Missionary Isn't Suing After Plane Crash

Inside the Calvary Church worship center, missionary Jim Bowers was telling a packed house of worshippers he was nothing special.

Outside, in the church foyer, a line of paying customers snaked past a table of books, snapping up copies of "If God Should Choose," the authorized story of Bowers and his late wife, Veronica.

Inside, Bowers updated hundreds of rapt listeners on his busy speaking schedule and upcoming interviews with the likes of Diane Sawyer and People magazine.

Outside, the stacks of books shrank rapidly. Interest never waned, not even when Bowers left the book-signing table, ducking into the sanctuary to speak.

It has been that way since March 1, the day the book was released. Less than three weeks later, the book's publisher already is preparing for a third 10,000-copy printing run.

The book tells the story of the Muskegon couple's life together and their missionary work in Peru. It also recounts the events of last April when a Peruvian air force jet, in communication with CIA employees, mistook a missionary plane for a drug smuggling aircraft.

The subsequent machine-gun attack seriously injured the pilot and killed Roni Bowers and the couple's adopted baby daughter, Charity.

Not even a potentially damaging Washington Post article, branded by Calvary Church officials as misleading and by Bowers as "embarrassing," has stemmed the public's interest.

Bowers and Kristen Stagg, author of "If God Should Choose," were at Calvary Church in Fruitport Township Sunday to sign book copies and share their observations during worship services.

Bowers updated listeners on his new Spanish-language ministry at a Raleigh, N.C., church and on his 7-year-old son, Corey, who also survived the Peruvian military attack.

But the widely circulated Post article was also much on Bowers' mind. The article, which said principals were seeking as much as $35 million in compensation for the attack, drew questions and criticism suggesting survivors were trying to capitalize on the tragedy, church officials say.

A written statement from Bowers called the assumption "false and embarrassing."

The article prompted the mistaken impression that he and others were demanding $35 million and wouldn't be satisfied with less, Bowers said.

"We're all embarrassed," he said, "not because of any wrongdoing but because of what it implies."

Early on, Bowers said, he had received assurances from both the U.S. and Peruvian governments that they would "care for us."

"Therefore, there was never any need to consider litigation. Nor was there ever any desire or intention to litigate or force either government to settle with us."

U.S. Rep. Peter Hoekstra, R-Holland, who attended the services Sunday, echoed Bowers' forecast that a settlement would be decided soon.

Eleven months after the fatal attack, none of the principals has received any compensation, Hoekstra said. That includes the Association of Baptists for World Evangelism, Hoekstra said, which "lost a plane" and whose insurance premiums have skyrocketed because its work is now considered "high risk."

And it includes Kevin Donaldson, the pilot of the downed plane, who "had his leg nearly shot off," Hoekstra added.

No one is seeking to line his pockets, and no settlement would ever reach $35 million, Bowers said.

"It should be obvious to all who know me and the other individuals involved that we would not consider any settlement money in a way other than missionary work," he said in his written statement.

Nor will anyone get rich from sales of "If God Should Choose," Bowers said. Proceeds from book sales have been earmarked for the Veronica and Charity Bowers Memorial Fund.

It will help build a sports complex in Peru, which Bowers called "Roni's dream."

Even more, though, the book's main purpose is to spread the message of Christ, Bowers said.

"What we had a problem with was how can we make Roni look real and not like a big brag session," Bowers said.

On the contrary, Stagg said, Bowers has insisted that he and Roni Bowers were just ordinary people.

"Jim said, 'There's nothing special about us,' " she told more than 1,100 people attending a trio of services Sunday morning at Calvary Church.

"He said there was nothing particularly outstanding about Roni's talents and capabilities.

"So why was their ministry so special? Clearly it was more than the sum of its parts."

Bowers said God made the difference. Since the deaths of his wife and daughter, he said, many have remarked on the power of his testimony and the strength of his faith.