The bright sun reflecting off the hot desert sand
caused our eyes to squint. The station wagon's tinted glass did little
to ease the glare on our long journey south toward the Mexican border.
I glanced toward the rear of the station wagon. It was full of clothing
and food we had loaded for the impoverished field workers. They live
in makeshift houses along irrigation canals in Mexico. "Wish we had more
to give, Luis," I said.
Luis instinctively twisted the knob on the dash to lower the volume of the Christian tape playing in the cassette. "So do I," Luis replied, "but God has a way of multiplying the little we bring." "Anyhow," he continued, "the people attending our meetings have found something better than food--Bible truths!"
"That's true," I added. "God has worked mightily in this ministry. There are over one-hundred villagers attending the meetings."
"And the angel..." Luis continued, "The woman who saw the angel has opened the way for God's work in another village. How exciting!"
I always enjoyed talking with Luis and his mother, Leticia, about God's providential leading in this ministry--especially about angelic intervention.
Stories of angels are so intriguing--when we hear
of those silent, invisible companions who listen to our first cry at birth,
who cover and protect our heads during life, and who will be the first
to greet us on resurrection morning when we are changed into His glory
(1 Corinthians 15:51-53; Matthew 18:10, 24). Exactly why they choose to
reveal themselves so rarely is a mystery and disappointment. Perhaps they
would love to commune with us personally now, but trusting completely in
their Leader, they await the moment when the veil will be completely withdrawn--then
we will no longer see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face
(1 Corinthians 13:12).
Some infidel psychologists would suggest that angelic sightings are the result of schizophrenic hallucinations. They fail to look at circumstances surrounding the angelic visitation which validate the occurrence.
Few would question Joshua's sighting of the Angel of the Lord, or Gideon's "close encounter of the third kind"--their sightings were followed by obvious divine manifestations visible to all (Joshua 5:13-15; 6:1-5; Judges 6:11-23). We are not, however, able to prove all reports of celestial visitation when only one person sees the angel. An example of this is the very sighting Luis and I discussed on this trip to Mexico.
A visitor to one of our Bible studies in Ciudad Morelos, Baja, made a special return visit to our community to tell how she had seen an angel standing near Leticia Bravo. Leticia had been teaching the scriptures to a roomful of people the night before. "I wanted to cry!" the lady exclaimed. "There was an angel standing right behind you." Whether it was an illusion or an angel is unknown, but the result was profound--the woman went to her own village and returned with a petition signed by fifty people requesting studies. When Luis introduced the woman to me, she was very excited. Not only about the Angel that attended the meeting, but about simple truths from the Bible that she had never heard before. There was no doubt in her mind that she had seen the angel, and that God's hand was in this work.
There are times when an angel is visible to more
than one person. If all report the same experience, we can
then be certain that it is not a hallucination but truly a celestial visitor.
It was Sabbath morning in church when Luis placed his hand on my shoulder
and excitedly recounted such an incident. "Brother Charles," he said, "God
worked a real miracle for us in Mexico."
Luis explained that he and his mother had just crossed the border at San Luis, Mexico, near Yuma, Arizona. They were tired after loading the van and driving the many miles of barren desert road. Upon arriving at the Mexican Port of Entry, they encountered unbelief while trying to convince the guards that the food and clothing filling the van was for missionary work. The federales reluctantly allowed them to pass, but a few minutes later they relented and chased down the van to demand import taxes. Luis said that it was a frightening experience to be forced off the road that dark night. Again they explained that the goods were for the poor, but the indignant guards were not convinced. "Your lying to us," the guards shouted. Luis and his mother were unable to prevail.
Then an old man and young boy approached from a dimly illuminated house along the roadside. The man said, "Leave them alone! They always help me." The guards continued their argument. Then the old man repeated the statement, "Leave them alone! They always help me."
One of the guards said to Luis: "If this is true, then give them something."
Neither Luis or his mother recognized the boy or old man, but their mission was to give. "Gladly," Luis said, and piled their arms high with loaves of bread. "Here! Take some more."
Mysteriously convinced, the guards became confused, and then allowed the Bravos to continue. It was awe inspiring! Not only did Luis and his mother not remember their rescuers from previous trips, but upon returning to the area the next day to thank the old man and boy, they were not there. Also, they found no house, only a long stretch of dirt separating the highway from some flat farmland. Was this an angelic intervention? The guards and the Bravo's saw it. And if you had seen the excitement on the face of Luis and his mother as they recounted the confrontation, you would believe too.
Having frequently traveled the long road to Mexico with the Bravos while assisting in evangelism, the distribution of food and clothing, and the construction of sanctuaries, has given us much time for conversation. On one trip Luis stated: "My brother, Joe, saw an angel."
Then Luis's mother, Leticia, took over the story. It seems that Joe had disappeared in his new car. "I prayed for him continually," she said. "I was afraid that perhaps he had wrecked the car over the edge of a mountain, or maybe in the river. Then while praying in church one Sabbath a voice spoke to me and said: "Joe will call tonight at bedtime." Immediately I told Luis of the voice that I heard while praying."
That's right," interrupted Luis. "And that night Joe called. He said that a man on a bicycle had told him to call home that evening because his mother was worried about him. The man knew all about our family--even me. Then he disappeared before Joe's eyes."
Leticia repeated the story: "After hearing the voice we waited anxiously for Joe's call, but after dinner nothing had happened. I finished the supper dishes and went to the bedroom to put on my night clothes. I was thinking that maybe I had imagined the whole thing--that's when the phone rang... and it was Joe! He said: "Don't worry about me, mom. I'm a long way off, but will eventually make it back home."
Did God really speak to Leticia? Did Joe really see an angel? It would be two years before confirming the story with Joe. After all, he's the one that saw the angel and proved it by calling home.
I had been praying for divine guidance about my estranged wife and did not know what to do. Leticia met me after church one Sabbath afternoon and said, "While I was in church praying about your broken marriage, a voice instructed me about your wife."
Could this be the counsel I was praying for? I thought. Being anxious to know God's will concerning my fractured marriage, I needed to know, "Was this a voice from God or her imagination?" I remembered their story of the voice two years before when she prayed about Joe. Both Luis and Leticia knew that the voice said Joe would call. But total confirmation of the heavenly voices could only be obtained by talking to Joe--he's the one that saw the angel and I needed to ask him.
"Have you ever seen your guardian angel?" I asked Joe at his two-story apartment one afternoon while awaiting a truck to haul some pews for the church we were building in Cinco DeMayo, Baja.
A large grin appeared on Joe's face as he replied, "Yes! I'll never forget. We were parked at a roadside rest, me and my friend.
"What part of the country were you in, Joe?" I interrupted. "Do you remember?"
"It was a long way off, Louisiana, I believe. We had stopped for lunch where a single road from the main highway made a loop through the forest where we could park. There were no other roads entering this area. This young man approached us riding a red bicycle and called me by name: 'Joe Bravo, Joe Bravo, call home tonight! Your mother is worried about you.' 'Do you know me?' I asked. 'Sure,' the man replied. 'I know you, your mother, Leticia, and your brothers.' Then the angel told me all about my family."
"What did he look like, Joe?" I asked.
"He was tall and thin," Joe replied. "And he had a beautiful smile; I'll never forget it. As we were talking, he would interrupt and say, 'You know, Joe, you should go home. Your mother is worried about you.' After talking a few minutes he said, 'good bye' and started peddling up the road toward the highway. My friend and I glanced quickly at each other and then back at the bicyclist. He had disappeared."
"What did you do then?" I asked.
"We looked at each other with wide-eyes, then I said, 'Let's get out of here!' I had to find a job to earn gas money because it was a long way home--took about a month to get there."
Joe's encounter is convincing. God's voice came in answer to the prayer of a worried mother, and the message, "Joe will call tonight at bedtime," was fulfilled by a phone call from her son that very evening. And Joe's conversation with the disappearing stranger while 2,000 miles away.... What more evidence is needed to convince everyone that God had personally intervened in their lives.
And God also used this story to guide me from a troubled marriage; and though no angel audibly spoke with me, I have the assurance that a loving Savior heard my earnest prayers and sent divine counsel through a human instrument.
Luis and I are intimate friends, and my recollection
of their first trip to Mexico is still fresh in my mind. In the mid-1970's,
his mother first suggested they buy clothes and blankets for Mexico. Returning
from this "trial" journey, Luis told of their hardships. In addition to
the heat, they knew no one and only had a couple oranges for lunch. Uncertain
of the area and their mission, they stopped along the road about noon and
prayed that the Lord would show them if this was the work He wanted them
to do. They drove to a couple houses made of sticks and mud and shouted
to a woman in Spanish: "Come here! Sister. We have a blanket for you."
The woman stood immobile, so they repeated the offer.
"Her reply startled us," said Luis. "The woman began shouting to her neighbor: 'My dream! My dream!' She then explained that she had just told her neighbor of her dream that night that some strangers would give her a blanket for warmth."
I donated several hundred pounds of beans salvaged from a train wreck. Returning from Mexico, Luis and Leticia told how some people actually cried when they received the beans. "God bless you, God bless you," they said. "We didn't know what we were going to eat tonight." Upon hearing this, I often purchased beans and flower for the Bravos to take there, and when work schedules permitted, would travel with them and assist in its distribution. People in our community began donating used clothing and household goods. The quantity increased to the point where others, including Leticia's other sons, Joe and Max, were called to assist.
At home, Luis and his mother traveled from town to town looking for specials on new shoes or other essential items needed by their friends in Mexico--any extra money was spent for these items. And from their own funds, they often were forced to pay heavy import taxes on goods taken into the country.
Since this time, Leticia has entered her
Lord's rest. And like the compassionate Dorcas of apostolic times, she
awaits the resurrection day when our Savior will awaken her from the peaceful
slumber of death. In her immortal body that will never again taste death
or decay, she will then meet with her guardian angel face to face. He will
take her by the hand and escort her personally to the Mansion prepared
for the redeemed in Heaven. "And he [Jesus] shall send his angels
with a great sound of a trumpet, and they shall gather together His elect
from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other." (Matthew 24:31).
One more thing. You might be wondering about the village where the lady lived who saw the angel. The Catholic Priest there let it be known that we would be killed if we started meetings in his territory. God would provide, though, by opening up work in a village in the opposite direction. We "turned the other cheek" and the success attending the work resulted in our construction of a church in a different community.
Sometimes I wonder: If only we who are deficient in faith on this wicked planet could fully comprehend Heaven's deep interest in our lives, His personal care, and tremendous love. But now we must trust in the Word of God, and be content with the little encouragement's we receive on those rare occasions when He chooses to strengthen our faith by allowing a peek under the veil that separates us from another dimension. Yes, we now see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face (1 Cor. 13:12).
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