A Stranger in the Night

What better time of year than Christmas to relate a true story I heard on the radio in 1995. If you do not believe in angels, I strongly suggest you reconsider your position.

Well-known Bible teacher Chuck Swindoll broadcast a message called “The Ultimate Close Encounter” on his radio program, Insight for Living, as part of a series called “Continuation of Something Great.” I was in the kitchen fixing lunch and listening. When he was a student at Dallas Theological Seminary, he said, Dr. Charles Ryrie was one of his professors. Ryrie, whom most of us know as an eminent theologian, author of the notes in the incomparable Ryrie Study Bible, and former president of what was then Philadelphia College of Bible, is not given to exaggeration. Dr. Ryrie told his class the following incident that involved a missionary friend of his.

The missionary was home on furlough and visiting his supporting churches. He had finished speaking at one church Saturday evening and was under much pressure to drive all night through a terrible thunderstorm to get to the next church early Sunday morning.

Tired and alone, he asked the Lord to send someone he might talk to, preferably a Christian, so he could stay awake. As the rain beat down, the missionary glanced to the side of the road and saw a man with his thumb out, trying to hitch a ride. Although the missionary never picked up hitchhikers, he made an exception.

Soon he discovered his passenger was a Christian and even knew some of the people he knew. They prayed together and had a wonderful time of fellowship through the night. As morning broke, the man declared, “This is my destination. You can let me off here.”

The missionary suggested they stop for coffee at a nearby roadside café before going their separate ways. So they went inside, ordered coffee, and chatted a little while longer. The missionary picked up the tab, and the two men parted.

As the missionary drove off, he suddenly remembered he had forgotten to get his new friend’s name and address, so they could keep in touch. He quickly drove back to the café and looked for the hitchhiker, but the man apparently had left.

So he asked the cook, “The man I was with, can you please tell me which direction he went when he left?” The cook looked at him oddly, so the missionary repeated the question.

Finally the cook replied, “What other man? You were alone. I thought it was unusual that you would order two cups of coffee. As a matter of fact, the other cup is still sitting there on the table, hasn’t been touched. I thought maybe you were just sort of talking to yourself there.”

The missionary told Dr. Ryrie he returned to the car and only then realized that, even though he had picked the hitchhiker up in the pouring rain, the man wasn’t even wet.

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