ALEXANDRIA, La. (BP)–Everything was normal about my morning in a Houston hotel –- I read the newspaper delivered to my door, ate a continental breakfast and then loaded my bags in my truck to leave. But then I reached in the backseat to move my computer bag. The bag was too light. The zipper was unzipped. The computer was missing.
I went back to my room to double check, but the computer wasn’t there. I was in a daze because the truck was locked and all the window glass was intact. How could this happen? Why steal a computer, a cable and some sunglasses? (I discovered I was missing the sunglasses a few hours later as the sun beamed a hole through my eyes.)
The hotel staff was great. They called the Houston police and immediately began to ask what they could do for me. I really didn’t have an answer.
The manager of the hotel was new to his position. “I’ve never had anything stolen in the month I’ve been here,” he said. I thought, but didn’t say, “Gee, I’m glad to be your first.”
My next thought was, “I can be angry about the loss of my stuff or I can get to know these people who are helping me.”
After surviving Hurricane Katrina as a pastor in New Orleans, “stuff” doesn’t matter as much anymore, so I chose the latter.
The manager, Mike, asked why I was in town. I told him about my new position with the Louisiana Baptist Convention and that I was at Champion Forest Baptist Church for a conference on evangelism.
“Hey, that’s where I go to church,” he said. “I like our new pastor, David Fleming. He mixes humor into his sermons. He keeps my attention and really speaks to me.”
I asked Mike when he entered a relationship with Christ. He told me about growing up in church, being baptized but never trusting Christ as his personal Savior. I asked when he made the decision. “My wife and I got saved a few years ago. She made the decision first, but we were baptized together.”
Several minutes later I met Officer Duncan. After some standard paperwork, he asked, “What are you doing in town?” I told my story again and asked how I could get a copy of the incident report. He said, “I don’t usually do this, but if you will follow me to our station, I’ll help you.”
The police station there is brand new, in a brand new strip mall. Very nice. An Episcopalian, Officer Duncan likes to cut-up and tease, like many officers I met while serving as a police chaplain some years ago. He introduced me to Sergeant Jeff Headley. I soon learned of Jeff’s faith in Christ. He is even leading a voluntary Bible study at the station. He then unloaded a bombshell. “I’ve been told I have 18 months to live. I have leukemia.”
He told me about his fear for his children and family. He also told about his frank discussions with God and his complete trust that God will provide for all his needs. We spent a glorious time in prayer.
If you’re in Houston and meet a thief enjoying a new computer, sporting a great pair of shades, tell him I said “thanks.” Because when the thief came to steal, God reminded me of the joy of His abundant life.
Keith Manuel is an evangelism associate on the Louisiana Baptist Convention’s evangelism & church growth team.