I want to so desperately tell you all about it. And I will, promise. But not today.
I am going to tell you about our trip in rewind. That way, when I tell you about the trip, we don't have the end of the trip hovering over me and you.
"Bring joy to Your servant's life,
since I set my hope on You, Lord." Psalm 86:4
We left Minneapolis early Saturday morning (July 14). We were looking forward to our late afternoon stop in St. Louis. There were many of us that had never seen the Arch. I was one of them. I had no idea what to expect. It was so cool how God worked it all out, but our dear children in the Lord (Natalie and Daniel) were close to St. Louis at the same time we were. We were so excited to see them again before they made it back to New York.
Warren and Sterling were the bus and van drivers and had a hard time finding a close parking spot, so they dropped all of us on the trip off in front of the Arch. They went on and parked. A little later Warren and I caught up with each other. The Arch was so much more than I had imagined. I had no idea about all the things they had underground. Half of our students were able to get tickets to ride the tram up, including our Tyler and Ethan. The other half was not able to. So we decided to go eat dinner down the road (and on the way to our buses) at the Spaghetti Factory. The walk there was fabulous. The streets of St. Louis have so much history. Up to this point, I was loving it and ready to come back on a family vacation.
We got word that the other group had finished the tram ride on the Arch and was heading to the bus. We were getting our dinner tickets about that time. We were in the middle of paying our waitress when Warren received a call from Sterling that our bus had been broken into. At the point of the call, we weren't sure of the van. Our Tyler and Ethan had been riding on the bus with 27 other students and adults. Elise was on the van/trailer with Warren and me and about 8 seniors.
"My flesh and my heart may fail,
but God is the strength of my heart,
my portion forever." Psalm 73:26
We hastily walked down the crowded, busy St. Louis street passing bright lights of casinos and people everywhere. We walked into our parking lot, passed the security attendant, and cars. As we got closer, we could see the police, upset students, and glass.
The bus had been completely ransacked. The thief had taken so much. The detective on the scene was carefully instructing students to stay away while he looked over the situation. It wasn't long before the crime lab arrived and took fingerprints.
The detective would have students look carefully and see what items were missing. Much was. IPods, Ipads, money, checkbooks, prescription glasses, retainers, laptops, backpacks, clothes, shoes, movies, cd's, Bibles, wallets, phones, chargers, sunglasses, keys, picture books, tax information, headphones, Bible study materials, but most significantly, trust .
"I cry aloud to God, aloud to God,
and He will hear me." Psalm 77:1
After the awe of material things being gone, the kids stood there in a greater awe that someone would do this. To them. Teddy bears thrown to the ground by this thief. Gifts from relatives were taken just like that. Bibles they had received from loved ones, gone. A child's bag of crayons and coloring books foolishly taken.
The students had so many questions:
"How could someone do this?"
"Why did God allow this?"
"Is the man going to find me?"
"Will I get my stuff back?"
Tough stuff and tough questions.
The only thing seen on the ground of the scene was an ipod cord, glass from the broken window, and Elise's Bible study book.
I lost quite a bit of material things as well. I am nervous that I lost tax information that was on my stolen computer. Money gone. Chargers stolen. I am bummed that I lost my Beth Moore James book, Kelly Minter No Other Idols and Ruth books, Radical by David Platt, Timothy Keller's Couterfeit God's, and Sarah Young's Jesus Calling. (Is God teaching me something about idols or what??) I hate that I lost my awesome 31 bag and many other things. Overwhelmed that our budget for the year is now on the streets of St. Louis. My bamboo pink lipstick is melting on a street corner somewhere beneath the arch.
"Do not have other gods besides Me." Exodus 20:2
But let me tell you, I have literally stamped my little foot about my Bible. I did! In the Suburban as we traveled home from Monroe the other night. I have had this Bible for over 16 years. I purchased it while pregnant with Tyler when I began my first Precept class, Philippians. I have prayers I prayed for my mother in it. Prayers of thanksgiving when we learned we were having a daughter. Prayers for the knots on Tyler's head to be healed when he was 2. Outpourings of forgiveness of sins. I have underlined many, many, many verses that God has shown me. It has dates of salvation for many of our youth through the years. I absolutely treasured this Bible.
Just a month ago I had failed to open it for a day or 2 due to busyness. I had been satisfied in my hurry with simply doing a "devotional book." After those couple of days, I laid in my bed and just slowly flipped my fingers through my Bible. It was wonderful. I just read through some of the things I had written in the margins and the verse joining it. It was a sweet night being reminded how good God is. So faithful.
I love to do my quiet times and study in my brown chair in the sun room at our home. And I won't even try to deny it, I am struggling to plop myself there in the morning. (Yes, my eyes are fighting a good cry right now as I upload these pictures) I miss that brown Bible. It's pages stained by me. It's words are life to my soul. I have pleaded with the Lord here. I have praised the Lord here. I have been humbled before the Lord here. This Bible has met each morning through joy, pain, and loss.
So we move on and learn so many things.
Missions is hard.
We live in a broken world.
That is why Jesus came.
That's why we go.
God is good.
God is faithful.
God is our protector.
God loves us.
He is enough.
So I will soon go to Lifeway and search the shelves for a new Bible. It will have crisp pages (yuck) and the binding perfectly intact. God will teach me new things that I will mark. Many prayers will be penned in the margins. And I will love it, just as I did the old.
I would love to have that old Bible back. But I would be so very mad if I did get it back, because I know what that Bible holds in it. Words that change lives forever. It did mine. My prayer hours after the incident are still held true today, blow wind, blow. Scatter Your word.
The thief comes to steal, kill and destroy. But He, Jesus, has come to give us life and give it more abundantly. Praying TRUE LIFE is found in the lives of the ones who encounter my Bible. In it is found the pourings of my heart to God for 16 years. His Word never comes back void. May the pages fly out all over this city and stumble upon the feet of the desperate. May they see the margins and know God is ALIVE and Good!! Pray for our students to feel total secure in the Lord's protection.
and so we "cry and walk." (K. Minter, Ruth). God is faithful.