“He gave… prophets; and some evangelists…” (Ephesians 4:11)
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“Don’t be on that plane!”
I asked her why, and she said, “Because that plane will crash.”
I asked her how she knew, and she said, “Never mind. Just don’t be on that plane.”
This striking warning of doom by Ed Carter’s mother saved his life and saved his soul. But, let me go back and tell you how it all started.
Ed Carter was born on November 23, 1950 in Pampa, Texas. At the age of four, his parents were divorced. His mother received custody of three boys: Bobby the eldest; Ed the middle; Don the youngest. They lived in Pampa for some time, then his great-grand-parents in Wichita Falls, Texas, asked Mrs. Carter to let the boys come and stay with them. His great-grand-parents were very strict people in the matter of rearing children (Proverbs 22:6).
Because of this, Ed Carter had never been drunk and was a total abstainer from alcohol. He never used drugs nor had been in trouble with the law. This strict up-bringing kept him from these things.
It was a rule in that home that they would all go to church every Sunday. At the age of twelve, Ed joined the church and was baptized. He thought he was saved. For a number of years, he continued to go to church and sang in the youth choir. But, according to John 3:3, he had never been born again and was still lost.
Ed, in his senior year in high school, was awarded several four-year football scholarships. He elected to go to Marshall University in Huntington, West Virginia. By that time, he had ceased going to church and was, from all appearances, spiritually dead. In college, he played first team tackle in his freshman year. He also made the Dean’s List with a 3.0 average.
It seemed that everything was going well for this big 230 pound, 6 foot 2 inch tackle on the football team. He could run the 40 yard dash in 4.7 seconds and bench press 400 pounds.
In 1970, he was again playing the first team for Marshall University. Then followed a series of very strange events. The first was a telephone call from his mother on November 7, 1970. Without any preliminaries, Sarah Carter said, “Ed, your father just died. Can you come home for the funeral?”
Though he had not seen his father often since his parents’ divorce, still there was a strong affection for his dad. “Yes, I’ll leave here following the Kent State game tomorrow,” replied Ed, who even though he was only a sophomore, was still the starting tackle for the Marshall University football team.
“There is something else,” his mother said somewhat hesitantly.
“I don’t want you to be on that plane when the football team travels next week. It’s going to crash!”
“Oh, Mom, that’s silly!” Ed replied. “You heard about last week’s plane accident, but remember, no one was seriously injured.”
“Son, please, please don’t be on that plane!”
“Mom, I’ll see you on Sunday.”
Following Mr. Carter’s funeral service on Monday in Wichita Falls, Texas, Sarah Carter tried a different approach on her son.
“Ed, I’m so upset about the death of your father and the events of last week, I need you to stay home for a few more days,” she said.
Ed argued and they went round and round about it. He told her Coach Tolley (head coach Rick Tolley) was counting on him to get back. But she just kept bugging him to stay. Finally, he told her that if it would make her happy, he would stay. He called Coach Tolley and got permission to stay in Texas for five days and miss Saturday’s game with East Carolina State.
On the eve of the game, Ed was talking to a girl friend in South Ironton, Ohio, a town just across the river from Huntington, West Virginia, the home of Marshall University. The telephone conversation was interrupted with a radio bulletin in the background reporting the crash of the DC-9 carrying the Marshall football team. Ed Carter was stunned.
His reaction to the loss of all of his teammates in one fell swoop was one of shocked disbelief. The next morning, the headlines in the Wichita Falls, Texas, paper read: “Carter among the ill-fated plane passengers.” There was a picture of Ed Carter and his name listed in the obituary plus a story about what he had done in his life. Ed was actually sitting down reading his own obituary! In the end, he had to go on national television and radio to prove that he was still alive. Ed could still not believe that his teammates were all dead. He returned immediately to the campus in Huntington by bus.
For many months he walked around in a state of shock still thinking it was just a dream that all of his teammates had all passed away in a terrible accident. When the Spring football practice came, the reality of it penetrated his mind. Ed became a linebacker and even though Marshall’s program was shattered, his reputation as a “pro” prospect filtered out of Huntington. He was offered a trial with the Buffalo Bills and a free-agent contract with the Dallas Cowboys. Going for the tryouts for the Dallas Cowboys he pulled a hamstring muscle, but the Cowboys offered him a $45,000 contract to sign, nevertheless.
Ed continued his schooling and graduated from Marshall University in 1974 with a degree in Education. The year 1974 was a big year for Ed in more ways than one. All of the time he had been thinking about that horrible place crash, he had been thinking about his whole life passing before him.
Before, Ed was trying to run from God. He would pray but only so that he could win the football games and the passing grades that he needed for graduation. But God was trying to get through to him, even then.
“Why, I remember I used to see church buses on campus on Sunday mornings, and I felt something inside me pulling me toward them, but I didn’t go,” Carter said. “Instead, I hid from those buses. Can you believe that? I actually hid from those buses!”
All of these things made Ed think about his life. One night someone gave him a Gospel tract that he read, and he liked what he read. After reading that tract, he bowed his head and received Christ as his personal Saviour. His life was changed.
“I’ve committed my life to Jesus Christ, and my perspective was changed. It gave me new insight on things that happened in my life.” Soon after his conversion, he began to preach. Numerous churches in West Virginia asked him to come and speak, and some pulpits he occupied had never been opened to a black person before.
Turning his back upon the offers of professional football leagues, he felt God’s calling now to preach the Word of God. Ed said, “Now I live day-by-day with my faith. God has promised tomorrow to no man, so I never look farther than today. God spared me. He gave me another chance to live my life for Him, and now, that is what I am doing. God was waiting for me with outstretched arms, and now He has given me a testimony and opportunities to spread His Word. My only goal in life now is to be a witness for Christ.”
Since his conversion, he has been preaching the Gospel in schools, in jails, in flea markets, in church revivals, in brush arbor meetings, in tents, in rescue missions, and is looking forward to God’s blessing in his life.