It was a calm, cool November evening as my wife, Pam, and I walked out the door of our home, for the 30-minute drive to church for dinner and a meeting. We walked out, locked the front door, and headed to the car. On the sidewalk a few steps from the front door, I stopped, turned back toward the house. I hesitated for a couple of seconds contemplating, should I go back in and leave the front room light on as we usually do when we will be returning after dark. Time was limited, and I was the main speaker for the evening. So, I chose not to unlock the door, go in and turn a light on. We walked to the car and drove off towards the city.
We returned that evening in the dark, in a good mood following a nice evening with church family. I unlocked the front door, turned on the light, and proceeded down the hallway toward the bedrooms. I stopped first at my office, flipped the light switch to an unfamiliar sight. Papers everywhere. Closet doors open, bags, and boxes were strewn open across the floor. I called to my wife, “Stay where you are.” “What?” she said as she started down the hallway.
“Go back, stay there. We’ve been robbed.” I called out. I turned on the light to our bedroom. Every drawer but one in the dresser and all drawers in the wardrobe were laying emptied upside down on the floor, all contents in scattered small piles. The mattress and box springs were flipped up on edge. The heavy mirror to the dresser had been pulled a foot away from the wall.
I made my way back to the other end of the house. The one thing that stood out immediately was the wires from the TV laying bare where our VCR used to sit. In all that night, we lost all my wife’s jewelry and jewelry box, the valet box that had been given me as a gift from employees which contained my grandfather’s pocket watch, my deceased father’s pen set, my high school ring, and other sentimental keepsakes. In addition, about $3,500 worth of camera equipment had been stolen and one gym duffel bag and a pillowcase, apparently to carry their loot in.
In comparison, the $5,000 claim, and the damage to one window and the back door, was small to the mental and emotional loss that night. It would be a week before my wife would sleep in our bedroom again. We slept on the hide-a-bed sofa with the light on in our living room. We also had an alarm system installed and extra security lights. Still, the theft of peace of mind and safety in our own home prevailed. The feeling of personal violation and loss of security would linger long after receiving a compensation check from our insurance company.
There are many lessons learned from God through this experience, one of the most important was trust. While our lives were invaded and our peace of mind violated, our trust in God and His people was invigorated.
I do not know how late it was that evening when I called our neighbors who lived about 100 yards away past a wooded lot. Russell and Linda were great neighbors in our rural community. A godly man and woman who did not hesitate. They sat with us, prayed with us, and stayed long after the police left. Then, Linda sat with Pam while Russell and I worked to board up the broken window and repair the door enough to close and lock. Then, they stayed a while longer and checked on us again the next morning. Not only our neighbors, but our church family also supported us in many ways as well.
God’s people unite and serve one another in each other’s time of need. This is a biblical community as demonstrated in the book of Acts and throughout the Bible. All the believers were together and had everything in common. 45 They sold property and possessions to give to anyone who had need. 46 Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, 47 praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved. Acts 2:42-47
Russell Lamb has since gone on to his heavenly reward, and I will never forget not only that November night in 1994, but all the times Russell & Linda proved to be God’s servants – perhaps His angels unaware. While we live several hundred miles and states apart today, I believe to this day, 25 years later, if I called on Linda, she would respond as best she could. And I trust she knows Pam and I would be there for her as well.
Lesson learned: Even in trials and personal violations God and His servants can be trusted to sit and walk with you. God has individuals in your life whom you can trust to be there for you through the trials.
“Be not forgetful to entertain strangers: for thereby some have entertained angels unawares.” Hebrews 13:2 (KJV) Not only strangers, neighbors too!
A little lengthier than normal, this is an excerpt from an upcoming book about lessons from God. May God comfort and bless you through it.
George Yates is the Church Health Strategist for the Alabama Baptist State Board of Missions, assisting churches and individuals in pursuing God’s purpose for life. Learn more at ALSBOM.org/revitalization.