Sunday, December 30, 2007

Angels Are Real

If anyone felt lonely over the holidays it was my friend Jo-Ann. Jo-Ann’s husband, my good friend Brian Jackson, was murdered just over two years ago. He and I were police officers together. I wrote about how he died in the line of duty in my blog ‘My Friend was Shot and Killed.’

Jo-Ann and Brian were married about three months when they went on their honeymoon. They had only returned from their trip about two weeks when he was killed. I can’t imagine the pain and loss and discouraging feeling of perpetual separation she must feel. Jo-Ann’s tough though—there’s that word again. Life is tough sometimes, but we can be tough right back.

That most tragic situation reminds me of the roommate I had as an Army Private in South Korea many years ago. My roommate, whom I’ll call John, had a little to drink when I asked him about how his first wife had died. I believe the little alcohol relaxed him enough to tell me about his painful experience.

They were high school sweethearts—and married young. Two weeks following their honeymoon in Acapulco, Mexico, John was working his shift as an Emergency Medical Technician for a local ambulance company when he responded to an overturned vehicle. His young wife and her best friend had been hit by a drunk driver. Both of them were pinned upside down inside the vehicle. While the fire department crew worked frantically to free the two girls, John laid on the ground next to his wife and held her hand. She was semi-conscious and had suffered traumatic injuries. He spoke to her through his tears, encouraging her to hold on a little longer.

But the rescue team could not pull the wrecked steel from around the ladies fast enough. Even the ‘Jaws of Life’ had no success. Meanwhile her life slowly ebbing away. She died as he held her hand.

Staring at the wall in the small barracks room, tears welled up in John’s eyes as he re-lived the pain. I didn’t say a word.

He said, “I won’t tell you how I know, but I know angels are real. I wouldn’t be here if they didn’t exist.” There was a pause as he reflected on something very personal and private to him. “I tried to kill myself after she died, but I was stopped. I guess I’m supposed to be here. It’s not my time to go yet.”

Now, fast-forward to August earlier this year.

Everything was going great. I had a new job prospect and I felt I had my future all planned out. Then, all of a sudden, my life was changed drastically when I got a call to serve here in Iraq. Everything changed—everything. I lost a huge contract and what appeared to be a very promising future in Virginia. All the plans I had for myself were shattered…or so it seemed.

Then to add more devastation, I was assigned to a Reserve military unit I knew nothing about. Having worked in the special operations community, as well as in a Military Intelligence capacity, I felt that going with the conventional unit I’m currently with would be a gigantic waste. I rued it. Special Operations Command (SOCOM) contacted me and asked if I wanted to do a tour with them. But I wasn’t able to get out of the government orders or do a transfer to SOCOM where I felt I could utilize my talents and enjoy my job more.

On the morning we were to fly out, I met up with Kevin Bianchi, a Department of the Army civilian I had never met before. Kevin explained that he wasn’t supposed to be there that morning, but that things had occurred out of his control which made him show up that day. Likewise, with a Top Secret clearance I was assigned to guard some important documents so we ended up traveling together away from the rest of the group.

Kevin didn’t know about my background, my religion or my situation. He nearly apologized for saying so but he said he really felt he needed to tell me that I was supposed to go to Iraq for a reason—that I would start something or stop something from happening, that I was supposed to go to Iraq for a reason. Kevin further explained that it was unlike him to ever say something like that to someone, let alone a perfect stranger—me. I really felt the spirit of his message. I felt his words were an answer to my prayers.

Yesterday I saw several soldiers standing in a meandering circle in front of several armored vehicles. They were bowing their heads as the Chaplain prayed for their safety. Before every convoy and every operation a prayer is offered.

All of us have subtle differences in the way we worship. But I still believe that the majority of us believe in a Supreme Being, a higher power. We may have differences about God; we may call him different names, but we look to him for divine protection and guidance in our lives.

I’ve prayed—begged at times—for God to protect my life. I’ve been in situations where I had no other power and no other options but a reliance on Divine Providence.

God is the micromanager of our lives. He who grants life and breath has the power to take it away. No scientific explanation and no medical marvel can stop or defy God. The New Testament says that no hair of the head is lost or no sparrow falls to the ground save the Lord knows it. Would he even cut our military orders for us? Yes! I wholeheartedly, unequivocally believe that.

Yet when we pray, sometimes our hope or our will is not granted—our prayers may seem unheard or unanswered. The atheist would say that when a person prays he is only giving a positive affirmation of his own belief and that if anything happens as an ‘answer’ to a prayer, it is merely coincidence. That is simply not true. Prayers are answered, miracles can and do occur. Faith precedes the miracle.

An ancient prophet named Moroni wrote in the Book of Mormon: Another Testament of Jesus Christ, that “it is by faith that miracles are wrought; and it is by faith that angels appear and minister unto men; wherefore, if these things have ceased wo be unto the children of men, for it is because of unbelief, and all is vain.”

None of these people I mentioned are members of my religion, yet I share a common bond with each of them. That bond is a belief, hope and faith in God.

God knows what’s best for us. He tries our patience and our faith. As a loving and merciful Being, an Eternal Father in Heaven, he answers our prayers in his own time, and in his own way, and according to his own will.

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