Angels Unaware

Hebrews 13:2-3: “Do not forget to entertain strangers, for by so doing some people have entertained angels without knowing it. Remember those in prison as if you were their fellow prisoners and those who are mistreated as if you yourself were suffering.”

Growing up the middle daughter of a Mennonite preacher in the 1950’s and ‘60’s was God’s initial gift to me. I just didn’t ‘get it’ back then.

We moved often. From Michigan to Pennsylvania, to Maryland, to North Dakota and numerous towns in each state. By the time I was 26 years old, I had moved 25 times.

Mama taught me hospitality. No matter where we moved to, she would take a fresh pie to the neighbors to introduce herself and our family. She didn’t wait for the doorbell to ring and have someone welcome her. We moved on and I’ve forgotten the names and faces of those strangers who intertwined with our lives because of Mama’s hospitality.

We would always have guests at Sunday dinner. It never mattered who it was – rich, poor, homeless, missionary, community or church visitor, orphan or someone from right off the street. There was sufficient room at the table and always enough food to feed whoever gathered around it. I never did understand how that one to two pound roast was always sufficient, despite the number of hungry mouths – there was always enough.

No matter where we lived, Daddy always checked out the local jail. I remember him disappearing many times – Mama simply told me that he was at the jail visiting prisoners. I never went with him to the jail. I didn’t understand why that was so important to him and I often times felt like Daddy was not spending time with his own family preferring to visit jailbirds.

Fast forward – June 2009. As my sisters and I sorted through Dad’s notes, letters, and sermons from 60 plus years of ministry, God tapped me on the shoulder. Well, actually, God hit me over the head. I found the prison letters. Letters of profound thanks to my father for saving them from eternal hell. Profound thanks for sharing John 3:16. Profound thanks for Dad’s visits to jail. Some letters requested help for when they were freed from prison, “…all I need is a chance to meet someone who may have a job where I can earn an honest living and stay out of trouble.”

These letters brought me to my knees. My Dad wasn’t a preacher; he was an evangelist. He went into the world and shared Christ with anyone who would listen (and some didn’t). He carried “tracts” in his pocket and always left one behind for the waitress, the gas attendant, the weary traveler, the bus driver, the prisoner – simply anyone he came into contact with.

Hebrews 13:7 – “Remember your leaders who spoke the word of God to you. Consider the outcome of their way of life and imitate their faith.”

Mama and Daddy taught me the word of God. They lived it. They breathed it. They spread it throughout my entire being. I am clothed in Christ because of their Christian leadership. Today, they are both in a Mennonite nursing home in Aroda, Virginia. Mama has Alzheimers and does not know me. Dad is weak from his stroke and spends most of his time in a wheelchair. Dad’s room is at the end of the hall and Mom’s room at the other end - they meet in the gathering room at the middle of the nursing home and silently hold hands. They still sing together. They still pray together. They have no personal wealth and the state pays for their care through Medicaid.

But their shelter is the Taj Mahal of their entire life. The nursing home building is about 3 years old and set in a country setting with awesome views of the Allegany mountains surrounded by farmers fields and lush fauna. This facility is the most beautiful nursing facility I’ve ever visited. As I consider the outcome of their life, I am blessed to have such wonderful Christian parents. In the sunset years of their lives, God has surrounded them with angels.

He is smitten with seizures that have reduced his life to the nursing home. He is confined to a wheelchair and cannot sit upright on his own. He is fed through a stomach tube. He understands conversations, but can only speak a few words after taking 5-10 seconds to form the words in his brain and vocalize them out loud. He sat quietly off to the side of our dinner table on Father’s Day where my sisters shared that day with our parents. What’s your name? ”…..John”. How old are you? “……20”. He smiled. He relished being next to Dad.

Dad arrived at the nursing home in December last year. Dad and John have become best buddies. Dad reads to John. They have navigated through the Bible with all the stories – Adam & Eve, Jonah and the whale, Daniel and the lion’s den, David and Goliath, the Good Samaritan… They’ve shared stories and laughter and tears. They have the time. Although 60+ years separate their lives, God has made them angels to one another.

Faith? Dear Father God,
Help me to imitate the faith on my parents. Help me to seek justice for those who suffer. Help me to open my heart and my home to strangers. Help me to bless others like my parents have blessed me. As you send me angels, let me be an angel to those unaware. Let me never forget that you are the same yesterday, today and forever. Amen.

Carole Schumacher

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