The Handbook

by Samuel Riemersma  |  June 17, 2011

One of the great things about working in ministry is the privilege of meeting so many people from different backgrounds, cultures, and walks of life. Over time, weekly Bible studies grow into close friendships which is probably the most rewarding aspect of working as a Bible instructor.

Another bonus is that friends like to share the things that are important to them so, besides the weekly studies, we are often invited to join in recreational events like fishing, mountain biking, sailing, etc. Whenever we have a chance, we join our friends in activities like these that are, without exception, enjoyable and rich experiences.

A few weeks ago, after our weekly Bible study, Godofredo told us that he is an aviation mechanic working at the Christchurch Engine Center. He is responsible for the maintenance, repair, and overhaul of jet engines for commercial jets. After we expressed an interest in what he was doing, we were invited to visit him at his work for a personal tour of the factory.

This was an invitation we could not turn down. How often do you get a chance to look into the heart of those jet engines that keep you in the air hour after hour?

Even a small foreign object, like a random screw, lying inside a jet engine has catastrophic results.

Coming from an engineering background, I had to admit that this was the cleanest and most structured production floor I had ever seen. Everything was in its designated place, indicated by lines on the floor and shadow boards for the tools on the work benches. Everyone seemed to know exactly what they were doing and no one was slacking. As we were guided through the factory, our friend, Godofredo, gave us detailed information about the process and the engines. Most of the information was too complicated for us, but we nodded our heads in agreement, gazing at the most advanced and complicated piece of engineering any of us had ever seen.

In answer to our questions as to why everything was so organized, Godofredo answered that this is a measure to prevent “foreign object damage.” Even a small foreign object, like a random screw, lying inside a jet engine has catastrophic results. No one is allowed to go home after their shift if a tool or piece of equipment is missing from their work place.

There was one detail that our personal guide told us that caught my attention. He revealed to us the key that kept everything so organized and on this entire work floor – the handbook.

The handbook, composed by the manufacturer of the jet engine, contains every detailed operation at every individual step to take the engine apart, to check it, and to rebuild it. It describes the tools to use, the part specification, the allowance in wear and tear, every individual screw and bolt, the torque required to secure it and so on. A signature with the time and date is to be placed in the handbook after completing each single operation.

As a result of this rigorous compliance to the handbook, an aluminum tube containing more than 300 people can fly safely around the world in less than 24 hours. Compare that with the perilous journeys of the explorers in the 1600’s, when it took more than a year to travel around the world!

You see, a surgeon has great responsibilities because he has a life in his hands; we have not one life, but hundreds of lives in our hands, therefore, we cannot afford to trust our own judgement.

Even though most mechanics working in that plant have rebuilt hundreds of engines and are familiar with the steps to take, they are not allowed to perform certain steps from memory. They are not to trust their own judgement, even if they have repeated particular routines a dozen times, but are to turn to the handbook for every single step.

Godofredo explained the importance, “You see, a surgeon has great responsibilities because he has a life in his hands; we have not one life, but hundreds of lives in our hands, therefore, we cannot afford to trust our own judgement.”

As we were driving away from the factory, I was silent. I was convicted. The Holy Spirit was speaking almost audibly to my heart. How often do I trust in my own judgement instead of turning to our Handbook, the Bible? How do I use my time and how rigorous am I in my personal Bible study? How can the message of the gospel go to all the world without my wholehearted commitment to the Word? How many lives do I have in my hands as I am meeting people every day? I had just experienced a most convicting sermon, and it was preached to me by aviation mechanics in a factory!

Luke 16:8 “And the lord commended the unjust steward, because he had done wisely: for the children of this world are in their generation wiser than the children of light.”

Samuel Riemersma Bible Worker
Ilam SDA Church
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