EXCERPT 1

 

Two Angels in a Paris Railway Station

Be not forgetful to entertain strangers: for thereby some have entertained angels unawares.

Hebrews 13:2, KJV

The Lord appeared to Abraham near the great trees of Mamre while he was sitting at the entrance to his tentin the heat of the day.Abraham looked up and saw three men standing nearby. When he saw them, he hurried from the entrance of his tent to meet them and bowed low to the ground. He said, “If I have found favor in your eyes,my lord,do not pass your servant by.Let a little water be brought, and then you may all wash your feetand rest under this tree.Let me get you something to eat,so you can be refreshed and then go on your way—now that you have come to your servant.” “Very well,” they answered, “do as you say.”

Genesis 18:15

That evening the two angels came to the entrance of the city of Sodom. Lot was sitting there, and when he saw them, he stood up to meet them. Then he welcomed them and bowed with his face to the ground.“My lords,” he said, “come to my home to wash your feet, and be my guests for the night. You may then get up early in the morning and be on your way again.” “Oh no,” they replied. “We’ll just spend the night out here in the city square.” But Lot insisted, so at last they went home with him. Lot prepared a feast for them, complete with fresh bread made without yeast, and they ate.But before they retired for the night, all the men of Sodom, young and old, came from all over the city and surrounded the house.They shouted to Lot, “Where are the men who came to spend the night with you? Bring them out to us so we can have sex with them!” So Lot stepped outside to talk to them, shutting the door behind him.“Please, my brothers,” he begged, “don’t do such a wicked thing.Look, I have two virgin daughters. Let me bring them out to you, and you can do with them as you wish. But please, leave these men alone, for they are my guests and are under my protection.” “Stand back!” they shouted. “This fellow came to town as an outsider, and now he’s acting like our judge! We’ll treat you far worse than those other men!” And they lunged toward Lot to break down the door. But the two angelsreached out, pulled Lot into the house, and bolted the door.Then they blinded all the men, young and old, who were at the door of the house, so they gave up trying to get inside.

Genesis 19:110, NLT

Shout for joy, you heavens;
rejoice, you earth;
burst into song, you mountains!
For the 
Lord comforts his people
and will have compassion on his afflicted ones.

Isaiah 49:13

On a Thursday or Friday afternoon in late summer or early fall 2010, while living in apartment number 205 at 16 Avenue de la Porte des Poissonniers in the 18th arrondissement of Paris, I went down to the CROUS de Paris at 39 Avenue Georges Bernanos, which is in the 5th arrondissement of the city. In higher education in France, the Centre régional des œuvres universitaires et scolaires (CROUS) is a regional organization providing student bursaries, university halls of residence, and student restaurants. I was living in a CROUS hall of residence and receiving a small stipend that was due for renewal. I had been corresponding with the embassy official concerned in Nairobi, as well as the implementing official at the CROUS in Paris in a bid to complete the long process. I was due a three-month stipend that would also determine if my stay at the hall of residence would be renewed.

This was one of the most stressful times in my life. Earlier that same year, in May, I had just been expelled from a school and discontinued from a program for the very first time in my life. This was despite completing an entire semester after appealing the decision without knowing which way the decision would go. On the surface of things, I had failed a core course and my grades had suffered from my being seriously underfunded. When the decision finally came through, my discontinuation was confirmed.

I was also in mourning for my father, who had been dead for a little more than a year. To say that I was deeply attached to my father is to understate things quite a bit. I also had very little money and was discouraged. I seem to remember that the rent was overdue. The funds from the CROUS were also overdue, and I did not know how I would get through the following week.

At the CROUS, the very nice ladies handling my case informed me that the funds were not yet ready. I cannot remember the exact circumstances that had led to yet another delay in the release of the funds. Neither can I now remember my exact response to this setback as I sat across from the education official. I do remember, however, the crushing sense of being targeted by God and the utter despair that fell on me. There was no one in all of Paris that I felt I could turn to for assistance at that point. I had been expelled from one of the country’s foremost educational institutions and had gone from hero to zero as a result. I had no credibility. People who had looked up to me now could hardly disguise their contempt. At the church where I continued to go, pity had turned to serious questions about my integrity and the reasons why I was in this situation.

As I went down toward the Port-Royal Railway Station, I was wrapped up in deep, gloomy reflection. I was essentially in autopilot, hardly noticing my surroundings. As I came down the escalator of the station, I suddenly came across two Caucasian men at the foot of the escalator. They were heading the other way. I remember being upset because they seemed to be in my way for no apparent reason. I was in no mood for a confrontation; but neither was I in any mood to take incivility from strangers. I may have made my rancor known to them by not getting out of their way or something. I can’t quite remember. What I do remember is that one of the two men spoke to me.

He had blond hair. His partner had dark hair. As I recall it, the man who spoke to me wore khaki-colored shorts. Both men were dressed in trendy summer fashion: knee-length shorts, nice short-sleeved shirts and, if I recall correctly, ankle-high basketball-type shoes. In this regard, they in no way stuck out from the milling crowd. They could have been aged anything between twenty-five and thirty-five years and were taller than I.

The men stopped very briefly. They turned toward me. They spoke to me without as much as opening with a greeting. They spoke to me in perfect French. I do not remember exactly what they said. I can only hope to paraphrase. In those days I was even less motivated to note these things down than I am now. The blond in khaki shorts said something on these lines:

“Que le Seigneur te vienne en aide et te soit miséricordieux la semaine prochaine, mon frère!”

In English, this translates thus:

“May the Lord come to your aid and be gracious to you this coming week, my brother!”

Whereas I cannot remember the exact order of the words spoken to me by the blond-haired stranger that gloriously sunny day in a busy railway station at the border of the fashionable 4th and 5th arrondissements, I can remember without fault that he did say “que le seigneur” and “semaine” as well as “mon frère.” I can’t quite remember whether he said “la semaine qui vient” or “la semaine prochaine.” Neither can I remember whether the word was “miséricordieux” or “te réconforte” (comfort you), or both, or some other word or set of words with the same or similar meaning. But I do remember that they were words in this vein. Also, the money finally did come through in the time period he had referred to. As well, the thick financial cloud that hanged over me lifted dramatically, and the threat of eviction was removed. I can also remember the compassion in those words and the gentleness in the eyes of the speaker. There was no condemnation there.

As I said, the two men hardly stopped moving. They stopped just long enough for one of them to utter those precious few words. Then they just kept on walking—past me and up the escalator. They did not seem to take offense at my reaction to their practically bumping into me (or was it I bumping into them? I had my head down as a result of having the weight of the world on my shoulders). Neither did they open with a greeting. They just went into this sudden speech that was part pep talk, part intercession, and part prophecy.

I had never seen the two men before; not in church, not anywhere else. It is true that I did know quite a few Caucasians who spoke perfect French and were Bible-believing Christians. It is also true that I did not know every single male who went to my church. I was attending Hillsong Paris at the time, and we had a pretty active men’s fellowship, complete with regular breakfasts together and weekend camping. Even supposing these two men knew me from churchand it was not every day that I just chanced to meet somebody from church in a busy railway station in the vast of Parissurely they would have stopped to exchange a few pleasantries? People who care how your week is going to pan out and refer to your God in a conversational tone of voice generally also tend to stop to say, “Hi, how are you doing?” before praying for you.

Also if you have any idea of the Paris and France of the last few decades—indeed of any period post-Voltaire and the French Revolution—self-respecting Frenchmen do not go around pleasantly trading prayerful wishes of goodwill with total strangers. This was not exactly the Middle Ages. In short, I was stunned by the sheer unlikeliness of what had just happened.

I stood there and stared as the pair calmly waited for the escalator to take them up to the next level and out into the street. After speaking those words, they did not stop or look back again. Neither did they seem discomfited by my incredulous stare. No one else seemed to notice what had just happened. Summertime Paris is a busy place, especially this fashionable part of the city. There were people moving in every direction. But only I seemed to have eyes for the retreating figures of the trendily dressed young men who bore words of kindness and comfort.

Owing to all the supernatural manifestations that had been coming my way over the last year or twomost of them decidedly evilit soon occurred to me that I had just come face-to-face with angels.

I can’t fully make you understand the feeling I had as I rode the metro back home that day. (See also Job 33:23–25; Zechariah 1:11–17; Matthew 4:11; 2 Kings 20:1–6; Psalm 34:17–20; Hebrews 13:2; Hebrews 1:13–14; Genesis 18; Judges 13; Psalm 34:7.)

 

EXCERPT 2

 

                                       “Why Have You Not Given Up?”

Thereupon I [Jeremiah] awoke and looked, and my [trancelike] sleep was sweet [in the assurance it gave] to me.

Jeremiah 31:26, AMP

This, unfortunately, was not a dream.

I lay in bed in the middle of the night (or morning, I can’t remember which) in my Montreal apartment. It was either in 2010 or 2011. I cannot remember exactly what season it was.

As I lay in bed, an evil spirit manifested itself. I cannot remember the exact sequence of events in the attack, but I can remember its appearance and its voice. It sat or stood over me. Its features were dark and gaunt. It looked almost like a human caricature. Its leathery and jerky motions and overall appearance recalled that of a chameleon. Its eyes were fiery. It said to me in English, “After all that has happened to you over the last three years, why have you not given up?”

Now, I cannot claim to remember the exact order of the words that were spoken to me. As I write this, it has been months since the event. But I do remember being struck by the spirit’s mention of “the last three years,” and the wonder in its voice as it said, “Why have you not given up?” Its voice was ghostlike (my reference for this is Hollywood films) and almost conversational. The voice sounded mechanical, like something generated by a machine. The voice was slow and had an elastic timbre. It was almost as if it was being spoken into a hollow receptor.

I did not reply. Neither can I remember how this particular encounter ended. However, upon “waking up,” it was my turn to marvel at the very exact number of years that the demon had mentioned. I had been under siege for three years or so at the time of this particular attack. Now that I mention it, I realize that the attack must have been sometime in 2012. It was in 2009, the year that my father died, that God let all hell loose on me.

What the demon may or may not have realized is that I would have taken my life a long time ago, had it not been for my fear of hell. I was not a hero. I just happened to realize that it was much better to suffer for a few short decades in this life than in hell for all eternity. Suffering on earth could end upon death. Not so suffering in hell.

I was raised Roman Catholic. I now realize that what Catholic dogma calls “purgatory” and places in the afterlife actually happens right here on earth. According to the Bible, God uses suffering to “purge” or purify believers.

It is appointed for men to die once, and then the judgment (Heb. 9:27). (See also John 6:60–71; 1 Peter 5:6–11; Daniel 12:10; Isaiah 28:18–20; Revelation 9:1–12; Matthew 4:1–11; 8:28–34; Acts 19:13–16; Lamentations 3:25–33; Romans 16:19–20.)