Freedom at 30,000 Feet in the Air

The following testimony was edited based on the original account as shared by Terry Land.

Born into a Jewish family, Terry Land experienced a traditional Jewish upbringing that included Bar Mitzvah, nine years of Hebrew school, and celebrating all of the Jewish holidays. However, his Jewish roots were not deep enough to keep him growing in his faith as he matured, and he began to drift.

The drifting continued through college and during Terry’s service in the military in the 1970s during which he served as a firefighter. 

His roommate, Dan, was a fellow firefighter. Dan received news his brother had tragically died and he prepared a eulogy, which he asked Terry to proofread.           

“All throughout his eulogy were references to God—my Jewish God,” says Terry. Dan’s quotations from the apostle Paul rattled Terry, including this verse:

“So I ask, did they stumble in order that they might fall? By no means! Rather, through their trespass salvation has come to the Gentiles, so as to make Israel jealous.” —Romans 11:11 ESV

Terry himself became jealous, as he began to perceive that Dan seemed to enjoy the deep kind of relationship with God that Terry desired. 

This frustrating feeling led Terry to decide he needed time to get a fresh perspective on his faith, so he decided to visit a friend from basic training who lived in Germany.

In Germany, Terry spent several days visiting historic sites that were grim reminders of the horrific travesties of the Holocaust. While the somber tour gave Terry a deeper connection to his heritage, it didn’t give Terry the deeper connection to God he’d hoped to gain.

Flight Cancellations lead to a divine appointment


Disappointed, Terry returned to the USA and made plans to travel from Dover Air Force Base to his home base in Washington in time to report back to work. It was the holiday season. And through a series of events including flight cancellations, Terry found himself on a medevac C-9 Air Force plane flying west with a stop in Illinois. 

Terry settled into his seat on the flight and noticed an Air Force major sitting next to him reading a little brown book—a Testament from The Gideons. The two men engaged in a conversation, and Terry began to share about his recent experience in Germany and how the trip was inspired by reading the eulogy draft that contained references to his Jewish God. 

“When the major, whose name was Tom, heard I was Jewish, he turned about 180 degrees in his seat and looked squarely in my eyes,” says Terry.

Terry asked Tom questions like, “How can I be Jewish and believe in Jesus? If I convert, will I still be Jewish? What happens to my heritage? Will I still be a Jew? I don’t want to give up who I am. What about my family?”         

When they landed, it was discovered that Terry’s next flight from Scott Air Force Base was postponed until the next morning. Tom invited Terry to spend the night with his family. To Terry, this invitation was beyond generous, as in those days, for an Air Force officer to invite an enlistee to his home would have been unthinkable. 

At the major’s home, Tom led Terry into his study, which featured a huge bookcase filled with books explaining the differences between Christianity and Judaism.

That night, Tom gave Terry some materials from his library that included testimonies of modern-day Jewish converts to Christianity. He then presented Terry with a Testament from The Gideons. In the front, he wrote Terry’s name and the date—November 23, 1979. 

Lying in bed that night, Terry gazed out the window. “Lord, if you’re real, make yourself real to me,” he prayed. That night, Terry slept peacefully. 

Terry gazed out the window. “Lord, if you’re real, make yourself real to me.”

Another Plane, Another Spiritual Conversation


The next day, Tom put Terry on the plane thinking he’d probably never see him again. After landing in California, Terry caught a connecting flight travelling to his home base in Washington.     

On the plane, Terry pulled out his Testament and began reading. A woman sitting next to him spoke. “Now I know why I packed my Bible,” she said.

Terry looked at her and asked, “Are you talking to me?” She replied that she normally carried her Bible on board, but this time the Lord told her to pack it away. 

“For some reason, I started to tell her my story,” says Terry. The woman listened carefully as Terry shared the recent events in his life that led to his seeking the Lord. 

After listening for some time, the woman spoke. “Are you ready to accept the Lord into your heart?” Terry paused and thought for a moment. “Yes, I am.”

“Somewhere between Oakland, California, and Tacoma, Washington—about 30,000 feet in the air—I turned my life over to Yeshua,” says Terry.       

Terry says he was honored to lead his mom to Jesus on her deathbed two days before she died of lung cancer, and he led his dad to the Lord before his dad succumbed to Alzheimer’s.

Somewhere between Oakland, California, and Tacoma, Washington—about 30,000 feet in the air–I turned my life over to Yeshua.

Full Circle, More Than 20 Years Later


In 1993, a prominent Messianic Jewish ministry magazine featured an interview with Terry and his wife about his conversion. That article found its way into the hands of Major Tom Trotta, the officer who presented Terry with that Testament. Tom reconnected with Terry, and in 1995, Terry took his family to visit Tom and his wife. Tom had the opportunity to see what the Lord had done in Terry’s life as a direct result of Tom’s obedience in witnessing to him all those years earlier.

Today, Tom Trotta and his wife, Murray, serve together with other Gideons and Auxiliary in Jacksonville, Florida. Tom still remembers the rush of joy he felt when he learned of Terry’s testimony years later in that magazine article.

“Reading it and recalling our encounter, I was humbled and full of joy simultaneously. God’s Word did not return void in Terry’s life just as it had led me to a life of faith years before.”

Terry Land as a Gideon

Tom says he’ll never forget the person who encouraged him to read the Bible and was glad to discover Terry followed through on reading the Testament he received from Tom.

Getting to reconnect with Terry in person all those years later, Tom was moved to see how the Lord had worked in Terry’s life. “I thought, wow! The results of our daily witness are really God’s business.” 

Tom says he also realized how important—and how simple—sharing Jesus, a word of witness, and a copy of God’s Word can be.”

“There’s no pressure,” Tom adds. “Witnessing is not a contest and it’s not about numbers. We are the messengers and just respond to the Spirit’s leading. God does the heavy lifting.”

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