Sunday, July 31, 2011

Our Van Story: "The Dramatic Twist"

(Part 1)

In April 2007, Owen was about eight months old and we had owned our van for about a year.  We decided to take a family day trip to the zoo on a Sunday.  My parents and two younger sisters joined us.  To avoid the city congestion, each family drove their vehicle to the train station and we rode the train into the city.  Before we boarded the train, we put a bank envelope containing $100 in the lock box under the seat.  As an afterthought, we threw in another loose $20 to save for dinner and tolls on the way home. 

The weather was beautiful and the kids had a lovely time, but when the day was over and we were riding the train that evening, we were exhausted.  As we pulled back into the station, my dad pointed out the window to the parking lot and said, "Let's see if we can see our vehicles from here." 

He found his truck right away, but the space beside it was empty.  We found that odd since we had parked side by side.  Our first thought was that he had pointed out the wrong truck, but, no, we were sure that was his vehicle.  So, where was our van?  Our next thought was that maybe we had been towed for illegal parking (though we had parked in a valid spot). 

The next few minutes were a blur as we gathered our things and hurried off the train to scour the parking lot to be sure.  There was my dad's truck.  And there was our empty parking space. 

In a bit of shock and confusion, we went back into the station to find an employee.  They knew nothing of our vehicle, but they offered to call the state police.  By this time, the kids were asking a lot of questions and were teary and tired.  (So was I.)  The police arrived and confirmed what we feared-- our van had been stolen, most likely by a local gang.  They took our name and number, but gave us a bleak outlook.  Many stolen vehicles were never recovered and the ones that were found were stripped or badly damaged.

Blissfully unaware

We hitched a ride home and the despair sunk in.  How were we going to afford another vehicle?  We had some cash saved, but not enough for a vehicle of equal value.  Could we make do with one car that barely fit us all together?  Was it wise to spend money on a temporary car or should we save for another van or should we take on a car payment?  For days, we agonized over this decision.  Friends and family chipped in money and replaced our car seats.  We took Brian to and from work (about a 30 minute drive each way) if we needed the car for the day.  Still, we struggled with questions of why God had provided for us and then took it away 12 months later.   

On Saturday afternoon (6 days after our trip), we were sitting on our front step watching the kids play when the phone rang.  We had invited company for dinner so we expected a call from them.  Brian answered the phone, but his expression changed.  He jotted down some information and then hung up the phone.  Our van had been found abandoned in a shopping center parking lot, just five miles from the train station.  We were given little information other than it needed to be towed home and that we would be charged for each day it stayed at the impound station.  We scrambled to make arrangements to bring it home.  My brother, Ryan, offered to use his AAA membership to get free towing.  

Early Sunday morning, Ryan and Brian set off to retrieve the van.  After they signed the paperwork, they walked around to look check the condition of the van while they waiting for the tow truck to arrive.  As they rounded the corner, they glimpsed a vehicle of the same color with the roof completely smashed in.  They looked at each other in astonishment before they saw our "real" van.  The lock on the passenger door was bent, the ignition had been severely damaged (it was hanging down from the steering column), and the gas tank had been emptied, but otherwise, the van appeared unscathed.  The car seats, the kids' stuffed animals and toys, and even the Twizzlers we had brought for a snack were all where we had left them.  The last check was the lock box.  The lock had been bent and broken, but the thief had only managed to jar the box open about an inch.  The loose $20 had been removed, but the bank envelope with $100 was lying untouched!

You know that temporary panic you get when you come out of the grocery store and don't see your car and can't remember where you parked?  We feel it every time because we remember what it's like for that to become a reality.  I know the experience helped me to not take my van for granted.  I also know firsthand that God takes care of His children and He has proved that care to us. 


  1. I love reading your blog and poking around it whenever I have a chance or remember through Kathi. Good gracious, why haven't I followed along until now!? :-) Looking forward to reading more... Blessings, Kate

  2. That kind of stuff really bugs me because it's one thing to do something like that to adults, but to steal a van (and the toys inside!) from children?!!? Obviously, the thief knew there were children involved because of the car seats.

  3. Wow! God is so good! What an amazing story of his provision and the way he cares even about the "little" things in our lives.

  4. How well I remember this day! And what an unbelievable feeling to be looking in that parking space and wondering why your van was not there...surreal...

    But one of the things that stands out most to me was Gavin's deep concern over his turtle backpack...and yours and Brian's attempt to comfort him about it...when all the while you were missing A VAN! You both taught me something about empathy and parenting that day!


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