A friend of mine has been writing his memoirs at his children’s request. Throughout his life, Denis has used his talents volunteering for charitable organizations. His volunteer trips have taken him all over the world.
He told me about an experience in Honduras. I asked Denis if I could share his story, and he gave me permission. I will tell it in the first person, pretty much as Denis told it to me:
“In June 2001, I had been repairing a radio transmitter used by missionaries in Honduras but had accomplished all I could do. It was time to go home. I was exhausted and hadn’t had a bath the entire time I was there. I went to the airport dragging my luggage and all sorts of equipment. The way it worked in Honduras, at the airport you showed the uniformed guard at the gate your plane ticket, your passport and $25. They call that $25 a ‘tax,’ but whatever you call it, you don’t fly out of Honduras without paying it. That combination of plane ticket, passport and $25 gets you on an airplane.
“So, I arrived a little early and said goodbye to the locals who dropped me off. It was a two-and-a-half hour drive to the airport from where the radio tower was located.
“At the airport, I stood in a long line. I got up to the gate and gave the uniformed guard the plane ticket, my passport and a traveler’s check for $20, plus $5. I had only $15 cash, not enough, but figured $5 cash and a $20 traveler’s check would do the trick.
The ‘boarding tax’ problem
“I didn’t speak Spanish, but I certainly understood the word ‘no.’ With grimaces and gestures, I was given to understand that first I’d have to cash the check—the ‘tax’ to board the plane must be paid in currency, preferably U.S. dollars. There was a bank around the corner, near the airport. I checked my watch. The plane was leaving in half an hour.
“In frustration, I dropped my head. Right where I was standing, holding up the line behind me, I prayed: ‘Lord, you brought me here. Now it’s time to go home. I have no place to stay, my friends have left me, and my plane is leaving very soon. You’ve got to help me. Give me a hint as to what I should do.’
“I felt a tap on my shoulder. I turned and a young man with fair skin and blond hair was smiling at me. He said, ‘I understand you are having some difficulty?’ He spoke perfect English, and it was the first English I’d heard in a week. I nodded.
“He said: ‘Look, give me your passport and a traveler’s check. I’ll meet you in 10 minutes over there by that second door.’ He pointed at it.
“I hesitated. All I had to identify my American citizenship was my passport. I thought: ‘Don’t be an idiot! Don’t give this guy your passport!’ I shook my head. But the next thing I knew, I was handing over my passport and a $20 traveler’s check.
‘I was kicking myself’
“I stood there by the second door for 10 minutes. I was kicking myself the whole time. I felt foolish. I did not expect to see the blond man again, much less my passport or the traveler’s check. I returned to line at the gate and figured I’d just have to try to talk my way onto that plane with no more than my ticket and the 15 bucks in my pocket. I moved forward in line, inching toward the gate. The uniformed guard loomed before me. Then, lo and behold, up walks the blond man. He smiles at me and returns my passport with a crisp, new $20 bill tucked inside.
“I spun about to give the ticket and $25 to the guard at the gate, then turned back to thank my benefactor. He wasn’t there. I scanned the airport. A blond man in Honduras is easy to spot. The airport was a small one. But the fellow with fair skin and blond hair was nowhere to be seen. I looked around. I even checked the restroom. Nothing.
“Then I boarded the plane and left.
“A few months later, I returned to Honduras. I asked at every gate and ticket counter about a blond man who spoke both English and Spanish. I thought perhaps he worked there. I described him as best I could. No one knew him. In fact, no one could remember ever seeing the person I described.”
The Bible says, “Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for by this some have entertained angels without knowing it” (Hebrews 13:2). I wonder if the reverse isn’t true? That at times angels have entertained us without our knowing it.
But whether or not an angel helped Denis that day, the glory belongs to our Father in heaven, because angel or human, it was God who sent the stranger to lend a hand, just when he was needed most.
Rich Mussler is a frequent contributor and the author of Bad Christian: What God Taught Me, now available on Amazon.