The Man Who Changed the World
By David Yeagley, Washington Conference young adult ministries director
Early in the morning of September 26, 1983, Stanislav Petrov sat in front of the computer monitors in a secret bunker outside Moscow.
As a Lieutenant Colonel in the Soviet Air Defense Force, it was his job to monitor a satellite early warning system designed to detect incoming ballistic missiles from the United States.
Suddenly the long, uneventful night was shattered by the sound of alarms. A single word began to flash on his backlit screen, “Launch.” Before he had time to react more lights began to flash declaring the grim truth. There were five US nuclear missiles hurtling toward the Soviet Union. He had less than 20 minutes to act before the unthinkable happened.
In the face of a broken world hurtling toward destruction we often wonder if one person can make a difference. Stanislav Petrov would tell you that it only takes one man or one woman to change the world.
Stanislav knew what he had to do. When a missile launch was detected and confirmed, he was to pick up the phone and call his superiors. That call would set off a chain of events that would almost certainly end in all-out nuclear war. Stanislav reached for the phone, then stopped.
Something didn’t seem right. If the United States was launching an attack, why would they send only five missiles? And why would they come from only one place? What else could the satellite detect that might be confused as a launch? With everyone in that bunker waiting for him to act, Stanislav told the men under his command to ignore the warnings and go back to work. It was the right call. There were no incoming missiles, just sunlight reflecting off high altitude clouds. Years later when the story finally emerged, Stanislav became known as the “the man who saved the world.”
Can one person really change the world? Romans 5:17-18 declares that just as death came through one man, so righteousness came through the one man: Jesus Christ. The problem is we’re not Adam and we’re certainly not Jesus. So the question remains: Can one person make a difference in this hurting, broken world?
Jesus’ answer to that question is surprising. In John 14:12, He declares that, “whoever believes in Me will do the works I have been doing, and they will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father.”
In the outpouring of the Spirit that came at Pentecost we as Christ’s followers were empowered for a ministry far greater than we could ever imagine. As our lives are filled with the presence of Christ, we bring life wherever we go. One small act or one kind word prompted by the Spirit has the power to change the world.
The $9 Thank You Card
I was traveling through Chicago’s O’hare Airport just days after security guards dragged a man off a United Airlines flight that resulted in sending him to the hospital. Like the rest of the nation, I was shocked and angered by what I saw.
I have been a United Airlines customer for years. I found it hard to believe that such a thing could happen. Then I thought of all the airline employees that had served me faithfully over the years. How must they be feeling now, and more importantly, what could I do to make a difference?
After much searching, I found a thank you card, paid $9 for it, and wrote a note to my flight crew. In the note, I told them that despite the events of the past few days, I had not forgotten all that United Airlines had done for me. I sealed the envelope and handed it to the first flight attendant I met while boarding. After the flight was in the air and the drinks had been served, the flight attendant who had received my card came back to my seat with tear in her eyes. “You have no idea what this means to us,” she said. She then offered me a first-class meal. One by one each of the flight attendants came back to my seat and offered words of thanks and gave me more food.
Before long the little tray in front of me was piled high with treats and my seatmates were all staring at me incredulously. But more importantly, my world was forever changed. All I did was buy a $9 thank you card.
What is the Spirit prompting you to do today? How is He calling you to change your world? I dare you to follow His lead and watch your world change.