A Plan From An Unlikely Man

The Latest Word from John Ed Mathison

We just celebrated on July 20 its 45th anniversary!  Of all the events in American history, the event most Americans wish they could have seen (as reported by “USA Today”) was the lunar landing 45 years ago by Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin.  I just learned an interesting aspect of that event.

President John F. Kennedy “unexpectedly” announced in 1961 that the US would put a man on the moon by the end of the decade.  That announcement was a shocker to his friends, but was indicative of the vision of what could happen.  Vision is what people are able to see that other people can’t see.

Scientists went to work on a plan to accomplish this.  Remember – a dream without a plan can become a nightmare!  Wernher von Braun proposed a 100-foot-tall rocket that could land on the lunar surface on its tail.  Other scientists suggested a spacecraft that would orbit the earth and then send some space vehicle to travel to the moon.

An interesting thing occurred.  An obscure NASA engineer named John Houbolt did something very unusual.  He skipped official channels (which some have suggested was a bold act of insubordination) and sent another option to Robert Seamans, Jr., the associate administrator for NASA.

Houbolt had to convince Seamans that he was “not dealing with a crank.”  He said that he felt confident that his idea would work.  He called for a lighter, less expensive lunar orbit rendezvous while a spacecraft would go most of the distance to the moon, then a smaller lunar module would detach and descend to the moon’s surface.  It would be occupied by a two-man crew.  After the two men finished their exploration, the module would carry them back to the orbiting spacecraft and then back to Earth.

In 1962, NASA selected Houbolt’s plan.  I remember that July 20, 1969, Sunday night when most everybody called off evening worship or got out early in order to see the lunar landing.  Houbolt was in the NASA Mission Control Center when Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin landed on the moon.  Houbolt’s idea worked!!

Houbolt said, “One of the crowning moments of that event was when Von Braun sat in front of me, and did the okay sign and said, ‘Thank you, John.’”  Houbolt thought that kind of recognition from Wernher von Braun was one of the biggest rewards he had ever received!

A lunar landing was considered impossible – but God redefined what was possible.  (Read more examples in my book “When God Redefines the Possible.”)  The plans for the vision were not drawn up by the expected experts; they came from a very unsuspecting young engineer.

What if John Houbolt had just said that he was too young and experienced and had not projected his idea?  What if he had not been bold enough to “circumvent the system” to get his idea before the proper people?  I wonder how many people told him that he was crazy when he first projected the idea.

Read about Andrew in John 1:35-42.  He was a nobody, but he boldly went to his brother Peter and told him about Jesus, and Peter became the great leader.  About the only spotlight that fell on Andrew was the reflected light from Peter’s accomplishments.

God uses insignificant people to do significant things.  Big doors swing on small hinges.  Impossible things become possible when the most unsuspecting person is willing to step out and project an idea.

Nobody is exempt from the possibility that anybody can become somebody!

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