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Adventist Mission

Annie Paama, 48

Angels in the Storm

Annie Paama was raised Adventist but moved in with her boyfriend at age 16.

To Sabbath School teachers: This story is for Sabbath, Aug. 24.

By Andrew McChesney

Annie Paama was raised in a Seventh-day Adventist home in the South Pacific islands of New Caledonia. But she left the church at the age of 16 and moved in with her boyfriend, Leonce. Soon they had two children.

Leonce drank. He often came home intoxicated, and inevitably a major argument followed. Sometimes he hit their young children.

One evening, Annie heard Leonce yelling as he walked up the hill to their house outside New Caledonia’s capital, Noumea. She realized that he was drunk.

A light rain was falling. Weather forecasters had predicted that Cyclone Erika would batter New Caledonia that night and urged people to stay indoors.

Annie didn’t want to be trapped at home with a drunken, violent man. She grabbed her 3-year-old daughter, Morgane, and 8-month-old son, Leonce Junior, and thrust them in the car. Sliding behind the wheel, she sped away.

Annie drove until the needle on the fuel tank showed empty. Parking near a tree, she was unsure about her whereabouts but certain that this was the safest place in the storm. A fierce wind whipped the car, and a chill swept the interior. Annie realized that she hadn’t brought warm blankets.

She looked over at her children. They were sound asleep after the long drive. She remembered God for the first time in years.

“God, if You exist, I want You to look after my children and me tonight,” she said.

A deep weariness overwhelmed her. She leaned back the driver’s seat and looked up out the driver’s side window. Then she blinked hard and looked again. To her astonishment, the clouds rolled back, and the heavens opened. She trembled in fright as she stared upward. Thousands of angels were walking busily back and forth in the heavens. She craned her neck, hoping to see God’s throne. Then the heavens closed, and a ladder extended from the sky to the car. It resembled a giant rope ladder.

Three angels descended the ladder. They were a bright white, whiter than any white that Annie had ever seen. She couldn’t see their faces clearly, only that they were tall, had wings, and brightly shone with a white light. One angel stood in front of the car and extended his giant wings, reaching to the back of the car. The two other angels stood on each side of the car, also covering it with their wings.

Annie was terrified and shook with fear.

Then she felt the car gently being rocked like a mother rocks a baby cradle. A pleasant warmth filled the interior.

Abruptly, Annie’s fright vanished, and she felt a sense of peace. Her eyes grew heavy, and she slipped into a deep sleep.

Annie awoke to the sound of birds chirping. Looking out the window, she saw the ladder descend again from the sky. The angels folded their wings and ascended the ladder.

As the angels left, Annie began to shake — not from fear but from cold. The warmth had left the car.

As the enormity of what had happened sank in, Annie realized that her prayer had been answered in a remarkable way. She immediately gave her heart to Jesus.

“I will never go back to the worldly life again,” she prayed. “I promise to live for You.”

Somehow, Annie had enough fuel in the car to drive to her mother’s house. Her mother, who opposed her boyfriend and had refused to help her for years, welcomed her for the first time with open arms. She provided money for fuel.

Later at home, Annie found that the house had emerged from the cyclone untouched. She tore down pictures of Bob Marley and cannabis from the walls, collected her jewelry, and threw them into a fire. The flames were still burning when Leonce returned from work. Seeing his puzzlement, Annie explained that she had given her heart to Jesus. Then Leonce asked about the previous night.

“Where were you and the children?” he said. “I came home and found it empty.”

Annie described how she had heard him yelling drunkenly and fled to avoid a fight. Leonce shook his head slowly.

“That wasn’t me,” he said. “I didn’t drink yesterday.”

Annie kept her promise to serve God. She married Leonce and was rebaptized. She also became a deaconess at the Bethany Seventh-day Adventist Church, a position that she has held for about a decade.

Leonce, after hearing the angel story, put aside his violent ways, and Annie is praying for his baptism.

Their children, now teenagers, can’t believe that they were part of such a remarkable night. They wish that they could experience something similar today. Annie tells them that they can.

“You have to keep a relationship with God and talk to Him,” she says. “Then He also will reveal Himself to you.”

Thank you for your Thirteenth Sabbath Offering three years ago that helped build two children’s Sabbath School classrooms on Maré, an island in New Caledonia.

For medium-resolution photos for this and other mission stories, visit the Facebook page for Mission quarterlies. New photos for the weekly story are posted the Sunday before they are to be presented in Sabbath School.