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Glory Mission Report

"Pastornaut" Bill Galus reflects on blessings from spending a week in a mock space capsule.

Mary Galus was a little nervous about her husband's missions fundraising idea of living for a week in a mock space capsule.

"But there's no stopping him when he gets an idea," she says with a laugh.  

But after Pastor Bill Galus emerged Sept. 20, his wife and others in the church conceded his plan seemed to be divinely inspired.

Not only did the pastor of Walnut Grove Assembly of God near Pittsburgh exceed his fundraising goal of $2,000 by 400 percent (by Thursday the project had brought in $8,032), but also news of the "pastornaut" launched well beyond the West Mifflin suburb. The Wall Street Journal gave the story nearly half a page in its front section.

And when his out-of-this-world project ran on the Associated Press newswire, the story of the guy holed up seven days in an eight-foot conical plywood structure he named the Glory Seven (designed to honor NASA's Mercury 7 mission) went all over the planet.

Galus spoke via Skype to students at the church's elementary school for chapel, answered their questions, and taught them about space exploration. He kept a blog that particularly piqued the interest of the children -- so much that he's still writing it.

He stuck out his week as planned, even when a thunderstorm drenched his bedding and mattress and took out electricity to his capsule. Sealing the leaks became futile. He noted in his blog, "My supply of trusty fix-all duct tape then ran out at the most inopportune time."

Galus persevered, however, delivering his Sunday sermon wearing his flight suit on the church lawn to a crowd far larger than usual at his church where attendance usually runs 150. Parents of students at the church school came. So did some unchurched people who had heard media reports on his adventure and wanted to check it out.

At the post-service picnic, several children asked to have their pictures made with Galus by the capsule. One little girl became so excited about his earthbound galactic adventure that her parents bought her the space capsule to use as a playhouse.

During the week Galus had hoped to hear a word from God to share with the congregation. As he researched the early NASA program via his iPad, he got one.

Only six of the Mercury 7 astronauts in the original program went up in space.

Doctors discovered that Deke Slayton had a heart condition. NASA grounded him.

"John Glenn had the same heart issue, but they let him go," Galus says. "What if I'd been training all these years and dreaming I'm going to go into space, and then they say you don't get to go, but then your colleague does. So many people would be angry and say I'm out of here."

Slayton, however, persevered. He became NASA's chief of astronauts, training the next generation of space explorers and selecting those who'd journey into space via the Apollo program. Thirteen years after his big disappointment, Slayton got his chance: He became the oldest man up to that time to go into space. Unlike NASA's initial plan for him to remain just five hours in space, Slayton's mission lasted nine days.

Galus' sermon compared Slayton's disappointment and subsequent marching orders to Deuteronomy 3 when God doesn't allow Moses to enter the Promised Land. Instead, Moses' new assignment was bigger: God called him to train Joshua and the next generation.

"We sort of feel when we get 'no' answers in life, sent on different directions, face disappointments as a Christian, that somehow that's the end of it," Galus says. "But when God says no, He has something better."

Among Galus' favorite memories of his week manning his capsule occurred Wednesday night when the youth group held its regular gathering. Some Nepali teens asked him in broken English why he was doing it.

He explained that funds he raised would help them take part in camps, conferences and other events.

"I did it for you," Galus told them.

Each of the Nepali teens responded by saying thank you.


Deann Alford

Deann Alford is a journalist and author. She attends Glad Tidings of Austin, an Assemblies of God congregation in the Texas capital.