November 28, 2015

Robbed! (But Not Taken)

, missionary pilot with Gospel Ministries International in Georgetown, Guyana

Bang! I felt something hit the back of the van.

It was a recent Thursday afternoon and hotter than Hades in mid-summer. All the windows that could be rolled down in my van were fully lowered because the air conditioner was out of commission.

A little while earlier I had picked up some Novocaine to fly out to a Seventh-day Adventist school for a tooth extraction and had dropped by a Cambio, or money exchange booth, to swap 210,000 Guyanese dollars for US$1,000 on behalf of another school. Now I was stopped at a traffic light on my way out to the airport.

When bang!

An African man on a bicycle slammed into the back of my van.

I froze for a moment, not quite sure what had happened. But I didn’t have long to wait. The man wobbled around to the driver’s side and started a one-sided argument with me that I was parked in the middle of the road.

I was dumbstruck. What could be so wrong with driving a van down a street and stopping at a red traffic light?

After a minute or so, the man calmed down and said in a snickering voice. “Don’t worry, it’s OK.”

By this time the traffic light had turned green, so I pulled ahead onto the shoulder of the road and got out to investigate the damage. The back of the van didn’t appear to have any new scratches, so I calmly climbed back into the driver’s seat.

It didn’t look right. Something was missing. Immediately it clicked. Where was my flight bag?

I quickly searched the passenger seat and the back seats, but no bag. I ran around to the back of the van to see if I had perhaps thrown it in the back. Nothing.

Then it hit me. I had just fallen for one of the oldest tricks in the book. When the man on the bicycle had distracted me, another had reached in through the passenger window and snatched my flight bag.

I scanned the road behind me, frantically searching for anyone carrying my bag. The coast was clear. I jumped in my van and madly drove around the block, hoping, praying, and frantically searching for my blue and gray High Sierra flight bag. With each passing moment, the grim reality began to sink in. It was gone for good.

“OK Lord,” I said. “What do I do now?”

All of a sudden my carefully laid plans for the day were turned completely upside down, and I found myself sadly driving the van to the Brickdam Police Station to file a report.

James Ash with one of the children assisted by his mission flights.

The female officer at the police station was very sympathetic about my loss, and carefully wrote down the whole sordid ordeal on lined notebook paper. At one point we even left the station and drove to site of the robbery, hoping that there might be a camera at the traffic light or perhaps a security camera at a nearby business.

Once again there was nothing. We had absolutely no clues whatsoever. The bag had just vanished without a trace.

So back to the police station we went to finish off the police report. After police officer read it back to me, I signed the report and left.

Later that evening after I had a chance to mentally digest the events of the day. I puzzled over why the Lord would allow something like this to happen. I didn’t doubt for a second that God had foreseen this event, but why had He permitted it to happen? Wasn’t I one of his missionaries? Surely God doesn’t allow the bad guys to harass His good missionaries. Right?

Whatever the case, I knew that God was in control.

Obviously I was now at a significant “Y” in the road. I could succumb to feelings of discouragement and sink into a black state of depression. Or I could choose to face the future unafraid and not allow the thieves to take my courage.

That evening I wrote out a reflection on my day and posted it on Facebook:

Today I felt the hand of the devil

Try to drag me down

Today I felt darkness and discouragement

Creeping in on every side.

Today I heard the whispered temptation

To quit, to give up, to walk away

But just in case the devil might be reading his Facebook

Account this evening… Let me be crystal clear.

I refuse …

I refuse to be discouraged.

I refuse to slow down the work that I’m doing.

I refuse to ever consider quitting.

I refuse to cower in fear for my safety or the safety of my stuff.

For everything I own already belongs to Jesus.

I’m more confident that ever before that God has called me to work in His harvest

I’m daily struggling forward in the journey of faith.

I’m confident that God will complete what’s He’s begun.

I’ve put my hand to the plow.

And I’m definitely not looking back.

This incident is not a setback but a stepping-stone.

It’s not a sink hole but a launching pad.

Today is a blessing in disguise, and for that I’m eternally thankful.

Tonight I’m turning a corner …

Now is the time to take the struggle to another level.

Now is the moment to pledge total allegiance to Jesus.

Now is the time to accelerate my work as I see that glorious day approaching.

Now is the time to put it all on the line and risk all that I have, or am for the kingdom of heaven.

What about you?