Thursday, May 12, 2016

Martin Has Been Kidnapped

About a month ago, on a Sunday morning, a member of our worship team at Riverview showed up at the church around 8:00 AM for rehearsal.  In the parking lot of the church, laying uncased and unprotected in the parking lot, was a worn down, beat up guitar.  The worship team member collected the guitar and brought it in the church for further examination.  It was in rough shape.  The back of the guitar was separated from the ribbing in places, and someone had put two large pieces of plastic in place where the saddle and the nut should be (the saddle and nut elevate the strings off the fretboard to make the guitar playable).  Put simply, this guitar had seen much better days.  We all marveled at the DIY repairs that had been done, and then one of the team members put it in his car to use it for spare parts.

Cut to nine days later - the following Monday.  A member of our church showed up in the late afternoon to do some painting in one of the rooms at the church that needed to be done.  As he arrived at the church, he noticed a man sitting on the steps in front of the church.  When he asked if there was anything the man needed help with, he replied that he needed entry into the church in order to get his guitar.  Not knowing the man or the validity of his story, the Riverview member denied him access and went about his business of painting.

The following day, Tuesday, the same Riverview member arrived back at the church to complete the painting job that he had started on Monday.  When he arrived in the parking lot, he noticed the same man he had seen the day before, walking through a wooded area across the street from the church with a guitar case in hand.  Thinking nothing of it, he went back to his task of painting.

The day after that, Wednesday, I went to prepare for leading our Family Night Worship Service at Riverview.  In doing so, I set up a lectern, put out the bulletins for the service, and get my guitar ready to lead the singing.  As I went to retrieve my guitar from the back room, I couldn't find it.  This, however, did not alarm me, as it is not uncommon for my guitar to be moved to a different room or to be used by someone else without my knowledge.  Also, a crew of guys from the church had been working in the room where my guitar was stored, tearing out and replacing carpeting, so it seemed natural that one of them had moved it in the process.  Again, without much alarm, I retrieved a backup guitar that I store on the premises and used it during the service.

Once the service had concluded I began to ask around to see if anyone might know where my missing guitar had ended up, but nobody had any idea where it might be.  The guys who had been working in the room denied that they had moved the guitar in the course of their work, and even denied seeing it in the back room.  After some more asking around, I learned about the man who had been to the church on Monday and Tuesday of that week, and how he had been spotted carrying a guitar case early Tuesday evening through the woods across the street, and the pieces began to fall into place.

About a week later, due to some technical difficulties, I was finally able to access the security camera footage at Riverview.  We have security cameras placed at each of the entrances to the church, and in some of the hallways.  What I saw on the video was the man pictured at left.  On Tuesday, April 26, he and a female accomplice entered the building during business hours (so the church was unlocked). They spent about 20 minutes exploring the church, walking down the hallways, perusing the food shelf and library, and ultimately winding their way back to the music room where my guitar was stored.  After taking the guitar, he departed on foot and went directly to the wooded area across the street where he was observed by the volunteer painter described earlier.

After seeing this all unfold on our security camera footage, and considering the crystal clear images we had of his face, I contacted the West St. Paul police and filed a report.  I was happy to see that one of the reporting officers was one that I had met previously through my involvement in the police chaplaincy program.  The officers were very pleased that we had visual evidence of the crime, and they assured me that they would hand the case over to their investigators.  So far, I'm not sure how much progress has been made on apprehending the thief or retrieving my property, but I remain optimistic.

But it doesn't end there.

On Tuesday afternoon of this week I began to feel ill.  Stomach cramps on Tuesday made way to diarrhea on Wednesday, which knocked me out of leading the Family Night Worship Service this week (which I am bummed about, considering it was our last service of the year).  About 7:00 that evening I received a call from someone who was at the church and who had seen the above photo of the burglar.  He told me that the burglar had returned to the scene of the crime and was at the church at that very moment.  I quickly slipped out of my bathrobe (remember, I was sick) and into some clothes and went over to the church.  By the time I had arrived, I was told that the man left on foot.  I went out into the parking lot and saw someone duck into the same woods across the street that the man had been reported in previously.  I called the police and told them about the incident.

But the interesting thing is how the man interacted with others when he returned to the church last Wednesday evening.  As he came into the building, he immediately began to shake hands of all he came into contact with, and introduced himself to each one as Jesus Christ.  That's right: he claimed to be God in the flesh.  Clearly this man is not in his right mind, which makes this even more sad.

The guitar that was stolen was a Martin (I can't remember the model number).  I bought it second-hand from a friend, who was offloading his gear to help cover the costs of one of his kids' weddings (the sacrifices we guitarists make!).  The guitar is unique in that the body is made of an entirely composite material.  In other words, it's not made of wood.  The only wood on the whole guitar is the neck and fretboard.  The rest is essentially plastic.  Regardless of this fact, the guitar plays like a dream.  In fact, it was easily my best playing guitar.  I have another Martin (DCX1E) that is my best sounding guitar, but it doesn't match the playability of the one that was stolen.  To be sure, Martin guitars are very nice, and most players aspire to own one.  I owned two, and I still have one.  I am a very blessed, fortunate person - even in light of having been robbed.

If possible, I hope I can get my guitar back, as it was my "go-to" guitar - the one that I played in most circumstances as it was accessible, easy to play, and pretty much the right instrument for any occasion.  I have no desire to press charges or see the man who stole it prosecuted for the offense - I'd just like my guitar back!  I even have the one that he left in the parking lot - the old beat up junker.  I'd be happy to make the trade.


Luke Johnstone said...

Any update on the guitar?

Joel said...

Luke - Nothing yet. I think the police may have put the case on the back burner since I wasn't interested in pressing charges. Thankfully, through some providential circumstances, I'll be able to replace the stolen guitar at no cost to me.