This I Believe

Joyce - Kabul, Afghanistan
Entered on April 21, 2006
Age Group: 50 - 65
Themes: family
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I believe in my guardian angel. I’ve been in Afghanistan for more than two years, but the presence of the angel began a generation ago.

I was born into an Old Order Amish farm family in Iowa. My father did not drive a car until he was in his late 40s and after my parents joined a more progressive church that permitted car ownership.

My father was one of the world’s really bad drivers. He had been accustomed to a horse that kept the buggy on the road while he checked out the farms, looking to see whether the corn rows were straight, the barn roof lines perfectly horizontal, the crops in or harvested on time, and whether the roadside ditches were mowed to his standard of neatness. The adjustment to a vehicle that needed a human driver to stay on course was just too much. There is no rational explanation for the fact that he lived to be almost 90 years old.

I was horrified to learn that in retirement he had purchased a van and was hiring himself out to Amish families that needed transport to visit distant relatives, to go south for the winter, or to take their families on the once-in-a-lifetime road trip. I told him I would no longer worry since it was clear God had assigned a guardian angel full time just to watch over him. He would scoff, snort and frown, but I could tell he liked the idea of the personal attention. And in all those years of bad driving, there was not as much as a fender bender.

In 1998 I started a new career in international development. My first trips were to Haiti and Nicaragua, places he had already been. He had been a potential hazard on the roads of five continents during his life. Once he came with me to the airport when I was leaving for an assignment after a visit. When I turned for a last look, I could see this small man, now a passenger, moving his hand up and down in a papal-like wave. I nodded and smiled, knowing how he would object to that comparison. Amish and Catholic are about as far apart as you can get and still be Christian.

That moment of blessing was to be the last time I saw him. His body was too frail to fight the pneumonia that quickly caused his death. I believe that final wave was not only a blessing but a bequest. I believe that he knew I now needed the angel more than he and asked her to watch over me instead.

Since then I have traveled to more than 30 countries on 5 continents. I have never had reason to be afraid, but I don’t take that for granted. I often recognize the varying personifications – the taxi driver in Managua and the guide in Freetown, among others. And I am always grateful, because I do believe in the constant presence of my guardian angel.