Su Roland writes ...
"While on a trip to Rome with our dear friends Gary, Joy, Joe and Jan, we were robbed by a band of gypsies while on a Metro train. We might have suspected what was going on, except that the group who crowded into our train car were young women carrying their babies. It seemed strange to have five young moms all get on at once and not talk to one another. Joe graciously offered his seat to one of them, but she ignored him and stood between the two of us. As we jostled through the moms and babies to get off at the next stop, Joe thought he felt a baby's foot pressed against his waistline. It was the mom's hand which successfully fetched cash and train tickets from his money belt and managed to unzip my own pack as well and grab my sunglasses. We realized what was happening before the train doors could close, but there was nothing we could do about it.
As the six of us gathered our wits and assessed the losses, we actually saw that very mom further up the platform! We ran after her and stopped her, asking for our things back. Since she was working in a pack of thieves, I'm sure she had already passed off our cash or glasses to another. She protested her innocence, but made no effort to escape. Joe and I ended up wasting over an hour in a hot, smoky, crowded Metro police office while the rest of our group waited outside the door.
We caught an insider's glimpse of how the Rome Metro police work (0r don't work!). At times we had up to eight officials in the room with us, doing absolutely nothing. One of them spoke English and told us we could not leave until the city police showed. We were literally prisoners in that stuffy, dark room! Meanwhile the gypsy mom continued to insist upon her innocence, vociferously protesting her detention and complaining of the heat.
After an hour or so I was feeling light-headed and asked permission to have Woody buy me a candy bar. Woody knocked at the door and handed me two Kit Kats, telling me to give the second one to the gypsy. I looked at him incredulously. 'Really? Give her one?' Woody gently encouraged me to do it.
At first she sullenly refused the Kit Kat. I kindly looked her in the eyes and insisted. The English-speaking officer told her in Italian, 'Go ahead. Take it! She wants you to have it.'
Thanks to Woody's encouragement, I began to change my perspective towards the gypsy mom. I began to pray for her. I knew that there was no chance we'd retrieve any of our lost possessions. The only way to redeem this lost time in Rome was to see the situation through God's eyes.
Shortly after eating her Kit Kat, she spoke to me through the translator. 'If I had the money, I'd give it back. I really would.' She even told me how many work in their band of thieves, though she still insisted she hadn't stolen from us herself.
When the Rome police finally showed up, they were not particularly friendly or helpful. The best thing they could do for us was to finally release us from that smoky, hot room which felt like our own prison cell by that point. They said they were escorting her out of the subway (where I'm pretty sure they just let her go!). Before leaving, though, I asked if I could share a few words with her through our translator. As a bevy of police stood around, I shared a few inadequate, but heartfelt words. 'God loves you and wants to forgive you. I believe you that you'd give back the money if you could. You need to turn to God to find forgiveness and to have the power to choose a different lifestyle. This is no way for you to live or raise your child. God wants you to turn to Him.'
I know that she is a woman hardened by life's circumstances, but I trust God spoke to her through my paltry words and Woody's prompting to be Christ to her in some small way. As for me, the loss of my sunglasses was worth the spiritual lessons I learned.
The next day I was reading from the book of Proverbs, and verse after verse struck me. Among them:
- If your enemies are hungry, give them food to eat. If they are thirsty, give them water to drink. Proverbs 25:21
- Men do not despise a thief if he steals to satisfy himself when he is hungry. Proverbs 6:30
I doubt many people pray for that young gypsy woman. I'm sad that I did not ask her name. Her face, I will not forget. And, even as I write this blog, I am reminded to pray for her, that my inadequate words might be used in some small way to open her heart to the new life God would have for her."