For He will command his angels concerning you to guard you in all your ways; they will lift you up in their hands, so that you will not strike your foot against a stone
When we celebrate Christmas our thoughts often turn to angels. They are prominent figures in the Christmas story. An angel appeared to Zechariah, to Mary, to the shepherds. Have you personally met an angel in your journey of life? Permit me to tell you one of our stories concerning an angel.
Alice had for many years envisioned herself as a courier someday, somewhere, for some unknown reason. She had communicated this desire to God. She was getting eager to travel again, but we could not afford it. I understood what she had in mind but did not think God had any plan for such an adventure.
Our 30th wedding anniversary came on August 7, 1995. How could we celebrate? One day a telephone call came from our son Kurtis. At that time he was attending Concordia Seminary in St. Louis, Missouri. His future wife, Teresa, had met a man named Charles McNutt through her job at the synod’s mission department. His request was to find someone to accompany him to give his truck away to a missionary in Guatemala. Kurtis was to have a summer vicarage in New York City and could not go. They decided to ask Eric, his brother. He also had to say no because of plans to go to Loveland, Colorado, for the beginning of his internship as a Director of Christian Education. So this left Mom and Dad Smith to consider the opportunity. We could think of no reason why not to do it. Charles would pay our way there and fly us back to the USA. We prayed, and God answered, “Go!”
We began our trip south on a Sunday after church from Michigan in June. We drove to Charles’ home in Coleman, Alabama, with a one-night stop in southern Indiana. On Wednesday that week the three of us started our trip in the air-conditioned truck with its extended cab. The daily goal was traveling six hours or 300 miles. We would probably have arrived a day earlier, but one day we drove six hours and got lost in Mexico. We finally ended up right back where we had started in the morning. We had driven a big circle in the mountains around Tampico, Mexico. I think Alice and I smiled more than Charles did about that experience.
It took us exactly one week to arrive at our destination in Guatemala, but it included some of the most intense and extended prayer times in our lives. It was like our own week-long prayer vigil. Alice or I, sitting in the back seat was the one who silently prayed for safety. The one who sat next to Charles, our financier, maintained a running conversation. At age 77 he was an interesting character with nonstop stories. He had been an air force pilot during the Berlin airlift following World War II. Unfortunately, his driving was a holdover from his younger risk-taking days. His desire was to pass all vehicles ahead of us. On our very first day of traveling the Louisiana State Patrol decided Charles’ foot was too heavy on the metal, thus he got a speeding ticket!
At the passageway through southern Mexico leading into Guatemala we had one of the most dramatic answers to prayer of our lives. We had driven down the beautiful scenic eastern side of Mexico and were told to avoid a certain section due to rebel fighters in the area; so we took the crossing connected with the Pan American highway. We had to go through five checkpoints. While Charles went into a building with our passports, a man named Leo suddenly appeared at my right side; he was licking an ice cream cone. I did not hear him come up next to me. He started a friendly conversation in English; everyone else in the area was speaking Spanish. We found out he did not have a vehicle of any kind there. Eventually Charles invited him to join us in our travel to Guatemala City. He provided the help we needed to get through the government’s inspections and assessments without a hitch. As we drove nearer to our destination, it started pouring rain. Leo directed us in taking the correct turns and ultimately found us a place to stay for the night. It was a beautiful motel. We surely would have missed the place without his guidance. After joining us for an evening meal he excused himself and walked off into the night, never to be seen again. Leo was an answer to prayer that I won’t forget. To this day my wife and I have wondered if he could have been an angel, with a sense of humor from God. Of course, our mission was finally accomplished as Charles handed over the keys for the truck to the agricultural missionary, Martin Brodbeck. Our 4,000-mile trip was not easy, but provided a memorable celebration for our thirtieth wedding anniversary.
Leo was not the first angel-like creature experience we have had. God provided an individual or someone like an angel to help us other situations around the world. Angels or not, they were answers to prayers.
Yes, I do believe God does send His angels to us to protect and guide us. Scripture is very clear that angels do appear in human form to mortals (see Gen. 19:1-22, 32:1; Matt. 28:2-4; Acts 5:19-20). God loves us so much that He takes care of us in ways we can’t even see. Angels are one of these ways. Sometimes God gives an angel a body like a person, so that the angel can do a certain job. To be touched by an angel is good but to be touched by Jesus is the best of all.
Personal Reflection Time
1. Have you had an angel-like experience or know of someone who has had one?
2. It is said that angels are mentioned 273 times in 34 biblical books. Which story about angels is your favorite?
3. Watching, protecting, guiding, and preparing are among the many functions of angels as they help us experience