Michael Cabell’s flight “inconvenience” during his trip to Anaheim, Calif., led to a gospel conversation with a couple going through the worst day of their lives.
Two months ago, Cabell booked a flight to Anaheim to be part of the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC). Last week, his flight was canceled. His ticket was refunded, and he booked a flight on a different airline. He admitted being in a little bit of a huff over the change of flights and then he was told to move seats, which he begrudgingly did.
Cabell, the assistant to the executive director-treasurer for the Kentucky Baptist Convention (KBC), found himself in a row with no one seated next to him. A nap would be his reward for his trouble.
At the last minute, though, a couple came to his row and sat down beside him. He said they seemed “exasperated” as they put up their items and sat beside him. They explained their flight from Massachusetts had been delayed two hours and they had to run through the airport to catch this one to California. His wife had had cancer surgery a few months ago and was understandably exhausted.
It wouldn’t be long until Cabell, who was the pastor of Versailles Baptist Church from 2013 until accepting the position with the KBC at the first of the year, understood there was a reason why his flight was canceled, and why he was sitting beside these two people. God had put him there.
“It was one of the providential things the Lord was working in,” he said. “To be quite honest, I was frustrated the airline canceled my flight. Now you see what the Lord was doing.”
Tears were streaming down the couple’s faces as he began to counsel Bartolo and Ana, who were headed home to California from Massachusetts where they had lived for two years. They told him that their 27-year-old daughter and son-in-law were hit by a car that morning while checking the mailbox in their own front yard. Their daughter was instantly killed and their son-in-law was in a coma. He had tried to pull his wife away from the speeding car, which she never saw. The older couple’s 4-year-old granddaughter was in the house asleep, later to be picked up by an aunt.
Cabell listened to them intently, and through the four-hour flight they talked about their daughter, their grief and the Lord. The father spoke English but the mother spoke only Spanish. Cabell said his Spanish is poor, but it was good enough to keep communications going among the three of them.
“They just got the worst news of their lives,” he said. “My sense was they were not believers. My leading question was ‘Do you have any religious beliefs?’ They didn’t know how to answer that. They had attended a Catholic church at one point but it didn’t seem like a big part of their lives. It was a time of heartbreak and need. They were open to hearing the gospel.”
He told them he was a Baptist minister, and they said they had attended a Baptist church two weeks ago for the first time. They had planned on returning to attend church the morning of their daughter’s accident.
“They were weeping over this tragic loss,” Cabell said. “In a pastoral way, I was trying to help comfort them and was open to sharing the gospel. They didn’t pray to receive Christ as Savior, but they were interested.”
They asked him for his phone number and he gave them his KBC business card with his numbers on it. They also asked if he would take their phone numbers, which he did.
Cabell immediately prayed for them and asks others to do the same as the couple goes through this tragic situation.
Meanwhile, Cabell said the frustration over the flight cancellation was far from his mind. He had been used by the Lord and was thankful to be put in that position, no matter how much it might have changed his personal schedule.
“It shows the Lord’s tenderness to them that He would put a pastor beside them on the most difficult day of their lives.”
He asked prayer for the family and for him as he looks to speak to them again over the phone.
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Mark Maynard writes for Kentucky Today, www.kentuckytoday.com, where this article first appeared. Kentucky Today is a news resource of the Kentucky Baptist Convention.)