Last week we drove my old pickup from Colorado to Texas. My daughter learned to drive on the truck when she was 16. She is now grown, married, and the mother of 3 children. It has hauled and towed “stuff” to and from Minnesota, Montana, Colorado, South Dakota and Georgia. We are still using it, 155,000 miles and going strong, or so we thought.
We stopped in Amarillo at a truck stop for the usual: gas, snacks and a bathroom. When we hopped back in the truck, it wouldn’t start. The battery was strong and the starter spun the engine, but it would not fire.
So, there we were. Stranded at a fuel pump 450 miles from home on a Saturday morning. I tried to call an auto shop. Most are closed on Saturday, and those that are open are already busy. Our insurance agreed to send a tow truck. But where should we have them tow us? How long before we could get it fixed? Where would we stay?
My wife did what men won’t do. She went to other travelers, especially those who looked like they had seen the underside of a hood, and asked for help. I sat in the driver seat, helpless and confused. Then Rafael showed up, young, bright-eyed and smiling.
Rafael did not speak English. I don’t speak Spanish, except for a few words and phrases that I usually mispronounce. But sign language works where words fall short. He motioned. I opened the hood and cranked on the engine. Nothing. He took an empty water bottle and went around the gas pumps siphoning off the left over gas in each one and tried to prime the engine through the air intake. He then climbed under the truck and banged on the gas tank, trying to shake the fuel pump into action. Still nothing.
He then opened the fuse box under the hood, pushed and prodded on the relays and fuses. I turned the key and the engine sprang into life. Apparently the fuel pump relay had vibrated loose. After a helpless hour and a half, we were back on the road again. I tried to pay Rafael, but he would accept nothing. I tried to thank him with my best Spanish. He was just happy to help. I mentioned “Jesus Cristo” and he beamed.
I don’t know where Rafael came from. I don’t know where he went. He drove away in a big truck towing a fifth wheel RV. Rafael might not qualify as an angel according to the Bible. But he was an angel to us. It seemed, somehow, God sent him at just the right time.
Angels show up throughout the Bible. Our technological and scientific Western world dismisses them. The book of Hebrews says, “ Do not forget to show hospitality to strangers, for by so doing some people have shown hospitality to angels without knowing it.” (Hebrews 13:2).
I wish we could have shown hospitality to Rafael. Instead, we were the strangers in need, and he helped us. It seemed as if he were God’s messenger, or “mechanic,” at just the right time in just the right place. Just when we might think that our world is sliding into selfishness, violence and corruption, an angel shows up.