Oxygen—You Can’t Live Without It!

While in America on furlough, I attended the Federal Aviation Administration’s Aviation Physiology Course in Oklahoma City to brush up on my technical skills.

This program is designed to prevent the incidents and accidents that can occur when a pilot is exposed to hostile environmental conditions during flight. The course I attended dealt with loss of cabin pressure leading to hypoxia (oxygen deficiency), trapped gas problems, and decompression sickness. These are important topics since, due to the high terrain in Papua New Guinea (PNG), I spend a significant portion of flight time at high altitude, breathing supplemental oxygen. During this course, I learned about the physiological aspects of high-altitude flight and discovered my specific symptoms of hypoxia. I participated in practical demonstrations to explore the effects of oxygen-low environments using a technologically advanced altitude training chamber.

David Barton, a PNG co-worker in the altitude chamber

During simulations of rapid decompression and high cabin altitudes in the chamber, I experienced hypoxia and its effects on my vision. I am now better equipped to recognize and respond to unplanned oxygen deprivation in flight.

Traveling home after the training, I jotted down notes about the things I had learned to share with colleagues when I returned to PNG. In the altitude chamber, I had observed how lower levels of oxygen may lead to poor vision, clouded thinking, degraded performance, and even sickness. I had also learned that my specific hypoxic symptom is a hot sensation all over my body. This knowledge has become a tool to help me respond appropriately should an unexpected reduced oxygen environment occur.

I have also realized that God’s Word and oxygen are similar. During times in my journey with God when I have neglected his Word or did not purposefully take it in, certain symptoms have occurred: untrue thoughts, a degraded desire and strength to serve others kindly, and a general, overall spiritual sickness. In such times I need to recognize these symptoms and get back into his Word where God can speak truth into my mind, empower me to serve, and keep me from falling.

Instructor and altitude chamber

Thinking further, I remembered the 300 people groups back in PNG who exist without God’s Word. Some are trapped in fear of evil spirits or hurt by broken family relationships or suffering from the devastation of HIV. They do not realize these are symptoms of the real problem—a broken relationship with God. They are without hope because they do not have access to God’s Word in a language and format that speaks deeply to their emotions.

Please join us in praying that every Papua New Guinean will have the opportunity to inhale the life-giving oxygen of God’s Word!

Keep breathing!