Excerpted from 'Celebration of Angels' by Timothy Jones, published by Thomas Nelson.

V. Raymond Edman was a missionary to the Quichua Indians of Ecuador from 1923 to 1928. Later he was president of Wheaton College in Wheaton, Illinois, until his death in 1965. He tells this story of an angel encounter.

After our marriage in the capital city of Quito, we were given our first assignment in a city whose environs had thousands of Quichua-speaking Indians. We lived on the outskirts of that city where we could reach both the Spanish-speaking citizens on the streets and in the marketplaces, and also the shy, suspicious Indians who passed our doorway on the way to market.

Our assignment was a difficult one. The people were quite unfriendly; some were fanatical in their bitter opposition to our presence in their city. On occasion, small crowds would gather to hurl insults, punctuated by stones both large and small. As a result it was often difficult to get the bare necessities of life--fruits and vegetables or charcoal for the kitchen stove. Added to these physical factors was an inward sense of human loneliness.

Whenever we were not in the front part of the house, we kept the gate locked with an iron chain and padlock. There was constant danger that some bare-footed stranger would tiptoe into an unoccupied room and depart with more than he had come with.

One day as we were eating our mid-day meal, we heard a rattling at the gate as though someone were asking for admission. I excused myself from the table and went to the porch. I saw an Indian woman standing outside the gate. She had reached one hand inside through the bars and was knocking on the chain with the padlock. Quickly I went down to inquire what she might want. She was no one I had ever seen before.

As I approached the inside of the gate she began to speak softly in the mixture of Spanish and Quichua that was typical of the Indians who lived fairly close to the town. Pointing to a Gospel verse we had put on the porch she inquired, "Are you the people who have come to tell us about the living God?"

Her question startled me. No one had ever made that query before. Therefore with surprise I answered, "Mamita (little mother, the customary term for a woman of her years), yes, we are."

Then she raised the hand that was still inside the locked gate, and began to pray. She prayed for the blessing of God upon the inhabitants of this home. She asked that we have courage for the service committed to us, that we have joy in doing God's bidding, and prayed that many would hear and obey the words of the Gospel. Then she pronounced a blessing from God upon me.

A reminder to show hospitality to strangers. Read more on page 2 >>

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The prayer concluded, and she withdrew her hand. Then she smiled at me through the gate with a final, Dios le bendiga (God bless you). Her eyes fairly shone as she spoke those words, and then she bowed and turned to her left.

I was so astonished by all of this that for part of a minute I stood speechless and motionless. Quickly I remembered that it was the heat of the day, and that she should come in to eat with us. All the while I had held the key in my hand. In a matter of seconds I had unlocked the gate and stepped out to call her back. But she was not there! Where could she have gone so quickly?

I ran to the corner and looked to the right, but she was not there. The same was true of the street to my left. Where could she be? The closest gate was to my right and that nearly a block away. There I ran (and my days on the track team in school stood me in good stead at the age of 24). I rushed inside the open gate and there my two closest neighbors were repairing the spokes in a large wooden wheel. Hastily I inquired, "Did an Indian woman just come in here?"

Both men looked up at once from their work and replied, "No sir."

"I mean just now," I insisted.

"No sir, we have been right here in the gate for an hour or more, and nobody has entered or left during that time."

I thanked them, and hastened back to the corner. There was not a soul in sight. At the noon hour there would be few in the road since it was time for lunch and the siesta. She must be somewhere; but where could she have gone? I waited there nearly 10 minutes looking in all directions, but no one appeared on the street. Slowly I retraced my steps to my own gate, and after locking it again went back to the table.

"Where have you been so long?" inquired my wife.

"There was an elderly Indian woman knocking on the gate. She prayed for us and invoked God's blessing upon us then started on down the street. I unlocked the gate and stepped out to call her, but she was not along the wall as I had expected. So I ran to the corner and sought her, but in vain."

We spoke no more about the matter. However, for days afterward my own heart remained strangely moved. It burned within me as I recalled that Indian woman's prayer, and it was strengthened by the blessing she had pronounced upon me. There seemed to be an aroma indescribably sweet and indefinable that certainly did not come from the flowers in the garden. Even now, as I write down these words, there comes anew the witness of God's Spirit to the ministry of that stranger.

After some days, I began to reflect upon the word in Hebrews 13:2 about showing hospitality to strangers. I began to understand that the Almighty had none of His earthly servants at hand to encourage two young missionaries, so He was pleased to send an angel from heaven. Through all the difficult moments that followed and over the many years since then, there has remained the glow of God's blessings pronounced by someone who looked exactly like a little old Quichua Indian woman.

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