The Scotsman In 17E


“Hi, my name is Kurt.”


“Nice to meet you, I’m Alistair.”


“Where are you from, Alistair?”


“I was born in Scotland, lived most of my life in Jo’Berg, South Africa, but for the past twenty years I’ve been back in Edinburgh, Scotland.”


“Where are you from and where are you headed? On my way to Botswana from Spokane, Washington.”


We exchanged a few more words, and then I settled in for the 10+ hour KLM flight from Amsterdam to Johannesburg. I was tired and just a bit grumpy, having just gotten off another ten-hour flight from Seattle to Amsterdam. Thankfully, I had an aisle seat, but my 6’5” Scottish seatmate was in the dreaded middle (17E).



Originally, I’d been booked on a more direct flight on Delta through Atlanta, but Hurricane Irma changed all that. Such is the life of travel to the other side of the globe during hurricane season.


I was attempting to sleep, without much success, when the flight attendant offered me a meal (something very Danish looking and not very appealing). I looked over at Alistair, and he seemed distressed. My first thought was, he must not like the food either.


Then the tall, robust Dutch woman leaned over me, looked at Alistair, and said, “Sir, are you okay?”


I took a closer look and realized he was pale, sweating, and incoherent.


The attendant asked his wife sitting next to Alistair, “Are you together? Is this your husband? Is he ill?” She said, “He has a heart condition and he just took a nitro-glycerin pill.”


At that statement, the flight attendant signaled for a co-worker to join her. I was asked to move, and within seconds Alistair was on the floor in the aisle. An announcement was made, “Is there a doctor or nurse on the plane? If so, please come immediately to row 17.”


It just so happens, there was a heart doctor sitting three rows in front of us. She and two nurses were on Alistair like a rat on a Cheeto!


As you can imagine, everything seemed a bit surreal. People were shocked. Others were pulling out their smart phones to capture video (which I found inappropriate).


I decided to go to the lavatory—not to use the facilities, but to pray. And for about ten minutes, that bathroom at 33,000 feet became my prayer closet.


I prayed, “Oh God, please don’t let Alistair die! Please touch his heart and body right now. Please, Jesus, please spare his life, and after You do, I will do what I can to tell him about You!”


I cried.


I pounded the bathroom sink.


I begged God to intervene.


It’s difficult to describe what happened next, but I felt a deep peace come over me. The Holy Spirit, the Comforter, showed up in that disgusting bathroom, and I could literally feel the presence of God.


Then the Lord whispered to my heart, “This is why you are on this plane. This is why I rerouted you from Atlanta through Amsterdam. This is by My design, and all will be well.”


When I emerged, a large South African man was waiting for the restroom, and he seemed put off. I suspect he’d heard me praying and crying. I didn’t care. (And I wonder what he felt when he stepped into my “prayer closet.”)


When I looked down the aisle, I could see they were still working on Alistair. He was on oxygen and the medical personnel were still monitoring his vitals. But within a few minutes he was standing and looking normal. However, the attendants moved him and his wife forward so they could continue to keep a close eye on him.


For the next four or five hours I sat alone, wondering, hoping, praying that I would have an opportunity to talk with Alistair before we landed. (I was also enjoying the extra room, which helped me to sleep.)


The next thing I knew, and about an hour before we were to land, Alistair was tapping my snoring self on the shoulder asking to get back to 17E.


Of course, I told him I was so sorry for what he’d experienced. He said, “I don’t remember much. However, all is well.” (The exact words the Lord had spoken to me in the restroom.)


In fact, Alistair was quite talkative, and we began to chat about grandkids and how he hopes to live long enough to enjoy them even more.


I told him how I’d faced the reality of my mortality when I was diagnosed with cancer seven years ago. He said, “Did that terrify you?”


“No, I’m ready to meet my Maker. But it did help me to very clearly see that only two things really mattered to me—my faith in God, which has secured my eternal destination, and my family.”



He looked over at me, tilted his head sideways, and said, “Do you truly believe in life after death? In eternity?”




That opened the door and for the next 30-40 minutes we talked about eternity, faith, and God.


His wife, and just about everybody in front and behind us listened. She seemed frustrated with me. It didn’t matter. Nothing mattered but my telling a 59-year-old man with a heart condition that he is loved, God is real, and our eternal destination matters above all.


I wish I could tell you that Alistair had an “aha” moment on the plane and accepted Jesus as his Savior. He didn’t. (Not yet.)


But what I can tell you is that as we were departing, he genuinely thanked me for our conversation and concern as he shook my hand and said, “I’m glad we met.”


“Me too,” I said, “Me too.”


Sometimes life throws us a curve. We’re scheduled to be on one flight and end up on another. Sometimes the unexpected happens. And honestly, sometimes I get rather frustrated when things don’t go my way.



But maybe, just maybe,
God truly is sovereign …

Maybe, just maybe, He has a plan that is bigger and better than mine.


There have been plenty of times in my life when things went sideways and I never understood why. From now on, I want to do better at trusting Him even when I don’t get it.


However, this trip, this time, God made it clear that He is always working through all things for the good of those who love Him, and even for the good of those who need to love Him. (Romans 8:28)


Even when we don’t see it and don’t understand, God still has a plan, but when we do, it’s pretty stinkin’ cool!


Pray for Alistair. Pray with me that God continues to place Christ-followers in his path who will remind him, “God loves you and He wants to spend eternity with you, Alistair.”


By the way, I gotta ask, are you ready for eternity?




Trust in God’s plan and sovereignty with every ounce of your being!

Stop trying to figure everything out and just rest in Him

as you acknowledge that He in control. He is Lord, and you are not,

and He’ll get you just where you need to be precisely

when you need to be there!

Proverbs 3:5-6

(Bubna Paraphrase)





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About the author : Kurt Bubna

Kurt Bubna

Kurt W. Bubna is a blogger, author, speaker, regular radio and television personality, and the Sr. Pastor of Eastpoint Church, a large non-denominational congregation in Spokane Valley, Washington. Bubna published his first book, Epic Grace: Chronicles of a Recovering Idiot, with Tyndale in 2013. He has also published Mr. & Mrs.: How to Thrive in Perfectly Imperfect Marriage, The Rookie’s Guide to Getting Published, a children’s book and a devotional. He and his wife, Laura, have been married for over forty years and have four grown children and seven grandchildren.

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