“Andrew, did you park your van in the driveway last night?”
The voice penetrating my slumber belonged to Sally, our hostess for the previous two days. We had spent New Years day and the following Sunday at Capitol Allentown Baptist Ministries in Maryland, just outside of Washington DC. CAB Ministries has supported us faithfully ever since our deputation, and we were thrilled to be able to share with them what God is doing in Brazil.
As the church only had Sunday morning services we (myself, Itacyara, Michael, Nathanael, and our Brazilian friend Emanuela) were able to spend a good part of the afternoon and evening touring our nation’s capital. We visited the National Air and Space Museum, the World’s Largest Egyptian-Style Obelisk (aka The Washington Monument), and the Lincoln Memorial. We returned from our trip exhausted. The next day, Monday we planned to return to Florida.
The urgent voice that had disrupted my dreams was about to change all that.
“Yes…” I mumbled, trying to shake the sleep from my head. “I did park the van in the driveway.”
“Oh my! It’s not there anymore!”
Suddenly I was wide awake. What??? I leaped out of bed and ran for the bedroom door–then decided I should probably get dressed first. I fumbled around in the gray morning light until I found enough clothes to be considered decent, then ran upstairs and stared out the front window. Sure enough, our van was not there.
The van, which I affectionately refer to as “The Missionarymobile” contained five large suitcases full of all the luggage we had taken to New York, and all the Christmas presents we, our boys, and Emanuela had received. Even more seriously, all of Emanuela’s Brazilian documents were inside.
As I stood there looking at the empty space where the van should have been, there was an initial surge of adrenaline, followed by feelings of outrage, helplessness, and frustration. Suddenly a very clear thought broke through the tossed salad of emotions: This is your chance to demonstrate a godly reaction to adverse circumstances.
In a few of our supporting churches I have shared an difficult situation we faced in Brazil, where my reaction was…shall we say…less than Christlike. Now, it was as if a ray of sun had broken through the clouds and I could see at least part of the purpose for this whole thing: I would now get a chance to demonstrate to my children, my wife, our Brazilian guest–practically anybody watching–how faith works out in adversity. In essence, God was giving me a second chance.
After a brief prayer meeting with the family, I set to work caring for the details. The next few hours were a blur of phone calls. We contacted the police (it was obvious our van was not the top priority of the day), the insurance company, and several of our friends and family members. As we put the word out on Twitter and Facebook we were inundated with responses from our friends and supporters all over the US and in Brazil, assuring us that they were praying.
And their prayers began to have an effect. Loose ends began to come together in amazing ways. A fellow-missionary contacted us saying he had a van we could use if we could get to the Winston-Salem area. Through the efforts of my sister-in-law I was able to find a good deal on a one-way rental to Winston-Salem. Then Pastor Johnson of CAB Ministries brought in a special offering for the rental.
A special blessing was to see the reaction of our oldest son, Michael, to the events. Michael is nine, and I was worried how he would respond to the sudden disappearance of virtually all his Christmas presents. As Itacyara explained the situation to him, he became a little teary-eyed. Then they began to talk about how the car thieves most likely were in need of Jesus, and how that was even more tragic than the loss of our presents. Soon they were praying for the bandidos. As I watched them I was almost happy our car had been stolen so I could witness that moment.
That evening Pastor Johnson took me to the Dulles airport where I picked up the rental vehicle. When I returned to Sally’s house I found Mikey and Nathanael playing with some new toys, with others waiting in boxes. Itacyara told me that a neighbor lady who we had never met, outraged by the crime that had been committed in their normally tranquil neighborhood, had bought the presents for our sons.
While I was marveling at God’s goodness, Pastor Johnson showed up with still more presents for the boys! I couldn’t help but think that God was rewarding Mikey for his golden attitude that morning.
As we went to bed that evening there were still many unanswered questions. Yet–completely at odds with my normal tendencies–I was able to sleep soundly, confident that God was in control.
Meanwhile, the Missionarymobile was having some intense adventures of its own.
Read part two here.
Did you enjoy this post? Consider making a donation to our ministry in Brazil.
As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.. This means that clicking on these Amazon links and making purchases is one way you can help our work.
Also, don’t forget to check out our sister site dedicated to all things Brazilian.