- The Washington Times - Wednesday, September 6, 2000

A Lanham, Md., church yesterday recovered about $50,000 of compact discs that had been stolen during a youth rally on the Mall this weekend.

A Christian youth group from Australia had recorded the discs and planned to sell them to cover the cost of their trip here for Saturday's "The Call," a Christian revival youth rally.

The group was staying at Trinity Assembly of God in Lanham. Just after midnight Sunday, someone stole from the parking lot a rented van containing 2,800 CDs, cassette tapes, a portable stereo and CD player, Bibles and personal items.

"We're very happy," said the Rev. Troy O'Quin, a Forestville pastor who helped the Australian group and picked up the CDs from the Avis rental car lot at Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport at about 7 last night.

"It just shows how God works. We just had to trust that God would restore," he said.

A quick inspection of the van showed all the CDs were still there, Mr. O'Quin said.

The van had no visible damage other than cigarette butts and ashes on the inside. An Avis official told Mr. O'Quin that stolen vehicles usually are burned or severely damaged.

The only thing missing from the van was Mr. O'Quin's portable stereo/CD player.

That didn't matter much to Mr. O'Quin, but he was still touched when the members of the Australian youth group pooled $400 for him to buy a new stereo before they departed Washington Dulles International Airport Monday night.

"Here they were about to get on the plane, with $50,000 of their money missing, before they knew they had the CDs back, and they all took out money to buy [me] a new CD player," Mr. O'Quin said.

"That shows what kind of heart these kids have."

The Australian teens kept their spirits up after the van was stolen as well.

The group wasn't embittered toward the United States or the Washington area after the crime, Andrew Gray, the team leader, said Monday.

Instead, they prayed for the person who stole it, and some even joked that all that Christian music might bring about a conversion.

Even as the pastors were talking about the missing van to reporters on Monday, an officer with the Maryland National Capitol Park Police found the van abandoned on Wheeler Road in Temple Hills at about 2 p.m., a police spokesman said.

The boxes of CDs appeared to be intact, but the officer didn't make a detailed inspection, police said.

The van was towed to Clinton. Yesterday, Avis officials picked it up and drove it to Reagan National.

After a reporter from The Washington Times called Avis yesterday, company officials provided telephone numbers so the pastors could call the office managers at the airport.

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