Former Belo Horizonte, Brazil, missionary Charley Huffman reminisced today about Bill Jordan, who served in the same city in the 1970s. Bill passed away Monday, Feb. 6. His last residence was in Yellville, Ark. We reproduce Charley’s email by permission.
Bill Jordan had a heart attack while we were playing volleyball at camp one day. We rushed him to the heart hospital, where my wife Joyce stayed with him in the emergency room to interpret for him, since he had been in Belo Horizonte only a short time and spoke little Portuguese.
The Brazilian doctors said he needed to go to the USA for open-heart surgery, since he had been in Brazil for such a short time and everything was strange to him. However, the commercial airlines refused to fly him in that condition.
Bill was retired from the Air Force, and missionary wife Vonnie Hall contacted someone she knew high up in the Air Force. The result was that the Air Force sent a C141 Starlifter, equipped with a full emergency room and two crews of pilots and of medical staffers to take him to the States for surgery.
The Brazilian Air Force base in Belo Horizonte was right next to the Pampulha airport, and they shared the same runway. Some of us missionaries were there on the base with Bill, awaiting the arrival of the plane. The Pampulha runway was too small for large aircraft, so as two-thirds of the weight of a refueled plane was fuel, the C141 landed first in Brasilia and unloaded all the fuel except just enough to get to Belo Horizonte and back to Brasilia.
As they approached Belo Horizonte, the pilot radioed the tower for permission to land The tower refused permission, saying the plane was so large it could break through the runway. But the pilot said, “We’re coming in”.
We watched that huge, droopy-winged bird approach the runway and land safely. As it taxied toward the Air Force base, it passed between two commercial airliners on the tarmac, its wings barely missing the tips of their wings.
When the plane stopped, the back opened up, large enough for a truck to enter. They wheeled a gurney out, put Bill on the gurney, whisked him away into the airplane, and began immediately to treat him. They closed the door almost immediately, and the plane taxied to the runway and began thundering down the runway for the takeoff.
I held my breath, wondering if that giant plane could lift off such a short runway. But when it was halfway down the runway, it seemed like the Lord just picked it up and yanked it up into the sky.
Missionary Glover Shipp and I were standing with the Officer of the Day of the Air Force base. He shook his head in wonder and asked, “Who was that man, that the U.S. Air Force would send their largest plane equipped with a complete emergency room and two crews of pilots and medical people to pick him up?”
We explained, “He was a retired sergeant from the Air Force who was here working as a missionary”. The Officer of the Day was still shaking his head and asked, “But why would they do that? Then Glover came up with the words we all wished we had spoken, “Well, you see, he has a very rich father.”
It made us very proud of our country to think that they would do that.
When Bill arrived at a military hospital in the States, the doctors decided Bill could be treated with medication and would not need surgery. He recovered and returned to Brazil to continue the work he had come to do.
I remember Bill Jordan most of all as a peacemaker. Our team of 12 strong-headed missionary families had some difficult problems, but Bill, perhaps due to having been an elder, had a wonderful way of calming everyone down and helping us arrive at a peaceful settlement of the problems we were facing.
When I think of him I think of the words Jesus spoke, “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called the children of God.” He was an inspiration to all of us.
After several years in Brazil, Bill and Frances returned to the States, where he served as a preacher and elder in several places. He lived a good number of years after his heart attack, but now he has gone home to his very rich Father.
God bless and comfort Frances, Martha, and all the family.