Pastor George W. Nubert looked at his watch and took a deep breath. His wife was busy making dinner in the kitchen, and he had ten minutes to get over to the church, light the coal furnace, and be back in time for dinner. Sometimes he felt like he was performing a circus act, twirling plates in the center ring. He had to keep a dozen plates spinning at all times; not one of them could crash to the ground.

But Pastor Nubert didn't mind.

Over the years he had learned to deal with the pressures that came with the ministry. Inevitably his life was surrounded by crises while he was expected to remain calm. Through prayer and discipline, he had discovered one secret to being dependable for those around him. He was organized and punctual beyond reproach. And so although he would rather have sat down and rested for a moment on that cold March evening, he slipped into a jacket and kissed his wife goodbye.

"Be right back," he said. "I need to light the furnace for tonight."

At 6:30 he arrived at West Side Baptist Church on Court Street and LaSalle in the center of the town of Beatrice, Nebraska. The church was something of an anchor, a landmark that everyone in town used when giving directions to outsiders. A stranger could find almost any place in Beatrice as long as they could first find the tall white steeple that marked West Side Baptist Church.

Pastor Nubert made his way inside the church building and climbed down two flights of stairs to the basement. There he lit the coal furnace, making sure it was working before he turned to leave. Next he walked up to the sanctuary where twenty rows of wooden pews made up the seating for Sunday mornings. Glancing at the thermostat, he adjusted it so that the building would be warm in exactly one hour. It was Wednesday. And that year—1950--choir practice was always at 7:30 Wednesday evening.

Glancing once more at his watch, Pastor Nubert quickly left the church and headed home for dinner. He intended to be back at his usual time, no later than 7:15 P.M.


Martha Paul had been the choir director at West Side Baptist Church in Beatrice for sixteen years; as far as she could remember she had never been late to choir practice. Without fail Martha arrived at least fifteen minutes early.

"That way I have time to get the hymnals ready," Martha liked to tell her husband. "I can be sure there's enough sets of choir music, get the lights turned on, and still have time to catch my breath."

Martha had often impressed upon her choir the importance of being on time, reminding them that nothing could be accomplished until every choir member was in his or her place ready to sing.

"A choir is not one or two voices," she would say. "The plan is not to arrive at seven-thirty but to begin singing at seven-thirty."

That particularly cold Wednesday evening in March, 1950, Martha had every intention of being at church as usual by 7:15. This was to be a special practice since it was the last rehearsal before the church performed its annual Easter Cantata. In addition to the fourteen choir members there would be a trio of teenage girls joining them. The trio had been working on a musical piece for the cantata and that night would be the first time the two groups would practice together. Martha knew that as a result there would be music to arrange, seating assignments to work out, and a handful of other details that needed her attention. More than any other Wednesday it was crucial that she be at church especially early that night.

But she had run into a problem.

Her daughter, Marilyn, had been attending junior college and working part-time to pay tuition. That evening she returned home from her afternoon job and gave a weary nod to her mother.

"I'm going to sleep for a while," she had said. "Wake me up for practice."

Marilyn, nineteen, was a pianist and was scheduled to play the piano for the Easter Cantata. Although she had missed choir practice on occasion, her attendance was crucial that evening. So at 6:45 Martha went upstairs to Marilyn's room and leaned inside.

"Wake up!" she announced. "We're leaving in twenty minutes for practice."

Marilyn moaned and rolled over once in bed. Certain that her daughter was awake and would now get up and get ready for practice, Martha returned to the kitchen.

At 7 o'clock, when Marilyn had still not emerged from her room, Martha trudged back up the stairs. The young woman lay on her bed, still sound asleep.

"Marilyn," Martha said loudly, moving toward her daughter. "What's wrong with you? You need to wake up right now and get ready for practice. We have to leave!"

Slowly Marilyn turned over in her bed, obviously still very much asleep. Martha felt the girl's head and found it cool. Marilyn typically had plenty of energy, and Martha couldn't remember the last time she had come home from work only to fall into such a deep sleep.

"Marilyn!" Martha said in a still louder voice. She placed her hand on the girl's shoulder and shook her gently. "Marilyn, wake up!"

Gradually Marilyn's eyes opened, and she narrowed them as she tried to focus on her mother.

"Mama?" she mumbled.

"Marilyn, please wake up! We're going to be late if you don't get up this instant!"

"I'm up, I'm up," Marilyn croaked, sitting up in bed and rubbing her eyes. "I'll be right down."

But fifteen minutes later, at 7:20, Marilyn was still not downstairs, and Martha began to fume.

"Marilyn!" she yelled up the stairs. "Get down here right now or I'll leave without you."

"Mama? Come here, please," Marilyn said, her voice shaky.

Martha marched up the stairs and stomped into her daughter's room. Her car keys were clenched in her fist, and her purse hung from her forearm. She stared at her daughter in frustration. "Are you ready?"

"Mama, I'm sorry, but I fell asleep again," Marilyn said. "I can't understand it. I've never felt like this. It's like I couldn't wake up. Every time I tried to move out of bed, my eyes got heavy and I closed them. The next thing I knew I was asleep."

Martha looked at her watch and sighed loudly. It was 7:25.

"Well, this will really be something," she said. "I ask everyone to be on time for practice, and now my own daughter makes me late." She shook her head. "I know you didn't mean to fall asleep, honey, but if you're feeling okay, can you please get ready quickly?"

Marilyn nodded. "Yeah, I think I'm awake now," she said, shaking her head and opening her eyes wider. "I'll get ready fast as I can."

"All right, then, I'll be downstairs waiting. Please hurry."

Just as Martha turned to leave, the house went pitch black. She groped in front of her until she felt the door frame and steadied herself.

"Great," Martha muttered. "Now we'll really be late."

"What happened?" Marilyn asked.

"Electricity's out," Martha said. "I'll work my way downstairs and see if I can find a candle."


Donna, Rowena, and Sadie had been best friends since grade school. As far back as they could remember, their families had attended West Side Baptist Church, and for years they had sung in the children's choir. Each of the girls loved to perform, and in their private moments they had always dreamed about forming a singing group and being famous one day after they graduated from high school.

Now that they were teenagers, too old for the youth choir and too young for the senior choir, Martha Paul had devised a way to keep them involved. She created the West Side Girls' Trio, a special choir for the three friends in which they could work on musical pieces and perform them occasionally for the congregation.

The number they had been practicing for the Easter Cantata was their most beautiful yet, and none of the girls could wait to present it that evening at practice.

"Let's get there early," Rowena suggested to the others. "That way we can visit a while before practice."

The girls made a plan and arranged for Donna to borrow her father's car and pick Rowena and Sadie up at their homes by 7 o'clock. That way they could all be at the church by 7:15.

But at 7:10 that evening, after watching out her front window for several seemingly endless minutes, Rowena finally pursed her lips in frustration. Donna was never late when they made plans to do something. She picked up the telephone and dialed her friend's number.

"Hello?" Donna answered.

"Donna? What are you doing? You're supposed to be here to pick me up.”

"Rowena, what are you talking about?" Donna said. "I'm waiting for Sadie. I thought she was going to pick both of us up."

"No, that wasn't the plan," Rowena said. "I can't believe this! Now we're all going to be late and no one's going to take us seriously."

"Ro, I'm telling you Sadie is supposed to be doing the driving tonight."

Rowena sighed. She had no transportation other than catching rides from her friends, and she was determined to work out their misunderstandings so that they could get to choir practice.

"Listen, Donna. I'll talk to Sadie and see what's happening, and I'll call you right back."

Sadie answered her telephone immediately and Rowena discovered that she had been right. Sadie, too, was waiting for Donna, since her mother had taken their family car and she had no way to get to choir practice unless Donna could drive.

Rowena called Donna once again and explained the situation to her. "So, if you can't drive us, I guess we won't be going," Rowena concluded.

Donna apologized and promised to ask her father about borrowing the car and call her friends back as soon as possible. At 7:25 Donna called and explained that she had the car keys in her hand, Sadie was waiting outside, and she was on her way out the door. Just before the girls hung up, everything in both their houses went black.


Theodore Charles was not accustomed to being apart from his wife, Anne. The couple had been married fifteen years and had rarely spent a day away from each other during that time. But that spring Anne had some family matters to attend to in nearby Lincoln, and she wouldn't be home until the next morning.

"Don't worry, Theodore," she told him before she left. "I've made plans for you and the boys. You'll be having supper with the McKinters on Wednesday night while I'm in Lincoln."

Theodore was pleased with this arrangement. The McKinters were a kind couple well past retirement age, and Margaret McKinter was one of the best cooks in Beatrice. He knew that he and the boys, ages eight and ten, would be in good hands while Anne was gone.

They even had plans for after the meal. Wednesday night was choir practice, and he and Anne usually took the boys along with them. The fact that Anne was gone didn't change things. Theodore and the boys would have dinner at the McKinters at 6 o'clock and leave shortly after 7:00 so they would make practice in plenty of time. Theodore enjoyed getting to practice early enough to visit with his friend, Herb Kipf, since both men were busy the rest of the week and rarely had time to talk.

As he'd expected, Margaret McKinter's meal was wonderful, corned beef with biscuits and gravy, and homemade apple pie for dessert.

"I must say, Margaret," Theodore commented after the meal. "You make the meanest apple pie this side of the Blue River."

"Oh, now, that ain't so," Margaret gushed. "That pretty, little wife of yours makes a pie just as fine as any around town. I remember the time when she was just a wee little thing, that Annie girl. Yes, sir, just a little girl with the prettiest dresses and ..."

Theodore had expected this. Along with Margaret's good cooking she was also quite the conversationalist. Often a person could rest ten or fifteen minutes while Margaret did a fine job of carrying on a conversation all by herself.

That being the case, Theodore was not surprised to find himself nodding in agreement and glancing at his watch as 7:15 slipped past. At 7:25 Theodore silently determined to cut into Margaret's monologue, apologize profusely, and quickly exit with his boys before he missed choir practice altogether.

"And so like I was saying," Margaret McKinter drew in a quick breath, "whenever Thelma does her laundry without the bleach, I'm talking about her underclothes and all the rest, and then hangs them out to dry on the ..."

Suddenly everything in the McKinter house went dark, and for the first time in nearly an hour there was utter silence in the room.


Gina Hicks was unsure about what to do that evening. She very much enjoyed being a member of the West Side Baptist Church choir and planned on singing a solo in the coming Easter Cantata. Certainly the choir director would expect her at practice since the performance was less than two weeks away.

But then there was her mother to consider.

Norma Hicks was a charter member of the Ladies' Missionary Group which met one Thursday each month at a different home. That month the women planned to meet at the Hicks' home, and the meeting was set for the following night.

"Gina, I know you need to go to practice," her mother had said earlier in the evening. "But I could really use your help. Besides the cleaning, I have some baking to do, and I'd like to get it all finished tonight."

Gina's younger sisters and brother would be taking their baths and getting ready for bed, and Gina knew there was no one else to help her mother. Still, she struggled with her decision. She lived so close to the church she could hurry right home after practice to help her mother. But maybe her mother really needed her, and in that case she would definitely stay home.

Gina looked at the clock. 7:20. There was still time to get to the church before practice. She began searching for her coat when just then she heard her mother struggling to break up an argument between her two sisters.

Gina sighed softly.

"Mom!" she yelled across the house. "Don't worry about things. I'll stay and help."

After all, she figured, God might want her to sing in the choir--but first he'd want her to help her mother. She began humming the melody to her solo number and headed toward the kitchen. Quickly she dialed her friend and fellow choir member, Agnes O'Shaugnessy.

"Aggie, I won't be there tonight. Tell Mrs. Paul I'm working on my number, and I'll get with her about it later."

"Okay. Mary and I are just about to leave. We'll let her know."

Gina hung up the phone, but just as she began washing dishes, there was a distant roaring sound. Suddenly the windows began rattling and the ground beneath her feet began to shake.

Norma came flying down the stairs with the younger girls racing behind her. "Oh, dear, Lord!" she cried out. "What in Heaven's name was that?"

At that instant they were enveloped in black.


Mary Jones and Agnes O'Shaugnessy were young mothers who always carpooled to choir practice at West Side Baptist Church. Usually by 7 o'clock they had finished with dinner and gotten their toddleraged children ready for bed so that their husbands would have no trouble taking over while they attended practice.

That Wednesday it was Mary's turn to drive and she arrived at Agnes's house at 7:15. Agnes lived just two blocks from the church, so usually the two women talked for a few minutes before leaving for practice. But on that night Agnes was caught up in the final segment of "This Is Your Life," and she motioned for Mary to sit down.

"This is great," she said. "You've got to see this guy."

The program was one of the neighborhood favorites, and Mary soon found herself hooked. Even after the phone call from Gina Hicks, Mary and Agnes continued to watch the program. Before either women realized what had happened, it was 7:25.

"Oh, no!" Agnes gasped. "We're going to be late. I'm so sorry, Mary. I lost all track of time."

Mary stood up quickly, eyes still turned to the final moments of the television show. Just then Agnes's husband, Paul, joined them with the baby in his arms.

"Aren't you going to be late, girls?" he asked, looking at the clock.

"Nah," Mary said. "Besides, I love this show, and we'll still be there by 7:30. The church is just around the corner."

In less than a minute the credits began rolling on the screen as the program ended and both women said goodbye to Paul and headed for the car. Just as they opened the car door they heard the sound of a terrifying explosion, the force of which shook the ground and nearly knocked them off their feet.

"What in the world was that?" Mary said, straining to look in the distance toward where the sound had come from.

"I don't know, but we'd better get to practice before we're in deep trouble with Mrs. Paul," Agnes said, getting into her car. "Come on, let's go."

Pastor Nubert had finished dinner by 7 o'clock that evening and was helping his wife with the dishes. Susan, their six-year-old daughter, was already dressed and waiting by the front door, so their evening was right on schedule. The pastor smiled. He was looking forward to choir practice since the cantata was coming up so quickly. Everyone was excited about the performance, and it brought an even greater purpose to their gathering together and singing.

"Should be a good turnout tonight," he commented to his wife.

Before she could answer, Susan walked into the kitchen.

"Daddy, I'm thirsty," she complained.

Pastor Nubert looked at the clock on the wall. 7:05. They needed to leave in the next two minutes if they wanted to arrive by 7:15.

"Honey, can't you wait until after practice? We'll have punch and cookies when we're done singing," he said, stooping to her level and brushing a lock of hair from her eyes.

The little girl shook her head adamantly. "My throat hurts and I want a drink now, please," she said politely. "Please, Daddy."

The pastor sighed. "All right, but we have to leave in just a minute. Drink it quickly, okay?"

Susan clapped her hands happily. "Yes, Daddy. I will."

He walked to the refrigerator and pulled out a pitcher of red punch, then poured some into a cup and handed it to her.

"Thanks, Daddy," she said, turning around and walking out of the kitchen. Pastor Nubert watched as the child rounded the corner into the living room and then tripped on the throw rug, dumping the red drink down her white pinafore dress. Immediately the liquid seeped into the beige rug, and Susan cried for help.

"I'm so sorry, Daddy. I didn't mean to." Tears had formed in her eyes, and the pastor's heart went out to her. He moved quickly to the little girl's side. "It's okay, sweetie, we'll clean it up."

In an instant the child's mother joined them with a rag and a bucket of water, working as fast as she could to dilute the stain on the carpet and clean off Susan's dress.

"You'll need to change, dear," she said patiently.

The pastor looked at the clock once more. 7:13.

"We're going to be late," he muttered as their daughter left the room.

"Everybody should be late once in his life," his wife said with a smile. "Don't let it kill you, George."

He sighed again and began helping with the clean-up. "You're right. Go help Susan. We'll get there when we get there."

Fourteen minutes later, just as the Nuberts had finished cleaning up the mess and were preparing to leave for practice, the house suddenly shuddered and the lights went out. They were left standing in utter darkness.

"What is it, George?" his wife whispered. "What do you think happened?"

The pastor held his car keys in his hand and led his family carefully through the unlit house to the front door. "I don't know. Let's get down to the church and see if the lights are off there, too."


Herb Kipf had finished dinner and was working on a letter he was writing to the secretary of another Baptist church across town. He often helped out with paperwork in the church office and that included writing letters.

At age twenty-nine Herb was a machinist and a bachelor who lived at home with his parents. He often worked long hours and nearly every day volunteered some of his time down at West Side Baptist Church. He'd been a member of the congregation all his life, and he'd sung in the choir since he was twelve.

In fact, most of the choir was made up of a core of people who had sung together for the past seventeen years. Even after many members left to fight in World War II, every original member had returned and continued on as part of Beatrice's West Side Baptist Church choir.

"Herb, aren't you going to be late for choir?" his mother called to him that evening. "It's ten after seven."

Herb glanced at the clock in his bedroom and was surprised to see that the time had slipped by so quickly. He had planned to be at practice by 7:15 so he could visit with Theodore Charles and his other friends. But now he'd be doing well to get there by 7:30. He wrote more quickly, and by 7:25 he sealed the envelope, stamped it, and stood up to leave.

Racing down the stairs of his parents' home, Herb shouted goodbye to his family and ran outside to his car. But just before he drove away, his mother burst through the front door and motioned for him to roll down his car window.

"What is it, Mom? I'm in a hurry," he yelled.

She jogged to the car, and Herb could see that she looked deeply distressed. "Herb," she said breathlessly. "Gladys just called and it's the church. It blew up! Just a minute ago, at 7:27."

Herb's face fell and his stomach turned over. If the church blew up at 7:27, it could mean only one thing. Many of his closest friends had been inside. He nodded to his mother and headed for the church, praying as he drove that at least some members of the West Side Baptist Church choir had somehow survived the explosion.

As he approached the church, Herb could see numerous fire trucks and police officers and dozens of people gathering on the sidewalk to see what had happened. Herb stared at where the church should have been and was horrified. The building had been leveled and was nothing but a smoldering pile of splintered wood and crumbled bricks. He moved his car slowly around the emergency vehicles and saw the towering white steeple. The twenty-foot high section of the building had been severed from the church in the explosion and now lay exactly where he and the other singers usually parked their cars.

"Dear God, who was inside?" Herb whispered in horror as he made his way quickly from his car to the fire chief.

"Ernie!" Herb called frantically. He could hear people screaming and crying as they stared at the flattened church, and he tried not to imagine how many of his friends had been inside the building when it exploded. Sirens wailed through the night, and the air was filled with heavy smoke and settling debris. It had been dark for a couple of hours, and it was difficult to see clearly.

"Thank God," the fire chief said as he made his way to Herb and put an arm on his shoulder. "I thought you must have been inside. Don't you have choir practice tonight?"

Tears filled Herb's eyes as he nodded. "Yes. I was late. But the others ... Ernie, they must be inside. It's after seven-thirty. What happened?"

"The whole thing just blew up. Probably a natural gas leak. The steeple sliced through the power lines, knocked out power all over town. Windows are blown out, too. Up and down the block." Ernie bowed his head a moment. "I hate to tell you this, but if anyone was inside they didn't have a chance."

"Have they looked?" Herb strained to see the area where the church once stood. "Someone might need help inside."

Ernie shook his head. "They've given a quick check, Herb. There wouldn't even be any bodies to identify. It looks like a bomb went off. And anything in the basement is buried under tons of rubble."

The fire chief looked intently at his friend, not sure if he was up to the task he was about to give him.

"Herb, there's a lot of frantic people standing around, and they need some answers. Please, walk around and gather all the choir members you can find. We need to know who's missing."

It was the most frightening task Herb had ever attempted. He took a deep breath and headed toward the church looking desperately into the night for the faces of choir members among the crowd. Debris cluttered the area and Herb had to step over piles of shattered church pews and roof tiles as he began his search.

Just then he saw the three teenagers who had planned to join them that night, Donna, Rowena, and Sadie. He was filled with relief as he reached them and pulled them into a group hug.

"Thank God," he said.

Donna was crying too hard too talk, and Rowena seemed stunned. "We got mixed up about who was driving," she said, staring at the flattened church. "We were ten minutes late. Just ten minutes!"

Herb pointed the girls toward the fire chief and told them they needed to wait there. "We have to find out who was inside," he said.

At that Rowena began to sob.

"Rowena, keep hold of yourself," Herb said. There was no time for hysterics, not with so many people still unaccounted for.

"Pray, Rowena," he said. "Just, pray."

The girls followed Herb's orders, and he continued through the crowd, which was growing constantly. Just then he saw Theodore Charles with his two young sons huddled next to him. The men were such good friends, and Herb began crying unashamedly in relief.

"Theodore!" Herb yelled. "Over here!"

Theodore spotted Herb, and with his sons in tow he walked quickly to meet him. "We were late," Theodore said. "Mrs. McKinter talked too long." He looked at his friend intently. "Otherwise we'd be dead."

"I was late, too," Herb said. "Writing a letter, time just got away from me." He paused a moment. For the first time he considered the truth. He should have been inside the church when it exploded. Every other Wednesday night as far back as he could remember, he had arrived at choir practice fifteen minutes early. He hugged his friend tightly and sent him toward the fire chief.

For fifteen minutes Herb maneuvered frantically through the crowd. He found Pastor Nubert, his wife, and their daughter, Susan. There were quick hugs exchanged, and Herb pointed them toward the fire captain with the others. A few minutes later he found Mary Jones and Agnes O'Shaugnessy, and three retired women, each of whom came separately and had a different reason for being late to practice that evening. Soon afterward he found a young couple who had only joined the choir the year before. They had received a longdistance phone call, which had made them late that evening.

Finally Herb came upon the choir director, Martha Paul, and her daughter, Marilyn.

"Martha!" Herb hugged the crying woman and let her rest on his shoulder for a moment. "I thought for sure you'd be inside."

"Marilyn couldn't wake up," she sobbed. "I tried and tried to get her up, but she just kept sleeping." She looked up at Herb, her eyes red and her face tear-stained. "Do you know that in sixteen years I've never been here later than seven-twenty?" she asked, her eyes filled with awe.

"The church blew at 7:27," Herb said gravely, pointing Martha and Marilyn toward the others. "Let's go join the others. We need to know who's still missing."

Herb felt as though he were in the middle of a strange and twisted dream. First there was the horror of seeing the church leveled by an explosion, and then the miracles, one after another, of finding each choir member alive. How was it possible that so many people had been late for so many different reasons?

There were fourteen choir members, three teenage singers, and three children who should have been at choir that night. After a quick count, Herb was stunned to learn that only one person was missing.

"Gina Hicks?" he yelled so that the other choir members could hear him. "Anyone seen Gina?"

"She couldn't come tonight," Agnes said happily, wiping tears from her eyes. "She called and said she had to help her mother."

That made twenty people. Every choir member was accounted for.

Just then Erma Rimrock, a retired woman who had been a member at the church for forty years, approached the huddled choir.

"Thank God, you're all alive," she said. Then she turned to Pastor Nubert. "Pastor, last week my brother and I purchased the old closeddown Methodist Church down the street as an investment. I want you to know you can hold services there as long as you need to. The rest of the congregation has decided we'll be here tomorrow to salvage what we can from the mess. And with a little cleaning at the other building we should be able to meet this Sunday."

The pastor was stunned. There was no explanation for anything that had happened that night, including Erma's offer. He hugged her and thanked her, and then turned back to Herb.

"We're all accounted for?" he asked, still amazed.

Herb nodded and looked at the faces in front of him, each struggling with the nearness of disaster as they stood silent and shivering in the freezing March night. For nearly a minute no one said a word as they realized the certainty of the miracle they had been a part of.

"I think we should join hands," Herb said softly. The choir separated itself from the milling crowd and found a spot in the middle of Court Street where they formed a circle.

"Do you understand this?" he asked them. "Every one of us was late tonight. Every single one of us."

"Let's pray," Pastor Nubert suggested, and instantly everyone in the circle bowed their heads.

"Dear Lord," the pastor's voice cracked with emotion, and he struggled to continue. "Lord, we know that you saved us tonight from certain death. By delaying each of us just ten minutes, you have proved yourself beyond a doubt, and we thank you."

The pastor squeezed the hands of his wife and daughter and looked at the other faces around him. Then looking upward, he spoke in a voice that was barely audible. "Thank you, God. We will not forget this."


From: ANGELS, MIRACLES AND ANSWERED PRAYERS. (It must have been a miracle – Everyday lives touched by miracles) Vol 1. Kelsey Tyler. Angel encounters in everyday life and everyday lives touched by miracles. Pag. 53-70, Guideposts. New York 1994.