They say that just when you think you've seen it all, something more astonishing occurs. That's exactly what happened Saturday when 5 senior missionaries went shopping at an outdoor piata in Bucharest. It doesn't take a rocket scientist to recognize that we're different--we look different, we speak different, we act different, WE ARE DIFFERENT...we are American Mormon missionaries, and you can't get more different than that! Whenever we're in public, we are dressed in "Sunday best". "Sunday best" in Romania is loosely translated into "semi-clean jeans" so we feel a bit overdressed about 99% of the time. That said, you can imagine the stares we get in a crowded outdoor market that would put Istanbul to shame! We were having a blast buying skirts and shirts (you can never have enough), and spoons and strawberries and tomatoes.
Sora Turner needed spoons for gifts. She is going home in 3 weeks! Sora Van Orman got "caught up" in the spoon frenzy!
As we were making our way out, Sora Van Orman seized the opportunity to give a Pass-along card to a gypsy woman who was staring us down. It started with one and it snowballed as a crowd of 6 or more huddled to see what she was giving away. Missionaries love this kind of thing and we fantasize that hordes of people would genuinely be interested in our message. As fast as she could pull one out of her purse, another hand would come forward. I took a picture because it was such a great moment.
It was about that time that I felt a little more than a nudge from behind and noticed out of the corner of my eye that a man was making his way past me tucking something under his t-shirt. At that moment I remembered something I had been told about gypsy skirts...that they had a secret pocket in the front, made especially for the purpose of tucking away pick-pocketed items. I strained to watch him as he fled but I was blocked by another man who wouldn't let me pass. I turned to warn the others but it was too late. Sora Van Orman's wallet was gone, along with her passport, visa, drivers license, credit card and about $45. I was the only one who saw "the man" and Denny and I went on the hunt to find him. It was hopeless. Now what?
We decided that this crime should not go unreported and as laughable as it seemed to call the police after we had just been "had" in the den of thieves, we would report it. What could it hurt? After a short wait, two policeman came and listened to our sad story. They had heard it all before and reiterated what we already knew...we were targets in the wrong place at the right time. If, by any miracle, this wallet would be found and returned, a police report would need to written at the police station. The Van Orman's agreed and while one policeman left to get the car, the other stayed with us. Out of the blue, he said something in English that floored us. "While we wait for the car, tell me something about Jesus Christ."
Elder Van Orman began by telling the story of Christ that is taught in the Book of Mormon...how this book is a second witness of Christ, along with the Bible. Elder Van Orman pulled a copy that he had tucked in his belt, and gave it to him. Sister Van Orman promised him that if he would read it, he could know for himself if it was a true story. She quoted (by heart) the scripture known as "Moroni's Promise" found in Moroni 10:4. He listened and said he would read it. She asked if he was married and he said he was engaged and would be married in October. She told him he could be married for eternity and then asked him how he felt about loving his soon-to-be wife for eternity. I have watched Sora Van Orman play the piano like a master but I have never seen a more masterful explanation than what I witnessed on that curb facing "the den" that hot afternoon.
Later that evening I called to see how the "reporting" went. I was still frustrated that the thief worked right under my nose and I couldn't stop him. Sora Van Orman was happy and calm and she explained that before they left home that morning, they prayed that they would find someone who would listen to the message of the gospel. She was not concerned about her wallet, just happy that a prayer had been answered. We can learn many things by hanging out with the Van Ormans!
Now, for the rest of the story. This morning three policeman walked to the door of the mission home. Sora Lundberg watched them in her pajamas and was terrified that they were bringing bad news. When they handed her Sora Van Orman's wallet, she was relieved and surprised. The only thing missing was the money! Someone had found it in a garbage can and returned it to the police. When Sora Van Orman called to tell us the good news, we could hardly believe it. This is Romania, land of the pick-pockets! Who would ever think that a wallet would be returned? Sora Van Orman explained that Sunday they fasted and prayed that someone would find it.
We can all learn from the Van Ormans. With faith, miracles do happen. Stay tuned for the young policeman's appraisal of the Book of Mormon. This story can only get better!