“Keep me Jesus as the apple of Thine eye. … Hide me under the shadow of Thy wings.”
Janice Gravely sang this song – based on Psalm 17:8 – at the top of her voice inside the cockpit of a single-engine plane as her husband, Edmund, slumped unconscious in the pilot’s seat next to her. She’d flown as a passenger with Edmund, a former Navy aviator and flight instructor, plenty of times, but Janice had no training as a pilot.
Now, she suddenly found herself behind the controls of her husband’s aircraft.
“I had a choice,” recalls Janice of Rocky Mount, North Carolina. “I could either be afraid of what was going to happen to both of us, or I could trust God. It was a life or death matter; I trusted God.”
Praying fervently, she broke out in song, remembering words to a song she’d learned only the day before. She especially leaned into the words, “Keep Your hand upon me lest I die.” Despite high winds, Janice managed to keep the plane airborne for the next two hours. Then just as the fuel ran out, she crash-landed the plane in a field near Henderson, North Carolina.
Telling the story
Today at age 98, Janice still remembers the details vividly. From the impact, she suffered four broken ribs, a punctured lung, and a broken pelvis. Unable to walk, she crawled for help across the frozen ground to a farmhouse. When authorities arrived, she was rushed to a hospital, and her husband was pronounced dead at the accident scene. He had died of a heart attack.
The story made international news headlines. Her survival was a “well-documented miracle,” Janice says. After she recovered from her injuries, invitations for interviews and speaking engagements poured in from coast to coast. Later, she wrote a book about her experience.
“Everyone wanted to hear about the accident,” Janice remembers. “And every time I told my story, I put the focus on what the Lord did – how faith in Him and the power of prayer brought me through.”
The speaking invitations included many for Women’s Connection events, where Janice was introduced to Stonecroft. Soon, she got involved in the former Rocky Mount Christian Women’s Connection and became the group’s Prayer Coordinator, serving about two decades in that role. She also has guided Stonecroft Bible Studies (SBS) along with her daughter, Jane, who served in every Planning Team role for the former Rocky Mount After Five. Together mother and daughter currently host an SBS group in the home they share.
A new venture in faith
One day during a personal prayer time seven years ago, Janice sensed God calling her to yet another opportunity to make His name known. The Lord showed her He wanted her to initiate a plan to read His Word over Rocky Mount in a fashion similar to what’s done annually through the (Washington) D.C. Bible Reading Marathon. The D.C. program brings believers to the front of the Capitol Building to read aloud the entire Bible for more than 90 continuous hours (day and night) during the week of the National Day of Prayer in early May.
Janice sensed God wanted the whole Bible to be read in public places in her community the day before the National Day of Prayer, involving multiple readers simultaneously working in teams of two for one hour each. She shared the plan with Jane, and they worked to break down the Bible into 15-minute segments and to enlist volunteers.
The first year God called 90 readers to participate at three locations, and the second year it expanded to 120 readers at seven sites. The program has since grown to involve more than 1,200 volunteers reading the Bible aloud in public places in eight states and one other country. The sites include such places as city halls, courthouses, shopping centers, and churches.
Prayers for revival
This year, God led Janice to add a new element to the program, so one volunteer in a pair now prays for revival in the nation for 15 minutes while the other reads the Bible aloud, switching places while continuing the process for an hour.
“Volunteers are so refreshed by the experience that they’re bubbling over about it,” Janice says. “They tell someone else about it, and that person wants to get involved, too.”
Through the project, volunteers report having seen positive changes in their communities.
“When we speak God’s will and His Word into our cities, we see His transforming power at work,” Janice says. “His Word is alive and powerful. … It’s a privilege to have a part in His mighty Word going forth!”