Angélique sits on a stuccoed wall that divides the sand from the street in Ocean Beach. She closes her eyes and listens.
The surf creates a gentle rhythm. The seagulls are playful in the distance. A couple of passersby carry on a soft conversation.
The sounds bring a smile to her face. It’s so different from what she’s used to in London, where life moves at a break neck pace.
She turns her face toward the morning sun and drinks in the warm rays. The brisk February breeze cuts through her jacket to invigorate her skin. “What has just happened to me?” she thinks to herself.
Just a few days earlier, sitting in her flat six thousand miles away, none of this was even a consideration. That’s when a voice told her she was about to get on a plane.
“You should come to visit San Diego someday,” said the email.
Angélique had struck up an e-friendship with a San Diegan and although she rarely left London, his invitation sounded like just what she needed. There is nothing like 7-8 million people within the London city limits to make a person feel small and insignificant. She had been feeling that way for 20 years. She had left her home in France to escape a lifetime of hardships and personal tragedies. And although she was glad to be away, London is a grind.
“I would love to, but where would I stay?” was her typed reply.
She posted a couple of “wanted” ads for a temporary room to rent in a few different places. One of them was at a Rock Church bulletin board at her friend’s suggestion.
That’s when she began clicking around the Rock’s website and she saw something she had never seen before. “This is church?” she wondered as she looked at the salon computer where she worked.
She had given her life to Christ years before and had regularly gone to church, but she had never seen anything like this. When she saw that there would be a “live stream” of the service on Sunday, she was more than intrigued.
Sunday came and she clicked in to the live stream right on time. The worship was spectacular. The videos were insightful and beautiful. When Pastor Miles said, “I’d like to say hello to everyone watching online...” and waved at the camera, Angélique found herself waving back. She was enjoying it like almost nothing she had experienced before. The sermon opened her eyes and spoke to her heart. If she had wanted to go to San Diego before, it was now a full-fledged longing. She wanted to come to the Rock more than she could express.
Angélique got some interest from a San Diego couple looking to rent a room for 10 days and suddenly it seemed like God was blessing her dream. She bought a ticket for her and her 9-year-old son and the trip was on.
The days and weeks that followed were filled with excitement and anticipation. Angélique watched the live stream every Sunday and felt like she had found a new home and passion.
But as the days grew closer, the dream began to fall apart.
But as the days grew closer, the dream began to fall apart. Her place to stay in San Diego fell through. When she tried to fly on a later date, her travel agent tried to take advantage of the situation and charged her an exorbitant amount of money. They ended up tussling over the figures for weeks, eventually forcing Angélique to enter a maze of British consumer rights ministries to get some help.
Then Angélique’s San Diego e-friend misinterpreted an email that she sent and he stopped emailing her back. No amount of explanation seemed to help.
Then her son took ill and was unable to travel. Leaving him was almost too much to bear. Still, she pushed forward and asked a good friend to let him stay with her. She agreed. But suddenly, her friend’s father died and she had to leave London to go back to her family in South Africa. She could no longer watch Angelique’s son.
It was all too much. Angélique threw in the towel. She called to cancel her flight and resolved to lose the money. It was all such a mess that she no longer even wanted to go. She was emotionally spent by the misunderstanding with her friend, the long struggle with the travel agent and couldn’t stomach the idea of leaving her son home. San Diego and the Rock Church would not happen now and perhaps not at all.
She was in the middle of her workday at the salon two days before her since-cancelled departure date when she heard a voice. “You’re going to get on that plane,” it said.
“I am?” was her audible reply before she noticed nobody had been talking to her. She looked around to see if someone saw her speaking to no one in particular.
She called her pastor to run the incident past him and he told her to take the voice seriously. “Oh no,” she thought. “Am I really going to do this?”
“Oh no,” she thought. “Am I really going to do this?”
When she let it out what the voice had told her, her salon friends urgently began to encourage her to go. A good friend stepped forward and offered to take her son. Suddenly, she received a phone call that stated that she was to get a check in the mail from an overpayment she had made on rent.
Her friends at the salon pounced. “Now you have to go! Quick! Make the call!” they exhorted.
“But I’ve already cancelled the flight!” Angélique fought back. But they would not relent. Even so, Angelique waited till the end of the day to make the call. When she dialed the travel agent she had fought so furiously with, he was, at that very moment, canceling the flight.
“Cancel the cancellation!” she said. “I’m going!”
Two days later, she was on a plane flying over London, telling God with a peaceful smile, “I’m on the plane, Lord. I’m not sure why I’m on the plane, but I know this is what you want for me.”
San Diego was a personal promised land for Angélique. She had been through so much hardship in her life that had lasted so long, she began to wonder if there would ever be a moment of respite for her. It turned out to be not only a respite for her weary body, but for her soul.
The people of the Rock came around her and loved her up. They took her places. They met to eat. They brought her to a women’s ministry meeting. They joined her for coffee or a walk along the beach. They talked about Jesus. They prayed for her. She felt encouraged in her walk with God. She felt the presence of the Holy Spirit all around. She soaked up every moment of it up like the San Diego sun. Even her and her friend from San Diego cleared up any misunderstandings.
Then they took her to church where, to her shock, Pastor Miles came off the stage to greet and interview her in front of the entire church. “Is this really happening to me?” she thought to herself. “A few days ago, I’m in London watching this man speak at a church in San Diego and now he’s standing in front of me with a microphone in my face! God, how could you be so good to me?”
Angélique takes one last look at the beach before getting in the car that will take her to the airport and back to London and her son. She wonders if when she gets home it will all feel like it never happened. Perhaps it’s because none of it makes a lot of sense. Why her? Why now?
“I have no answers,” says Angélique. “All I know is that God had a plan to give me an incredible gift, and there was no way He was going to let me miss it——even if he had to speak to me directly just to make sure. It is wonderful to feel so loved.”