Angels on the phone: Local woman shares stories of divine intervention

Mar. 12, 2014 @ 09:43 AM

Alisa Edwards Smith of Chapel Hill has two personal stories just published in two different books about faith. Both stories are from her childhood and involve telephone calls and her grandmother.
The popular “Chicken Soup for the Soul” book series has a new edition called “Chicken Soup for the Soul: Miracles Happen: 101 Inspirational Stories about Hope, Answered Prayers, and Divine Intervention.” Guideposts, the inspirational publisher, has a new book out called “The Best Angel Stories 2013.” Smith’s writing is featured in both.
Smith spent most of her childhood in Nigeria, as her physician father and nurse mother were medical missionaries. They moved back to the United States in 1971, when Smith was 14. She went on to become a critical care nurse and later a stay-at-home mother to four children. She and her husband are both graduates of Duke University and lived in Durham for several years before moving to Chapel Hill. Other stories from her childhood have been previously published in Guideposts magazine.
In “Miracles Happen,” Smith’s story is called “Divine Connection.” Her family had left Nigeria for a year in Winston-Salem. Smith was in the third grade. Her grandmother was dying and the family drove to see her in South Carolina. They stayed for four days, Smith writes, and her grandmother seemed to rally so they headed home. As they arrived home in North Carolina, the phone rang. A woman on the other end said “I have the person on the line that you have been trying to reach.” No one had called anyone, but Smith’s aunt was on the line and told him their mother had taken a turn for the worse. The family headed back quickly and Smith’s dad, Dr. Keith Edwards, was able to spend time with his mother before she died. Smith wrote that it was an angel who called, so her father had time to say goodbye.
Smith’s story in “Best Angel Stories” happened about five years later, when she was 13. They were back in Nigeria and her father was working at a hospital in the midst of the Biafran War, the Nigerian Civil War. Edwards was almost killed by a soldier angry that he helped save another man, and the soldier did end up killing that man at the hospital. The soldier held a gun to Edwards’ head, too, and Smith saw the beginning of the scene unfold until her older brother dragged her away. The soldier was talked down by a man Edwards never met, but who saved the doctor’s life.
“I didn’t understand people could hate just because someone is from a different tribe or color or they’re gay or whatever. It was my first glimpse,” Smith said.
In “When My Grandmother Called Us From Heaven,” Smith writes about how the family was scared and ready to be evacuated from the war zone. One night she was awake thinking about a train of Biafran refugees who had been killed. It was 3 a.m. and she heard the telephone ring, and her father on the line. She writes about the conversation she overheard -- her father talking to his late mother, answering, “I will, Ma, I will.” Smith wrote that she felt a sense of calm and thanked God for sending Ma to call her dad. The next morning, her father told her about the phone call and that his mother said, “Hold on to the Lord, he knows of your struggles and he loves and cares about you.”
In the story and in an interview, Smith noted that her father is a man of science and that he said perhaps the phone rang by accident and the conversation was a dream. He told her, “God speaks to his children through dreams all the time, and the end result is still the same, God spoke to me.”
Smith doesn’t think it was a dream, because as a physician, her father was trained to wake up and be immediately alert to make life and death decisions. He also isn’t someone who sees an angel behind every bush, she said.
“I believe in angels. I believe God does reach out and comfort his children,” Smith said.