On April 18, 2001, Gennady Danilenko, a 45-year old law professor, boarded a Northwest Airlines DC-10 in Amsterdam for a flight to Detroit. A short drive home to Ann Arbor should have followed.
Danilenko had joined Wayne State University’s faculty in 1997. Earlier, he had directed the Center for International Law in Moscow. In the early 1990s he helped draft Russia’s constitution.
Danilenko had also taught law at the University of California at Berkeley, the University of Michigan at Ann Arbor, the University of San Diego and Utrecht University in the Netherlands.
His personal life, though, was unraveling. Danilenko’s wife of 19 years had filed for divorce in 2000. They fought over finances. In Michigan, a judge was about to finalize their split.
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Instead, Danilenko got sick while the DC-10 flew over the Atlantic. The crew, fearing a heart attack, made an emergency landing in Goose Bay, Labrador — a military town in easternmost Canada.
Doctors on the ground performed emergency surgery. They couldn’t save Danilenko. In Amsterdam he had swallowed 13 balloons, each filled with four grams of cocaine. He was trying to smuggle them stateside.
When six of the balloons burst in his stomach, and one got trapped in his esophagus (did he try to vomit it?), too much cocaine entered his system. Coma followed, then death.
Why would a successful man, with annual income over $125,000, even facing a final-settlement meeting for his divorce, risk his life for $5,000 worth of drugs?
Federal agents searched his house for cash, phone numbers, etc. They found nothing.
Were the drugs for Danilenko, or for sale? Nobody knows.
More practical questions for all of us: If God sees all, can we hide anything from him?
If not, shouldn’t we open up and confess to God the wrongs we’ve been conning ourselves into thinking we can conceal?
“If we say we don’t have sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us.
“If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:8–9).
Want proof? Jesus, who died for you, lives. Death couldn’t swallow God’s holy Son.
By him, God will swallow up death forever (Isaiah 25:8).
Rev. Daniel A. Witte, pastor of Risen Savior Lutheran Church, can be reached at 747-5564. For more information, see www.rsavior.com. Faith Matters is a regular feature of Saturday’s Herald, written by local clergy members.