“Do not forget to entertain strangers, for by so doing some have unwittingly entertained angels.”
The day had finally arrived, August 17, 1983. My daughter Debbie and her husband, Rich, were in the delivery room at the St. Joseph Hospital in Pontiac, Michigan, awaiting the birth of their second child. Andrew, their first born, now almost two years old, was seated with me in a large, waiting room on the ground floor. Upon entering, I had noticed that only one other person, a middle-aged woman, was in the room. We chose two front row seats close to her.
Within minutes, after our arrival, a pleasant looking, elderly man entered the room from the far end of the building, which was the only entrance from the street. Then, observing the location of the chairs, only fifteen in total, he walked the length of the room to where we were seated. I was about to greet him when, standing in front of us, he turned a chair sideways directly in front of us and sat down. We had a perfect view of his face from the side, but at no time did he tum his face towards us or give any indication that he noticed us. His bushy hair was pure white and a slight smile never left his face. I remember thinking what a perfect choice he would be to play the role of a seasoned Catholic Priest.
Seated with Andrew I asked if he would like me to read him a story. My daughter Debbie had provided the books for this special occasion. “Yes, grandpa” he replied. “Here’s one” I said, “It’s about angels.” I began reading and showed him the pictures of angels in the book. He loved it. So did our mystery man, I believe, he heard every word.
When the story ended, my grandson asked if he could get down and walk. I told him he could but not to go too far. He walked close by for a few minutes and then began moving out towards the street entrance door.
“That’s far enough Andrew,” I said, “wait for me.” I stood up, gave our smiling friend a close look as I passed by, and walked about twenty feet to take Andrew’s hand. As we turned around I could not believe my eyes, the “mystery man” had disappeared.
“Impossible!” I thought to myself. I had just walked past him. There were no other doors at the far end of the room where we had been sitting.
Then I noticed the woman who had been sitting behind us the whole time. “Oh good”, I thought, “I’ll ask her.”
“Excuse me,” I asked, “did you see that elderly man leave?”
“What elderly man?” she asked.
“You know, the man that was sitting directly in front of us.”
“I don’t know what you are talking about” she replied, “I was here when you and the boy came in and no other person has been in this room.” She went on, “I saw you reading to the child, it’s just been you, the boy and myself the whole time.”
I could not believe what I was hearing. I stood mute for a full minute.
Andrew and I returned to our chairs.
“Maybe he was an angel,” I thought, or better yet, a guardian angel and like us, is waiting for the news of a successful birth. I felt better. We returned to our chairs and did not have long to wait. The good news arrived, it was a boy, and mother and son were doing fine. We rushed upstairs to see the newborn baby (Ryan) and rejoiced together.
Later that same year, 1981, after twenty-five years in the insurance business I was led by the Lord to accept a full time position as a pastor of a church in Rochester, Michigan, (now Rochester Hills). It was a wise decision as my focus quickly changed from the Insurance business to the Assurance business.
After serving at the church in Rochester for two years, I was commissioned (‘sent out’ was the term we used) by the church to plant the seeds for a new church in Oxford, Michigan. All through those years, I often thought about the appearance of the angel who sat so quietly before us in the waiting room. Sincerely, it was one of those profound moments that just sticks with you for life.
Was he really a guardian angel? I did not know but felt God had a purpose in all that transpired. During the years that followed, I shared the mystery with others but would have to wait twenty years for God’s revelation.
The year was 2001. It was a Sunday morning and I was not scheduled to preach. I remember standing just outside my office watching the folks assemble. Suddenly to my utter surprise, an elderly man who looked exactly like the angel from years before had just entered the church. I stood astounded, watching him walking down the aisle. Was it was the same angel? Why would this angel come to our church?
From my vantage point, as before, I could only see the right side of his face. He had bushy, white hair and that same pleasant look on his face. I watched every move he made, thinking he might disappear at any moment. He chose a chair on the right side about half way to the front of the church. Next to him was an empty chair.
With my heart beating wildly, I walked over and sat down next to him. He was staring straight ahead. “Good morning,” I said.
He returned my greeting and added, “Hi, I’m Ken Haffner.” I welcomed him and the service began. Brief pleasantries were shared after the service. Later I learned that Ken Haffner had been a beloved pastor in a neighboring community. You can well imagine my eyes were on him the following Sunday mornings as he continued to attend services.
One day some weeks after meeting him, my patience and curiosity wore out. We were chatting in my office. So, I popped the question, “Pastor Ken, I have a something I would like to ask you…”
“Go right ahead,” he said. “
It felt funny asking, but I went on, “Have you ever been an angel?”
“An angel?” He chuckled, “No, I don’t think so.”
On another occasion, I asked his lovely wife if she thought her husband could have been an angel.
“Ken?” she said, “Oh, no.”
We all laughed but, there was now no question in my mind that God had allowed an angel to sit in front of my grandson and I twenty years ago: but, why? Was there a connection between the angel and Pastor Ken? I only wished someone had the answer.
On another occasion Pastor Ken shared with me the reason he visited Christ the King Church. He told me that most of the people in the church he attended were young and he was looking for a close relationship with a male companion, someone closer to my age. “How did it happen that you choose this church to visit, Ken? Have you been here before?” I asked.
“No,” he responded, “I knew the name but didn’t even know the address or city the church was in. When I prayed for guidance, the Lord’s answer was Christ the King Church.”
Surely, our Amazing God orchestrated our coming together.
We became great friends, close friends and soul friends. On a personal level, Pastor Ken was the Godliest man I had ever known. Kind, loving and caring are but a few of the adjectives to describe him. He quickly won the hearts of all who met him and shortly, thereafter, accepted the call to serve as an elder and teacher in our church.
Years have now past and Pastor Ken is with His Lord. Whereas He was looking ‘for a friend’, God provided us with a “Human Angel” that blessed me through our years together almost beyond description.
I still have no doubt in my mind that we were visited by an angel in the hospital long ago, an angel that looked exactly like Pastor Ken. I like to believe God uses moments like that, or maybe it is His divine sense of gentle humor that plants the seeds of trust… trust in Him
All praise and honor to our Awesome God.
– Wes Peterson