Thursday, December 25, 2008

My Christmas Angel

"The angel of the LORD encamps around those who fear Him, And rescues them." Psalm 34:6-8 (NASB)

On December 22, I found myself—broke, alone and stranded over 8000 miles from home.

After four, fabulous once-in-a-lifetime weeks in Thailand, I was grounded in the Bangkok International Airport (BKK). My plane scheduled to take off in two hours and I lacked 500 Baht ($15) to clear immigration to board the aircraft.

Helpless as a beggar, I worried.

How will I get home?

Thailand is a land of beauty—and beggars. These vulnerable individuals disappear into the urban landscape—as if invisible.

Every day I passed one beggar who perched in his battered wheelchair, resembling a stone Buddha. His eyes locked straight ahead. His lips cemented into a stern line. Two stumps stuck out a few inches past the wheelchair's seat. Where knees once were, healed balls of skin capped his amputated stubs like bubbles on the end of twisted balloons.

On my last day in Bangkok, all the coins I saved for him plinked in his metal cup. That's probably more money than he receives in a month.

Not one muscle on his stony countenance budged.

After spontaneous purchases, I received more change. A paraplegic man teetered on the filthy curb's edge between the busy street and crowded sidewalk. Seeming to be alive only from the waist up, his shriveled, lifeless legs appeared as wooden as his worn crutches. I dropped coins into his cup, and then remembered: I have more. My fingers burrowed into my purse, scraping together additional change.

Then, a small miracle occurred.

Our eyes locked—two people from different worlds.

His radiant smile and joyful eyes conveyed—thanks.

I returned to the hotel and bargained hard with the taxi driver to avoid being overcharged for the ride to BKK. As we sped along the freeway, he said, "I miss my daughter. She live five hours away. To make money, I buy taxi and work in Bangkok. The cost of gas hurt my business." I understood his pain—insufficient finances or time with your children. Too often, I worried: Will I have money to fill my car with gas to drive to work?

After reciting my entire Thai vocabulary, he said, "You speak Thai good. How much you pay?"

"Three hundred Baht, like we agreed."

His eyes registered disappointment. Thais act polite to a fault. "Saving face" is paramount. He blinked, regaining his upbeat composure.

"You single woman. I take good care of you."

At BKK, his slight frame unloaded and stacked my slippery plastic suitcases onto a baggage cart. I pressed all my currency into his hand—500 Baht, plus eight American dollars.

I was broke.

After passing through security, I checked into China Airlines, receiving my boarding pass. At the exit immigration window, I explained, "I need my 1400 Baht VAT (tourist value-added tax) refund to pay the 500 Baht exit tax."

"The VAT Refund Office is in the departure lounge, "she replied, "You cannot pass through immigration without paying."

Tension stressed my brain like an overstretched rubber band threatening to snap.

God, please don't let me miss my plane. It's Christmas. I just want to get home to my sons.

Tears ran down my face. I returned to China Airlines and asked for help. The airline employee, who took my ticket, was checking in a passenger with distinct Thai features—large round eyes, rounded nose, full lips, and sculpted cheekbones. Most Thais stand five foot four. She was six feet, maybe taller.

"Traveling is stressful. Here…take this," the Thai traveler said, thrusting 1000 Baht into my hand.

"Thank you. I'll pay you back on the other side of immigration."

"Don't worry about it."

"What's your name?"


As I slid 500 Baht under the immigration window, waves of joy washed over my body. Thank you, God.I'm headed home to celebrate your son's birth with my boys! The immigration officer inspected my passport. "You overstayed your visa. That'll cost an extra 200 Baht per day." She allowed me to collect my refund from the VAT Refund Office, which paid the remaining overstay fees.

As I entered the departure area, stress drained away leaving behind hunger pangs. My remaining Thai coins purchased a sandwich, chips and an icy watermelon drink. As I ate, I looked for Angela.

I searched each departure-waiting lounge.

No Angela.

Thinking, She's on my plane, I headed to my departure gate. After liftoff, I walked each aisle, scanning every seat.

No Angela.

Was she an angel?

I didn't foresee the consequences of sharing more than I could spare with three precious individuals. I winged my way home by way of prayer and heavenly intervention—accompanied by the Most High over all the earth.

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