“I think someone broke into our car but didn’t take anything,” I said to my wife as we got into the car.
“Yeah they did. They got my bag. And yours too.” she replied after looking in the back seat. I hadn’t thought of looking in the back. I had been staring at the car’s console, expecting to see a huge gap where the radio had been or our phone charging cables had been plugged in, but everything was in place…
It was a busy day like most days. We were running around and on our way into the city to meet with a family we serve. We had to do a little shopping and stopped at a store along the way. We had never stopped there before (and most likely won’t be stopping there again!) but it was on the way. We were in a hurry and trying to “get things done” so it seemed like the right place to stop. Before you think, “obviously it wasn’t,” it indeed WAS the right place to stop, just not for what we thought it was for…
We were in the store for about 10 minutes and did not find what we were looking for. As I attempted to insert my key into the lock, I noticed it was on an angle instead of vertical like usual and there was a dent in the keyhole. Upon inserting the key, it only went in halfway and when I turned it, it did so reluctantly but I was able to unlock and open the door. I sat by myself for a moment replaying what I just did in my head. All signs led to our car being robbed but I couldn’t find anything else out of place. “Maybe they broke in but found nothing worth taking,” I thought to myself.
“THANK GOD!” Missy said, “That you saw I left my cell phone and keys in the car when I jumped out and you grabbed them before going into the store.” I couldn’t help but laugh at how “close” we had just come to losing our entire car and Missy’s phone. I sat there in silence. “Umm, are you going to start the car? It’s getting warm in here.” I was spacing it. I was trying to put together all the pieces, figure out what steps to take next (if any), and reconcile the fact that I really wasn’t concerned about what was stolen. We both made mental lists of what we had in the bags to see if we need to cancel credit cards, etc. We realized that we only have to recover some receipts for the ministry accounting and Missy has to redo her 2018 planner once we replace it (or maybe this will finally convince her to just use a digital calendar!!). There was maybe $40 in Missy’s bag amidst her lotions and potions and snacks she carries around to share with others.
I finally realized that the store has security guards and that one was standing RIGHT BEHIND OUR CAR when I came out. I got out and talked to him. They got the supervisor and reviewed the security footage. It revealed that as soon as we went into the store a gray SUV pulled up, someone got out, popped the lock, grabbed the bags, and were gone in less than 30 seconds…all while the guard was in a different place of the parking lot. They had to call the regional supervisor to come and file a report and exchange information as the security company will pay to have the broken lock replaced. Now that the lock is broken I can’t even open it with a key…part of me is contemplating keeping it that way! It seems more secure than the original lock, hahaha.
While we were waiting for reports to be filed and the appropriate people to be contacted, the guards started talking to us, wondering what we were doing in these parts. “Where are you from?” he asked, expecting us to say the United States or Canada.
“We live in Villa Nueva,” I said to his surprise.
“Seriously?” even though all Guatemalans give the same response, it never gets old to us. Not only is the fact that we actually live in Guatemala surprising, but also that we live in one of the more notoriously dangerous areas is a shock. The irony in all this: our car was robbed in supposedly one of the “safer” areas of Guatemala! However, it IS where more “affluent” people live, especially foreigners. In talking with the guard about how well executed the robbery was and after retracing my steps that we weren’t followed from our home, it seems like there was a lookout waiting to inform those in the gray SUV to come by when the time was right.
“Oh, so you’re missionaries, huh?” the guard asked.
“Yes, we’ve lived here for 5 years and thankfully this is our first theft! God is good!” I replied.
“So, what church are you affiliated with then? Baptists? Mormons? Catholics?” the guard asked a question that is commonly asked once people discover we are missionaries.
“Actually, we identify ourselves as Christians. We don’t fall under a specific denomination.” I replied, to which he didn’t believe me.
“Yeah, but I mean, I guess that means you’re basically with the Baptist church then, right?” he asked me.
“No, we are simply followers of Christ.” I was struggling to find a different way to explain it to him.
“Oh, I KNEW there was something different about you guys! You’re all calm, and collected despite being robbed.” I was surprised by his statement and I was immediately filled with joy.
“YES!!!!” I screamed in my head. “After all these years of teaching about being of ‘the way’ I am finally becoming different enough for people to notice.” I didn’t know if Missy heard what he said but I couldn’t wait to tell her and praise the Lord! You see, for the past couple years God really put it on my heart that if we have to tell others that we are Christians, then we aren’t Christ-like enough. The first “Christians” were named so in the first church at Antioch because they had a “way” about them (they were previously known as those of “The Way” of Christ). It’s not like they held a naming convention one weekend and tried to come up with a clever way of identifying themselves. They simply identified themselves with Christ and those around them could tell by “the way” they behaved. Nowadays we have watered it all down so people want to know which denomination we are disciples of, not if we are disciples of Christ.
We got in the car after exchanging information with the guard about how the company will reimburse us to have the lock replaced. We thanked them for their help and professionalism and were on our way. Missy did hear what the guards said and she immediately said to me: “Praise God that we were about to be witnesses for Jesus in this situation!” The inconvenience of a broken lock, losing our “stuff”, and being delayed for more than an hour all melted away. It is one of the few times when we could immediately see what the Apostle Paul wrote in Romans 8:
26 In the same way the Spirit also helps our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we should, but the Spirit Himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words; 27 and He who searches the hearts knows what the mind of the Spirit is, because He intercedes for the saints according to the will of God. 28 And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose. 29 For those whom He foreknew, He also predestined to become conformed to the image of His Son, so that He would be the firstborn among many brethren; 30 and these whom He predestined, He also called; and these whom He called, He also justified; and these whom He justified, He also glorified. 31 What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who is against us?
As Missy thought about the day’s events she had a realization, “if we went through all of that just to be able to be witnesses to those two guards it was totally worth it and I would do it all over again…however, knowing our BIG, AMAZING God I think that there are even MORE reasons why that all happened and we might not even know about some of them. What a blessing He gave us to be able to touch lives for Him in the midst of a difficult situation!”
As I reflected more upon the events of the day that night, I remembered Jesus’ words in Matthew 5:
43 “You have heard that it was said, ‘YOU SHALL LOVE YOUR NEIGHBOR and hate your enemy.’ 44 “But I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, 45 so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven; for He causes His sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. 46 “For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? 47 “If you greet only your brothers, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same? 48 “Therefore you are to be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.
I realized that while normally I would be angry that someone violated my privacy, my personal space, and took our stuff, I was actually sad for them. Sad that they felt that this is the only way they can survive. Sad that whatever brokenness is inside them would cause them to do such things to other people. That their value of life for others and themselves is so low they would go to such lengths to steal so little. Jesus tells us that the things of this world will be destroyed by rust and decay but the things of His Kingdom last forever. The people who did this DON’T KNOW THIS LIFE SAVING TRUTH!
At first I was thinking that I hope they get caught to receive the punishment they deserve for being thieves. Then I realized how much of a blessing it would be to be able to talk to them about the life more abundant that God created them to live. My business card with my phone number and email address is part of what they took. I doubt I will ever hear from them, but I pray that God somehow uses this to break their hearts for the things that break His and to reveal to them the glory of the Kingdom. That God the Father gives with overabundance to His children more than they need or could ever ask for.
Join us in this prayer today:
Heavenly Father of abundance, goodness, grace, and mercy, bless these thieves with your everlasting love. Allow them to see the error of their ways not because it is wrong but because you want to give them SO MUCH MORE than they can earn on their own. Help them to not rely on the collection of earthly riches that rust destroys and moths eat, but instead come to know the richness of your wonderful presence. Heal them of their brokenness and let them know they are forgiven if they would only receive your forgiveness. Save them, Lord, from the wickedness of their hearts and bring them to eternal salvation through your Son, Jesus the Christ.