Whenever we prepared to get on an airplane, my mom used to pray, “May God send His angels concerning you and protect you in all your ways.” Now my sister says the prayer. Little did I know, though, all the ways that prayer could be answered.
I was flying to Tucson to surprise my niece for her bridal shower. Well, kind of surprise her. I sort of gave it away on FB. I just love surprises!
We’d been in the air for a while when the person in the seat next to me said, “You need to write down what happened and then bury it. Let your heart out to God and then let it go.”
“You’re not an Angel or something, are you?” I said after we had spent most of the flight talking. “I mean, you’re not going to suddenly disappear when we get off the plane, are you?”
“No,” he said, looking a little perplexed, then chuckled.
When I first got to my seat, he had made a point of looking up to say, ‘Good morning!’ I’ve become used to people keeping to themselves lately, I try to do the same, although I’m a talker. But now I thought, ‘Oh great, a talker.’ I just wanted to settle in and read.
As I was getting organized, I happened to slip my Bible into the pocket of the seat in front of me. My seat partner commented on that. He told me he was a Christian. His eyes twinkled as he said it. If I had to give you a visual image of him, I would say, think Clarence in that Christmas movie I can’t remember the name of with Jimmy Stuart.
Before I knew it, that man had heard my life story.
“Do you know the saying, ‘If you look back too much, you’ll fall forward,’?” He asked me.
This time I chuckled. “Yea, I suppose if I’m still talking about it, I’m still holding on to it, right?” I wanted more than anything to stop talking about it.
“That was then,” he said, as if closing the door on it all, and giving me the okay to be free of it all. “Let God take you forward. Open up now to what He has ahead for you, which might be more than you can even begin to imagine.
For the first time in a long time, I felt a fresh surge of hope. I told him about an opportunity I had been praying about. I can’t really explain how it had come about. I’m taking it slowly. I’m praying about it. This is not like me. Usually, if I get a sense I’m supposed to do something, I’m ready to fly. However…
“The only thing that’s holding me back is my claustrophobia,” I told my flying friend. “The flight is twenty-seven hours,” And then I stopped. “But I don’t feel bothered by claustrophobia today! I’m good! I’ve been praying about that, too!”
“Take the miracle,” he said then.
Who is this guy? He told me his name is William. He’s self taught, he said. He told me he has a fifth grade education and that he’s traveled all over the world. He knows all about how cruelly animals are treated before they’re slaughtered, and has worked to change that. He knows how the farmers are suffering because of the quality of their soil. He talked about the impact the war is having and the effects and famine, and the strange weather that is causing droughts and floods.
He lives in a tent on ten acres of land, he farms, and has improved his soil so much that the farms on either side of him have each given him ten more acres. He has developed ways to keep nitrogen in the soil which, the loss of, is becoming a huge problem for farmers. He talked about the food shortages because of the war that will hit the poorest countries first and hardest. “Who’s going to take care of them?” he said.
With William’s twenty additional acres, he has enough land to grow food that he donates to the shelter nearby that’s been built up for women rescued from human trafficking. “They always need food there,” he said. “I’ve heard some of the women’s stories…horrible, just terrible stories. Stories you don’t want to hear.”
But I do want to hear the stories, I thought. If someone has lived them, why wouldn’t I want to hear them?
It was the very thing my new opportunity was about. Was it a coincidence that I have a friend who changed from lawyer to missionary and is helping girls rescued from human trafficking—the abuse and rape, abandonment, violence and trauma? She works alongside others to provide healthcare, education, a safe place to live, and an orphanage for the babies and children of the young women who have been rejected by their families because of their pregnancies.
My friend Carrie’s work is in Kenya.
“You could come and teach the children dance,’ Carrie said after I wondered what I had to offer. ‘’And they’ll teach you dance. You can come and write their stories, help be a voice. Many of the children don’t think anyone cares about them. You can come and just be there to be with them. Just sit with them, that would mean a lot.” Well, I could do that, I thought.
“But you have other skills,” the man on the plane said. “You can be a help in many ways beyond dance. I just listened to your story.”
“Are the planes bigger when you go that far,” I asked.
“Yes.” And then he described for me what it’s like to travel to the other side of the world. Because I don’t know. I never have. But I’m thinking I might.
Before I knew it, our plane was landing and I had taken a picture of the book he was reading on nurturing pastureland, to send to my son who is all about that kind of work. Charlie tells me amazing stories every time we talk. He makes me think about things I wouldn’t have otherwise. Like William, and like Carrie.
As we were landing, William asked me if I thought it was a coincidence that we had been seated together.
“No,” I shook my head. “Definitely not.” I was feeling I’d received a Divine message and was still trying to believe it. And I would. Soon enough.
William left me with a lot to think about, but this morning, these words keep coming back to me: “I have two things I say when someone asks me how I’m doing,” William said, his eyes twinkling again. “I either say, ‘I’m highly favored,’ or ‘I’m too blessed to be stressed.’ Or both!”
And then he disappeared.
I can’t say for sure he was an Angel. But when I think about Jesus, about what he would be like in the world today, I imagine he would be self taught, traveling the world, caring about animal cruelty, about the effects of war on people and the earth that He so loves.
He would probably be living in a tent and teaching people how to replenish the nitrogen in the soil, he would be a sustainable farmer. He would take care of the orphans and the broken. He would be growing food for the hungry.
I don’t know that for sure, but what I do know is that He can use anyone and anything to be a voice for those broken, just as I am. So maybe, just maybe, I can be that for someone else. I hope so.