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The Visitor--an inspirational short story series

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For The Strength of Youth

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The Visitor--an inspirational short story series
    Ch. 58 -- On Wings of Angels
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    Ch. 61 The Music Within
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The Visitor--an inspirational short story series
    Ch. 44 The Wisdom of the Wise
 
Submitted by Steven ODell on 12 January 2009 - 3:46pm.

Called To Serve
Steven G. O'Dell © 2008

Dr. David Lawrence yawned, decided to go to bed and got up from his chair, setting his book aside on the end table as he did. Just as he turned to go to his room, there was a soft knock at his front door.

Now who could that be? he thought.

Opening the door, he caught sight of a pleasant-looking man who smiled in a manner that made David want to open the screen door also.

"May I help you?"

"I certainly hope so, Dr. Lawrence. I wish only a few moments of your time, if you don't mind. May I come in?"

David held the door wide and stepped aside to allow the man to enter. "What might I do for you?"

"Well, I first want to convey the respects of Velma Wood, if you remember her."

"Remember her? Of course." He smiled automatically as he recalled her. "She was sort of a second grandmother to most of the neighborhood kids as I was growing up. How is she doing?"

"I am afraid she passed away last night in her sleep. I wanted you to know that we spoke of you before she went, though. She thought highly of you."

"She's gone?" David was saddened at the thought, but she must have been in her eighties by now, he thought. "I am sorry to hear that. I was very fond of her, too. Oh, I'm sorry, I didn't catch your name."

"Just call me John, if you will." He offered his hand.

"She was a wonderful woman. The world was a better place with her in it."

"That's just what I told her. She had doubts that her life had amounted to much, but I think I was able to convince her otherwise before she passed."

"My goodness! How could she ever think her life didn't matter? She helped so many people and they loved her for it. Several of us would compete to see what we could do to help her in times of need, too. It wasn't easy. She was so self-reliant, even before her husband and children had passed away, I hear. Car accident, I think it was. I do recall that she always seemed to have a ready supply of chocolate chip cookies for any of the neighborhood kids that came to visit or to help her. What a wonderful woman. She will be missed, I am sure."

"No doubt about it. Dr. Lawrence, I want to share something that you had maybe forgotten. Do you recall a day that Velma came running into the backyard and grabbed you and took you home to your mother?"

"Boy, do I! It was the only time that she ever scared me. I still don't know why she did it, but maybe she was just not wanting visitors that day. Why do you ask?"

"You were headed directly for the bull pen beyond her backyard that day. You know what would have happened if you had wandered into it."

David was stunned. He didn't speak for a long moment. Then the reality of it sank in. "Oh, my goodness... she saved my life and I didn't even know it. I wish I could have thanked her before she died."
"She knew how you felt about her and she felt the same way about you. She was always proud of you. In fact, she wished she'd had more children -- just like you and your sister."

"Thank you. Please, won't you come sit down?"

"Thank you. In fact, there is something else I wish to speak with you about., if you don't mind."

"Yes, of course. What is it?"

John took a deep breath and sighed. "I was hoping you could make available your expertise and repay the debt that you owe to Velma."

"I'm not sure I understand." His brow was wrinkled in puzzlement and he leaned forward in his chair to pay closer attention.

"There is someone right now that has need of your expertise in brain function and treatment. He is a prominent man in Zaire and a very influential man in his sphere. He is having some difficulty recently--something I think you can help with. If you are willing, that is."

"Zaire? Wow! This is all a bit of a surprise, I am afraid. How did you come to know this man and why would you call on me to help in this matter?"

"Dr. Lawrence, the story of how I met him can come later. What is most important is that we act quickly. I wouldn't expect you to carry the burden of the cost alone, of course. There will be assistance. But it is imperative that we act quickly. With your permission, may I make the travel arrangements?"

"Listen...uh, John...the methods I am formulating are in their infancy and haven't been approved for use on human subjects yet. I would love to repay the debt to Mrs. Wood, but how can I do so if I can't practice what I preach, so to speak?"

John grinned. "Interesting choice of words, Dr. Lawrence. Might I remind you that although you are not allowed to practice these techniques here in your own country, you are not hampered by such restraints in other countries, especially when it concerns the life of so important a citizen."

"Alright, tell me more."

They spoke more concerning the details of the man's needs and the requisite travel arrangements that were to be made. David agreed to go to Zaire, feeling all the while that it would be an adventure that he had never thought possible in his lifetime. He could take a short Sabbatical. And to tell the truth, as long as what he was about to do didn't end up in disaster, he welcomed the opportunity to test his theories.

David had been amazed before they even got on the plane the next day to Zaire. He had checked his funds and reported to John the amount that he could afford. John responded by handing him the cash balance, to the penny, without counting it first. A lump sum, as if he had known beforehand what the remainder needed would be. That wasn't possible, of course, but it had been like a miracle when it happened. And then there were the unusual responses John usually gave to any questions regarding himself. When asked his occupation, he answered that he was an itinerant preacher of sorts. David recalled John's response the previous night to his comment about practicing what he preached. He smiled, thinking maybe there was some truth to the itinerant preacher claim after all. No matter. If he wanted to be evasive, it was his life.

The arrival in Zaire was a surprise. It was hotter and more humid than expected and the combination was not a pleasant one, but they were here and the service was going to be rendered, as promised.

"John, why is this man so important in his community?"

"It's going to sound strange to you, but no one knows yet how important he is going to be. The potential is there, but the realization has yet to take place."

David wrinkled his brow again. This time there was a touch of irritation in it. "Do you mean to say that you you have misled me in this matter?"

"Certainly not. This is not the mental meanderings of some I.Q.- challenged lunatic. Rest assured. The man you are about to see is every bit as important as I told you. The fact that his peers have not recognized it yet is of no real consequence at this point. Your services will be just as appreciated as if he were a homeless man destined to die tomorrow."

David Lawrence wheeled about in shock.

John responded immediately, with what David now recognized as his characteristic smile. "He isn't homeless and he won't die tomorrow. Relax. What you can do for him will extend his life long enough to accomplish his mission in this life. Shall we get to it?" He turned to leave the air terminal without waiting for an answer. There was nothing for David but to follow, reflecting on the fact that his own contribution to medicine was yet to be realized.

David was somewhat surprised as he walked into the hospital. It was more modern than he had expected. It occurred to him that perhaps he was being an elitist snob and that he needed a severe adjustment in attitude. In a moment they entered the room where the man was stretched out on a bed and partially covered with a sheet, exposing his feet and chest. He was a small, but handsome black man. He looked perfectly normal--not sick at all--but John had said his problems were brain related. That was something that wouldn't necessarily show.

"David Lawrence, I would like you to meet Robert Adoula. Robert, this is Dr. Lawrence."

Robert's eyes sparkled in the sunlight that came in the window. The heavy accent was pleasant and the voice soothing. "How did you get him here so fast? It simply isn't possible."

"Never mind that now. The good doctor has consented to help you and here he is."

"But you only promised me a few days ago...."

"Never mind that, Robert. I would like to leave the two of you alone to discuss your affliction. Would you pardon me while I go attend to other urgent business? I will return shortly." And John turned without waiting for permission and left the room.

"He is an angel, you know. I believe it." Robert looked David squarely in the eye as he said it.

"I would imagine you might think so in your condition. Now, tell me what is wrong, from your point of view."

"No, that isn't what I meant. I mean he is a real angel. No wings or anything, but an angel nonetheless. He works miracles. Like bringing you here. He only spoke to me for the first time a few days ago and promised he would bring a doctor that knew things our own doctors did not. And here you are."

"A bit presumptuous on his part, don't you think?"

"Perhaps -- if it were you or I that had promised such a thing. But not for him. They say that he put his hands on a boy that had never walked in all his seventeen years and the boy stood and now can run. But you don't believe that, do you?" He smiled in a barely perceptible way.

"It is a bit hard to believe, but I am not totally without explanation. The mind is an amazing thing and I accept faith as a powerful principle, even to the point of changing lives."

"Remember that, Dr. Lawrence, when it is your own life that is changing. You cannot be around this man long before you see miracles. Perhaps you have already seen them and just do not recognize them as such." There was that subtle smile again.

"Perhaps," David answered, "but let's see what we can do for you, shall we?"

Robert briefed David on his symptoms, going into more detail than John had previously disclosed. When he finished, David paced back and forth a moment before answering.

"I think, based on what you have told me, that all these symptoms are related, regardless of what your doctors have stated. It could easily be mistaken for unrelated causes, but I have made this type of thing a special area of study. I wouldn't expect anyone else to recognize their relationship. I would like to help you, Robert, if you are willing."

"Yes, of course."

As he said these words, there was a disturbance in the hall and several individuals ran past the door as John entered the room again.

"What have you been up to now?" Robert asked.

David registered puzzlement again and John smiled impishly. "It seems there was another spontaneous healing."

Robert turned to David and said simply, "Do you now see that what I told you is true?"

Before he could answer, John asked, "What have you decided? Are you willing to help Robert?"

Recovering quickly, David informed John of his decision. The procedure would be performed as soon as the arrangements for the proper facilities were made. But before he would follow through with any treatment, he must first get some much needed sleep. It would not do to harm the patient he intended to help.

In the hotel that night, David had strange dreams. In each of them he was walking a long path in the dark, wandering to where, he knew not. Every now and then he would see a flash of light, brighter than the noonday sun, but it would disappear as soon as he could turn to locate it. And each dream would end with a disembodied voice advising him to 'ask John for guidance'. He awoke each time as the voice repeated this phrase. Each time he would look across the room he shared with John and wonder what there was that the average man was not seeing in this extraordinary person.

Despite the numerous interruptions to his sleep, David awoke quite refreshed and alert. Anxious to get started in his preparations, they left for the hospital as quickly as they could dress and have a light breakfast, for which John gave thanks, prompting David to halt uncomfortably in mid-bite and wait respectfully. There was a gentle power in the prayer that John gave. He spoke as if to someone he knew personally and loved or respected deeply. David was mesmerized by the spirit he felt from the prayer. Remembering the dreams, he puzzled over how he should ask John the question he knew was still trying to form in his mind. Not knowing what to ask, he put it out of his mind for the time being.

Robert was in fine spirits as they entered, sitting up to greet them, but becoming dizzy and disoriented, he lay down immediately.

"Forgive me. I am not as strong as I used to be."

"Everything is ready to take you into the operating room, Robert. Are you ready?" David assumed the reassuring facial features expected of a competent doctor.

"I am ready. Are you? You look nervous."

"No sense hiding it, since I wasn't being very convincing anyway. Yes, I am nervous. What I am about to do, I have never done before. No one has, to my knowledge. The procedure will be entirely experimental. You are a brave man, Robert. In your position, I am not certain I would be saying 'yes' to such an undertaking."

"It isn't bravery so much as it is faith, Doctor."

"Thank you for having faith in me, then."

"It isn't you I have faith in directly, Doctor Lawrence. I have faith in John and he says you can do this and make it work. So, believing in him, I must trust you." He looked as if he were about to laugh.

David did chuckle. "Keep that sense of humor and you will be just fine. Alright, Nurse. He's ready."

The procedure took several hours. Most of the day was spent when they finished. David was impressed at the quality of assistance he was given in the O.R. He had half expected problems with language barriers, but there were none. All had gone as smoothly as could be. Better than he had imagined it would. Robert would sleep through the night and David would check on him in the morning. Right now, he was famished, having not eaten since breakfast. John met him in the waiting area and they went for a well-deserved dinner.

"I take it that it went well."

"Yes, it went much better than I ever planned."

"Well, then maybe you need to plan better, just to keep up." John's broad grin was like a panacea for whatever ailed a man. David was beginning to really like this fellow, but still wanted to know what made him tick.

"Perhaps you are right", he replied good-naturedly.

"I will answer your questions tonight, Dr. Lawrence." He didn't even look at David to gauge his response as they walked side by side.

David couldn't hide his surprise, but said nothing until they got to the restaurant. He waited until they had ordered to discuss anything further.

"What gave you the idea that I have any questions?"

"David..., I know everything about you that I am supposed to know. By now you must know that our meeting was not by chance. You must know that you were called to serve some higher purpose. And if that isn't enough, those dreams you had last night must have made you wonder what was different about me, right?" He didn't smile this time. He was completely serious and looked David in the eye with an unwavering gaze.

The lightning bolt had now struck. David was as close to speechless as he had ever been.

"David, there is only one logical explanation as to how I would know what you dreamed last night and we both know you don't talk in your sleep. Robert said I am an angel. If you use the true meaning of the word--messenger--then it is entirely correct. I am indeed a messenger. No ordinary messenger at that. I do have certain insights and powers accorded me that the average preacher wouldn't lay claim to. You have no need to fear me, though. I brought you here to help Robert, but also to help you. You see, as long as you maintain the attitude that all there is in life is what science can measure, then you won't reach your full potential in the Lord's plan for you. You know that what I am saying is true. You can feel it right now in your heart. Your mind is arguing that this can't be real, but your heart tells you it rings true. It is true, David. You said that faith can do wonderful things. Did you say that just to appease Robert or did you really mean it?"
David gasped. He had forgotten to breathe during this discourse and now was surprised at the sound of his own in-rushing air.

"I...I don't know, I guess. Maybe I do believe that faith can have an influence in our lives. There are plenty of things that can't be explained easily by science yet."

"Good man, David. It's been my experience that if you can even have the desire to believe, you can work miracles eventually. Let's eat first and then we can talk some more. Deal?"

"Sure." There was nothing else to say. When dinner came, he ate. When it was over, they walked the streets and talked at length about spiritual matters.

John was indeed no ordinary man. He was also no crackpot. John opened up that night a whole new world of thought for David--a world that begged to be explored and charted. David found that soon he yearned to blaze trails in it, scale its heights and plumb its depths. The possibilities in his line of work alone were endless, he felt. Something was sprouting inside him--something he had never experienced. It was exciting and promising. It was powerful and a touch unnerving, too.

The next morning, before they went to check on Robert, John diverted David down a different hall and into the room of a young girl. David tried to protest that they shouldn't be there without permission, but John explained that he already had permission--in fact, a directive, from a very high source of authority. Besides, he explained, friends and doctors were allowed to visit with permission--and he amusedly pointed at himself and at David as he spoke these individual labels.

"What is the purpose of the hospital restrictions regarding people wandering the halls and entering any room they will? Protecting the patient is the ultimate purpose, is it not? Are we not here to help?" He then instructed David to stand aside and watch quietly.

He stooped to speak softly into the girl's ear, so as not to startle her. At the same time, he touched her cheek gently with his hand. She opened her eyes and smiled weakly, but made no sound. He backed off a little so she could focus on him better and proceeded to question her about her condition. David could hear her answer, but it didn't sound like English to him. Yet John was speaking English, he was certain. It seemed improbable, but it was hard to hear what was going on entirely.

At a point a few moments into the talk, the girl nodded her head and smiled as best she could, whereupon John put a drop of oil in her hair and then placed his hands upon her head and spoke in what sounded like the language the girl had spoken. David didn't recognize any words until at the end, just before John had taken his hands off the girl's head. It sounded something like a reference to Jesus Christ, but he wasn't sure. The girl gasped and then broke into a smile and John returned the smile, rubbing her head affectionately before rising to leave. He spoke a few more words to her, whereupon she nodded and then he left the room, taking David by the arm.

"What did you do in there?"

"I gave her a priesthood blessing. Her faith is tremendous."

"Priesthood? Are you a Catholic?"

John laughed softly. "No, David. I am not a Catholic. I am a member of the Church of Jesus Christ. And I am an Apostle of the Lord Jesus Christ." He turned to look directly at David.

"An Apostle? I thought they were all dead. So your church believes in them today?"

"It isn't my church, David. I told you. It is the church of HIm whose name it bears. And, yes, we do believe in Apostles--and Prophets and Seers and Revelators, too. In fact, we believe in all the same offices and structure of the original church in ancient times. Don't you?"

"Well..., I guess I had never really thought about it."

"That's why I asked you to come along on this trip, David. You needed to think about it."

"You know, you make some of the strangest statements I have ever heard, but you fascinate me, I must admit."

"Excellent. That's as good a place to start as any. Now, answer my question."

"What? ...oh, well, I was never much for organized religion."

"So you prefer disorganized religion?"

"You have a point there." David smirked and laughed softly. "I think if there is a church like the ancient one, it should be the same today as it was then. Why should it change? If it did, it wouldn't be the same church, now, would it?"

"Excellent insight. And what about the powers it had then? Would they be here today, also?"

"Powers? You mean like healing lepers and so forth?" The full measure of the thought now struck him and he turned to look at John again, that same speechless stare on his face.

"Yes, David, that is exactly what I am implying. But I sense that you need some convincing. Go back to the room we just came from and see for yourself. But don't stay long--there is about to be some excitement in there."

David didn't move. John gave him a nudge. "Go! I'll be here when you return."

Off David went, retracing the steps he had just come. As he entered the doorway, he was met with the sight of the young girl standing up at the window and raising her arms to the ceiling, softly repeating some words over and over. It was as if she were in the attitude of prayer. Giving thanks for a great blessing. David was overcome with emotion. Was it truly possible that he was witnessing a miracle? She had appeared extremely weak and bedridden just moments ago. Now she was up and acting strong again.

He turned to rejoin John before he could be discovered in the room. As he arrived at his point of origin, there was a nurse that came around the corner and went directly to the girl's room that he had just vacated. It was exactly as John had predicted. And in a moment there was a commotion that followed, just as he had foretold. The nurse came running down the hall and around the corner and when she returned, there were several others in tow, hot on her heels. They all entered the girl's room and there was a flurry of activity apparent, even from a distance.

"Alright, David..., now I want you to go to the front desk and ask about the boy that walked yesterday." Again David stood still as a post and again John had to nudge him to go.

When David returned, he was white as a sheet. He just stared at John.

"David, I told you there is nothing to be afraid of, didn't I? Stop worrying. You will have your answers soon enough, I assure you. And the answers will be far more satisfying once you have calmed down. Let's go see Robert, shall we?"

David followed numbly, but he knew he would have to 'buck up' if he were to reassure Robert of the success of the operation--if it were a success.

As they entered the room, Robert was awake and alert. He was sitting up and eating a healthy breakfast, as well. He waved both arms to them to come closer and his face portrayed an unmistakable happiness.

"Doctor! John! Come in, please! I am so happy. You made me better, Dr. Lawrence. I can tell already. The problems are gone for me. I am now healthy. Thank you--thank you so much, Doctor. And thanks to you, John, for bringing him here, as you promised."

David was still in a state of befuddlement and John answered for them both.
"It is our pleasure to have been of service to you, Robert. You have great faith and that is always rewarded. Give thanks to God for your blessings. It is to Him that you should be thankful most of all. He sent me to you and He sent me to David. The praise should be His alone."

Robert nodded in agreement and reached to embrace John and then David. Between his repeated 'Praise be to God', he also kept thanking them for their help. David had never felt the emotions he was feeling today. It would take some time to sort them out, if he ever could.

"You just heal quickly and go home to your family, Robert. Oh..., and when you feel up to it, call those young men I told you of, alright?"

"Yes, yes. I will. I promise you, I will. Thank you again. Thanks be to God!"

As they left the room, David saw that there was still a lot of bustling going on here and there. Those who passed him in the halls were either in a state of apparent shock, with which David could identify, or beaming from ear to ear and overwhelmingly cheerful. There was nothing in between.

"David, you have seen two common reactions to the miracles that took place here in the last two days. Explain them to me."

"I'm not sure I can", He mumbled slowly. "I know that some were perplexed about what seemed unexplainable and impossible. I can understand that. I feel the same way right now. I am not sure how the others can seem anything but shocked by what they saw. Can you explain it?"

"Sure I can. The first group you mentioned have no basis other than science to compare this experience with. It doesn't fit into their normal frame of reference, so they are confused and frightened. You may often fear what you can't explain. The second group has a different frame of reference. Whereas the things of God are foolishness to the world, the things of the Spirit are clear as crystal to the person of faith. They know there is power that cannot be measured by instruments or quantified in vials and tubes. There is no indication by buzzers and bells--just the sweet assurance in your heart that what you have witnessed is of God and is a good thing. Do you think what happened is a bad thing or a good thing, David?"

"Obviously, it's a good thing, but I still can't explain what happened or why it happened. I want to understand, John. Why did you bring me here, if all you had to do was lay your hands on Robert's head and heal him?" He was sincerely wanting answers now and his mood was one of humility and willingness to be teachable.

"If it had been the Lord's will, I could have given him a blessing to be healed, too. It wasn't the Lord's intent, though. You were brought here to witness the miracles, ask the questions that you ask now and learn that all the science in this world cannot hold a candle to the things of God. David, you are a good man--a bright man. God has plans for you, but you have the right to choose whether you will learn what He has to teach you. He wants you to have this priesthood power, too, David. You are one He can trust to use it to serve others properly. Are you willing to learn and follow in humility?"

"Yes. I want to know more than anything. I feel powerless when compared to what I saw you do with a simple laying on of hands. I would never have believed it if I hadn't seen it. What I did appears to be a success, but it pales beside what you did. I had to open a man's skull to help, but you just touched others and they were healed. How does that work, John?"

"Faith, David. First and foremost, pure and simple faith. You have to believe and then the power comes. It isn't that hard to understand. Would you have tried what you did if you hadn't first had faith it was possible to accomplish it?"

"No. And that would prevent success from the start, wouldn't it? I think I see what you mean. Nothing is even attempted without the faith it can be accomplished."

"And the great accomplishments of the world would never have been achieved if there hadn't been some faith first. David, I think you are on the right track now. Your life is only going to get more interesting from here on." He clasped an arm about David's shoulder and pulled him toward the front door and sunlight.

"One more thing, John. You said that Robert was an important man; more important than anyone else knew yet. What did you mean by that?"

"I guess you'll just have to keep in touch with him to know what happens with that question, won't you?" His smile was bigger than David had seen on his face so far. David just shook his head and laughed out loud. Something told him he was in for more miracles in the near future.

"I need to say goodbye here, David. I trust you will get home alright. Thanks for your help. And you can be expecting someone to call on you a few days after you get home. Be nice to them and listen closely, okay?" He then handed David an envelope with airfare in it, winked and hailed a cab for David's trip to the airport.

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