There are angels among us. divine emissaries. The celestial beings. The Good Book says that if we are lucky, we might even encounter one “unconsciously”.
I guess I’m lucky. Really lucky. Because I have met several of them, and I didn’t even believe in angels until recently. I thought they were part of the Bible that wasn’t meant to be taken at face value like the talking snakes and the seven-headed beasts.
And here’s the thing with the angels. They don’t look alike, think the same, or even believe the same. That is, they are not all Baptists, who – speaking from experience – I have found that they can be as orthodox as Peter but wicked as the devil.
I realize I’m stinging the bear here. The last time I checked there were over 90 Baptist churches in Blount County, some with as many members as a small country. But the thing about angels is, they’re not impressed with the numbers. Neither was Jesus. A dozen good angels can turn a whole city upside down.
I met several angels in West Knoxville recently handing out coffee and hot chocolate to a group of ragged immigrants and asylum seekers who had made their way to town on a bus with little more than a handful of pesos and the crazy idea that we could actually believe those words about the Statue of Liberty – send me your tired, your poor, your crowded masses yearning to breathe freely. These aspiring Americans looked shocked and scared standing outside the Homeland Security office in the cold and rain without access to a chair, a waiting room to put said chair in, or even a potty in which to relieve themselves during along for hours, they stood like cattle, waiting for someone to call out their names.
The angels themselves – three women from the Foothills Unit Church – may not have believed many of the high-value things that we Christians profess about Jesus, but now they were acting like Jesus. Offer a drink and a kind word. Actually obey the teachings of Christ which, again, according to the Good Book, is the litmus test of whether you are a disciple of Jesus as opposed to someone who might teach Sunday School but closes his heart to widows and the orphans crammed into our southern border.
The next one I met was eating Thai food at a restaurant in West Maryville. Tall, beefy, and loud, he also blew up my stereotypes of angels even though he was a United Methodist who I’m told is really just a Baptist who loves to read. In his company was a young woman who is said to have saved thousands of girls from the ravages of civil war in Central Africa. Our modern day Gabriel had flown to South Sudan to save this rescuer and (a) adopted her as his own child, and (b) was now paying to attend Maryville College.
Who do this ? Angels, that’s who.
The third angel I have known all my adult life. And, while most of us focus our humanitarian efforts on, well, humans, this woman has focused hers on God’s forgotten little creatures. The kind Saint Francis cared so much about – that we humans are ready to chain, caging, or just throwing on a country road when it suits our needs. These unsuspecting and blameless animals end up in animal shelters in eastern Tennessee, where most of them are adopted. But thousands of less fortunate, less desirable, and more difficult-to-place animals languish in a concrete kennel until the death angel comes to put them out of their misery.
At least it was like that until a few years ago when this quiet little angel decided to put an end to it.
She formed a non-profit organization, raised enough money to buy a few luxury trucks and hire drivers, and began transporting these difficult-to-place dogs to animal shelters in the northern states with strict laws. spay where dogs are scarce and eager families can’t wait to get their hands on a black pit mix, half-blind chihuahua or brown Tennessee dog. To date, some 20,000 dogs have been transported and rescued by this angel.
There is therefore cause for hope. Reason to rejoice. There are angels among us!
And I don’t just believe it. I saw them with my own eyes.
Buzz Thomas is a retired American Baptist Church minister, lawyer, school superintendent and longtime resident of Blount County and a regular columnist for the Daily Times.