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On the outskirts of a town called Pottsboro, there is a place called the Shady Grove. The only people that remember anything notable about it are all in their 70s or 80s and almost all of them refuse to speak of it.
There are a few, however, that will break their vow of silence and tell of the horrendous events that happened there. They spoke to me bout how they had seen what hell truly looked like and how soon they would pay for what they've done.
During the 1960s, a cult had formed in the town. They had taken to sacrificing people to summon their "master," who their leader had claimed would banish the filth from the Earth and begin a time of true peace.
The only catch was that they had to sacrifice only female children, but only if they were deemed impure after a night with the leader. After he had collected about ten little girls, he told them the day of judgment was upon them and to prepare the circle about five miles outside of town.
That night, at 3:00 AM, they began to ritual by covering the girls in the blood of pigs and cutting the children's arms and legs about one to two inches apart from each previous cut.
The next part was the cover their bodies in oil and light it. After this step, their bodies burst into blue flames and from the flame came a woman with eyes as black as coal and skin as white as snow.
The woman walked straight at the leader while saying something in an unintelligible language and he instantly burst into flames. After that, the group I was interviewing told me they all blacked out, only to find themselves in their beds with a ticket in their hands that had the word "HELL" stamped on it.
The group told me that if anyone attempted to enter the circle where the ritual took place, that would wake up instantly, have an intense vision of themselves burning alive, and then pass out and wake up in their beds holding the ticket to HELL.
When it all began, I was a lonely seventh grader at a large public school. I had few friends there, and even these “friends” of mine bullied and mistreated me more often then not. So I made my friends at church. At this point in my life, I was deeply religious, even at such a young age. I prayed and read the Bible daily, and my family regularly attended church. However, no matter how much effort I put into my religion, I always felt a great distance between me and God. I could spend all day praying, but every time I tried, I still felt like I was talking to the wall. How could I know He was there at all if I couldn’t see Him, couldn’t hear Him, couldn’t feel Him?
But my father – oh, he could hear God just fine. I knew because he had seen them – seen the Angels.
My father and my mother, still married at this time, disagreed upon many issues, especially religious ones. So as the tension between them grew, my father turned to other sources of fulfillment. He began taking long walks each day, during which he would spend hours praying. He developed a kind of distant look in his eye, which constantly hinted at the fact that he was occupied with things outside our world. This only increased the tension in the household, as my mother accused him of being neglectful of household chores and duties.
Then, when he and I were doing yard work one day, my father revealed to me his Gift.
“Son, this may sound strange at first,” he told me, nervously clearing his throat, “but I had a vision from God.” He then began to describe to me his vision. Jesus had led him to the top of a high mountain overlooking the whole world. Upon the mountain, Jesus told my father that He was sending him out as His servant to win back the world for the Cross. My father resisted, claiming he did not have the gifts to take on such a task. Jesus then told my father that He was going to give him a special ability to aid him: the ability to see and communicate with spiritual beings. This would help my father complete his task. Still my father resisted, saying he was not worthy of such power. Jesus, becoming angry, swiftly brought my father down to the depths of Hell. My father looked upon the Lake of Fire. Thousands of thousands of souls were drowning in its flames, wailing in agony. Their skin was bubbling and dripping off in large clots from the intensity of the heat; the hair was completely singed off their heads; their bloodshot eyes burned red from the flaming tongues that continually licked them. My father grew sick to his stomach. “Do you see this?” Jesus said to him. “This is what will happen if you do not act soon. If you refuse to obey your calling, you shall be responsible for the eternal death of millions.”
I was speechless. But that was not all. My father then went on to tell me that in the days following the vision, he had begun to see the Angels, just as Jesus had said he would. “They’re everywhere. They’re invisible to human eyes, but I can see them. Dozens of them. They’re the most majestic creatures.”
I had no idea what to say. How could I know, when my father had actually just told me in all earnestness that he suddenly had the power to see angels and spiritual beings? Was I losing my mind? Was this a strange dream?
Yet, even as insane as it sounded, I wondered: Was this the answer I had been looking for? I had never been able to hear God talk back to me before. Maybe that would all change now. Maybe I could finally see God, hear Him, feel him myself.
“Dad, do you think one day I’ll be able to see them too?”
“Of course you will! It will take time, but if you have faith, nothing will be invisible to you.” And so began my quest of faith, my quest to see these beings for myself, to see God.
Over the next several months, my father shared with me his stories about his frequent encounters with the Angels. He warned me never to tell another living soul, not even my mother; God had commanded him to keep his Gift a secret from all except me. Car rides with my father became adventures, as he would describe his conversations with the beings. Usually they appeared to him during his solitary prayer walks, or while he was out anywhere by himself.
Part of my father’s Gift was the ability to speak in angelic tongues, and it was in these tongues that he communicated with the Angels. They would discuss the spiritual state of matters in the world, or go over details concerning my father’s mission, or sometimes simply exchange words of wisdom. Each Angel had a name and a distinct personality and appearance, all of which I have long forgotten. Most of these names I had never heard before, but once every so often my father would tell me how he had met Michael or Gabriel, or one of the other Archangels. The vividness with which he reported his encounters to me was incredible; I felt as though I were there amongst the Angels myself. The more I heard, the more urgently I wanted to see them with my own eyes. My father became my greatest hero. Obviously he was the most pious man I had ever known. Who else but the saints had ever been blessed with speaking with spiritual beings on a daily basis? I quickly became obsessed with gaining my father’s abilities. If only I was less sinful, less worldly, a little more like my father.
Time passed, and as my father began to meet with the Angels more and more, I became more and more frustrated with myself for not being able to see them. But I learned to be patient. My father assured me that my time would come. One day, I too would look upon with Gabriel with my own two eyes.
School let out for the summer, and that left more time than ever for spiritual growth. My father embarked upon his God-given mission, working and preaching at Christian events and concerts. He often met other believers who recognized the spiritual power within him, and they would have long theological discussions. Meanwhile, I sought to bring myself up to par spiritually by praying and reading my Bible for hours every day. The journey was difficult, and I often felt that I was getting nowhere, but I held onto hope.
And then, everything changed.
It was toward the end of the summer, and our family, including my parents, my two sisters, my mom’s parents, and myself, headed down to Destin, Florida, for a week-long vacation. Due to our financial situation and the limited number of vehicles, we had decided that my mother and sisters would fly by plane to Destin while my grandparents drove down in one car and my father and I drove in another. The day of departure arrived, and my father and I climbed into our car with the bulk of the luggage, ready to embark upon the fourteen-hour drive to Florida.
Naturally, it only took a few minutes before we began discussing spiritual matters. My father had more stories to share, and I listened eagerly. He spoke of his words with the Angels, and described their splendor, and as he kept telling me about it all, I again experienced that feeling of inadequacy and the desire to be able to see the Angels too. At one point I asked him what it was like to speak in tongues.
“Oh, it’s very simple,” he told me. “You know when you’re speaking their language because don’t even have to try. The words just flow right out. That’s because the Spirit of God is in you, inspiring the words. It’s not really you who’s talking at all. God is doing the talking through you.”
“I hope I’ll be able to speak in tongues someday,” I said, sighing.
“You can right now, if you have faith,” my father replied.
“I can? You mean, really?”
“What did Jesus say to his disciples? What if you have faith even a little as a mustard seed?”
“You can move mountains.”
“Well, surely speaking in tongues is a lot easier than moving a mountain! Go on, try it.”
I was suddenly nervous. I didn’t know what to do. Was this actually happening? Was I really about to try to speak an angelic language? After a long, awkward pause, I finally blurted out a jumbled pile of nonsense, just whatever came to my head. It was very short, maybe a sentence or two, if you could even call them sentences. I was embarrassed; I knew my father would laugh at me.
“You did it! See?” My father exclaimed, much to my surprise. “You just spoke their language! All you need is faith. I’m proud of you, son.”
“I really did it then, huh?” I said, trying to hide the fact that I wasn’t convinced. I knew I had just made those words up; there was no Spirit of God involved. But I didn’t want to disappoint my father, so I played along. I even talked myself into half-believing that maybe I had done it, maybe I was just too young to realize it. Regardless, I never made a second attempt after that day.
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