Picture by Aelena, Flickr, cc by-nc-nd 2.0
On a day-to-day level, few of us probably think much about angels. They’re just stone statues in cemeteries or marble sculptures in galleries, the stuff of children’s tales and renaissance paintings, not of flesh-and-blood life. I may be wrong, but even people of faith probably give little thought to them.
When I raised the topic of angelic encounters with my social media friends, I was expecting some nice stories about lights in the sky and the kindness of strangers. Instead, I got stories that truly opened my eyes. While statues, sculptures and paintings always depict angels as winged beings with white robes and halos, perhaps they’re more likely to come dressed as people just like us—walking on the beach wearing brown shirts, or standing on the doorstep holding envelopes. I shared some of these stories on BBC Radio 2’s Pause for Thought segment recently. You can read more of them below.
A Knock at the Door
When I was a kid my parents were in a ministry where they lived by faith, all wages coming through individual donations. One day funds were very tight and Mum was praying in her room and reading her Bible, when she read a verse that said ‘and the Lord will provide your wages’. At that moment there was a knock at the door. She answered it and there stood a young lady. ‘My friend asked me to give you this,’ she said, and handed mum an envelope. Stunned, mum said thanks and closed the door. She peeked in the envelope and it contained a good amount of cash. There was no more than 30 seconds between closing the door and opening it again, but the girl was gone. It would have taken more than 30 seconds to reach the street and the view was clear. There was nowhere for her to go and there was no car. To this day my Mum is convinced that this was an angel sent by the Lord.
Guiding Lights on a Snowy Night
One night my wife and I went across to an American airforce base (Misawa) east of where we were working as missionaries in Aomori, northern Japan. It was a chance for us to have fellowship with some strong Christians and be refreshed for ministry. Getting there was an hour and a half- long journey across a mountain pass, which was very tricky in winter with thick drifts of snow on the sides and the occasional car buried deep.
Driving home, we were very, very tired. The snow had started to fall and came down in big cotton ball sized flakes, making vision difficult. Late on a Friday night, out in the country along this mountain pass, there were few cars. But then a car appeared in front of us. Behind this car we stayed for the next hour, along the difficult mountain pass stretch, always keeping the rear red lights in view.
Why do I think we followed one of God’s messengers? The car came when I was really tired and the car drove at a safe speed for over an hour, never speeding up, slowing down, or even pulling off, if that was possible. Those red lights were a beacon of safety for us as we followed them through the heavily falling snow. And we sure didn’t like the idea of pulling over to take a nap up on that pass with the snow falling as it was. We have often believed that God had sent an angel to guide us home safely on that cold and dangerous night.
A Mysterious Helping Hand
I have muscular dystrophy. The last time I ever attempted to travel by myself on the London Tube – on crutches with a large rucksack – I found myself at Putney station facing an enormous flight of stairs. There was no lift or escalator and I stood at the bottom thinking, ‘I can’t do this. I just can’t’. I wanted to cry because I should’ve been able to manage the stairs, but I couldn’t. I just prayed.
And then a man with the most amazing face appeared at my side. ‘Can I carry your bag and help you up the stairs?’ he said. I couldn’t stop staring st him. He took my bag, took my arm, helped me to the top, gave me back my bag. By the time I got sorted and turned around to thank him, he was gone. I mean, totally gone. Nowhere to be seen. I feel very certain he was an angel.
A Mysterious Doctor
I was unexpectedly admitted to hospital after a routine biopsy went wrong. Lots of doctors came to see me, and I wasn’t sure what was going on. One doctor came to see me the next day and explained everything really clearly, so I could understand what was happening. He came to see me a second time with some good news also. But when my specialist and others came later, they didn’t know of any doctor by the name that I mentioned to them, and no one else seemed to be aware of this doctor. This led me to think he may have been an angel provided by God in my time of need.
A Man in a Suit in India
It was 1994 and my friend and I had just arrived in India for our physio placement, but no one met us at the station. We were both 21 years old. At 3am we got off the train and as no signs were in English we ended up in what can only be described as very dodgy back streets with nothing but men and their rickshaws. We approached several of them, none of whom spoke English nor had heard of the village we needed to get to. It was hopeless and we simply prayed and cried.
Then a tall gentleman dressed in a suit and carrying a briefcase approached us. He was totally out of context. He knew the village and even exactly where the hospital was we were due to stay in. He instructed one of the drivers and got a guard to accompany us the entire journey and told us how much money to give the driver. He then disappeared. On reflection we could only conclude he was an angel.
A Man in a Suit in London
About twenty years ago now I was once in a desperate state. My relationship was breaking up, and I was very stressed at work. One day I was very late for a meeting in North Wales. I had just picked up my hire car and was driving up Great Portland Street in London when my back tire suddenly went flat. I had never changed a tyre, it was a hire car I wasn’t familiar with, it was raining very hard and, to cap it off, it was rush hour. I was staring helplessly at the flat tyre when a business man in a suit stopped, opened the boot, jacked up the car, and changed the tyre. When I turned to thank him, he had disappeared into the crowd.
A Flaming Body, a Bright Light
In the early days of the 24/7 prayer movement in Chichester, we were often waking up in the small hours and travelling to the prayer room. One time, as I was waking, an angel sort of appeared in my bedroom. Her body and face were the colours of flames and there was a soft sound of singing in a language that sounded like tongues. I remember feeling a powerful sense of peace.
Another time I remember seeing a huge flash of bright light as we were worshiping. It was so amazing I jumped right out of my skin, but was surprised no one else responded. A few minutes later a friend came up to me. God had spoken to her to reassure me I had seen an angel. It was certainly a season of heightened expectation I think, and assured me there is so much more than we can fully reason or articulate going on.
A Visitor at Work
I had a chap turn up at work who looked straight at me as he entered. He walked up to me as I sat at the desk, spoke to me by name, and encouraged me. The office was full of other people and he seemed completely unfazed by this as he encouraged me in my faith. I had never meet this guy before and it was just before I started looking to finish work and go to Bible College. I was contending with some big issues in my walk with Christ. At the end of our conversation, by which time I was sitting back in my chair in wonder, he made the comment for everyone in the office, ‘Oh I suppose I should purchase something. What do you think I need?’ I have never forgotten this. It has been a great source of strength to me.
A Voice From Above
I was in Bali in 1978. The streets flooded, cutting me off from my homestay. I really did want to get back, so I considered wading through the thigh-high water. Then I heard a voice say ‘Awas!’ from above me. Awas means ‘Watch Out!’ in Indonesian, which I speak. I looked up and there was a man sitting on the light pole. I thought he might be an electrician, but how he got up there so quickly I couldn’t fathom. I asked him what was wrong. His answer chilled me: ‘Ada kabel di dalam air’ – ‘There is a cable in the water’. Had I attempted to cross, I would have been electrocuted.
This might not sound like an angelic meeting but there are several crucial things to keep in mind: This man was right beside me when I needed to be warned, and of all the tourists in Kuta at the time I was one of less than a handful that would have understood his warning, coming as it did in Indonesian.
An Angel in a Toilet Block
When we were 14 or 15, a friend and I went to a music festival. We couldn’t sleep the first night and so we wandered to the stage area. There we bumped into a group of boys who had been drinking cider. They wanted us to join their ‘party’ but we politely declined, said we were going to the toilet, then ran off. On our way back we bumped into them again, and we ran back to the toilet block. They followed us and things took a turn for the worst. They soon had us backed into cubicles.
Suddenly, we heard a voice shouting at the lads, telling them to get out. We slowly emerged from the cubicles, petrified but grateful. We ran out of the toilet block and turned to thank the man who had saved us, but he had completely disappeared. We got to know the security team afterward and it wasn’t one of the team. We are both convinced he was an angel.
A Miraculous Leap
[Note: The following story is quite astounding. Having known Peter and Eileen for over twenty years, I can attest they are the last people to put fanciful interpretations on otherwise natural events. Something truly happened here.]
In 1982 a thief in northern Ghana tried to kill me by cracking open my skull with a car stand, trying to cut through my jugular, then whacking me over the face with a broken bottle. My wife Eileen, who was trapped inside, recounts what happened next. The thief locked me out of the courtyard and took the keys. There was no way Eileen could unlock the front door so, when I came to, she sent me around the back where there was a cement wall and picket gate about eye-level high. It was also locked. She then says I flew over the gate and landed sitting at her feet, where she then supported me into the house and treated my wounds. It must have been an angel that carried me over the gate.