I remember hearing the news about a 28-year old mom from Missouri who became ill with COVID-19, 26 weeks into pregnancy with her second child. She was intubated, sedated and placed on a life support machine. While fighting for her life and her baby’s life, she felt that a guardian angel was with her.
This young mom later learned that while she was sedated, a 27-year-old nurse, during each of her shifts, had been whispering encouragement and support to her. When the mom’s condition worsened, and her baby girl was delivered via emergency C-section at 29 weeks, this same nurse posted photos of the baby, who was transferred to another hospital’s ICU, all around the mom’s hospital room. When the mom recovered and was relearning how to walk, the nurse threw her a baby shower.
These two women, Monique and Caitlyn, now text each other daily. Monique chose Caitlyn, the angel of a nurse who made sure she didn’t feel alone, as her daughter’s godmother. Why? “I felt like she fought for me,” Monique said.
This month (p.20), Bible study author Christa von Zychlin explores how angels of the Lord comfort, encourage and protect people including Hagar, Shadrach, Mesach, Abednego, Daniel and even Jesus. She also considers that at times God’s messengers may be human, rather than heavenly beings. “Can you think of a time when you were comforted and encouraged by someone (a human ‘angel,’ perhaps) and only later recognized it as the presence of God?” she asks us.
Helping us to recognize God’s presence and gifts in others, author Julia Seymour has written a Lenten devotional series (p. 12) focused on the vocations of people we encounter. Adding these devotions and prayers for others to your daily routine can be a reminder that, as Seymour says, “we are never alone in our Christian journey. The Holy Spirit connects us to other people and to creation in ways beyond our imagination.”
How do those Holy Spirit connections bear fruit over time? Read Laura Gifford’s story (p. 28) of what happened more than 100 years ago when Norwegian deaconess and nurse Sister Elizabeth Fedde found her vocation in building community, as well as medical and social service ministries in the United States. And check out Mary Campbell’s reflection (p. 34) on the ELCA AMMPARRO program, which connects caring congregations with people, especially young people, who seek safety and asylum in the U.S.
All of this begins with our first seeing others, as Caitlyn saw Monique in her hospital’s COVID-19 ICU. Or as Cara Strickland (p. 9) began to see Hagar in the book of Genesis—after years of not really seeing her at all.
Like our biblical ancestors, we are seen and we are never really alone, thanks to God and God’s messengers. While God’s messengers “don’t always solve all our problems, or even most of them,” von Zychlin writes, these angels “do God’s work, for God’s purposes, in God’s time.”
Elizabeth Hunter is editor of Gather.