A journey with angels

Daily Episcopalian will continue on an every-other day schedule this week.

By Margaret Treadwell

Cathy and Lizzie created a Christmas story in July when they took a journey with angels. Buddies from previous St. Columba’s Katrina mission trips, they decided to visit the Church of the Annunciation in New Orleans on their own to finish some projects under the aegis of the group.

This decision was fueled by an angel in the form of a neighbor who offered, “If you fix up the RV that’s been sitting in our driveway for five years, you drive it free down to New Orleans!” The two road trippers seized the chance, got their vehicle into what they thought was tip top condition and set off early on a hot summer morning.

The flashing red dashboard lights appeared mere miles outside the Beltway, just as they were driving past a gas station. Here two more angels appeared: Asian mechanics who spoke no English fixed a computer glitch and screwed the gas cap on properly. These angels were invited to come along as mechanics for the trip but politely declined – if they understood the invitation at all.

Not much further down the road at their first campground in Salem, Va., the RV bathroom’s black water drain valve fell off in Lizzie’s hand. The year-round campground resident rigged a makeshift solution and sent the ladies off to Betty’s RV Repair instructing them not to trust any other. While Betty’s angels worked on the problem, the two travelers sat with Dolly Parton, Lizzie’s dog, in 112-degree shade being entertained by neighborly passersby, like the proudly gay Episcopalian who claimed he had slammed his motorcycle into a light pole so hard during a recent accident that it restarted his arrested heart. “That pole was my fribulator!” he maintained.

Travels progressed smoothly until Sunday, Day 3, just south of Birmingham, Ala., when the RV floor became so hot that the terrified friends were overjoyed to look up and see an RV repair shop right in front of them. Another angel in the guise of a very small man came out to direct them 12 miles down the road for expert repair on what turned out to be the muffler pushed against the cabin floor. Burning metal easily could have started a fire which would have caused the gas tank to explode. When they pulled up for help, the owner’s wife ran out, saw the predicament and ran calling to her husband, “Open up quick! You need to help these ladies! They don’t know what they’re doing!”

After this fright, the malfunctioning fridge, broken toilet and finicky generator seemed minor. Lizzie and Cathy’s mantra became, “Cope with it!”

As with past mission trips, the most powerful aspect of the pair’s time in New Orleans was the relationships they formed with people. Angels they encountered included two staff members – an electrician and a carpenter – who had stopped at Annunciation as they were fleeing the city. Together, these two have made the church’s mission work possible with their talents and their witness to what can happen when everyone works together on the same goal: helping people in desperate need. Another church angel is Miss Lily, who was a victim of the hurricane in the worst possible way. She lost everything and was burned by a stove during the storm. Now she covers herself so no one will see her scars when she comes every day to help others at the church that helped her.

Lizzie and Cathy stayed six days and related their hard, hot work to the part of the Christmas story in the dirty, smelly stable where angels, sheep and wise men are witnessing a miracle. While finishing several projects, they experienced a centeredness among the people that allowed for openness and trust. The spiritual process of their journey became as important as the work accomplished, and they returned home grateful and changed by the angels they had encountered along the way. The common thread throughout: “The reason we were going kept us on course: We had our eyes on the prize.”

Will you see the angels in your life today?

Margaret M. “Peggy” Treadwell, LICSW, is a family, individual and couples therapist and teacher in private practice.

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