Vincent Tan was born Tan Ban Soon in Singapore to Chinese Buddhist parents. As a young boy, Vincent was very interested in science. One day, as he read a book on nuclear physics in the library, he discovered an offer for a Bible course stuck within the pages of the book. Curious, Vincent ordered the course. Ultimately he became a Christian and because he wanted to attend a Christian college, he came to the United States and gave himself the western name of "Vincent."
Vincent graduated from college, and took a job in analytical chemistry in Chattanooga, Tennessee. His faith deepened, possibly because he wasn't afraid to share it with others, and life settled down. In March, 1993, Vincent was working late in his lab, looking out the window occasionally to keep an eye on his car, since several had recently been stolen from the area. He noticed a stranger standing on the passenger side of his car. The man was young and clean-cut, but thieves come in all guises, and since Vincent is proficient in martial arts, he decided to investigate. Stealthily grabbing a long metal rod from the lab, he opened the door and called, "Yes? Can I help you?"
"Hi, Vincent," the stranger responded.
Vincent was startled. Had he mistaken a friend for a thief? But no, he had never seen this man before. "Do I know you?" Vincent asked.
"Not really," the man responded. "But you don't have to use Chi-sao or the rod on me. And your mother is fine"
Now Vincent was really confused. No one in America knew of his skill in Chi-sao. Nor could the stranger see the rod Vincent held behind him. And who else could have known that his mother in China had just developed a heart problem?
The stranger smiled. "You love the Lord very much, don't you?"
"Yes, I do," Vincent answered. He started to relax.
"He loves you too," the man replied. "And He is coming very soon."
Vincent was thrilled. Could this be true? He looked away just for a second or two, and when he looked back, the man had disappeared.
Could he have been an angel? Eventually Vincent told his story to Jim Bramlett, an author who researches prophecy material, and Jim used Vincent' experience, among others, in a magazine article.
Three years later, on Saturday, April 6, 1996, Vincent awoke at 4:30 a.m. with a strong belief that he was to pray. He wasn't exactly sure about what, but this urge had come upon him before, and he always obeyed it. He prayed for a few moments, then fell asleep.
At seven Vincent awakened again, and began his usual morning prayer time. About a half hour later, his telephone rang. It was too early to answer the phone on a Saturday, he decided, and continued praying. The answering machine would handle the call.
But the phone kept ringing. Insistently. Had Vincent forgotten to turn on the answering machine? No, he could see the red light from where he knelt. Vincent got up and went to the phone. Ten rings, eleven…and although the Caller ID was also turned on, no number was showing. Vincent gave up and grabbed the phone. "Hello?"
"Hello?" It was a woman's voice.
"Hello!" Vincent repeated.
"Hello!" the woman answered again.
"Yes-did you want to speak to me?" Vincent was getting exasperated.
"Then why did you call?"
"I didn't call," the woman answered, as annoyed as he. "You called me!"
He hadn't, Vincent explained. He had simply answered his phone. The very same thing had happened to the woman whose name, she informed him, was Doris. "I live in Iowa," she said. "I can't imagine how this whole thing happened, Mr. ………?"
"My name is Vincent Tan," he answered politely, planning to say good-bye and end this strange mix-up. But the woman gave a little gasp.
"Are you the Vincent Tan who had an experience with an angel?" she asked.
"My mother and I read about it in a magazine. We never forgot what a wonderful story it was. Six months ago, my mother was diagnosed with terminal cancer. Every day since then, she has prayed that she might be able to speak with you before she died. This morning I awakened at 3:30, and I prayed, reminding the Lord of my mother's request."
Three thirty. Given the time zones, Doris had awakened at the same moment as Vincent. They had been praying together.
"I can't believe this is happening," Doris went on. "Would it be too much to ask you to talk to my mother?"
"Put her on the phone," Vincent said.
The elderly lady's voice was weak and hardly audible, but for the next forty-five minutes or so, the two talked. Vincent told her about his angel experience in great detail, and they discovered that several of their favorite Scripture passages were the same. Finally, the elderly woman whispered, "Praise the Lord. Amen."
All became quiet. Thinking the old woman had fallen asleep, Vincent was about to hang up when Doris came back on the phone. "Mother has died," she told Vincent. "Thank you for what you did for her."
Vincent was overwhelmed. A soul had just entered eternity, and he had been permitted to play a part in this joyous journey! He and Doris said their good-byes quickly, so she could begin the necessary arrangements. It was not until several hours later that he realized he had never gotten Doris' last name or address, nor had the Caller ID recorded the call. Nor did Vincent ever receive a bill for the call, although Doris had told him she had answered his ring.
Vincent saw no point in investigating further, for the experience, he believes, was simply part of God's plan. "The Lord has His reasons for all of this," he says. "And as we near the final hours, I know that He is even closer."