"Take stuff out of your purse. You're going to get robbed." The words struck me loud and clear one Sunday evening...in my mind. I was about to head out of my hotel to walk to a Korean restaurant I'd found in Vietnam and enjoy a late dinner alone. Well that's got to be the most random thought I've ever had, I briefly considered and then walked out the door, locking it behind me. But what if there's something to it? Nearly at the bottom of the two flights, I decided to go back. I returned to my room, opened my luggage, dumped my most valuable items inside, locked it up, and then went out for dinner. (At least, I think that's how it went down...my memory is a bit foggy at the moment.)
The walk to the restaurant was dark, but normal. Motorbikes whizzed by, leaving their trail of fumes behind them. I coughed a few times as I crossed the various streets I needed to pass in order to reach the restaurant. Then I enjoyed my dinner and left.
A day passed and then came Tuesday. I taught a lesson in the morning and then went out for lunch with one of my classmates. We've become rather fond of a vegetarian restaurant across the highway and a few blocks down from the language school. After a delightful meal, we started our trek back to the school. Only a short distance before we reached the main road, two men in a motorbike rushed by. I felt a quick jerk and turned around to see them racing away. I suddenly felt like something was missing. Looking down, I discovered that my purse had been stolen, ripped across my body. Clearly, they were professionals.
My mind started racing. What was in that bag?? I began chasing after them. I ran as fast as I could down the alley, and one of them watched from behind. I yelled "Stop them!" to those nearby, but of course, they couldn't understand my English. Eventually a break came in the traffic, and they darted off a side street before I could catch up with them.
Looking back, when I shared the experience with some of my classmates, I started laughing. "I don't know what I expected to do if I caught them." My classmate laughed, "But your initial reaction in the moment was to chase them!" Odd, I know. I guess I've got some fighter instinct deep down. In any case, when I realized that all hope was lost, I walked back to the school with my classmate, notified my teacher, and started making phone calls with his phone. I canceled and blocked credit cards and then decided to go back to the hotel to see what I had stashed. In my mind, everything was in that bag--driver's license, bank information, Korean money, credit and debit cards, my flight information. I asked my hotel owner to break open my luggage with a hammer (I lock it every day, and the key was in my purse), so he did. It only took a minute of searching to find that everything was there....My heart was relieved.
All in all, I lost my phone, my camera, my iPod shuffle, and about $150-200 in Vietnamese money. Yes, that is quite a bit, but you know what? They are only things....material possessions. And I had the most important things kept in a safer place.
Today I am thankful to God for many things: for my health and safety, for the protection of my other valuables (especially my passport), for the people surrounding me who have been so helpful in the process, and for His warning.
Recently I asked God to reveal Himself to me again. I was starting to have doubts because I've been under a lot of stress lately and have had a lot of uncertainties about my future, so I made this request to Him. I never expected such a real answer. He told me I was going to get robbed! And I didn't believe Him. I didn't realize those words were coming from Him. But He was looking out for me. He protected me and tried to prepare me for this experience. I only wish I had listened more closely and taken out more things. lol.
Some of my classmates have been surprised at my composure following this experience. Yes, there was an initial shock, but it has been followed by peace and comfort. All I can do is attribute it to God. He has been with me all along, every day of my life, and has continued to protect me everywhere I have gone. Though my faith often fails and is weak, He never ceases to be faithful.
"But this I call to mind, and therefore I have hope: the steadfast love of the LORD never ceases; His mercies are new every morning; great is Your faithfulness. 'The LORD is my portion,' says my soul, 'therefore I will hope in Him.'" (Lamentations 3:21-24)