After the Joyce Meyer conference, I stayed in Toronto for an extra day to spend time with my dad and my brother. My dad made the two-hour round trip bus ride to see me and I had been looking forward to seeing him. We were going to meet right after the last conference session on Saturday around noon. I was eager to tell him how the event went and share some pictures too.
After we met up, we wandered around downtown Toronto for a while before finding a restaurant. Once we were seated I reached into my purse to take out my camera and discovered that my camera was gone! My heart sank and I exclaimed “Oh my God. Oh my God. It’s gone! It’s lost. My camera is lost.” over and over again—it was very dramatic. The waiter who had just asked us what we wanted to drink left to give me time to compose myself while my dad in his calm way asked me to look through my purse again, which I did. Then he looked through it. Conclusion: the camera was gone. And unfortunately, so was my good mood.
Where was the camera? The last time I used it was minutes before the event ended, to capture a video of the wonderful music. I turned off the camera after that, put it in its case, and put the case into my purse, which was on my seat. I had opened my purse a couple of times after that and I wondered if the strap of the camera had gotten caught on something else I was bringing out, but when I called the two stores that I could have left the camera in, no camera had been found.
I thought a bit more. Maybe when I put my camera back in my purse I missed left it on my seat. I called the conference venue but it was closed until Sunday evening at 6:30 pm; I was leaving at 3:30 pm. The venue’s lost and found was also closed and would not open until Monday. At this point I was holding back tears because in the last eight years this would be the third camera I no longer had: the first was stolen from a bench where I left it (careless!), the second stolen along with my purse which was hidden in a locked car, and now this one. Remembering my Joyce Meyer teachings, I forced myself not to dwell on speaking negative things such as You always lose cameras! You have such bad luck! Instead I prayed that it would be found. My dad and I both rationalized that if it was a conference attendee who found it, there was a good chance that it would be returned—hopefully someone who just spent a couple of hours listening to Joyce Meyer would have a heart of compassion.
I wondered what would happen if the cleaning staff found it. Or what if it had come out of my purse while I was in the bathroom and had been left hanging on the back of the door. Could the strap have been slipped out of my purse while I was waiting for my dad at the subway station? I didn’t know. Unfortunately I did let it affect my mood: I choked down half of my meal and my dad’s attempts to keep me from crying were the only thing that stopped the tears from leaking out (I’ve mentioned that I’m a baby, right?). I felt bad that my dad had come to see me and now our earlier laughs and casual stroll were forgotten. He really felt for me but there was nothing we could do.
Even though I knew the venue was closed, I wanted to go back. On the way back we ended up in the middle of a festival that was going on and if I didn’t insist on going back to the venue, we could have enjoyed ourselves. In fact I was inwardly frustrated as my dad snapped pictures and went to see what a couple of exhibitors were doing because I wanted to get to the venue as fast as possible. But I could understand his actions too: I had confirmed that the venue was closed; we really couldn’t do anything until Monday, and he had already told me that he would come on Monday if needed to visit the lost and found.
On our way back, we went in the wrong direction for several blocks because I was navigating! When we got to the venue, it was locked, but I saw some men standing just inside the locked doors. I waved frantically to them and one guy opened the door a crack so I shared my tale of woe. He couldn’t let me in, he said, because he would get fired, but he told me that perhaps a security guard would let me in. We waited for the security guard who walked right by us when he showed up; he had other work to do. After probably 30 minutes of waiting he made his way back towards us. I went to meet him and shared what had happened. He agreed to let us in.
Seating was not assigned at the event, and there were thousands of attendees, so I thought hard about where I was sitting. I remembered that there was a “20” on the floor but that row number extended pretty much around the whole venue (which has a 19,800 seat capacity!). I vaguely remembered which door I went in so we went in and started looking. Within a minute I saw the camera bag strap and I was so happy! But when I picked it up it was HAIR! A black woman’s single braid (attachment)! I was so deflated and it would have been funny if I wasn’t crushed! But praise the Lord minutes later my dad located my camera. I was so happy! I hugged the security guard (we later learned his name was Doug) and thanked him for letting us in.
There are lessons to be learned here, folks!
Timing is everything
This is a big one. Initially, my dad and I planned to meet at the subway, find a restaurant to eat lunch at, then hang out. Instead we wandered for probably an hour before we found a restaurant that was open. If we had eaten sooner and I had discovered my camera was missing sooner, there may not have been anyone at the door when we returned to the venue. Even the time that my dad spent looking at the exhibitions and me taking us in the wrong direction on the way back contributed to the timing being just right to find someone who would hear my story and have compassion on me.
While we waited for the security guard to come back to us, the guy at the door told us that we could go around the building to locate another security guard who might let us enter through the staff entrance. But something in my heart told me that we should wait for this other security guard to return, and I insisted that we stay put. Maybe the other security guard would have been kind too but I have no regrets about my decision to wait. The security guard echoed our concerns that if someone had found it they may not have turned it in to the lost and found. He said he’d observed that the more God is taken out of society, the worse people behave.
And you know what else: the cleaning staff had just begun cleaning the lower rows of the venue when we found the camera. If we had been a little later it may have been discovered and turned in to the lost and found (meaning I’d probably have to wait until Monday to retrieve it) or stolen.
Seeing before you see it
I wanted to find my camera so bad that when I saw that braid on the floor, I was sure it was my camera bag’s strap. My disappointment when the braid wasn’t attached to a camera bag was comical! But when my dad found the camera moments later he remarked that I had seen it before I saw it. Whatever you’re seeking—a better job, a child, sponsorship for the Nigerian Blog Awards (ahem), see it before you see it. That’s what faith is all about.
Faith as small as a mustard seed really is enough
After my outburst when I discovered the camera was gone, and as we sat waiting for our meal to come, I prayed that I would find my camera, that someone would bring it to the lost and found, but I wasn’t optimistic. Those two other times that I had lost my camera and purse, I had been hopeful that someone would do the right thing but it didn’t happen. This time I felt that there had to be a reason that this happened at this particular venue, given how aware and careful I had been the during the whole conference. I thought maybe the lesson I was supposed to learn is not to be so attached to material things, or to be even more careful. I was hopeful enough to return to the venue even though I didn’t expect anyone to be there, and that was enough—God took my “little faith” and gave me a great testimony.
Some may say that this was a lucky occurrence, and I used to use words like “luck” and “coincidence” too but not anymore—my cousin Ruthie has never been a fan of references to luck, but I never thought much of it. I believe that my prayer, as unoptimistic as it was, made a difference, that God had mercy on me and allowed me to have a different ending to my story this time around. My dad, mom, and sister were there for me three years ago as we searched the grounds of a recreational centre (including dumpsters), looking for my stolen purse or some of its contents, and my sister and I had combed the beach looking for my other camera eight years ago. I’m thankful that we were spared from a bad ending and that I could share my story and hopefully encourage someone.
Have you ever had a bad experience turn good, against the odds? Let’s hear it!