him through one of the following: phone at (843) 756-4948, email at firstname.lastname@example.org, or write him at: Sam Sarvis, Sr., P.O. Box 336, Loris, S.C. 29569. You'll be glad you did.