“Well… that was a close one!”
How many times have you heard that said? How many times have you said it yourself?
We may never know how many accidents, injuries, and “near misses” we have had in our lifetimes. We may never know how many times we have received angelic counsel from a quiet “impression”, a “still, small voice”, or a stranger who may have, in fact, been an angel. Hebrews 13:1-2 says:
Let brotherly love continue. Do not forget to entertain strangers,
for by so doing, some have unwittingly entertained angels.
In my book Our Invisible Allies (Charisma House), I convey one such story…
It happened just past midnight on March 26, 1993, to Vincent Tan, and analytical chemist who works in Chattanooga, TN.
Vincent was born Tan Ban Soon in Singapore, of Chinese Buddhist parents. A few years ago as a young boy in Singapore, he was in the library reading a book on nuclear physics and discovered an offer for a Bible course stuck between some pages. He ordered the course and later became a Christian. He came to the U.S. to attend a Christian college, then gave himself the Western name of Vincent. After four years, he graduated with a major in science. He has been very active in his church and in sharing his faith.
On the night of Thursday, March 25, 1993, Vincent was working late in his laboratory to complete tests due on Friday. During the evening he moved his car close to the front door of the building, since there had recently been criminal activity in the area. From time to time, he looked out the window into the almost empty parking lot to check on his car. At 1:30a.m., he finished working in his lab. As he was preparing to lock the door, he saw a person standing by the passenger side of his car. Vincent assumed the man was trying to steal his car. He noted that the stranger was of medium build with clean-cut, straight hair and had on a T-shirt, blue jeans, and white tennis shoes. Unsure what to do, he went back into the lab and prayed, “Lord, help me to do what I have to do. Do I have to use chi-sao?” (Chi-sao (pronounced “chee’-sow-o”) is a form of martial art in which Vincent is proficient.)
To be extra safe, he looked around the lab and picked up an 18-inch metal rod, held it behind him, and stuck his head out the door. He said, “Hi, can I help you?”
The stranger answered, “Hi, Vincent.”
Startled, Vincent asked, “Do I know you?”
The stranger replied, “Not really.”
“What is your name? Who are you?” Vincent probed.
The stranger said, “I have the name of your primary and secondary school.” He added, “I’m a friend. You don’t have to use chi-sao or the rod on me.”
His voice had unusual authority, and it seemed he knew the question before it was asked. Now Vincent was really startled. No one, not even his best friend in this country, was familiar with chi-sao, nor did anyone even know that he knew it. Also, there was no way the stranger could have seen the rod behind his back.
Vincent later reflected that the stranger had used terminology (“primary and secondary school”) of Singapore and not the U.S., and that the name of his school back in Singapore was St. Gabriel. The stranger was saying his name was Gabriel!
“I know,” the stranger replied. “By the way, Mum is fine.”
Vincent was startled again. Just the week before, his sister had called from Singapore saying that his mother had heart complications, and Vincent had been quite worried about her.
Gabriel continued, “You love the Lord very much, don’t you?”
“That’s right,” Vincent replied.
“He loves you very much too,” Gabriel said. Then he added, “He is coming very, very soon.” He seemed to emphasize the “very soon.”
Vincent answered, “That’s great!”
Gabriel then asked, “Can I have a cup of water?”
Vincent said, “Sure,” and turned momentarily to get him the water. Then he decided to invite the stranger inside to drink from the water fountain. He turned back to invite him inside — but Gabriel was not there. He had suddenly and inexplicably vanished! Vincent had not turned his head for more than three seconds.
There was no place for the stranger to have gone. Puzzled, and not wanting to go back into the lab, Vincent laid the metal rod down by the front door and headed to his home outside of Chattanooga. When he came back to work later that morning, he wondered if he had dreamed the whole experience. As a scientist, he wanted to prove whether it had really happened. When he got to the building, he found the metal rod lying by the door just where he had left it. He knew he had not been dreaming. Upon entering the lab, the first thing he did was to lock himself in the restroom and kneel in prayer. “Show me what to do Lord. I know what I remember, If I’m supposed to share it, I must believe it myself,” Vincent pleaded. He then sat down at his computer and recorded every word said, and everything that had happened.
That night, March 26, 1993, in a dream Vincent relived the whole experience, seeing himself and, word for word, hearing the whole conversation. He awoke at about 3:30a.m. and wrote down every word in the dream and the description of the stranger. What he wrote from the dream confirmed every detail he had written earlier. Also, a week after the experience, he learned that his mother had received needed surgery and was recuperating nicely — and that the medical decision about her improved condition came a week earlier at about the very same hour as he was talking with Gabriel!
On July 29, 1993, Vincent was asked what effect this experience has had on him. He said he believes more strongly now that we should be ready every day for the Lord’s coming, and not worry about which day He will come. He said the experience has intensified his dedication, causing him to spend more devotional time than before, wanting to know more about God and be closer to Him. For some time, even before that experience, Vincent said he had been asking God, “Am I ready, right now?”
Now more meaningfully than ever, this writer is asking that same question.