Strangers are immediately drawn to Guest House’s Bill Sterner whenever he is piloting his hot air balloon – he’s won three regional balloon competitions in the past four weeks. But when they hear the name of his craft, everything changes. Eyes light up.
“The name of our balloon is God’s Promise,’’ Bill says with a grin. “When people find out the name, they love it even more. It gives us an opportunity to witness, to talk about the faith.’’
This is something of a family calling. Bill has been piloting hot air balloons for 33 years and his father started a few years earlier (intending to buy a helicopter and buying a balloon instead). His wife came from a ballooning family, their eldest daughter wants to be a pilot too and the whole family is part of the crew, following him down-wind from the ground. They take it out to 25-40 flights per summer.
His most recent first place wins came at festivals in Findlay, Ohio; Midland, Michigan; and Kalamazoo, Michigan all in a four week period. The wins come for skills, being able to achieve tasks and pilot the balloon to specific points on a field.Whenever you pilot a hot air balloon, a sail boat in the sky, it quickly becomes clear that God is in control and is taking care of us, literally God’s Promise.
“We can all launch from the same place but that doesn’t mean we wind up in the same place,’’ Bill explains. “You can’t win a war with the weather. One important rule is you can’t do it alone. I compare it to putting a canoe in the water without a paddle.”
Bill’s first two balloons were called Rejoice and Rejoice II but it was his daughter Tabitha, then 4, who suggested the “God’s Promise’’ name. The new name has deepened the adventure, leading to amazing experiences including meeting people who felt seeing the balloon was a sign of a blessing.
The balloon is largely white, reflecting God’s purity, but it also also includes every color of the rainbow, showing God is connected to everything.
“We felt blessed by all the circumstances that have come together to show people that God is with them,’’ Bill added. “Some hear God’s Promise and think of the flood, others think of God’s Promise of taking care of us. Everyone has a story.’’