A LION AND A GENTLE MAN
PART l: AND THE LION ROARED
Mr. Schwartz was one of those rare teachers who inspire their students to think big and reach beyond themselves. Sixth-grade geography came alive as he recounted stories of his parents’ escape from Nazi Germany to the United States. For Darlene, a dream of traveling to Europe was born—a dream that became reality when, years later and a teacher herself, she journeyed to those far-away lands.
Raised Catholic, Darlene can’t remember a time when she didn’t know about God, but she clearly recalls the beginning of her intimate walk with Him. Life’s struggles had become so overwhelming that she was deeply depressed—to the point that she seriously considered suicide. One day, secluded in a closet and crying out to God, she was stunned when He answered—she heard His voice; not audibly, but as a sure-and-certain knowing deep within. The words he spoke were, “Talk to me.” So she did, pouring out her anguish; and a comforting presence such as she had never known encompassed her. Thus began Darlene’s journey of learning to communicate with the LORD; to recognize his voice; to understand his guidance. Many times he would speak through the words of scripture as well-known verses seemingly jumped off of the page. Other times she would sense his inaudible whisper as she listened quietly, following his instruction to “be still and know that I am God.”
As her intimacy with the LORD increased, the desire to travel for pleasure decreased and she told Him that she would go only if He sent her. Ten years passed with no trips abroad. Then, in the spring of 2001, an invitation came to accompany her friend, Joan, to Europe to intercede over selected cities in several countries. Joan is an adventurous sort who enjoys living life on the edge, thriving on spur-of-the-moment activities—quite a contrast to Darlene’s cautious and organized, drama-avoiding personality. So she was wary, but promised Joan that she would consider it carefully and prayerfully. The shower seemed like a good prayer closet, so that’s where her conversation with God occurred:
Is it OK to go to Europe?
Yes, with caution.
Is it safe?
You are safe with me.
Is it your will that we go?
I would not have put it in your heart if it wasn’t. Let me direct your path.
As the Lord’s message continued, Darlene didn’t understand what it meant:
A man’s way is not always pleasing to me but I see the heart. Your petitions have reached my ears and because I show mercy that does not mean I have approved or condoned poor behavior. It means I have delivered. You two have often gone astray, yet your hearts remained open. Stay close to me and I will show you my glorious way. Europe is in shambles—it is about to collapse. I will not allow you to go to certain areas, and if you insist you will be out of my will.
OK, so if I ask about certain places please say “yes” or “no.” Amsterdam?
Amsterdam is like a child who has gorged himself and has gone out of control, but it is salvageable. Yes.
It will never experience again the glory it once had because of what they did to my people. No.
Decadent Denmark. No.
A beautiful country, but no.
Decadent. No. This is where you will go—Holland, Belgium, Germany.
The trip was on. Plans were made; tickets were purchased; and then, just a few days before departure, Joan’s son died. Darlene offered to cancel the trip but Joan insisted this was of the LORD, and was certain there was nothing more she could do at home. The Lord was gracious—He gave her a beautiful vision of her son, who had suffered greatly in life, joyously dancing around heaven. So off they went, seeking God’s guidance each day regarding their itinerary, and He was very specific. They traveled for about two weeks, ministering to the people they met and stopping to pray as they were led. Only in retrospect, after the events of September 11th, did it become clear that all of the cities visited were the exact locations that were identified as where the terrorists had come from.
In Munich, Germany it became apparent that it was time to begin the return trip. The night before leaving, the ladies went to dinner in a buffet-style restaurant where the seating area was located downstairs. Waiting at the table while Joan got her food, Darlene happened to glance down and found a feather on the seat next to her. It certainly hadn’t been there before so she began looking around for a bird, wondering how in the world it could have flown down the stairs. Having heard lots of stories about gold dust, gems, oil, and feathers suddenly appearing; she finally realized that this must be a manifestation of the Spirit of the Lord so she kept it, little knowing at this point why the feather was so important.
The next day, heading north on the train, Darlene was reading Francis McNutt’s book on demons and deliverance and pondering its message when she heard, “danger—pray,” so they did, not knowing why. Meanwhile, a decision as to where to stop for the night had not yet been made—Darlene’s sense was that they were to stay in Luxemburg, but Joan wanted to go to Brussels. Not completely confident that she was hearing the LORD correctly, Darlene agreed, but as the train passed Luxemburg, she kept thinking, “I missed it—I missed what God said,” and just ten minutes later they arrived at the next stop, Brussels.
Leaving the station and anxious to locate lodging before dark, the friends were a bit uneasy. In spite of the clear day, there seemed to be a dark heaviness in the atmosphere. Looking around, they realized almost all of the people in the vicinity of the station were Middle Eastern men who appeared to be Muslim—the ladies were very uncomfortable. Worse, it soon became apparent that there was literally “no room in the inn” because every hotel in town was completely booked for a large conference. Options quickly running out, they headed back toward the train station, hoping to catch the last train of the day. Get-there-with-plenty-of-time-to-spare Darlene was rushing and became more and more frustrated as cut-it-to-the-last-minute Joan wanted to grab something to eat and then to stop and pray over a building. As they approached the station, Darlene veered off across an empty lot, a shortcut that would save half a block; but Joan continued straight ahead so she could cross the street at the corner. Out ahead and not looking back, Darlene was urging, “Come on! Hurry!” when she heard a scream and turned around to see two young men attacking Joan. One pummeled her while the other tried to grab her suitcase.
Darlene’s first thought was to pull the guy off of Joan, but the Lord quickly impressed her with the knowledge that she wasn’t strong enough. Instead, He directed her to command them to stop in the name of Jesus. She tried it, but they didn’t pay any attention and continued the attack. The Lord said, “Say it again.” When she did, one guy suddenly realized they weren’t alone and turned her way. Darlene’s immediate thought was, “Oh, my God,” and she heard Him say, “Use my son’s name, and do not let fear come upon you.” Things quickly became surreal—she could see a dark orb that appeared to be swirling toward her, and she felt as if she were now a martial artist warding off the spirit of fear. At the same time she felt as if she were going deep within herself while thinking, “I’m going to yell real loud the name of Jesus.” As she formed the word, “JE…,” she felt a rumbling begin in her belly and the sound came roaring out of her mouth “…SUS.” The impact of the roar was so powerful that it knocked both Darlene and the attacker back—he looked stunned, but wasn’t giving up. Raising his arm he rushed forward, as if to hit her with a Karate chop and she thought, “I’m a goner.” But the Lord said again, “Do not let fear come upon you;” and once again she noticed that dark orb swirling in her direction. Next, there was an instant, complete memory of a time when she had been accosted at gunpoint and had surrendered her purse. The gunman had started to get into her car but she’d screamed, “No! In the name of Jesus,” and he ran away. Now the Lord said, “I want you to do that again.” So she yelled, “Oh no you don’t, in the name of Jesus; and once again it came out as a roar. Immediately the attacker’s arm froze in mid-air—he kept trying to move it but couldn’t.
It would be difficult to determine who was more surprised by what happened next. In Darlene’s words,
It felt as if every muscle in my face moved—shifting its shape—and my eyes began to burn as if fire were shooting out of them. My first thought was that some demon must be attacking but I quickly realized it was the power of God. Glancing at Joan for the first time since this all began; I saw that she was looking at me quite strangely, even as the other attacker continued the assault. I felt an incredible presence coming out of me and enveloping me, as if I were a tiny little speck inside a huge bubble. I could feel myself fading away to nothing as the presence around me became everything. The guy with the frozen arm was staring at my face with a look of horror. Then he looked up above my head and jumped back. Turning around, he and ran off as fast as he could go. When the second man saw him go, he also looked at my face and above my head and then ran away as well. I just stood there and I felt everything go back to ‘normal.’ The Lord said, “You’re safe now,” and I quickly went to my friend and helped her up. She was a little sore but OK. The whole time she had also been yelling the name of Jesus. Both of us trembling, we rushed to the train station. Joan kept trying to ask me about what had just happened but I was so overcome that I couldn’t speak –when I tried I had no voice. My throat had been affected from the roaring.”
Safely on the train, Joan told Darlene that when she had looked at her during the attack, all she could see was the face of a ferocious lion; and then she reacted to the encounter by talking, and talking, and talking… Conversely, Darlene felt as if she were still in a state of shock and just wanted silence. Finally she asked Joan to be still so she could pray and process with the Lord what had just happened.
Lord, what did it mean when I felt enveloped by you?
You must decrease so that I may increase.
Lord, how could that power come out of me and yet engulf me?
I am in you and you are in me.
He reminded her of Psalm 91, and she immediately knew why He had given her a feather the night before. He was showing her that he is faithful to his promise to cover her with His feathers as He provides refuge under His wings.
Then Darlene saw a vision of the Lord’s hand reaching out and picking up what appeared to be a cloth—not a rag, but a nice cloth like a jeweler would use. He gently gave it a shake and said, “This cloth represents the church. I am shaking all that can be shaken. All that doesn’t belong will be purged, and once more I will shake the nations. All power and authority resides in the name of Jesus and the church has played with it, not really understanding the power and authority in his name. My people play with my son’s name, not realizing the power they’re playing with, BUT SOON THEY WILL KNOW—SOON THEY WILL KNOW!!!”
Darlene continued to pray and the LORD told her that when those two guys heard them yelling the name of Jesus they heard the entire gospel—the entire Word of God. “How can that be?” she asked, and He replied, “Because Jesus is the Word of God.”
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through Him, and without Him nothing was made that was made. In Him was life, and the life was the light of men. And the light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not comprehend it. John1:1-5
PART II: WHO WAS THAT MAN?
Throughout the journey from Brussels to Rotterdam Darlene continued taking authority over the fear that kept trying to overwhelm her. As she focused on the LORD and listened for his voice, she heard Him say over and over, “When you get to Rotterdam I will be a shield around you,” and he instructed her to “Go quickly to the first hotel you see.” Arriving at midnight, and making their way through crowds of people who appeared to be strung out on drugs, the friends were grateful for His promised protection.
The next day, arriving in Amsterdam, they went immediately to the phones to call YWAM, where lodging arrangements had been made. Joan had difficulty with the phone and ran out of change, so she left to get some while Darlene watched their luggage. A young man exited the next train and approached the phone where she waited—a young man quite different than the two thugs who’d attacked them the previous day. This one, a guitar slung over his shoulder and dressed all in black, looked like he had just stepped out of a magazine advertisement in his turtleneck, leather pants and boots. He had trouble with the phone too and, as he moved to the next one, a second man approached him. Darlene’s immediate thought was “drugs,” and she wanted to warn him but heeded the LORD’s still small voice saying that he could take care of himself; so she quietly prayed and observed. There was a brief interaction in which the young man related to the other with a kindness such as Darlene had never seen, smiling at him and even shaking his hand as he moved away.
She felt impressed that it would be safe to talk to this man, and he seemed to be having some difficulty reaching someone, so she said, “Nobody home?” He just smiled and answered that he was trying to contact his business partner. Further conversation revealed that his name was Marcel and he had recently closed down his furniture business in Canada, where his family still resided—he even confided that his family was dysfunctional. Being of Middle Eastern/European descent, he had returned to Europe and had been vacationing in Spain; but due to an airline strike, he was stranded for awhile, ran out of money, and ended up having to sleep out on a beach with some other guys the previous night. Somehow he’d managed to get to Amsterdam, and said he wouldn’t mind staying there for awhile. Darlene mentioned that the man who’d approached him could have been dangerous and warned him to be careful. Again he smiled, and reassured her that he knew what these guys were all about. She then suggested that he could earn some money singing, and he responded that he wasn’t worried about the money.
Joan returned, and eyed Marcel suspiciously as Darlene introduced them and suggested that perhaps he could help them find the place they were supposed to go since he seemed to be familiar with the area. He knew exactly where it was and walked with them, carrying Joan’s luggage for her. At one point Joan needed to do another errand and Darlene was waiting with Marcel when the LORD prompted her to tell him what had happened the previous evening. Initially, she resisted because she was still trying to process her feelings. But God can be persistent, and finally she turned to Marcel and asked if he if he was a Christian. He became animated at that and replied, “Yes, and God has delivered me from many things.” Then he began explaining to her the love of God and she was amazed at his knowledge and maturity. When she complemented him he said that his father had taught him, and that he had been invited to minister in many places around the world. When she told him of the assault in Amsterdam he expressed concern and inquired about their well-being, and then added, “Possibly what Joan has experienced and learned will be necessary for her for another time.” He then said emphatically, “Faith requires application!” But then it suddenly seemed as if he was in another place as he said, “Yes, I remember one time when there was a crowd and my life was in danger, so I just pushed my way through the crowd and walked away from them”. Darlene asked if he’d been afraid and he replied, “No, because I put my eyes on Him and they couldn’t touch me.”
When Joan returned, the three continued walking along together. The conversation flowed easily and Marcel paid a lot of attention to Joan, encouraging her as she recounted her memories of the attack. When they finally reached YWAM, Joan went inside to make the arrangements, and Darlene realized she was very hungry. Taking out her granola, she offered him some to Marcel and he gratefully accepted, saying he hadn’t eaten since yesterday. He then added that he’d shared God with the guys on the beach, but they wouldn’t listen—they were just into partying.
Joan returned and told them they were staying at the other YWAM base, so they walked on, still accompanied by Marcel. Along the way, Darlene heard the LORD say, “I want you to give him some money.” Not a prompting she was comfortable with—“Uh, Lord, I don’t give men money.” But He was persistent, “I want you to give him some money. Give him whatever Dutch currency you have. And don’t worry; I have more where that came from.” Finally arriving at their destination, they checked in and Darlene fumbled through her bag to get her money out. As she handed it to him, the lady at the desk looked at her like she was crazy but she said “Here—the Lord told me to give you this.” He insisted that it wasn’t necessary but she told him that she knew what it was like to be without, adding that the LORD had taught her how to walk in faith and had prospered her so she could bless others. He kissed her on both cheeks, saying “Thank you. You are very blessed, and if you no longer need me I’ll be on my way.” As he turned to leave he assured them both, “You are safe here.”
As the ladies went to their room they marveled at the encounter with Marcel. Darlene couldn’t comprehend how he could sleep on the beach and still look like a fashion plate with shiny boots and expensive clothes. She said to Joan, “Who was that guy?” And Joan replied, “I knew there was something strange about him; but something extraordinary.” Darlene added that as Marcel left the building she’d felt led to go look out the door to see which way he was going but he was gone—nowhere in sight. And immediately she remembered the story of the two men on the road to Emmaus who were talking to Jesus but didn’t recognize him.
To this day Darlene is not sure who the LORD sent to them that day, but she and Joan often reminisce , saying; “Did not our heart burn within us while he talked to us on the road?” Luke 24:32