“I remembered that you are leaving for your trip on or about the 1st of May. If I haven’t missed you, please know that you & Jerry are covered in His protection and ‘underneath are the everlasting arms …’ Becky”
Jerry and I had looked forward for months to visiting our younger daughter Amanda and son-in-law Sam, who live in northeast France, just minutes from the Belgium border. After reading the email from my friend Becky, I looked up the passage she had referenced. It’s from Deuteronomy 33.
“There is no one like the God of Jeshurun, who rides on the heavens to help you and on the clouds in his majesty. The eternal God is your refuge, and underneath are the everlasting arms. He will drive out your enemies before you, saying, ‘Destroy them!’ So Israel will live in safety; Jacob will dwell secure in a land of grain and new wine, where the heavens drop dew.
“Blessed are you, Israel! Who is like you, a people saved by the Lord? He is your shield and helper and your glorious sword. Your enemies will cower before you, and you will tread on their heights” (vv. 26-29).
I’ve loved the assurance, “underneath are the everlasting arms,” ever since I first discovered it during some difficult college days. What’s more, in recent weeks, God had stirred me to explore what it means that he is our help. How striking that this passage about the everlasting arms also speaks twice of the profound blessing of God’s help!
Three days after Becky’s email arrived, Jerry and I landed in Brussels, Belgium, about 8:30 a.m. Both jetlagged, we boarded a train inside the Brussels airport. After changing trains in downtown Brussels, we would travel to the Belgian border town of Mouscron, where Amanda would pick us up.
When we disembarked at the Brussels Central station, a helpful rail agent told us which train went to Mouscron, when it left and what platform it left from. Armed with that information, we decided to make a pit stop. We took turns guarding the bags and going into the restroom – yet Jerry’s backpack was stolen right out from under our noses.
As I headed into the restroom, Jerry took off his backpack and laid it with the other luggage. Then he took his passport and holder from around his neck and slid both down into the backpack. Also in the backpack were 100 British pounds and 100 Euros, a credit card, a change of clothes and some other items.
I exited the bathroom, eager to tell Jerry that using the facilities cost 50 cents. Digging in my coin purse, I provided the change he needed and also helped out two women who didn’t have the proper coins. After Jerry entered the restroom, I noticed his backpack wasn’t with the other bags. Uneasily, I wondered if he had worn it into the restroom. When he emerged without it, we were both panic-stricken.
We stood in a large open area. Our other four bags were there, grouped together. People were coming and going, but the backpack was nowhere to be seen. We talked immediately to the same rail agent who had already helped us. He told us to report the theft to the police. He also said to check later with Lost & Found at the train station. He said that, sometimes, a thief will take the valuables and leave the rest. However, when he explained the situation to another rail agent, the second man rolled his eyes. We knew what that meant. Bye, bye, backpack.
Still in shock, we got on the train to Mouscron. We knew we could get into France (no passport checks between France and Belgium). But after visiting our children, we planned to spend a few days in London and fly home from there. Jerry did need his passport to get into England, as well as to fly home.
Aboard the train, we spent a long, hard hour-and-a-half traveling through beautiful countryside. Jerry kept worrying about not getting to take me to London. I kept praying we’d done the right thing by traveling on to Mouscron before reporting the theft to the police. I had not wanted to lose the hours we’d planned to spend with Amanda. Also, I felt it important to have her with us to help us navigate the language barrier, Belgian governmental etiquette, etc.
Amanda met us at the Mouscron train station and took us to the police station, where we filed a report. It was a Saturday, and the US embassy was closed. We planned to travel back to Brussels the first of the week to start the application process to replace Jerry’s passport.
Into the afternoon, when we finally reached Amanda and Sam’s house, Sam had lintel soup almost ready for us to eat. While Amanda completed preparations for the meal, I sat at the kitchen table, opened my Bible to Deuteronomy 33:26-29, and told her, “This is the word God gave me for this trip: ‘There is no one like the God of Jerry, who rides on the heavens to help you and on the clouds in his majesty.’”
As I read the passage aloud, my soul felt shaken and violated. But in my spirit, I literally felt upheld, as if by everlasting arms. “The Lord wants to show us that he is our help,” I said.
Meanwhile, Jerry had signed onto the Wifi at Amanda and Sam’s house. Since arriving in Europe that morning, my phone had worked, but Jerry’s had not. Via Wifi, Jerry was able to get his email, however. And there, he discovered a surprising message from his boss, John. Someone had called John to tell him Jerry’s backpack had been found at a Brussels bus station!
We were elated – but then frustrated. Jerry called his boss, only to find that John didn’t know any more than what he had said in the email. The Belgian caller had not identified himself or told where he was calling from. So we had no idea who had the backpack and what was or wasn’t in it.
John gave Jerry the number from which the call had come. Dialing it, we reached a Brussels police station, but the person who answered knew nothing about Jerry’s backpack. We tried to call the Lost & Found number the rail agent had given us. At first, we couldn’t get the call to ring through. Then, we got no answer.
Sunday morning, Amanda called again in our behalf. That time, the person at the Brussels police station who answered knew exactly what we were asking about. Yes, they had the backpack. What’s more, it had been recovered with everything in it – including the passport, the money and the credit card!
The agent de police then apologized profusely for not being able to reach us sooner! We were deeply grateful that the police had gone to such lengths to try: On recovering the bag, they had found a business card with Jerry’s cell number on it. They had called the number, but because his phone wasn’t working, the call went to voice mail. In the Atlanta airport, just before boarding the plane to Brussels, Jerry had changed his voice message, saying he was traveling out of the US and giving the phone number of his boss, John, for any callers who might have business needs. Someone at the Brussels police station listened to that lengthy voice mail message in English, wrote down John’s US phone number and called him. Bless them, Lord!
The Brussels police kept the backpack and its contents locked in their safe until Amanda, Sam, Jerry and I traveled there on Tuesday to reclaim it. That train trip, we enjoyed. Further, the four of us enjoyed a delightful day together in the Belgian capital. Jerry and I also saw the inside of our second Belgian police station. Most tourists don’t get that experience or, if they do, they don’t come out celebrating.
“Blessed are you, Jerry! Who is like you, a person saved by the Lord? He is your shield and your help.”
We have no idea how a backpack that we know did not walk away by itself from a busy city train station was recovered by police at a bus station with everything intact. But we can testify: The Lord our Help rode in like the cavalry. He worked a miracle in our behalf.