If you have not yet read Part One, you can do so here.
Tuesday dawned bright and clear. I got out of bed and looked apprehensively out the window–wonder of wonders, our rental vehicle was still there. Excited about the prospect of getting to Florida, we bundled into said rental vehicle and pulled out of the driveway.
As we drove away from the house, I turned to Itacyara. “You know,” I observed “every green van I see from now on is going to make me think of our van.”
“Yeah.” Itá agreed. “Like that one over there.” I followed her gaze to the van in question. It was a Dodge Caravan, just like ours. Dark green, also just like ours. Like the Missionarymobile, it also sported a black Thule luggage carrier on the top. And NY plates…with the number FCG-6509. There was a pregnant pause, then everybody started shouting at once “THAT’S OUR VAN!!!”
I whipped the van around and pulled alongside the Missionarymobile. We were about half a block from where it had been stolen. I got on the phone to the police. The conversation went something like this:
Me: Hello, you remember me, the guy who reported the stolen vehicle yesterday?
Police: Hang on (much shuffling and asking me for details). Ok Mr. Comings, how can we help you?
Me: Well, we just found the car.
Police: You what?
Me: We just found the car.
Police: (after taking down the street information) Ok, we’ll send an officer right over. Don’t touch anything.
An hour later I called the police again.
Me: You said you were going to send an officer right over.
Police: He’s right around the corner. He should be there any minute now.
Another half hour passed and I was about to call dispatch again when a blue-and-white finally pulled up next to us. The officer (who was very nice and extremely professional) started looking over our van. Itá and I pointed out some things we had noticed, like the spent bullet casing on the windshield.
“Well THAT’s interesting!” he said as he examined the shell, wedged under the windshield wiper. “VERY interesting.” He then started making calls on his cell phone, while continuing to examine the vehicle. He found other interesting items, like the pair of used latex gloves in the storage area. Amazingly, he also found the folder containing Emanuela’s documents–completely intact. He gave it to her and continued his examination.
As the investigation continued the officer pointed out different things to us. He showed us, for example, how the thief had gained entrance to the van and subsequently popped out the ignition. His tool of choice? A butter knife. Amazingly, though the bandido had tried to open the Thule luggage carrier on top of the van, he was singularly unsuccessful.
This bears repeating: he broke into my van with a butter knife, yet was unable to open the plastic luggage carrier! Thus, when I gave the officer the key and he opened it up, everything I had put there two days previous was still there. This included all of Emanuela’s clothes and a few of the boy’s Christmas gifts.
One tough luggage carrier!!!
At just about this time the officer answered a call from dispatch. Then he came over to where I was standing.
“They’re sending over someone from the crime unit. It’s possible that this vehicle was involved in something big.”
Prepared for another wait, I was shocked to see another blue-and-white show up almost immediately. An officer (who looked for all the world like a slightly shorter version of Michael Clark Duncan) got out. The two had a short conversation, then came over to me.
“We’ve got bad news.” said the first officer. “It appears that your van was involved in a serious crime yesterday.
“How serious?” I asked.
“Let me put it this way,” said the second officer. “We have three bodies. You can read between the lines.”
The change was amazing. Just twenty-four hours earlier the stolen vehicle barely registered a blip on the police radar. Suddenly, it was the center of attention. What a difference an empty shell casing can make!
The end result was that the Missionarymobile and everything in it–including the presents and luggage in the Thule luggage carrier–were impounded as states’ evidence in the investigation of some very heavy-duty crimes. As we drove away the CSI van was just arriving.
The police assured us that they would return the vehicle and everything in it as soon as they were finished with it. What they could not tell us is when that would be. I wasn’t too worried, however, as we had been offered the use of another van for an unlimited time.
And that offer was good, up until that afternoon. We were about an hour outside of Winston-Salem when the owner called me.
“You’re not going to believe this,” he said “But I was just involved in a minor accident. I don’t think the van is going to be drivable.”
At this point nothing surprised me. If a giant sinkhole had opened up and swallowed our rental vehicle as we continued on to Florida, I would have probably shrugged and said “Figures.”
Finally, at about 4pm on Tuesday we pulled into our Florida driveway. As we unpacked, I reflected on some of the more amazing things we have seen God do since Monday morning when we noticed our van was missing:
*The van was found.
*I had the privilege of seeing my son pray for the car thieves.
*Emanuela recovered her documents.
*There was an outpouring of prayer from our friends and supporters.
*Christmas presents arrived for our sons from unexpected places.
*A family in our church gave us gift certificates so we could replace our lost clothing.
*So far we have not spent a single day without transportation.
When the whole thing began, I posted the following on Twitter:
Job 2:10 is especially relevant to us right now (except for the “foolish women” part).
— Andrew Comings (@AndrewComings) 3 de janeiro de 2011
By this I did not mean to compare our trials to those of Job. What I do mean is that everything we own is an undeserved gift from God. When He chooses to remove those from us, we have no reason to complain. Even more when, in the removal of those items, he showered us with so many unexpected blessings.
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