Number One Suspect

Word List

Amor = loveDe = ofCristo = ChristMi = myDios = GodBueno = goodMe = meAmar = to loveÉl = he (with capital letter it refers to God

“Has anyone seen Peter’s camera?”

The next morning’s breakfast was almost over, and Mr. Kinney’s question caused a hush to fall over the group. “He’s wondering if any of you have seen it.”

People shook their heads. I saw Mr. Denton finger the tiny pouch at his waist, checking the strength of its belt clip. Mrs. Ziegler nervously clutched the camera hanging around her neck.

“If you’d be so good as to check through your things, just to make sure, we’d appreciate it,” the leader continued.

As people left their tables and went to their tasks, Mr. Denton came forward to join Mr. Kinney, who was talking to Dad. They were close enough to us so we could hear what they were saying.

“Somebody got your camera, eh?” asked Mrs. Denton.

Dad shrugged. “I just don’t know. The boys don’t have it, and they haven’t seen it since they saw me with it. When I carry it with me, it’s always either around my neck or in my fanny pack. I never set it down anywhere. Never.”

“Did you use it Sunday?”

Dad thought a moment. “Yesterday? No, and when I don’t use it, I lock it up in my room.”

“I give you my word,” said Mr. Denton, “that nobody entered your room yesterday. They left me on guard here, and I stayed right in the day room and watched all the wings.”

Mr. Kinney nodded. “All the other exits to the wings were locked tight, too,” he said, “and the windows are all heavily barred. The only way into the rooms is through the doors from the halls, and you say you saw nobody come in.”

“Nobody that didn’t belong,” said Mrs. Denton. “Sally Campbell came in once, but she went to her own room in one of the opposite wings. And Peter, you came in once, but I don’t think you went to your room, did you?”

“You’re right,” said Dad. “I just came in to fill my water jug from the bulk container there.”

Suddenly my stomach dropped to my toes.

“Guy.” I jerked my head in the direction of the door. “Follow me.”

Once outside, I said, “Are you thinking what I’m thinking?””Lilia?”

I nodded. “Mr. Kinney thinks there’s no way into those rooms except through the hall door. But a thief doesn’t have to enter our rooms to steal things. Just a piece of wire. . .”

“And a camera lying on a mattress close to the window, a camera with a strap . . .” Guy swallowed. “Do we tell Mr. Kinney?”

I rolled my eyes. “I’d hate to blow this up bigger than it maybe is. Let’s check with Victoria first.”

He nodded. But when we went to where the orphans stayed, they told us Victoria had gone with Mrs. Gomez and the rest of the cooks to town, to be their interpreter.

Then at 1:30 we had to get on our bus with Mrs. Campbell, Mrs. Ziegler, and a couple other Vacation Bible School helpers. I felt excited and a bit nervous, as I had never helped with a Vacation Bible School before. I could tell that Guy was up for this new adventure too. It felt good not to be just in Sabbath school talking about needs in other parts of the world–but instead actually out there helping someone!

Riding with us were a dozen cheerful, well-dressed younger orphans happily chattering as we jounced along a mile of stony road into the nearby town. Once we were in the village, the roads became even worse.

We finally arrived at the church, a modest green-painted cement block building located on a rise that lifted it above surrounding houses and buildings. A padlocked gate barred the way, but Mrs. Campbell had the key and soon had the chain off.

“Guy? Mark? I need your help here,” she said, once she’d let the other helpers into the church. “While the rest of them are setting up in there, I’m going to stay out here and play my guitar and sing. Maybe that–along with the brochures the church members handed out Sabbath–will start drawing the village kids, or at least get them curious.”

“What do you want us to do?” Guy asked.

“When the kids start to come around, just wave them over on to the lawn here with the orphans. Then when it’s time to start, we’ll let ‘em in.”

Mrs. Campbell didn’t have a very loud voice, so Guy and I, believe it or not, actually joined in to help her sing. Knowing that we were 4,000 miles away from our schoolroom (and from the ears of our friends) gave us courage.

The local kids started coming, one at a time at first, and then with an adult or older brother or sister. Even curious mothers brought their tiny babies, while a couple toothless grandmothers with brown crinkly cheeks crept in and stood in corners to keep an eye on things. At Mrs. Campbell’s request we counted our attendance before the actual program began.

“Fifty-six,” I told her.

Her eyes widened. “Do you realize you boys are helping to touch 56 people for Jesus today?”

A warm feeling came over me when she said that. Mrs. Campbell’s next words made me feel even more excited. “But fasten your seat belts, boys, for Mr. Kinney told me that if we get 50 the first day, we’ll have 200 by the end of the week!”

That was exciting news! Suddenly I wondered if maybe I wouldn’t like to be a full-time missionary someday . . . or at least a student missionary for a year or two during my college years.

Once the Vacation Bible School program began, Guy and I sat close to the front in case we were needed. One of the women in our group told a Bible story through a translator, while putting colorful felt pictures on a felt board. Mrs. Campbell led out in more singing. This is where Guy’s and my Spanish study paid off.

Someone had printed up several choruses on poster board. The tunes were the same as we were used to–”God Is So Good” was one of them–and Guy and I sang the Spanish words aloud, even though we didn’t know what we were saying. It was really fun to sing in Spanish, and a lot easier than we thought it would be. The words went like this:

Dios Bueno es

Dios bueno es [God is so good], Dios bueno es,

Dios bueno es, bueno es mi Dios.

Dios me ama a mí [God loves me], Dios me ama a mí

Dios me ama a mí, Él me ama a Dios.

But it was the orphans who sang the best and loudest. Gradually the village kids began to join in.

Sitting there, I suddenly knew that this one day alone would have made the whole misson trip worth it for me. The afternoon program ended all too quickly.

“Mark, snap that padlock, will you?” Mrs. Campbell requested when we left. “This was a good group today. I appreciate you guys helping out so much. Same time tomorrow?”

“Sure,” I said as I squeezed the lock together.

“I wonder which one she is,” Guy whispered to me as we rode back on the bus.”Who?”

“Lilia–you know–the one who steals things.”

My skin tingled. “Wow. I forgot all about Lilia.” I turned my head to scan the orphans’ faces. The only one I knew was Nestor. The others were all girls, some younger, and some almost Victoria’s age.

“They all look like little saints,” I said.

“I know,” he sighed. “No evil faces. That means one of them is a pretty good actor.”

Back at the campus, when we saw Victoria, things got even more complicated.

“Lilia?” she said in response to our casual questions. “She is not here.”

Guy and I looked at each other. “Not here?” he asked.

She shook her head. “She has been visiting her aunt in San Salvador.”

Wow! That means she didn’t steal Dad’s camera! I thought, suddenly confused. I tried to keep my voice calm while asking, “How long has she been gone?”

“For one week” was Victoria’s quiet reply.

I exhaled and closed my eyes for minute. Who, then, I wondered, stole Dad’s camera?

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Number One Suspect

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