The Incredible Way Strangers Helped Three Latter-day Saint Travelers Who Lost Everything in a Foreign Country

by | Nov. 11, 2019

Mormon Life

Something didn't feel right. 

As Crishelle and her two friends talked about packing their belongings into their rental car, Crishelle had the thought that maybe they should leave their things behind.

It wasn't a bad idea to bring their belongings with them to the Vatican. In fact, it made perfect sense. Why would they come back to their hostel to pack their bags when they could just load them up, tour the Vatican, and then head to the next stop on their trip in Europe?

But the feeling was still there when Crishelle and her friends made it to the Vatican. Trying to be as careful as possible, Crishelle and her friends picked what seemed to be the safest parking spot possible: a spot on the road between an Italian military building and the Vatican police station. 

"While we were parking, a couple of policemen drove by and maybe that should have been a sign," Crishelle says in a This Is the Gospel podcast. "But we took it as a heaven-sent. Like, 'Oh, we will totally be good. Everything will be wonderful. Let's run in and tour the Vatican.'" 

So far, Crishelle had her friends had had a wonderful time in Europe. Nothing bad had happened. Their trip even began with a beautiful experience helping refugees in Greece. 

"It was so humbling to meet these families that had lost everything," Crishelle shares. "And to sit with them as they told us about their story and as they told us about their lives as they told us about how they were waiting to hear if they could join family and loved ones in other parts of Europe and throughout the world." 

After spending some time in Greece, Crishelle and her friends traveled through Europe in a car, spending three days in Rome. During these three days, the friends saw everything they possibly could, thoroughly enjoying their European adventure. 

Unfortunately, those feelings came to an abrupt halt when Crishelle and her friends neared their car after touring the Vatican. Immediately, all three could tell something was wrong, and that's when they saw the broken window. 

"Everything was gone," Crishelle says. "Everything. They had taken all of our luggage. And all we had left was what we were carrying."

It was a nightmare come true. All of their clothes, toiletries, even one of Crishelle's friend's passport, was gone. Stolen in what seemed to be the safest spot for miles around. 

Though Crishelle and her friends visited both the Italian military building and the Vatican police about the incident, both said there was nothing they could do for them. 

"It was so heartbreaking," Crishelle says. "We had no friends. We had no one to reach out to. We could just call our parents. It was earthshattering."

Feeling lost, vulnerable, and violated from the robbery, the friends regrouped. They found a pharmacy that had the prescription of contacts that one of Crishelle's friends needed. They bought three toothbrushes and a tube of toothpaste. The grabbed some gelato and they left Rome.

With two and a half weeks still left on their trip, the three experienced, "baptism by fire in minimalism," Crishelle says as they continued their trip through northern Italy. 

"We went from having everything we possibly needed to washing our clothes every night," Crishelle says. "It was such an adventure. . . . Mostly we were just determined to continue on and have a good time."

After spending a few more days in northern Italy, the three arrived at their next destination in Switzerland on a Sunday. And after picking out dresses at a farmer's market, Crishelle and her friends decided to attend a local sacrament meeting.

After the sacrament meeting, a Relief Society president approached the three, asking if they were the ones who had been robbed. This Relief Society president had heard about what had happened from social media posts and had asked the sisters in her ward to donate anything three women traveling through Europe might need. 

"And she took us into this room, and there were piles of clothes and a suitcase and shoes and socks," Crishelle says. "Switzerland was a bit chiller than everywhere else we had been, and we didn't have jackets and coats like we had packed. And she said, 'This is for you girls. Take what you need.'"

For Crishelle, it was overwhelming to see such love and kindness from complete strangers. 

"It was really difficult to receive it," Crishelle says. "Our first reaction was, 'No, we don't need this.' Somewhere in my head, and looking back it was probably the Spirit, reminded me that often the greatest gift we can give people is to receive the help that they are offering. And I just looked her in the eyes and said, 'Thank you.' And it was so humbling."

Though Crishelle says in no way was this experience like those of the refugees she had spent time with Greece, she now had a glimpse at how difficult it was to accept help from a complete stranger. But in receiving that help, Crishelle felt what it meant to be apart of the church of Jesus Christ. 

"We all stand in need," Crishelle says. "We all stand in need so desperately of our Savior, and sometimes it is so hard to receive that help. We are all strangers. I was a stranger, and they took me in. We are all strangers, and He takes us in. And that is what the gospel is about." 

To listen, read the transcript, and view show notes of Crishelle's story and other stories from this episode of This Is the Gospel, click here

Lead images courtesy of Crishelle

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