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  • Writer's pictureDavid and Marilynn Chadwick

Entertaining Angels: Angels Unawares

by Marilynn Chadwick

I think back to an incident that involved two curious strangers who showed up at our church one evening. I was a beginner in my ministry journey. David and I had only been married a couple of years. My own faith was still pretty new, but very real. I sensed God had a ministry calling on my life. How ironic, since I’m the girl who once vowed, “I will never become a Christian, and I most certainly will never, ever marry a minister.” God must have chuckled. 

Our church back then was on a busy road, sometimes frequented by transients. It was 1980, and things were a little different. We did not have to be quite so worried about strangers back then. So, when a couple of strangers wandered off the street into our Wednesday Night Bible Study, we simply spread out our chairs and welcomed them into our circle of thirty or so people gathered in the church foyer. As I recall, they joined in the singing and stayed for the entire Bible Study.  

Afterwards, we asked if they needed anything. Nope, they said, they just felt like wandering into our church. “Could you at least use a few groceries?” we gently prodded. They looked like they could use a meal and reluctantly accepted. We drove them to the local Mini-Mart down the street where we filled up a couple of grocery bags. “Where would you like us to drop you off?” David asked. “Oh, you can just take us back to the church,” they replied politely. “Then we’ll be on our way.”  

We drove them back to the very same doors where they’d entered our Bible Study. The two young men got out of our car and thanked us for the groceries. As they walked away, the blonde-headed guy suddenly turned around and headed back to our car. For the first time, I noticed what a nice face and kind expression he had. He walked over to the passenger side toward my window, which I had rolled down. He looked at me rather intently. Quietly, but deliberately, he spoke these words: “You have just entertained angels unawares.” With that, he and the dark-haired one walked away. We never saw them again.   

David and I drove off. Were these two for real? And just what were “angels unawares” anyway? I kept thinking about this strange word unawares. It sounded too old-fashioned for a young, hippie-kind of guy. And angels—seriously? I did a little research and found out that “unawares” was an outdated expression meaning “unaware or unwittingly,” from the old King James version: “Be not forgetful to entertain strangers: for thereby some have entertained angels unawares” (Hebrews 13:2 KJV).  

Could these two young strangers really have been angels? I guess I won’t know until I get to Heaven. What I do know is that this incident left me with a strange certainty that God was near. A few simple words of encouragement from our two unusual visitors affirmed my sense of calling into the ministry. They reminded me that God saw me. He had called me to serve him. And if God had called me, surely, he knew what he was doing. He would help me find my way. What’s more God reminds us to serve others—sometimes even strangers. I’d like to think God was pleased we had shown kindness to two ordinary young visitors—who may not have been so ordinary after all.

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