Entertaining Angels: My Own Story
Welcome to 2017! We’re back! After a long break and much prayer, the topic of choice for this blog post has been at the forefront of my mind for weeks. The choices have ranged from health to sanctification. I’ve even drafted a few that are yet to be published. But none of them made it to the press. Leave it to God for waiting until the day the post is due. And here we are. So, what does He want me to talk about? I bet you’d never guess.
Let me make myself perfectly clear before I officially open up this story. Although angels are a very real part of every believer’s life, I don’t believe we need to focus on them. I rarely think about them, although I know they are present. Is angelic ministry real? Absolutely — without question. Their activity goes on behind the scenes in ways we know nothing about most of the time. If we, as believers, really knew and understood the angelic ministry that took place on our behalf everyday — our heads would spin. These heavenly hosts are continually about God’s business, performing His will by doing strategic acts of warfare, intervention, and offering providential help that no other could offer us. The Bible teaches they are assigned to those who will inherit salvation. They are ministers who are flames of fire. Children have their personal assigned angels (should we be surprised?) and even Christ Himself required angelic ministry during His times of trial in the wilderness, and in the Garden of Gethsemane. Angelic ministry is real, needed, and valid in the life of every believer — from the least to the greatest of us.
But are we always aware of them? No. And for good reason. Our focus should never be on the angels. On the contrary, it should always be on God.
Although we are not to seek angels or worship them, God does send them to us, and at times reveals them to us. They come as messengers, warriors, and ministers. Many times they are disguised. They definitely pull rank, and depending on their created purpose, they are assigned various roles in God’s vast eternal kingdom. Angels are created beings who cannot inherit salvation, and we are told the matters of men and the salvation we’ve inherited intrigues them (see 1 Peter 1:12). They are neither male nor female. Their sole purpose is to serve God and do His bidding in whatever manner He wills or chooses. The authority and power they are granted is at His discretion.
Time and space fail me to take you through the Word of God on the topic of angels and their ministry. They have been involved in the intimate affairs of mankind since the sands of time. From the flashing sword in the Garden of Eden to the armies of Armageddon in Revelation — angels of every kind have been involved in our lives. Mine. Yours. And yes, even Christ’s.
We all need angelic ministry. And we all receive it. Yet most of the time we are unaware it’s happening on our behalf. However, there are times when God allows us to entertain them. And although the Bible speaks of this phenomenon, very few have confessed to genuinely encountering it.
Strangely enough, I’ve been privileged to have had such an experience. And it’s here that I’d like to share it with you.
From New Mexico to Canada
Be not forgetful to entertain strangers: for thereby some have entertained angels unawares, (Hebrews 13:2, KJV).
It was the summer of 2002. I was taking leave for a five-week mission trip into Saskatchewan, Canada with a team of Native youth from New Mexico and Arizona. Prior to leaving I had let God know that I’d like to meet an angel. I had no idea why I asked, and I had no legitimate reason for asking other than mere curiosity. I asked with such childlike faith, knowing that He heard me, and believing He would answer. In my own mind I had this expectation of a glorious being that would take my breath away in fearsome holiness. There would be flashes of light and peals of thunder. But just as Jesus came to us as a humble babe, my angel came to me in equally humble form — so much so that I had no idea he was an angel.
We set out from Albuquerque and would drive for the next 24 hours in a crowded van through the Rocky Mountains across the border of our neighbor, Canada. The drive was long, but grew more spectacular the deeper we trekked through the Rockies. The breathtaking sights mesmerized me, and I burned up more than five rolls of film. It was the last week of June. We reached the Canadian border at the onset of summer just past 11 pm, and the sun had just lowered past the horizon. Twilight was upon us. After an hour of interrogation by the border patrol, we were finally released and made our way into Canada.
The first town we came to was a small town just across the border set in the foothills of the Rockies. It was finally dark and we needed gas. We still had a long way to go before reaching the campsite located in the Rockies. There was not a soul around. Downtown was desolate. We pulled over to check the map when I looked across the street and saw a man dragging and limping his way up the steep hill. He was dressed in a white tee-shirt, jeans, and a baseball cap. His gait was so incredibly slow and debilitated that I wondered if he’d ever make it to the top.
Upon seeing him my heart leapt within me, much like what Elizabeth experienced in her womb upon hearing Mary’s voice. I was compelled to help this stranger. I wasted no time opening the van door to get out. Everyone tried to stop me telling me how dangerous this was. But after convincing a willing accomplice to go with me, we headed immediately toward him. After crossing the street, we ran up the hill to meet this stranger — who was none other than a middle-aged Native American man named Elroy.
Warfare and Coffee
I have never met a more gentle soul.
He stopped and turned, waiting for us to catch up with him. I latched onto him in the cool night air and found him very willing to receive us. He was exceptionally clean yet simply dressed in a white t-shirt, and a peace emanated from him that was completely other. He stood there quietly. I introduced myself, told him who we were and why we were there and shared my concern for him. Why was a man like himself walking the street alone past midnight? I proceeded to ask him. I also inquired about his last meal.
He replied in a slurred tongue, “Five o’clock this morning.”
My heart sank for him. I told him I wanted to get him something to eat. I continued to ask how we could help him. After several questions we discovered that he was on his way to his uncle’s house. But how long would it take him to get there? I simply couldn’t let him walk any further. His right side was lame, including his arm, and his eyes were piercing yet weak. He looked to have had a stroke. Yet surprisingly, his mind was sharp. When I asked about his being lame he shared that he had been in a war. When I asked about which one, he gave vague answers.
We wasted no time in telling him about Jesus. That’s when he lit up. He smiled so brightly and began to preach to us about Jesus. His eyes became tender and warm, and they gleamed with such joy. He said, “Elroy love Jesus!” Pointing to his head he said, “Jesus not here!” Then he pointed to his heart with conviction and said, “Jesus in here.”
Then he lifted his lame right arm to show us his tattoo. “See! Jesus inscribed upon my right arm!” But there was nothing there. I began to wonder if he was of sound mind after all, and I grew increasingly worried for this lovely tender-hearted man who was so alone, starving, and apparently lost.
We begged him to come back to the van with us. I promised to feed him, and I wanted to give him some money. It was growing cold, and I also had intentions of breaking out my luggage (which the Canadian border guards had just searched) and giving him my coat. Elroy was reluctant at first, but we insisted. We helped him back down the hill, three abreast, arm-in-arm, and provided an empty seat in the van. Everyone had been earnestly watching and waiting for us. Elroy sat quietly as we drove to the nearest gas station. He spoke not a word to anyone. The peace emanating from his presence was remarkable.
We helped him from the van into the convenience store at the gas station. Again, his gait was extraordinarily slow and halted. I watched over him carefully, and said, “I want to buy you something to eat. You can have anything you want!”
He said, “Elroy just want coffee.”
I wondered at this and said, “Are you sure you don’t want anything else?”
“No,” he replied.
I prepared him a coffee, and he asked for plenty of cream and sugar, which I was very happy to supply.
I asked the clerk if he could exchange my cashier’s check for Elroy. Unfortunately, he could not, and my heart sank. I wondered what I could do. Then I remembered the coat…
That’s when Elroy turned to me distinctly. He bent toward me looking me square in the eye and pointed his finger into my face. Narrowing his eyes with conviction he said, “Jesus says, ‘Never be ashamed of who you are.'” This shocked me. His penetrating eyes had a fire in them. His gentle voice was soft but stern. Elroy didn’t just look at me, he saw deep into my very soul.
He thanked me for the coffee and proceeded toward the door. I asked him where he was going. He pointed forward, “My uncle’s house.” I asked him where it was so we could take him there.
He opened the door repeating over and over, “Elroy never forget you! Elroy never forget you! Elroy never forget you…”
But the coat! I had to get him a coat. I followed after him as he limped slowly along, dragging his right leg with his hot coffee in hand. He had such a long way to go. I couldn’t let him go alone. The parking lot was large and empty, yet well lit. Elroy had barely crossed the threshold of the door at convenience store. I held it for him and followed him out.
“Wait! Let me get you my coat from the van!” I turned my head to the van for a split second, which was parked around the corner, then looked back to him.
Elroy was gone. Vanished. TOTALLY DISAPPEARED — coffee and all.
I stood there shocked and alone in that empty parking lot under the glaring lights in a tiny Canadian town past midnight looking everywhere for him — a lame man who could hardly move. And Elroy was nowhere to be found.
The God Who Sees
Years passed before I understood who Elroy really was. It wasn’t until I came back home five weeks later that the Holy Spirit quickened my remembrance of my childlike request to see an angel. He answered that prayer the moment we crossed the border into Canada. Not with flashing lights and peals of thunder, but with a humble quiet man who emanated the peace and joy that only comes with knowing Christ intimately.
All of the strange details began to make sense. Elroy’s beautiful countenance; his peaceful demeanor; his avid love for Jesus; the story of a vague war he had fought which left him lame; his speaking in third person; and and even his invisible tattoo. Elroy had a message for me that changed my life. I couldn’t have known it at the time, but his word came to me at a critical juncture in my life when a storm was about to be unleashed against me that I could not have survived without knowing who I was in Christ.
But who is Elroy? What did his name mean?
It wasn’t until 2005 that God revealed his name to me. I was at a friend’s house looking through a Hebrew book of names for God. Among them was one I’ll never forget.
Hebrew: “the God who sees”
I stared at the page in shock. Waves of joy and tears coursed through me and down my cheeks, and I suddenly understood. That moment in time was an intersection with revelatory truth that brought closure to the experience I had so long cherished. I will never forget El Roi’s eyes looking into mine as he spoke that word from God to me. I’ll never forget the love and fire I felt piercing me as the words left his mouth. As he walked out of the convenience store that night I knew he was someone very special. But an angel? I couldn’t have known.
I had genuinely entertained an angel (stranger) unaware.
The first time we see the name El Roi mentioned in the Bible is when Hagar ran away from Sarah. She was pregnant, bitter, and afraid. After encountering an angel who gave her a drink in the wilderness and told her to return to her mistress, Hagar called the LORD “El Roi” because God had seen her and saved her in the midst of her distress (See Genesis 16:1-14).
There are many things about El Roi that were very special. But one of the most endearing was the fact that he was Native American. I’ve always loved the Native American people. I’m called to them, and I love them as my own. How gracious of the LORD to come to me through a warrior messenger in Native skin.
Through the years, El Roi has been with me. I’ve never forgotten him. In the years following El Roi’s visit, the LORD did a work in my life that was transformative. I came through the storm unleashed against me because of my identity in Him alone. He gave me eyes to see myself as He sees me.
I have often wondered if I would ever see El Roi again. I have wondered if he’s my personally assigned angel, or if he was simply a messenger along the way who intercepted that moment in time which God had ordained especially for me. The war he had fought, I knew was on my behalf. As for the coffee? I knew that offering was one that would have a return, for which his gratitude was so unnecessary and abundant.
I cry with joy when I think of El Roi. He was just as much flesh, blood, and bone as you and I. And why should this surprise us when God sent His Son in human flesh for our sake? Can He not do as much with an angel?
This memory is one I have kept treasured for years in the depth of my heart. Save for but a few, this story you have read is virtually untold. I’m shocked God has called me to disclose it to you. As I ponder it again, I do believe that His message is for every one of us:
“Never be ashamed of who you are.”
You can know with confidence that you have a God who sees you. You have a God who is willing to fight for you. He commands his ministers as flames of fire. The next time you’re in need, don’t be afraid to ask Him for help. There are angels standing by to do His bidding on your behalf.
Being made so much better than the angels, as he hath by inheritance obtained a more excellent name than they. And again, when he bringeth in the firstbegotten into the world, he saith, And let all the angels of God worship him. And of the angels he saith, Who maketh his angels spirits, and his ministers a flame of fire. But unto the Son he saith, Thy throne, O God, is for ever and ever: a sceptre of righteousness is the sceptre of thy kingdom, (Hebrews 1:4, 6-8, KJV).
Cheers & Shalom,