‘Mommy, do angels smoke?’

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    By Hank Slikker
    Special to The PREVIEW
    Five-year-old Rachel sat in the back seat with her two older sisters. Their mother and father sat in front. Their large red Suburban had no air conditioning except for the dry, hot desert wind blowing through the open windows.
    The family drove south from Laredo on highway 85 heading home to San Luis Potosi, in central Mexico. Since her parents worked as urban missionaries in their community, the family of five made the 900-mile round trip twice a year to check-in with the national authorities.
    About two hours into their drive home, the Suburban began to sputter and suddenly quit. Rachel’s father managed to pull the car onto the shoulder and got out.
    She watched him as he opened the hood. He returned a few minutes later to say he believed the fuel pump had failed, so the family sat stranded in the desert with no phone service or gas stations for at least another two hours down the highway.
    Rachel had always been a quiet girl — more contemplative and pensive than anything else — and sat quietly, listening as the family talked about their predicament. She did not grow up protected and often accompanied her father and sisters to the local prison visiting needy inmates, or traveling to the outer country villages to attend the villagers’ needs. Maybe because she experienced similar predicaments before, she felt no anxiety about being stuck in the desert.
    Unexpectedly, a van pulled over in front of them and parked. Five men got out and walked towards them as her father met them at the open hood. The men appeared like any other citizens of the region. They greeted him, looked under the hood and began talking back and forth to each other, all of them smoking cigarettes, pointing their fingers here and there at the motor, again talking back and forth, all the while ignoring Rachel’s father.
    After consulting together for a few more minutes, one of the men walked back to the van and returned with wrenches and a fuel pump. He handed them to the others, who began to work, all of them constantly smoking. The men removed the faulty fuel pump and replaced it with the one they brought from the van, using cardboard litter from the road shoulder as a gasket to seal the new pump.
    When they finished, the men asked Rachel’s father to start the motor and let it run for a few minutes. Satisfied with their work, the men closed the hood, said something to her father, and quickly returned to their van.
    As an added kindness, the men followed the Suburban for a while to make sure the repair worked. After a number of miles, the van turned off the highway and disappeared.
    Rachel’s parents marveled and sat numb as they reflected on the miracle God just served them. As the family talked back and forth about His intervention — sending kind mechanics with the exact replacement auto part — Rachel, watching and listening throughout the event, waited for a moment and asked her mother, “Mommy, do angels smoke?”