Missions-minded grandma confronts thief -- and wins

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (BP) -- They knew something was wrong when they spotted a strange car in their driveway.

A black Honda. No one was in it, but it was idling.

It was Nov. 8, Election Day. Roger and Vicky Simpson, a retired couple living in Louisville, Ky., had gone out to vote that morning. Afterward, they stopped at McDonald's for breakfast, then headed home. They pulled in behind the Honda and walked around it, not sure what to do next.

"I thought, 'This is weird,'" recalled Vicky, a 61-year-old mother of three and grandmother of five. "I'm one of those who always thinks the worst. If it's good I'm surprised and if it's bad I'm prepared for it, I guess."

Roger raised the garage door.

"It ticked me off, actually. That's a lot of work and a lot of saving, and he was probably going to do something with it that wasn't nearly as important as Lottie Moon."
"I went into the house through the garage and noticed right away that the glass had been broken out of the door off of our deck," said Roger, 64, who worked 37 years for the Kentucky Farm Bureau. "Little pieces of glass were all over the inside of the house."

But he didn't see anyone inside, or out back. He did see a large rock on the back deck, the apparent weapon used to break the door glass. Before calling the police, he figured he'd better warn his wife in case the intruder was still around. That black Honda was still idling, after all.

Vicky, meanwhile, was waiting in the driveway. Before Roger came back out, a young man walked around the far corner of the house into the front yard, carrying several items belonging to the Simpsons -- including a plastic bucket full of coins.

"It was like he was out for a stroll," Vicky said. "He was a little bit spaced out, I think. I'm not sure he was in his right faculties. He wasn't out of his mind ... just real calm and in no big hurry."

A little background on the coins in the bucket:

Vicky and Roger are members of Poplar Level Baptist Church in Louisville, the small congregation she has attended since childhood. They met there, got married there 42 years ago; most of their family members still go there. For years Vicky has led the GA (Girls in Action) mission discipleship group for girls in primary grades. It's never been bigger than four or five girls. Only one or two currently participate, including one of the Simpsons' granddaughters, 11-year-old Loren.

Every year, the Poplar Level GAs join with the RAs (Royal Ambassadors, a mission group for boys) to raise funds for missions in the United States and around the world. They sponsor various projects, sell crafts and cookbooks and candy bars, save coins and collect change from a table they maintain at church to remind folks about missions. Last year, about half of the $1,200 Poplar Level contributed to the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering for International Missions came from the girls' efforts.

"We're a small church, but we've had several people who've come there and worked with the youth or music who have gone on to be missionaries, so missions has always been a thing for us," Vicky said. "We've done pretty good for a little GA group. The church comes through in collections and anytime we do a special project ... we'll send that for missions. Usually it's change, so we have to count it and roll it and turn it in. That's the fun part."

The coins (plus some dollar bills) in the plastic bucket -- about $200, by the Simpsons' count -- were intended for international missions through the Lottie Moon offering. Now the bucket was swinging from the hand of a casual thief who had other things in mind for the money.

Something about that rubbed Vicky the wrong way.

"It ticked me off, actually," she said. "That's a lot of work and a lot of saving, and he was probably going to do something with it that wasn't nearly as important as Lottie Moon."

Vicky doesn't recommend what she did next to anyone in a similar situation. Nor do police, who typically urge citizens not to resist criminals who might do much worse than taking possessions if challenged. But she wasn't about to let the mission money go without protest.

"He was pretty skinny," Vicky said. "I believe I could've took him, but I don't know. It didn't come to that. I didn't see a gun. I didn't see a weapon. I just saw the money. And I thought, 'No, that needs to stay here.'"

When the thief reached the idling car, where Vicky was still standing, she didn't back away. "Put the bucket down," she said.

He ignored her. Without saying a word, he opened the car door and got in with the loot.

"Put the bucket DOWN!" Vicky repeated.

He looked at her this time, apparently sensing she meant business.

"OK," he replied after a moment, and set the bucket on the ground before closing the car door.

Roger came outside about that time. He and Vicky watched as the thief tried to steer the car out through the neighbors' yard, hitting a utility box. He backed up and drove through the Simpsons' yard. Roger jotted down the license plate number on the Honda and called the police. A patrolman responded, called in the license number and within an hour the thief and an accomplice had been spotted and stopped near a local Walmart. The Simpsons identified him to police and later recovered the other things taken from their home.

"We're thankful that no one was hurt," Roger said. "We feel the Lord blessed us with the outcome of it. Hopefully the young man has learned a lesson that will have a positive impact on him in the future."

Vicky has taken some kidding from friends and church folks since the incident. Would she do the same again? She's not sure. Things happened so quickly.

"I'm a pretty meek person. I'm a wimp actually," she admitted. "I get braver as I get older, I guess. To stand up to somebody like that is not normally my personality. But I know how badly the missionaries need the money. It just ticked me off that day for some reason."

That $200 might be a tiny part of the national goal of $175 million for the 2011 Lottie Moon offering. But missionaries will know there's a Kentucky mama who was willing to do whatever it took to get it to the right place.

Erich Bridges is an international correspondent for the International Mission Board. This year's Dec. 4-11 Week of Prayer for International Missions in the Southern Baptist Convention focused on the theme of "His heart, His hands, His voice -- I am Southern Baptist missions" from Acts 1:8. Each year's Lottie Moon Christmas Offering supplements Cooperative Program giving to support Southern Baptists' 5,000 international missionaries' initiatives in sharing the Gospel. This year's offering goal is $175 million. To find resources about the offering, visit imb.org/offering

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