No One Can Measure Their Days

Witnessing a near-death experience reminded one missionary to make every moment count.

From Message magazine issue "Building a Legacy"

“Jakub! Jakub! Jakub!”

As ABWE missionary Steve Wendel and his wife, Cari, settled in with their six children for the long flight home after an exhausting (but blessed) time with family over the holidays, the cries of the woman several rows back startled them.

“First it was alarmed, but it escalated into hysteria. Each shout was more desperate,” Steve remembered.

Steve quickly recognized them as the young, hipster-looking couple who had boarded ahead of them just moments ago. Now, Jakub sat lifeless in his seat, his body upright but limp, jaw hanging unhinged, eyes open yet vacant. His partner was shaking him, slapping his cheek, willing him to come back to her.

“As the passengers around him looked on with shocked stares, I began to pray.”

Slowly, some life returned to Jakub’s eyes and he regained a very disoriented, sub-par consciousness. The medics arrived to cart him off the plane, his partner following closely behind.

“It still affects me,” Steve said, “remembering those confused moments, wondering if I was watching a young and strong man mysteriously die before my eyes, aware of everyone’s powerlessness.”

“How is it that I should be so mindful of this physical confrontation with death, when spiritual death abounds around me daily?” he continued. “May we never be as those confused bystanders, failing to interpret what we see around us. May we [instead] be a clear light to those who are perishing in darkness. May we each be reminded that this is our purpose daily as followers of Jesus Christ, for our days are short.”

Steve & Cari Wendel

Steve Wendel and his wife, Cari, served as church planters with ABWE in Czech Republic from 2006 to 2022. Most recently, they've relocated to the US to serve in ABWE's training department. Learn more about the Wendels at